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“Bardejov” – Encyclopaedia
of Jewish communities, Slovakia
(Bardejov, Slovakia)

49°17' / 21°17'

Translation of the
“Bardejov” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Slovakia

Edited by Yehoshua Robert Buchler and Ruth Shashak

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 2003


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Madeleine Isenberg

 

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for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Slovakia: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Slovakia,
Edited by Yehoshua Robert Buchler and Ruth Shashak, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.


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[Page 112]

Bardejov

Translated by Orit Stieglitz

Edited by Madeleine Isenberg & Susanna Leonard

(Hungarian: Bartfa, German: Bartfeld)

A town in the Sariš Region in northeastern Slovakia.

 

Year No. of
Residents
No. of
Jews
%
1716 Two families  
1738 8  
1746 12  
1767 17  
1787 3,760 42 0.1
1828 4,827 148 0.1
1835 4,945 181 0.7
1869 5,307 1,011 9.1
1880 4,888 1,113 2.8
1890 5,073 1,125 2.2
1900 6,102 1,715 8.1
1910 6,578 2,001 0.4
1919 6,435 2,119 2.9
1921 6,593 2,206 3.5
1930 7,730 2,264 9.3
1940 8,508 2,441 8.7
1948 6,572 256 0.9

 

Bardejov was already mentioned in historical documents dating from 1247 as a settlement owned by the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1376, it became a free town and was given many rights. In the 15th century, German merchants and craftsman settled there and transformed the town into a center of commerce, controlling important land transportation routes because of its close proximity to the Polish border. The growth period of Bardejov was cut short because of the wars within the Hungarian Royalty in the 17th century. In addition to the suffering caused by invaders and property damage, plagues and fires also destroyed the town and decimated its population. In the 19th century, the economic and demographic growth in Bardejov was renewed. Towards the end of the century and once it was connected to the railroad infrastructure, commerce and “small industries” developed. The discovery of healing springs near the town transformed Bardejov into an important health resort and tourist attraction in Eastern Slovakia.

During the period of the Czechoslovak Republic, the economic growth continued in Bardejov. The existing industrial plants grew and a few new others were founded; most were for processing lumber. During World War II, Bardejov was within the borders of the Slovak state, becoming a German satellite, until it was liberated on January 19th, 1945, by the Soviet Army.

[Page 113]

About the History of the Community

In 1599, two Jewish names were mentioned in Bardejov heads of families for the first time: Judah STENCEL and Zalman HEDERICH. However, Jewish residency was not long–lasting as the authorities exiled the Jews in 1631. The Jewish presence in Bardejov was renewed at the beginning of the 18th century. In the list of taxpayers in the Saris region for the years 1715–1716, two Jewish families are mentioned in Bardejov. In the census of 1738, one family of eight identified as Jewish and made a living from the production of liquor. In 1746, 12 Jews in Bardejov paid taxes to the authorities, of thirty florins. In the census of 1768, three Jewish families in Bardejov were producers and sellers of liquor. In the beginning of the 1780s, the family of the widow Rachel GUTTMAN settled in Bardejov. She took a lease on the municipal flour mill as well as other franchises. After a few more years, Jews from Galicia settled in Bardejov and upon their arrival, a prayer house was dedicated. In 1784, there were 14 Jewish families (67 individuals) who lived in 15 houses. In 1791, Jews began to build the first synagogue outside the city walls, but it was only dedicated in the beginning of the 19th century. At that time, three Jewish families acquired licenses to open stores inside the city walls.

In 1840, the limit on Jewish economic activities and the prohibition of Jews living in cities was lifted so the number of Jews in Bardejov greatly increased. In the second half of the 19th century, the Jews greatly influenced Bardejov's commercial life. They owned about 220 stores and businesses. In addition, 89 heads of families were craftsmen. Jewish entrepreneurs also developed the natural health springs and built spas, and for a long period of time, they leased and managed them. Dr. Emmanuel POLACEK was the main doctor in the spas and in 1885, he became the regional doctor.

