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

48°12' / 17°43'

Translation of the
“Galanta” 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

 

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
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 128]

Galanta

Translated by Madeleine Isenberg

(Hungarian: Gálanta)

District capital in the Bratislava Region, southwest Slovakia.

 

Year Residents Jews %
1728   67  
1787 1,497 307 20.5
1828 1,745 148 8.4
1828 1,553 559 30.1
1880 2,176 714 32.8
1900 2,976 937 31.5
1919 3,654 1,136 31
1930 4,375 1,274 29
1941 5,039 1,216 24
1948 4,516 253 5.6

 

Galanta is first mentioned in 1237 as an estate of nobles, and in 1421 the king turned it over to Count Esterhazy. Its inhabitants, Hungarian Catholics, made a living from craftsmanship, farming, and from raising cattle and sheep. In the 17th century, Galanta received the rights of a city and permission to set market days and fairs. Galanta's market days and trade fairs were frequented by merchants from afar, and trade and crafts also developed there. In the middle

[Page 129]

of the 19th century, Galanta became a provincial capital and shortly thereafter was connected to the Budapest–Vienna railway and its economy flourished. At the same time, Galanta was an important center for trade and services for the extensive agricultural area. In the course of time, the makeup of the population in Galanta changed. In the 1930 census, more than 40% of Galanta's residents identified themselves as Hungarian by nationality, and the rest were Jews and Slovaks.

On the eve of World War II, Galanta was included within the border of Hungary and stayed within it during the years 1938-1045, until it was liberated by the Soviet Army.

 

About the History of the Community

It is assumed that Jews first settled in Galanta at the beginning of the 18th century or possibly even before that, and were under the patronage of Count Esterhazy. In 1728, 15 Jewish families (comprising 69 people) were registered, and even at that time they had a Jewish kehila (community) headed by Shimon LEIBEL. On the establishment of the Jewish cemetery, this is evidenced by a tombstone from 1726, the oldest in Galanta's old cemetery. In January 1729, Count Franz Esterhazy granted a writ of privilege to Galanta's Jews in which were defined the rights and obligations towards himself and the townspeople. The Count leased a building to them to be used as a house of prayer, for the yearly rate of two Florins, a parcel of land for the expansion of the cemetery. In exchange for everyone who was buried there the Jews were required to pay him 50 Florins. Similarly, he allowed them to build a mikveh (ritual bath). The kehila also had a cheder school for little children. In their first years the kehila did not have a rabbi, and Rabbi Yitzchak was a member of the rabbinic authority they turned to for matters of religion and halacha (laws). In 1763 the kehila paid 70 Florins and 20 pounds of wax as the fee for leasing the synagogue, cemetery and mikveh. Over time in the 18th century, Galanta became a rabbinical seat. The first rabbi appears to have been Rabbi Mordechai LOEWY. Among the other rabbis known to us were Rabbi Yitzchak Leib DUKAS (during whose time the synagogue was built), and Rabbi Joszef GOTTLIEB (in years 1776-1786). During his time, the kehila opened an elementary school in which students learned only religious subjects.

In the charter of rights, Jews were promised freedom of religion and worship, unrestrained freedom of movement and economic activities. In the 1735 census, Galanta had 11 Jewish families (45 people), and the sum of their license taxes was 29 Florins. In the 1767 census, 15 families were counted and we presume that additional Jews settled there who avoided the census because they evaded paying taxes.

In the 18th century most of Galanta's Jews made their living from leasing franchises. In 1742, for this they paid the Count 130 Florins. The growth in the number of Jews in the town, added to the older lessors small businessmen, village peddlers, innkeepers, and artisans (in the list from the end of the 18th century are mentioned two butchers, three innkeepers, a merchant in scrap iron, a healer, and a tenant). Even at this time, Jews filled a key role in the local economic development and contributed greatly to turning it into an important commercial center.

During the Hungarian uprising in the revolution of the “Spring of Nations” (1848-1849) some of Galanta's Jews joined with the rebels. At the time of the rebellion, farmers from neighboring villages conducted pogroms against the Jews, but Galanta's Jews organized themselves for self protection and chased the rioters away.

