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[Page 42]

Chaya Roiza (Roizaleh) z”l, the daughter of the Rebbe

The late Dr. Ernst Martin, member of the Rumanian Parliament related this story:

As you know, I managed to escape Klausenburg in early 1944 and crossed the border into Rumania via Turda. I stayed in Bucharest and I was involved in Jewish life there and I was able to help many Jews there, too.

At a certain point, Rabbi Lipa Meir z”l (who is buried in Tiberias), son-in-law of the Satmar Rebbe, also escaped to Bucharest along with his wife, Roizaleh, where they lived in the city temporarily.

In that year Shavuot was a three-day holiday, Shabbos and then Sunday and Monday. On Sunday night at two AM, I was awakened from my slumber by a loud knocking on the windows of my apartment. I looked outside and saw a car and a tall woman wrapped in a shawl, standing there. I went outside and she approached me and blessed me in Yiddish. “Happy Holiday, dear Doctor.” I still did not know who she was. When the woman showed her face I recognized her right away. “Rebetzin, I don't understand you. Isn't it a holiday today?” (Dr. Marton was a religious Jew.) “How could you desecrate the holiday?” The Rebbetzin lifted her hand and spoke. She sounded as if she would break down into tears. “Dear Doctor, it is permitted to desecrate the holiday now. I've come on behalf of a Jewish family who the authorities want to send into Hungary. They are on their way to the border near Turda and you must save their lives!” I went to work and was able to overturn the deportation order. This righteous woman traveled by car on a holiday to save this family.

In the year taf shin yud gimel 5713 (1953), she died in New York and was buried in Tiberias.


The Meeting of the Satmar Rebbe
with King Karol II of Rumania

[Page 43]

It happened in the winter of taf reish tzadi vav 5696 (1936) at the Satmar train station when King Carol II returned from his visit to Czechoslovakia, which the Rumanian press called “The Victory Trail.”

Two Jewish communities were invited to participate in the welcoming ceremony. The Orthodox community, represented by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum z”l, the president of the Kehilla, Reb. Shmuel Rosenberg and l, traveled by carriage to the train station. Rabbi Dr. Joseph Friedman z”l, headed the delegation of the Status Quo Kehilla.

The committee that organized the King's welcome invited the Rebbe to the front row which placed him next to two Rumanian Orthodox priests. Because of his great humility the Rebbe moved to the back, taking a place in the second row. The organizers asked him to return to the first row and the Rebbe complied with their request.

The special royal train with its ten specially-outfitted cars pulled into the Satmar train station at 10 am as thousands watched in anticipation. The king got off the train. First he approached the head of the district, Dr. Octavian Ardlanu, and blessed him. After that he approached the mayor, Dr. Stephan Benea, gifting him with the traditional tray of bread and salt. The king ate a few crumbs. After that the king surveyed the military's honor guard and shook hands with General Papadophil.

The king passed through a row of dignitaries and shook hands with all of them. The two priests put out their hands for the king to shake. The King spied the man who stood modestly dressed in elegant fur, holding a rabbinical hat in one hand, and in the other hand, a silver-headed walking stick. The King approached the rebbe and extended his hand. The king held the hand of the rebbe until he finished reciting the traditional blessing (it seemed the king was aware of the Jewish practice). This made a great impression. The world press in democratic nations and especially the Jewish newspapers looked upon this event with great suspicion.

The rebbe, Yisrael Hager z”l from Vishnitz, lived in Grosswardein during the second year of World War I, taf reish ayin hey, where he built and administered the court until his death in taf reish tzadi vuv (1936). In the year taf shin yud (1950) his remains were brought to the Land of Israel in the Zichron Meir cemetery in Bnei Brak.


Rabbi Haim Meir z”l
the Vishnitzer Rebbe
Rabbi Israel Hager z”l
the Vishnitzer Rebbe


After his passing, his son Rabbi Haim Meir z”l took his place. The Rebbe and his family lived in Rumania during the Holocaust. In the year taf shin vuv (1946) the Rebbe moved to the Holy Land and rebuilt his court in the Zichron Meir neighborhood of Bnei Brak. He died in taf shin lamed bais (1972) and is buried alongside his father.