In 1808, an independent Jewish community was founded in Bardejov and they set up a Chevra Kadisha (ritual burial society). The oldest tombstone in the Bardejov Jewish cemetery is from 1833, but there is evidence that by the end of the 1780s, the community had a cemetery outside of town. Between the 18th and 19th Century, the community began to build the great synagogue in a Neo–Gothic style, commonly found in Poland at the time. The synagogue was dedicated in 1830[1] and it was renovated and expanded in the middle of the 19th Century. A beit midrash (study hall), mikveh (ritual bath), and kosher slaughter–house were built next to the synagogue. The president of the community was Joseph GUTTMAN.

The first rabbi in Bardejov was Rabbi Dov Bear SPIRA, who was the rabbi only for a short time. After him came Rabbi Mordecai FRIEDMANN, who held the position for 40 years. During his leadership, the dayan (judge of the rabbinical court) was Rabbi Nathan Neta LANDAU (who died in 1907) and who wrote Knaf Renana (Singing Wing) and additional essays. From 1856 until his death in 1871, the rabbi in Bardejov was Rabbi Chaim Avraham ORENSTEIN, author of Divrei Avraham (Abraham's Words) and who had been a student of the Chatam Sofer. In 1874, the rabbi of Bardejov was Moshe HALBERSTAMM, grandson of the Admor[2] from Sanz. Serving alongside him was the dayan,

 

Slo113.jpg
The Beit Midrash (Study Hall) Building in Bardejov

 

[Page 114]

Rabbi Moshe SALAMONOVIČ. With Rabbi HALBERSTAMM's death in 1905, his son Rabbi Jechiel Natan HALBERSTAMM became the rabbi and serving with him, the dayan Rabbi Yitzchak TEITELBAUM.

In 1869, with the split of the Hungarian Jewish communities, the Bardejov community joined the Organization of Orthodox Kehilot (Communities). Thereafter, the community was one of the centers of the Hasidism in Slovakia and their members maintained the Hasidic tradition until the very last generation. Their main language in those days was Yiddish. The children of the kehila learned in the Cheder and the Talmud Torah and in the beginning of the 20th Century, a yeshiva was established. Next to the synagogue in Bardejov, there were also several prayer houses and study halls (batei midrash). The Kehila's protocol of policies and regulations was updated in 1905.

At the end of the 19th Century, a Zionist association was founded in Bardejov. Two of its founders were: Julius DAVIDOWITZ and Julius DAVIDSON, who were also the founders of the Zionist movement in Hungary and participated in the First Zionist Congress in Basel.

Bardejov is the birthplace of Morris WALDMAN (1879–1962)[3] who later became a professor at Columbia University. He was one of the leaders of the aid organizations in the United States and the president of the coordinating institution of Jewish aid organizations.

During World War I, Bardejov was occupied twice by the Russians and many Bardejov Jews left the city abandoning all their belongings.

 

The Jews between the Two World Wars

In the census of 1921, 1,877 of Bardejov citizens declared themselves as Jews based on nationality. At the end of World War I, the Jewish community numbered about 340 taxpaying heads of families, and Jews from 40 villages with about 2800 people belonged to the Bardejov rabbinate. In 1922, David SELTENREICH was elected as head of the community. In the elections of 1925, 236 people with voting rights participated and Jozef KORN was elected as the head of the community. In 1926, Bardejov had 354 Jewish family–heads with a right to vote and the elected head of the community was Samuel HERZIG. The community had a cemetery, mikvah with bath house, two synagogues, a Kloyz[4] of the Hasidic community and three small prayer houses in different parts of the city. The community budget was, among other things, used to support the two cheders, the yeshiva, the Talmud Torah, the community center, community ‘soup kitchen’, a hostel for Jewish travelers, and additional community institutions. In the city there were a few tzedakah (charity) associations, among them Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) that had its own prayer house. In 1936, the Beit HaMidrash (study hall) of Chevrat Mishnayot was founded in Bardejov with the support of the city government.