In the course of the 19th century the fraction of Jews within Galanta's population reached just under a third. Their importance to the local economy increased beyond their relative share in the population. A few of the more eminent Jews remained lessors of estates. Armin GLEICHER, one of the richest among them, founded an enamel factory and participated in a several other economic initiatives. In Galanta, Jews also set up a flour mill, a brickworks, a factory to produce meat and salami products (of Jakob SCHLESINGER) and granaries (of Tibor STEIN).

The growth in the number of Jews in the city and their economic stabilization also affected in the organization of the community and public life. Alongside the older institutions of the kehila, other establishments such as the beth midrash (study hall), charitable societies, mutual aid societies, and other public institutions were founded. In the middle of the same century the kehila opened an elementary school such that along with the Jewish studies it included a curriculum of general studies. With the split of the Hungarian kehillot in 1869, the kehila of Galanta joined with the organization of orthodox communities. In 1899, a beautiful and large (16 x 22 meters) new synagogue, built in the classic style, was dedicated.

Jews from 29 settlements in the district belonged to Galanta's rabbinate. In the 19th and 20th centuries well-known rabbis became the leaders and Galanta became one of the important (Torah) scholarly centers in Hungary, largely due to its important and large yeshiva (seminary). In 1806 the chief rabbi was Rabbi Aryeh Leib TELSCH-TAUBER (Moravian-born). He was known as a well-known sage and devoted community leader. In 1830, his replacement was Rabbi Eliezer PASKUS (from Dunajeska Streda, (q.v.)) author of “Ma'aseh Avot,” who set up a responsa[1] society in Galanta. A few years later, the rabbinical leadership went to Rabbi Hillel LICHTENSTEIN, who was among the students of the Chatam Sofer and one of the great adjudicators[2] in Hungary. Rabbi LICHTENSTEIN was the one who established Galanta's yeshiva of renown that raised many Talmudic scholars and famous rabbis. Graduates of the yeshiva set up an organization, “Society of Students,” whose goal was to support applicants who wanted to study in the yeshiva.

[Page 130]

In 1850, Rabbi LICHTENSTEIN was chosen to be the rabbi in Cluj (in Transylvania) and from there moved to become the rabbi in Kolomea (in Galicia). In 1848, Rabbi Menachem DEUTSCH led in Galanta, and the ones who followed him were, Rabbi Yitzchak Leib WELLNER (d. 1859), Rabbi Asher Lemel WOLFNER (d. 1878), and Rabbi Shimon FRIEDMAN. In 1891, a bitter dispute erupted in the kehila around the selection of a new rabbi, a sharp controversy that split the community into two separate orthodox factions, that existed next to another and lasted until 1944, a unique occurrence in the whole of Slovakia. The two kehillot in Galanta were recognized by the authorities. In the larger of the two, during the years 1891-1925, the leadership was under Rabbi (Armin) Jozef Zvi DUSCHINKSY, one of the most prominent rabbis in Hungary. In his time, the Galanta yeshiva was one of the largest and important ones in the country. In the other kehila, Rabbi Benajmin SEIDEL was the leader, and even he established a yeshiva.

From the beginning of the 20th century, Zionist activities began in Galanta and a local Zionist organization was set up. The representative from Galanta, Rabbi KOBRI, participated in the first National “Mizrachi” conference that took place in Bratislava (q.v.) in 1904. With the establishment of the national “Agudas Yisrael” organization in 1912, a local branch was also set up in Galanta.

Galanta was the birthplace of Rabbi Doctor Aharon FRIEDMAN (1884-1942), who first became the Chief Rabbi in Budapest and then after he emigrated to the United States of America, he led the rabbinate in Pittsburg and then Hamilton (in Ontario, Canada). Rabbi FRIEDMAN published a few important books on Jewish subjects.

During the First World War, many Jewish men from Galanta were drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army, and some perished during the conflict.

 

Jews between the Two World Wars

In 1922, the larger of the two Jewish communities numbered 611 souls (90 tax-paying heads of families), its yearly budget was 60,000 Kronen and it was headed by Dr. Ignac KALISCH. He employed five salaried people, including Rabbi Jehoshua BUXBAUM, who served as rabbi from 1921. Alongside him, Rabbi Yosef Yechiel BUXBAUM served as dayan (judge of Jewish issues). In 1921 Rabbi DUSCHINSKY transferred to become the rabbi in Chust in (Carpathian Russia), and in 1932, he was chosen to be the Chief Rabbi for the Haredi community of Jerusalem and immigrated to Israel. The kehila had a five-year elementary school with the language of instruction being Hungarian and had about 130 students. Galanta's famous yeshiva was active under its auspices.

