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“Brezovica” – Encyclopaedia
of Jewish communities, Slovakia
(Brezovica nad Torysou, Slovakia)

49°09' / 20°51'

Translation of the
“Brezovica” 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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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 119]

Brezovica

Translated by Shaul Sharoni

Edited by Yocheved Klausner

(Hungarian: Berzevicze)

A rural township in the Sabinov district, Šaris county, Eastern Slovakia.

 

Year Total
population
Jewish
population
Relative percent
1828 1,745 148 8.40%
1848 N/A 189 N/A
1880 1,652 272 16.50%
1900 1,254 161 12.80%
1919 1,202 155 12.90%
1930 1,286 90 7%
1940 1,474 85 5.80%
1942 1,506 6 0.40%

 

Brezovica is first mentioned in 1317 as a settlement in the Torisa estate, owned by the Berezeviczy nobles. In time it developed into a township where market days and fairs took place. Its inhabitants made a living of petty trade, craftsmanship and agriculture. In the 19th century several factories for processing agricultural produce were established as well as a paper factory. The majority were Catholic whereas a minority Greek Orthodox. They earned their living in industrial factories, in agriculture as well as in craftsmanship.

During the existence of the Czechoslovak Republic no major changes to its socio–economic structure took place; it remained a small township amid an agricultural region. In 1939–1945 it was incorporated into the Slovak state, which collaborated with Nazi Germany. In January 1945 it was liberated by the Russian army.

 

History of the Community

In the early 18th century Jews were living in neighboring villages around Brezovica, yet no Jews are mentioned in the 1768 tax payers' list of the Šaris county. Other sources indicate that Jewish families from Galicia settled in Brezovica in the second half of the 18th century. Tradition has it that an independent Jewish community was established there in the 20s of the 19th century.

Mordechai Holländer , among the community's founders and one of its leaders, was head of the Jewish community in the Šaris county. After a while he relocated to Prešov (q.v.), the county seat, where he established a congregation and headed it for many years. Ca.1830 a burial society and a cemetery were established; the earliest headstones date back to the mid 19th century. Religious services were first held at a private house, and in 1828 a first wooden synagogue was dedicated. Later on the community established a ritual bath (mikveh), a cheder, a slaughterhouse, and also employed a slaughterer (shochet); the latter also served as a cheder teacher. At the end of the 30s of the 19th century the community counted 100 people and appointed a rabbi.

Jews of 13 adjacent villages were linked to the local rabbinate. The first rabbi, Michael Hirtenstein, served as rabbi of the entire region. In 1843–1851 Rabbi Joseph Ganzfried, author of the Kesset HaSofer and other halachic books, officiated. Some of its successors were reputable rabbis, who later on headed important yeshivas: Rabbi Shimon Ehrenfeld, grandchild of Chatam Sofer, moved from Brezovica to serve as chief rabbi of Michalovce (q.v.); Rabbi Yeshayahu Ehrenfeld was appointed rabbi of Šurany (q.v.). The latter was followed by Menahem Braun as chief rabbi of Brezovica. The known heads of the community were Heinrich Klein and Joseph Länger.

In 1869, with the division of Hungarian Jewry, Brezovica joined the union of orthodox communities. Ca. 1870 a new synagogue in a traditional style was erected (size 18x14m), next to a beth midrash and a yeshiva. In the 80s of the 19th century the community reached its peak with a total of 280 members. The late 19th century, on the other hand, saw migration of the young to big cities, causing the community to dwindle.

 

Between the Two World Wars

After WWI Brezovica had a total 187 Jewish inhabitants. In 1922 it counted 300, half of whom of nearby localities. Its annual budget for that year was 19,000 Czechoslovak crowns, and was based on membership taxes paid by 32 family heads; among others the funds were used to pay salaries of 4 employees. The head of the community at that year was Siegmund Klein. The community institutions included a synagogue, cemetery, beth midrash, ritual bath, talmud tora and an elementary school where children of nearby villages studied as well. The burial society and other benevolent societies raised charity as well as provided mutual aid. Rabbi Israel Braun continued officiating, whereas Jews of 14 other villages were linked with Brezovica's rabbinate.

Rabbi Braun also ran a one–of–a–kind yeshiva in Slovakia, established at his own initiative: along with religious studies its students also engaged in vocational training, for their own benefit.

In 1925 a major fire devoured a large part of Brezovica, and the Jewish community suffered material losses. Rabbi Braun's house was burnt down completely, thus he temporarily relocated to the nearby community of Lipany (q.v.).

In 1928 Brezovica had a total of 38 Jewish families: 12 of the family heads were tradesman (two of whom traded in agricultural produce), three were farmers, four were craftsman, three were mill owners and the rest had an undefined occupation. In the 30s Jews owned seven grocery and general supply stores, two butcheries, a pub and a brick factory owned by David Fleischman. Julius Horowitz served as notary public.

In the 1928 municipal elections the Jewish nationalist party won 41 votes (10% of the total votes) and a seat in the local council. In the 30s a branch of the Zionist movement was established.

 

During the Holocaust

In 1940, 94 Jews were living in Brezovica, under the auspices of the Jewish community of nearby Lipany. Until the beginning of deportations in 1942, the Jewish elementary school had dozens of students from Brezovica and its vicinity. During 1941 the authorities ordered closure of most Jewish–owned businesses. Five major businesses, among which a sawmill owned by Adolf Fleischer and an alcohol production factory owned by the Riegelhaupt brothers, were transferred into the hands of Aryans.

Deportations began in late March 1942. The young were first deported to concentration and death camps in Poland through transit camps in Poprad and Žilina. Families were sent on May 20, 1942 to a transit camp in Sabinov (q.v.), the county seat; on May 23 they were deported to the Rejowiec ghetto in the Lublin district, Poland.

After the 1942 deportations only a handful of Jewish families remained in Brezovica, consisting of those who received certificates of protection; consequently their deportation was delayed. Among them was the family of Rabbi Israel Braun. Until the evacuation of all Slovak Jews to Western Slovakia in May 1944, Jewish community life in Brezovica continued to exist, in cooperation with the Lipany community. With the onset of the Slovak uprising on August 29, 1944, some of Brezovica's Jews escaped to liberated zones ruled by the partisans, and were thus saved in the woods and in hideouts.

 

Post WWII Era

Aftr liberation only a few Jewish families who survived the death camps or hid in the woods (including families of adjacent villages), repatriated to Brezovica. Community life was never restored and within a short while the remaining Jews deserted Brezovica, mainly to Prešov. In 1948 there were only 5 Jews in Brezovica; within a year they all immigrated to Israel. In the 80s the local synagogue and yeshiva were still standing yet deserted. So was the Jewish cemetery, deserted and in disrepair.

Bibliography

Yad Vashem Archives, M5/57; M48/619, 949, 1276; JM/11016–11018
Cohen, Chachmei Hungaria [Hungarian Scholars] pp. 330, 411
Barkány–Dojč. pp. 350–351
Lányi, Békefi–Popper, Szlovenskóy zsidó, pp.141–142

 

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