In 1933, Rabbi Jechiel Natan HALBERSTAMM died and was replaced by Rabbi Avigdor HALBERSTAMM. The dayan, Rabbi Naftali Hirsh UNGER, was the head of the Bardejov Yeshiva. The yeshiva was run in a Hasidic atmosphere and during the 1930s, about 60 young men studied there. It operated until the deportation of Bardejov Jews in 1942. Until the Second World War, there was no Jewish day school in Bardejov. The children learned in public schools and complimented their religious education in the cheder and the Talmud Torah. In 1930, there were 695 students in the elementary public school, out of which 217 were Jewish. In the middle school, there were 215 students,

 

Slo114.jpg
Rabbi Salomon KOENIG and the Yeshiva Students

[Page 115]

out of which half were Jews. In 1935, the Bardejov Jewish community numbered about 450 families and the community budget was 200,000 crowns.

Even before the First World War, many of Bardejov Jews supported the Zionist idea. In 1920, a branch of the General Zionist Association was founded in Bardejov and its head was Dr. Dezider GROSSMAN. In the town, there were Jewish and Zionist parties and associations from the whole political spectrum. In 1921, a branch of Hamizrachi was founded and its head was Herman GURFEIN who was also the head of the local Zionist Movement branch. There were also branches for the “General Zionists” and “Poaley Tzion”.

In the election for the 18th Zionist Congress (in 1933), 40% of Bardejov voters voted for “Eretz Israel HaOvedet” (Working Israel) Party, 26% to the “Hamizrachi” party, 15% to the Revisionists, 2% “Tzionim Klalee'im” (General Zionists), and 17% to other parties. The Branch of WIZO[5] in Bardejov developed elaborated social activities. Also in 1921, the Jewish sport association HaGibor (the Hero) was founded as the first sports club. The Jewish youth joined Zionist youth movements: “HaShomer Kadima” (which later became “HaShomer HaTzair”), “Tze'irey haMizrachi” (Young Mizrachi), “Bnei Akiva”, “Beitar,” and “Maccabi HaTzair” (Young Maccabi). In 1929, Bardejov Jews donated 1,500 crowns to plant a forest in Israel in honor of the Czech president Thomas G. Masaryk. On the eve of the 15th Zionist Congress (in 1927), Bardejov Jews bought 303 shekalim[6] and before the 17th Congress (in 1931) they bought 150 shekalim, and before the 21st Congress (in 1939), they bought 334 shekalim.

Bardejov also had a large active branch of the National Jewish Party. In the city election of 1928, this party received 590 votes (24%). It was the second largest party and four of its representatives were elected and entered into the town council.

In Bardejov there was also a large and active branch of “Agudat Israel” and with it the youth movement “Tzeirey Agudat Israel” and the girls' movement “Beit Yaakov”. In the general city election, the Orthodox Jews in Bardejov had their Orthodox Jewish Party which competed with the National Jewish Party. The Orthodox Jewish Party also had a few representatives in the town council. In 1928, the Jewish Girl's Association “Miriam” was founded with a mission to aid and provide welfare. The “Bikur Cholim” association and other Jewish associations were active in welfare and mutual aid; the Chevra Mishnayot association was also active in the city.

Jewish involvement in the general economic, civil and social life in Bardejov continued throughout the Interwar Period. Dr. Eugen REITER was acting mayor, and 14 Jews were members of the town council. Jozef KORN was the head of town's education committee and Salomon FRIEDMANN was the town's accountant and a few other Jews held high positions in the town's public administration. In 1935, 10 Jews were elected to the town council (out of the 22 council seats available). In the public health institutions, Jewish doctors held high positions such as the regional doctor, the municipal veterinarian, and the chief of the physicians in the regional medical institution.

In local commerce, Jews were the majority of business owners. They owned 187 commercial businesses, 69 workshops/factories, three plants, two banks and a few small industrial plants. Four doctors (out of six) were Jews. Five (out of nine) lawyers were Jews, and there was also a veterinarian, a building contractor, two pharmacists, and many clerks.