The second orthodox kehila, the smaller of the two, had 495 souls in 1922. Its budget was 50,000 Kronen; Ignac STERN was the head and employed four salaried workers, among them Rabbi Benjamin SEIDEL, who continued to manage the second yeshiva in Galanta. The dayan was Jozef MÜLLER. This kehila also had a five year elementary school, and the language of instruction was Hungarian.

The two kehillot together maintained a cemetery, a Talmud Torah, two study halls, and a several other joint communal institutions. Also the local charitable societies – the Chevra Kadisha (burial society), “Jewish Women's Association,” “Jewish Women's Organization for Welfare and Relief,” Free Loan Fund, and a number of others had joint participation.

Even during the period of the Czechoslovak Republic, the Galanta Yeshiva maintained its reputation and even received government recognition as an institution of higher learning. In 1922, It was headed by Rabbi Jehoshua BUXBAUM, author of “Ohr Pene Yehoshua.” In his time, 230 young men learned in the yeshiva. Rabbi BUXBAUM felt a great affinity for Israel and encouraged his students to settle there, but on the other hand he became known for his uncompromising religious zealotry and fought an all-out war against general education and Zionism. In Galanta, there was a branch of the large and influential group of Agudas Yisrael and alongside it the youth movements of "Young Agudat Israel" and the "Beit Ya'akov" movement for girls. Rabbi BUXBAUM supported them and heartily encouraged his students to settle there, as a counterweight to the Zionist youth movements.

Despite the struggle waged by Rabbi BUXBAUM and the others in the orthodoxy in the city against Zionism, the Zionist movement in the city reached its peak at this time, especially in the 1930s. The strongest Zionist party in the city was the “Mizrachi” movement, and alongside it were the “General Zionists," the Revisionists, and several Zionist-Socialist factions. On the eve of the 17th Zionist Congress (in 1931) the Jews of Galanta purchased 35 “shekels.” For the Zionist Congress (in 1933), the "Mizrachi" won 50% of Galanta's votes; the Revisionists received 25%; the “General Zionists "- 15% and "The League of Working Israel"- 10%. The youth movements" Hashomer Kadima " (later, "Hashomer Hatza'ir"), “Bnei Akiva,” Beitar and the “Maccabi Association”, which has its own club, developed lively activities in the city.

In Galanta, the National Jewish Party was also active. In the elections for town council in 1928, it received 453 votes (28%) and several seats in the council. In 1938, three representatives of the National Jewish Party were chosen to the council and several other orthodox representatives who participated in the elections but in a separate listing. The jurist, Dr. Leo SHIPOSH, who served as the district notary public, was a member of the national leadership of the National Jewish Party. The Jews were deeply involved

[Page 131]

in the life of the general public, and some of them held positions in public administration and positions in elected institutions. Among them were the Chief Notary of the Supreme Court, the head of the Land Registry Office, and nine Jews who were members of the local council.

During this period, the proportion of Jews in the city population was slightly over a quarter. In the 1930 census, 878 residents of Galanta were classified as Jews according to national origin, and the rest were either as Hungarians or as Slovaks. The proportion of Jews in the economy far exceeded their relative number in the city, mainly in commerce. In 1921, 115 of the 130[3] businesses in the city (85%), were owned by Jews according to the following details from the business licenses issued by the local Chamber of Commerce that year:

 

Type of Business # Jewish-
owned
Grocery and General Stores 15 14
Restaurants &Taverns 12 11
Agricultural Products 11 11
Agencies 11 10
Clothing 11 8
Wood & Heating Materials 9 9
Flour 7 7
Haberdashery (notions) 7 6
Transportation (freight) 7 7
Horse & Cattle 5 5
Leather and Shoes 5 5
Watches & Jewelry 4 4
Textile & Fabric 4 4
Iron and Work Products 4 4
Dairy Products 2 2
Furniture 1 1
Other 8 5

 

Also, two banks in the city – Galanta's bank loan fund and a savings and loan - were owned by Jews. In addition to merchants, there were about 40 craftsmen, many clerks and shop workers, two doctors (out of four in the city), three lawyers (out of six), a pharmacist, several small factory owners, among them the owners of a liquor factory, brickworks, and a flour mill.

