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“Velky Kapušany” – Encyclopaedia
of Jewish communities, Slovakia
(Veľké Kapušany, Slovakia)

48°33' / 22°05'

Translation of the
“Velky Kapušany” 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 189]

Velky Kapušany

Translated by Madeleine Isenberg

With thanks to Bracha Rappaport for her help with the translation

(In Hungarian–Nagy Kapos, and from Jewish sources, Kapish)

A small town in the Uh Region in eastern Slovakia.

 

Year Number of
Residents
Jews
Population
By
Percentage
1768 –– 18 ––
1828 312 34 10.9
1840 1,155 81 7.1
1869 1,246 268 21.5
1910 1,216 333 27.4
1919 2,148 375 17.4
1930 2,555 447 17.5
1941 2,668 464 17.4
1948 2,071 224 10.8

 

Velky Kapušany was established at the end of the 11th Century as a fortified border settlement. In 1217 it was included in the Humenné (q.v.) Estate which belonged to the DRUGETH nobility. In the 15th century it received privileges of a city and permission to set market days. Merchants from near and far visited the big markets in Velky Kapušany. In the 17th century, handicrafts developed and many workshops were established for various kinds of production. But the real growth and development in Velky Kapušany happened in the 19th Century when it became the district capital and served as an administrative and economic center for its agricultural locality. The majority of its citizens were Hungarians and the minority consisted of Slovaks and Ruthenians; Catholics, and Evangelicals by their religion. They made their living by engaging in handicrafts and agriculture, especially fruit orchards since the local fertile soil was a perfect medium for growing crops. During the period of the Czechoslovak Republic, Velky Kapušany maintained its status as a supply center of merchandise and services for a wide rural area. In the 1930 census, two–thirds of its residents were counted as Hungarians by nationality and the others identified themselves as Jews or Slovaks. In November 1938 Velky Kapušany was annexed to Hungary. On November 23, 1944, it was liberated by the Soviet army.

 

History of the Community

It is not known when Jews began to settle in Velky Kapušany. According to the tombstones found in the old Jewish Cemetery dating from the second half of the 18th Century, one would surmise that a few individual Jews lived there at that time. In the list of taxpayers of the Uh Region in 1768, three Jewish families (6 adults and 12 kids), residents of Velky Kapušany, belonged to the kehila (community) of Uzhorod area and its rabbinical authorities. For many years the number or Jews remained

[Page 190]

small, since Velky Kapušany was a small remote settlement and the citizens had very meager resources.

At the beginning of the 19th century, a few Jewish families from Poland and Carpathian Russia, settled there and established the first communal institutions – a house of prayer, a mikva (ritual bath for purification) and a cheder[1]. Jews from the entire vicinity were buried in the cemetery that had already existed for a while. In the 1840s an independent Jewish kehila was established that had started initially as a Chassidic settlement. Since the middle of the century when the economy of Velky Kapušany began to develop, many Jews from nearby settlements moved there. In the second half of the 19th century the number of Jews grew and by 1870, 280 Jews lived in Velky Kapušany.

During the religious split among the Hungarian Jews in 1869, the Velky Kapušany community joined with the Orthodox movement. During these years the community grew and became a rabbinical center. The first Rabbi of the community and the vicinity was apparently Rabbi Abraham Yaakov REINITZ. Following him in Velky Kapušany came the Admor[2], Yehoshua (Cohen) FRIED, his son Rabbi Yechiel Michel FRIED, and his grandson, Rabbi Yaakov Meir FRIED. These Velky Kapušany rabbis established a yeshiva at times, that at its height, a few dozen young men studied. The Jews of Velky Kapušany primarily spoke Yiddish among themselves, but Hungarian with the other inhabitants. For many years members of the wealthy SPIEGEL family, owners of a big flour mill, were the heads of the community. The community had a cemetery, two Batei Midrash (Jewish study halls) and they employed a chazan (a cantor), a shochet (ritual slaughter), and a teacher of religion. From their community budget they financed educational institutions: – a cheder, a Talmud Torah[3], and an elementary school of four grades where the language of instruction was Hungarian. A synagogue, built in a classic style, was dedicated in 1891. The Talmud Torah and the dwellings of the Rabbi and the chazan were in the synagogue's courtyard and next to these were built a mikvah (ritual bath) and a slaughterhouse. In the beginning of the 20th Century a new Jewish cemetery was built and at the center of it, an ohel[4] was erected covering the grave of Rabbi Yehoshua (Cohen) FRIED. During the World War I about 50 of the Velky Kapušany Jews were recruited into the Austro–Hungarian army and a few were killed in the conflicts.

 

Between the Two World Wars

After the War the Jewish Community of Velky Kapušany and its surroundings had about 500 people. At the head stood Ludvig FARKAS. Rabbi Yaakov Meir FRIED continued to serve as the rabbi of the community and its vicinity, to which Jews from 17 settlements belonged. The Community protocol was reformulated in 1920. The Velky Kapušany community was economically strong and well established. In 1922, it employed 7 workers and its annual budget was 50,000 Kronen. Its establishments included a synagogue, two study halls, two cemeteries (the old and the new), a mikvah, a few butcher shops and other community institutions. Between the two World Wars, no Jewish school existed in the Community. The children studied in a Hungarian school, and when they had free time, they participated in religious studies in the Talmud Torah. After the death of Rabbi Yaacov Meir FRIED, in the 1930s, his son, Rabbi Mordechai David (Cohen) FRIED succeeded him and he served until the destruction of the community in 1944.