The licenses given by the local commerce agency demonstrate the importance of Jews in the town's business sector:

Type of Business # of
Businesses
Jewish
Ownership
Mixed goods 68 65
Restaurants and taverns 28 27
Butcher stores 21 14
Agricultural products 17 16
Shops 16 15
Textiles and clothing 16 13
Wood and fuel 13 13
Factories 9 7
Shipping & forwarding 8 8
Leather & footwear 7 7
Haberdashery 7 7
Iron and tools 7 7
Furniture 6 5
Jewelry & watches 5 5
Paper and books 4 4
Cattle 4 4
Wine and spirits 3 3
Other 6 5

 

The Holocaust Period

fter the “Vienna Arbitration” on November 2, 1938, the police force began hunting Jews who did not have Slovak national citizenship and on November 5th and 6th in 1938, 156 Jews were expelled to a no–man's–land on the borders between Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. After the intervention of Jewish organizations, some of them returned to their homes. A short time after the establishment of the Slovak state, on March 14, 1939, business licenses for Jewish–owned restaurants and taverns were revoked: About 50 businesses in Bardejov and its vicinity were closed. Simultaneously, Dr. Samuel SINGER the municipal veterinarian, Samuel ROSENZWEIG, the head of the Bardejov Accounting Department, and Salamun FELDMAN, the head of the registry office were fired.

[Page 116]

Slo116.jpg
Bardejov, Rabbi R. LOEWY, One of the Supporters of the Kehila, and Active in the Rescue Committee

 

In 1940, there were 3,505 Jews in the whole district. The head of the rabbinate was Rabbi Jozef HOLLÄNDER, and the president of the community, Rafael LOEWY, was nominated as the head of the “Jewish Center”. In the school year of 1940–1941, all the Jewish children were expelled from the public schools and the Jewish community opened for them a school with eight classes. The principal was A. KLEIN. Until the beginning of the deportations in 1942, there were 250 students in the school and its activity continued until the eviction of all of Bardejov Jews in May 1944.

In September 1940, about 200 Jews from Bardejov were sent to work camps. At the same time, because of its proximity to the Polish border, Bardejov served as the first refuge for many of the Jews who escaped from Polish ghettos. Bardejov Jews took in these refugees and helped them reach Hungary. During 1941, Jews were slowly excluded from the city economy. First, all the Jews who worked in public administration were fired. About 50 businesses with Jewish owners with a combined yearly revenue of 35 million crowns were closed and 43 big businesses with combined yearly revenue of 16.5 million crowns were Aryanized.

 

The Deportations

On March 18, 1942, Doctor LAKSMAN, the head of the district, brought together the representatives of the local communities in the region and told them about the upcoming deportation of young men and women on March 20, 1942. On that day, the local municipality declared a curfew on Jews and no one was allowed to leave their homes. The Jewish school was designated as the place where Jews were to be concentrated before deportation. When it became known, members of the Jewish committee led by Rafael LOEWY, bribed the regional doctor, Dr. Vojtech BARATSCH[7], to confirm that there was a typhus epidemic among Jews in Bardejov and declare quarantine for three weeks. The efforts of the head of the district to cancel the quarantine failed and the deportation of Bardejov Jews was postponed for a while[8]. At the time of the quarantine, some of the young Jews succeeded in escaping and additional Jews were able to escape deportation using protection documents[9].

On March 20, 1942, 76[10] young women from Zborov (q.v.), Raslavice (q.v.) and other small villages in the area were brought to Bardejov. The next day they were sent to the transit camp in Poprad where they joined a transport that left Poprad on March 25, 1942, to Auschwitz. Deportation of families from Bardejov and its vicinity began in the middle of April 1942. On April 18, 1942, about 400 Jews were sent through the Zilina (q.v.) camp to Auschwitz. On May 14th, the authorities began transferring Jews from nearby villages to Bardejov and gathering them in the “Hotel Republica.” On May 15, 261 Bardejov Jews were deported to the Pulawy ghetto in the Lublin district of Poland. On May 16th, an additional 140 Jews from nearby villages were deported to the Opole ghetto in Poland. On May 17th, the third transport left Bardejov with 1,110 Jews to Naleczow in the Pulawy district in Poland. On May 24th, a transport with a few hundred Jews was sent to the Rejowiec ghetto in the Chelm district in Poland. Among the deportees was the community dayan Rabbi Naftali Hirsh UNGER. The last group of several dozen families was sent on July 20, 1942, to Poprad and from there to death camps. During the deportations of 1942, 3,280 Jews were deported from Bardejov, out of which 2,100 were from Bardejov (85% of the town's Jews). 217 Jews from Bardejov had exemptions and their deportations were temporarily postponed. During the deportations, the authorities declared partial curfew for the city. Bardejov citizens were allowed to be outside only on the way to and from work. The head of the district warned the citizens not to help or assist the Jews and threatened that those who assisted the Jews would also be sent to concentration camps.