Study hall of the Vishnitzer Hassidim
in Satmar on Tompa Street

[Page 44]

The Tzaddik Rabbi Eliezer Fish z”l

Rabbi Eliezer Fish, the Rebbe of Biksad, was a local treasure. The Rabbi was born in taf reish mem (1880), in the town of Masiv which was in the Marmorosch district. His father was Rabbi Moshe Fish z”l. As a youth he showed signs of outstanding intelligence and Talmudical expertise. He spent many years studying with Rabbi Mordechai Yehuda Lau z”l the Rabbi of Interdam. His teachers predicted a bright future for this rising star.

His doorway was always crowded with people who came to seek his blessing and advice. As a result of years of copious fasting, his body was weak and thin, but his mind was clear and he was quick to understand. Those who sought his advice left satisfied and at peace after seeing his holy countenance. He had a great love of the Jewish people and he spent much time in prayer on behalf of other Jews.

In the year taf reish samech hey (1905), he was appointed the rabbi of the kehilla of Nirvogdani. In the year taf reish ayin bais (1912) he relocated to Biksad and then, in the year taf reish pay alef (1921), he moved to Satmar. In the interim he also lived in Bandi-banya for a three-year period and for one year in Plasho-banya, then remained in Satmar until the Holocaust.


The Tzaddik Rabbi Eliezer Fish z”l


He was treated with great respect wherever he lived, especially in Satmar where there were many Hassidim. The Rebbe of Biksad stood above all the factions. The Satmar Rebbe also showed him great love and special friendship.

When the Germans entered, he escaped together with his family to Klausenburg with the intention of crossing the border into Rumania. Unfortunately he didn't succeed. He and his family were taken to the Klausenburg ghetto and from there they were deported to Auschwitz where they died a martyr's death: the Rebbe and his wife, Rebetzin Chaya Golda the daughter of Rav Nahum Tzvi z”l, their son Rabbi Haim Moshe, the dayan of Monoshtor, and his wife and three children, on the 20th of Sivan, Taf shin daled (1944). May their memory be blessed.

One son survived with Hashem's grace, Rabbi Nahum Tzvi who lives in New York and continues his father's legacy of holiness and purity as the Biksader Rebbe. He was blessed to have righteous children.


Biksader Rebbe's residence on Bekes-Karoly Street

[Page 45]

The visit of the Biksader Rebbe to Satmar

There was a rare almost other-worldly phenomenon that occurred with the sudden appearance of the Biksader Rebbe in the month of Av, taf samach mem alef (1941) in the central square.

The Rebbe came to pray at the graves of the righteous in the central cemetery of Satmar. According to Yehuda Fried who photographed the event, a crowd gathered to watch as the Rebbe walked into his hotel. You can see the onlookers in the photograph. Behind you can see the car that transported the rebbe and his traveling companion Myona.


The visit of the Biksader Rebbe to Satmar


The Gaon Rabbi Moshe David Winternitz z”l the head of the Rabbinical court of Satmar


One of the great geniuses of our times was Rabbi Moshe Dovid Winternitz z”l. Questions came to him from all over the world, a testament to his prodigious knowledge of the Torah.

Rabbi Moshe Dovid Winternitz had a patriarchal appearance suffused with the honor of the Torah visible even when he walked the streets on his way to the synagogue or to run a routine errand. Everyone stopped to notice giving him the honor he deserved as a scholar who had mastered all parts of the Torah and of science.

If you walked past 24 Patofi street you could catch a glimpse of him bent over a volume of the Talmud deep in thought. He was nearly 90 years old when he was taken to Auschwitz.

[Page 46]

He was the son-in-law of Satmar's first rabbi, Rabbi Binyamin Zev Mandelbaum z”l. After his first wife died he married his wife's sister Miriam z”l, who is buried in Satmar.

I am trying to remember his children. Rabbi Yaakov Winternitz sold holy books and Judaica on Vardomb Street, which was at a diagonal to the great synagogue. I remember two other sons, R. Mordechai and Tzvi, who were known as scholars, and in addition there was a married daughter. After many years I still wonder why a genius like Rabbi Moshe Dovid didn't inherit his father-in-law's position as chief rabbi of Satmar? Why did he occupy a secondary role? It's a question I still have. May his memory be blessed.


HaRav HaGaon Rabbi Avraham Hanoch Friedman z”l, the Rabbi of Bais Medrash Machzikei HaDas. Dayan and Moreh Tzedek.

Rabbi Avraham Hanoch Friedman z”l was born in the year taf reish lamed (1870) in the city of Greater Tapoltzni in Hungary. He was the Chassam Sofer's first grandson, the son of his daughter Rechaleh z”l.