 

The Holocaust Period

In November 1938, Galanta was annexed to Hungary. In 1941 about 150 young Jewish men were recruited to the "labor battalions", and after a while another 65 Jews were recruited. Despite the persecutions and the harsh economic situation, the two Orthodox communities continued to operate separately. Each community maintained its own yeshiva and Talmud Torah. Dr. Ignac KALISCH and Max PRESSBURGER headed the two communities. In March 1944, with the German invasion of Hungary, there were 1,105 Jews in Galanta, with two Jewish schools in which 270 students studied.

On June 5, 1944, a ghetto was set up in Galanta around the synagogue. At first, all of Galanta's Jews were transferred there, and afterward about another 600 Jews from nearby communities were assembled in the ghetto there. A few days later, the Jews in Galanta were sent to a concentration camp in Komarno (q.v.) and on June 13, 1944 they were deported to Auschwitz. Among the deportees were the rabbis of the two communities, Rabbi Jehoshua BUXBAUM and Rabbi Benjamin Ber SEIDEL, and the dayanim (judges), Rabbi Yosef Yechiel SEIDEL and Rabbi Yakov BUXBAUM. About 1,800 Jews from Galanta and its vicinity perished during the Holocaust.

After the war, a mass grave was discovered near Galanta in which about 60 Jews were murdered towards the end of the war.

 

Post-War

After the liberation, some 250 Jews returned to Galanta, mostly survivors of the concentration camps and the "labor battalions." The communal life was renewed, and the synagogue and ritual bath were restored and a kosher public kitchen was opened for the needy. The Chevra Kadisha renewed its activities. Jakub STERN served as the president of the kehila and Rabbi Isidor KATZ filled the rabbi's position. The children received Jewish education and learned religious studies. In 1947, there were 272 Jews in Galanta.

The Zionist movement also renewed its activities in Galanta, under the leadership of Dr. Albert FLUSS. In 1947, 8,400 Kronen were donated to the Jewish National Fund. In 1948-1949, most of Galanta's Jews immigrated to Israel. Regarding the few who remained in the town, in time they were joined by Jews from nearby settlements. At the head of the renewed community stood Rabbi Isidor (Yitzchak) KATZ. Adolf SCHULTZ served afterwards as head of the community for a long period of time and after him, Gavriel LOEWINGER took over the role. In the 1970s, the synagogue was destroyed and the community converted a private home into a prayer house. In the prayer house, a memorial plaque was set up for the 1,800 victims from Galanta and its vicinity who were martyred in the Holocaust.

Today there are still several dozen Jews in Galanta and it has a Jewish community. The old cemetery is slowly being destroyed, but the new cemetery is still in place and in use.

Yad Vashem Archives, JM/11027; M48/1307; 03/5309
Moreshet Archives, A/1111; D1/5785.
“Eyla Azkara” (“These I Remember”), A, pp. 190-195.
[Page 132]

Greenwald, Toyzent Yahr Jidisch Leben…(A Thousand Years of Jewish Life (in Hungary)”), p. 299[4].
Cohen, Khakhmei Hungaria (Hungarian Sages), pp. 330-333, 455-460. 511-512.
Fuchs, Hungarian Yeshivot, A. pp. 144-154
Bárkány-Dojè, pp. 139-143.
MHJ, vols. III, VII, XVI
V. Novakova, A. Vegh, Galanta, Bratislava 1987
Schweitzer, pp. 226-229
Informationsbulletin, no. 2 (1972)
Vestnik ŽNO, no. 5/43 (1981)
Židovske noviny, no. 12 (1938)
Translator's Notes

  1. Responsa are "…the answers given by authorities in Jewish law to questions put to them (in Hebrew sheelot u-teshuvot,'questions and answers')" See . http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/responsa/. Return
  2. Authority on halacha. Return
  3. This list might have some missing information, since addition reveals 113 out of 123, which is 92% Return
  4. Page reference number in error, since book only has 279 pages. However, pages 118 and 206 reference the yeshiva and its students. The book, written in Yiddish, can be found on HebrewBooks.org., http://hebrewbooks.org/3383 Return

 

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