With the end of the deportations, the community reorganized. The head of the community continued to be Rafael LOEWY, the secretary was Samuel GRUSSGOTT, and the head of the Chevra Kadisha was Jozef HÖFLICH. The deportation of Rabbi Jozef HOLLÄNDER was postponed and he continued in his position as a rabbi. Salomon WEISSTOCK served as both chazzan (cantor) and shochet (ritual slaughterer). The Jewish school was managed by Mikulas GELB. Until May 1944, there were about 50 students there.

At the beginning of 1944, there were 230 Jews left in Bardejov and in the adjacent villages there were about 200 Jews with protection documents. In addition, a few dozen Jews masqueraded as Christians. In May 1944, all but seven Jewish families were evacuated to western Slovakia. After the suppression of the Slovak National Uprising, on September 18, 1944, the S.S. hunted out Jews remaining in Bardejov and its vicinity. A few dozen Jews who were caught were deported

[Page 117]

to extermination camps or executed within Slovakia. Among these deportees was the last rabbi of the community, Rabbi Jozef HOLLÄNDER, who was killed in Auschwitz in October, 1944.

A few Bardejov citizens received the title “Righteous Among Nations” from Yad Vashem[11] for their efforts to save Jews during the war, among them were people who held high positions in public administrations: the policeman Adam BOMBA, the postman Josef KYSELY, and the head of the Hlinka Guard in Bardejov, Adam RYBAR who warned Jews about their deportation ahead of time and by doing so, saved their lives.

 

Post–War

After the liberation, about 300 Jews returned to Bardejov, not all of them having been residents in the past. Community life renewed, the synagogue was cleaned and renovated and people returned to pray there. Other Jewish community buildings were restored and used by the community. Rabbi Zalman Jekutiel HALBERSTAMM served as the rabbi of the community until he left in 1948. Pinchas HALPERT was the head of the community and together with him, those who were in charge of Jewish community issues were Markus LEVI and Avraham KURZ. The Zionist movement renewed its activity in Bardejov and Meir NEUGROSCHEL was its head. Youth were affiliated with Bnei Akiva[12]. In 1947, Bardejov Jews donated 72,000 crowns to the Keren Kayemet Leisrael (Jewish National Fund). In 1948, 256 Jews were living in Bardejov and in 1949 about 200 were still living there. The rest had immigrated to Israel or other countries overseas. The community continued to exist. The three synagogues that survived the war were destroyed after the war or turned into commercial warehouses. The old Jewish cemetery from the end of the 18th century with unique, colorful tombstones and an ohel[13] over the tomb of a righteous Hasid, was abandoned and neglected. Recently, the municipalities decided to restore the cemetery[14] and conserve it as a historical site. In 1990, there were still a few Jewish families in Bardejov.

References:

Yad Vashem Archives, M5/57. 110, 117, M48/1012–1017, 1019–1026, 1171–1172, JM/11011–11017, 11019, 11024, 11027, 11031.
Moreshet Archives, A/1276, D1/5704.
SUASR, MV:1939–1945/569.
Grussgott, A. L., Be–ovdan moladeti; yad va–shem likehilah kedoshah Bardeyov, Tsekhoslovakyah, New York, 1988.
Cohen, Khakhmei Hungaria (Hungarian Sages), pp. 340–345, 402–411, 510–511, 520.
Fuchs, Hungarian Yeshivas, A, pp. 164–166.
Yalkut Moresher, C., pp. 52–67
M. Atlas, “Die jüdische Geschichte der Stadt Bartfeld”, in: Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden, nos. 2/3 (1966)
Bárkány–Dojč, pp. 353–357.
L. Holotik, Dejiny Bardejova, Kosice 1975
B. Krpelec, Bardejov a jeho okolie davno a dnes, Bardejov 1935
MHJ, vols. VII, XVI, XVII
Lanyi, Bekefy–Popper, Szlovenskoi zsido, pp. 142–143
Selbswehr, nos. 59 (1929), 38 1930)