Rabbi Avraham Hanoch Friedman z”l


He was orphaned at the age of 7 when both of his parents died. His mother's brother, HaRav Yosef Yospe z”l, who lived in Sharony, took him in. After R. Yosef Yozpe z”l passed away, he went to live with Rabbi Yehuda Greenwald z”l who raised him.

At a young age he studied in the yeshiva in Mattersdorf. From there, he transferred to the famous yeshiva of his cousin, the Shevet Sofer z”l, in Pressburg. There he absorbed a great deal of Torah wisdom and was known as one of the yeshiva's best students.

His wife, Chaitshe, was a scholarly woman. She was the daughter of Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Greenwald, the twin brother of Rabbi Yehuda Greenwald z”l. From the time of his marriage, he never left Rabbi Yehuda Greenwald. He moved with him from Bonihad to Sharony and from there to Satmar. In the year taf reish nun tes (1901), he was appointed as dayan and rabbi of Satmar and was on the staff of Rabbi Yehuda Greenwald's yeshiva. He was considered among the best dayanim in all of Hungary. He was known as an orator and his listeners connected to him deeply.

In addition to his prodigious Torah knowledge he was a very intelligent person. His piety, his Torah scholarship, and his love for other Jews and all people made him beloved among the Hassidim as well as the modern Jews. For many years he served as the Rabbi of the Bais Medrash Machzikei HaDas on Bam Street and he taught Torah there.

His congregants were simple working people and tradesmen but they were mesmerized by his lectures on the weekly Torah portions and on Jewish law. As a result, their piety and adherence to the mitzvos grew, and they became literate Jews.


Rabbi Yehoshua Falk Friedman Kasshua Dayan son of Rabbi Avraham Hanoch Friedman


Rabbi Avraham Hanoch had a stately bearing and he radiated love. When he was 75 he was deported to Auschwitz where he gave up his pure soul in sanctification of G-d's name, on Sabbath of the 12th of Sivan, taf shin daled (1944).

Upon returning home from the funeral of the wife of R. Shimshon Rosenberg z”l, Rabbi Hanoch's wife, Chaitshe z”l, became ill and died that same day. She is buried alongside her daughter, Yocheved Chaya Sara Oysh z”l, near the burial place of Rabbi Yehuda Greenwald in the Satmar cemetery.

All of those listed below were murdered in sanctification of Hashem's name in Auschwitz. May their memory be blessed:

Her daughter Yentel and Yentel's husband, R. Dovid HaKohen Rosenberg z”l and five of their children.

Her son, the Gaon Rabbi Yehoshua Falk Friedman dayan of Kashau (son in law of the Gaon Rabbi Shaul Brach z”l), his wife and nine children z”l.

His daughter Toibel Rechel, her husband, and six children z”l.

His son Rabbi Yonah Yehezkel, his wife, and five children z”l.

His daughter Yehudis, her husband, and six children z”l.

The only surviving child was his son R. Shmuel Binyamin Friedman who lives in Bnai Brak. The surviving Satmarers regard him as an important member of the community. He served as the head of the Makava community, the head of the Neveh Achiezer neighborhood in Bnai Brak, and for many years he was a member of the Bnai Brak city council. Before that he occupied a senior position at the Benedict factory in Bnai Brak.

Reb Shmuel Binyamin Friedman deals with the distribution of charity in Bnei Brak and he holds onto the memories of his dear martyred parents and siblings.

[Page 47]

Tiferet Bachurim

Tiferet Bachurim deserves an honorable mention in this work. The organization was founded around the year taf reish pay (1920). The founders were Feish Rosenfeld, Nathan Hai Schreiber and Roth. The purpose of the organization was to encourage the sons of modern religious families to be involved in the study of the Torah. Young men who had graduated from Talmud Torahs and yeshivas came together through this organization. Most weeknights they gathered to participate in Torah study and exchange ideas on matters dealing with contemporary Jewish life. The lecturers were usually Moshe Shalom Goldstein (Mozshe) and Zeev Rosenberg (Willy). The young men enjoyed their lectures. Some other members were Eisner Rothenstein (owner of a candle factory), Yesayah Rubin, Pinchas Frankel, Avraham Rosenberg (Butchi) and his brother Arno, the Lebowitz brothers, Betzalel Buba and Arno and others who cannot be identified in the photograph.

Most members continued to affiliate with the organization after they married and continued to frequent the Hevra's bais medrash on Shabbos and holidays.