A few charitable, benevolent and study groups existed in Velky Kapušany – the “Association of Jewish Women”, “Poalei Tzedek,” “Bikur Cholim” (visiting the sick), Mishna and Talmud study groups. A religious publication “Har Zvi”, edited by the Rabbi's son, Rabbi Naftali (Cohen) FRIED, was printed in Velky Kapušany.

In the 1930 census, 85% (378 out of 447) of the Jews of Velky Kapušany identified themselves as Jews for their nationality. The rest declared themselves as Hungarians. The National Jewish Party won wide support in the elections for local administration. In 1928 it received 104 votes (11% of all the votes) and was third in size in the city. Two of its representatives served on the Council.

During the period of the Czech Republic, branches of “Agudas Yisrael” and the Zionist Histradut were active in Velky Kapušany. The religious youth was active in “The Young Agudas Yisrael” and the girls in the “Beit Yaacov” organization. In the 1930s clubs of “Betar” and” Hashomer Hatzair” were opened and many of the young people joined those groups. Most of the Jews in Velky Kapušany worked for their livelihood in business and as tradesmen. Jews owned of 42 local businesses, a flour mill and a “Bank of Economy”. 10 Jews were tradesmen (3 shoemakers, 2 tailors, a baker, a blacksmith, a tinsmith, a barber, and a watchmaker). Among the Jews were also a pharmacist, a lawyer, a building contractor and two doctors – the district doctor and the regional doctor. The secretary of the local court in Velky Kapušany was also a Jew. According to the licenses provided by the local business office, in 1921, the distribution of local business ownership was as follows:

 

Type of Business Number of
Businesses
Jewish Owned
Businesses
Grocery and General store 20 17
Taverns and Restaurants 5 4
Lumber and Building Supplies 5 4
Agricultural products 4 2
Butcher Shops 4 2
Agencies 3 2
Cattle and Horses 3 3
Housewares and Glass 3 2
Fabric and Clothing 3 3
Other 4 3

[Page 191]

The Holocaust Period

In November 1938 Velky Kapušany was annexed to Hungary and scheming against the Jews started immediately. In the years 1940–41 dozens of Jews were drafted and sent to “forced labor” groups. Most of them were sent to the eastern frontlines and nearly all of them perished. At the end of 1941, a few Jewish families who lacked Hungarian citizenship were sent to the region of Kamenets–Podolsk in occupied Ukraine and were murdered by the SS and the German police. The Hungarian authorities forced the Jews out of the local economy, closed most of their businesses, and the number of needy people who depended on support from the Jewish welfare groups kept growing. The community itself was dependent on extensive welfare. On the eve of the German invasion of Hungary on March 19, 1944, the Velky Kapušany community comprised 460 people. The community continued to function and employed four hired workers. The economic distress affected everybody and many received exemption from paying the community taxes. In 1944, only 40 heads of families were paying the taxes. The head of the community was Moshe ZIMMERMAN and Rabbi Mordechai David (Cohen) FRIED continued his leadership. He was assisted by the dayan (religious judge), Yaacov LEFKOVICS.

During Pesach 1944, the Hungarian Gendarmes ordered the Jews to gather in the courtyard of the synagogue, along with Jews from nearby settlements. On April 16, 1944 all the Jews of Velky Kapušany and its vicinity were sent to the Uzhorod ghetto and in the middle of May, were deported to Auschwitz.

 

After the War

After liberation, approximately 200 Jews returned to Velky Kapušany, a few of them residents of nearby settlements. The survivors started to rehabilitate their lives and renewed the life of the community. With vigorous efforts headed by Ludwig GOTTFRIED, a few community and public institutions were restored. They hired a shochet who also served as the prayer leader. The Zionist movement returned to function in Velky Kapušany under the leadership of Ludvig BRAUN. In 1947 the Jews of Velky Kapušany collected 14,000 Kronen, its contribution for planting the “Forest of the Martyrs of Czechoslovakia” in the hills of Jerusalem.

In 1948, 224 Jews lived in Velky Kapušany. In the big wave of emigration in 1949, most of them immigrated to Israel and a portion immigrated to other countries. With the cessation of the emigration at the end of 1949, only 70 Jews were left in Velky Kapušany. A community of Jews headed by Isidor GRÜNFELD existed until the 1970s. As the years went by, most Jews left Velky Kapušany, primarily moving to Kosice. During the 1980s only a few Jews were left in the village, and maybe even today, a few Jews still live there. Two cemeteries and a few other community buildings remain there. A few of them now serve as storehouses and work places.


References:

Yad Vashem Archives, 03/5595, 5711
Cohen, Khakhmei Hungaria (Hungarian Sages), pp. 374, 422–423, 465, 480.
Fuchs, Hungarian Yeshivot, Volume 2, p. 72
Bárkány–Dojč, pp. 431–433.
Braham, The Politics of Genocide, p.133
MHJ, vols. XVI, XVII
Schweitzer, pp. 448–449
Adresár Slovenska, pp. 482–484


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A religious elementary school, usually for very young children. Return
  2. Admor is an abbreviation of the Hebrew words, adoneinu morenuy u'rabeinu, being a title for a highly respected rabbi. It means, our master and teacher and rabbi. Return
  3. Talmud Torah = a communal religious school to teach children Hebrew, Scriptures, Talmud, and Jewish history. Return
  4. An enclosure over a grave, usually for someone who was greatly esteemed. Return

 

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