Translator's Footnotes:

The Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee (BJPC) was honored to contribute the translation of this section of Pinkas Slovakia for JewishGen. BJPC works to restore the Jewish heritage sites of Bardejov, to build awareness of the cultural and historical significance of Jewish life in Bardejov, and to memorialize the more than 3,000 Jews from Bardejov and the vicinity who perished in the Holocaust. Additional information found in the endnotes below refer to the book, Memorial Book of Jewish Bardejov, published by Emil A. Fish, in Pasadena, California, in 2014. Orit Stieglitz was the Executive Producer of that book. For more information, please visit www.bardejov.org.

  1. According to the Memorial Book of Jewish Bardejov (page 23), a Hebrew dedicatory plaque above the entrance to the main prayer hall–that still exists today–indicates the building's completion on August 14, 1836, just one month shy of the start of the Jewish year 5597. Return
  2. “Admor” is an acronym for “Adonainu, Morainu, VeRabbeinu,” a phrase meaning “Our Master, Our Teacher, and Our Rebbe.” This is an honorific title given to scholarly leaders of a Jewish community (Wikipedia), especially to Hassidic rabbis. Return
  3. Correction: He died in 1963, not 1962. He was executive secretary of the American Jewish Committee. For more information, see http://findingaids.cjh.org/?pID=1655280 Return
  4. Kloyz – A name for small Jewish prayer house usually belonging to a Hasidic group (from http://jgaliciabukovina.net/134309/article/definition–kloyz) Return
  5. WIZO = Women's International Zionist Organization Return
  6. Shekalim are voting memberships for the World Zionist Congress Return
  7. Possibly spelled BERTESCH Return
  8. According to the Memorial Book of Jewish Bardejov (page 77), about the Typhoid Rescue Plan, … taking advantage of the Germans' fear of contagious diseases, Loewy together with doctors Mikulas Atlas and Jakub Grosswirth, decided they would inoculate some Jewish girls from Bardejov with a double dose of anti–typhoid serum which they secured from Kosice. The girls risked their health and the rescuers their lives. The plan worked. The girls started showing signs of the disease and it looked like an epidemic had broken out in town. Predictably, the authorities quarantined Bardejov and imposed a compulsory revaccination of the population. Return
  9. Either forged documents, baptismal certificates, or official exemption documents: individuals were permitted to stay in Bardejov to help the local economy (Memorial Book of Jewish Bardejov, page 83) Return
  10. According to the Memorial Book of Jewish Bardejov (page 77) 394 Jewish women were identified for deportation from the Bardejov district. However, only 82 from the villages surrounding Bardejov were in fact delivered to the Poprad concentration camp, because of the outbreak of typhoid artificially induced as explained in footnote 8. Return
  11. While there were a few righteous individuals who helped Bardejov's Jews and saved their lives, none of them was declared as “Righteous among Nations” by Yad Vashem. The Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee recognized the heroic acts of seven individuals in 2012 and the eighth one in 2016. Their names are inscribed on a plaque inside the Holocaust Memorial in Bardejov (Memorial Book of Jewish Bardejov, page 86–87). Yad Vashem is currently (2017) evaluating two of those individuals to be honored with the title of “Righteous among Nations”. Return
  12. Based on survivors' testimonies (USC Shoah foundation) and the Memorial Book of Jewish Bardejov (page 96) the Zionist youth organizations “Hashomer Hatzair” and “Mizrachi” were also active in Bardejov after the war. Return
  13. Literally, it means a tent, but it is solid enclosure over a tombstone. Return
  14. The decision to restore the cemetery was not initiated by the municipalities, but rather by the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee (www.bardejov.org). Between 2005–2009 the Ohel and1288 tombstones were restored and catalogued, and a new, black wrought–iron fence featuring decorative Star of David motifs was constructed around the entire perimeter of the cemetery. Return

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