This wonderful organization was destroyed when the men were drafted into forced labor and the tragedy of the year taf shin daled (1944) after most of the members were killed in Auschwitz and in the Ukraine. Surviving members, with G-d's grace living in Israel and in the diaspora, remember their dear friends and the wonderful times they enjoyed.


Tiferet Bachurim

First row from right to left: Avraham Meir Fried
Row 2: Yitzchak Goldstein, Mendi Davidowitz, Hershu Freiman, Berger and Mendi Lebowitz
Row 3: Dondi Engel, Leibish Bergman, Domi Freiman, Ezshy Gross, Mozshi Jacob, Bandi Kaufman, Tzali Rosenberg, Yentzi Farkash, Moshe Meyer
Bottom row: Moshe Klein, Yehoshua Shulman, Popper, Buli Spiegel, Mozshi Goldstein, Moscowitz
Others are impossible to identify.

[Page 48]



Cantors in Satmar

It is proper to set aside a separate page for the cantors whose beautiful voices contributed to our prayer services. Reb Yerucham z”l had a beautiful strong voice.

Reb Menachem Wald z”l passed away in taf reish ayin gimel (1913). In the later years the choir sang his compositions in the great synagogue. R. Mendel Wald was an artist and an excellent musician.

R. Yisrael Yaakov Goldenberg z”l, who arrived in Satmar as a Russian war prisoner, was held in a camp on the other side of the Samosh river. With great effort, community heads secured his freedom. He had a beautiful tenor voice and was an excellent cantor. In the 1930s he relocated to Galicia where he was invited to serve as the main chazan in Krakow.

R. A. S. Stern (the cantor from Selish) stood behind the holy ark with his lovely tenor.


Author of the book, Rabbi Naftali Stern and his wife lighting a candle in the memorial tent in the Satmar cemetery


His singing and vocal trills resembled the song of a canary. Everyone listened in wonderment. After a year in Satmar he relocated to Pressburg and from there to Leipzig. His final resting place was in Manchester and it's possible that he is still there.

R. Yehuda Reival was the final cantor before the Holocaust. He was born in Transylvania but he came to Satmar from Kishinev in 1926. He was blessed with a lovely tenor voice and a good musical sense. He served as the main cantor for 18 years until the Holocaust. He was murdered in Auschwitz.

The author spent six years as a cantor in Satmar.

[Page 49]

Memorial plaque of the martyrs of Satmar and NagyBanya in the sukkah of the author


Grave of the poles of the Torah scroll which were desecrated


Grave of Dov Klein z”l


The outer wall of the Martyrs' Memorial

[Page 50]

The City of Satu Mare and its Jews

Professor Haim Shamir, Tel Aviv University

We promised to leave room in our book for the rich historical article written by Professor Shamir, a lecturer at Tel Aviv university. Professor Shamir was born in Satmar. Before his aliyah to Israel, his name was Yanchi Schwartz. This article is dedicated in memory of his mother MatzaBas Reb Yosef Menachem (Berger) z”l who died in Tel Aviv 4 Adar, taf shin mem alef (1981).

There were approximately 800,000 Jews in Rumania during the 1930s. This number has shrunk today to 30,000. Those who are familiar with this community, estimate that in another decade this glorious community will disappear. Part will move to Israel and some will age and die. This is a small section in the greater story of the upheavals the Jewish people experienced during the past 50 years.

For Rumania, this is the end of the story. The same happened in the great communities surrounding it in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia. During the existence of the Jewish community in Rumania, there was a rich texture of active Jewish social lives, involved in organizations and institutions.

Let us get to the historical summaries.

It's not by chance that several university students wrote their Ph.D theses on Rumanian Jewry. These were research studies based on archival documents, but to create the structure for their research something else was required. Memorial books from the various communities helped paint a fuller picture. Memories and descriptions by eyewitnesses in different historical periods, including witnesses who are still alive, are an integral part of writing the histories of these communities.

One of the better known and larger communities in Transylvania is Satmar or as it was called for 900 years Szatmar-Nemeti.

A visitor to the city today will see remnants of that past. According to government estimates, there are now 230 Jewish residents of the city, but in reality there are no more than a few dozen. The others are completely assimilated and married to gentiles. The ancient Jewish quarter is almost completely destroyed. The beautiful Status Quo synagogue no longer stands. What remains are the beautiful Orthodox Synagogue and the Bais Medrash next door. The large synagogue is in disrepair and no longer in use. Prayer books and holy texts have been left on the side of the hallway. There is no minyan outside of holidays and an occasional Shabbos. In effect, the curtain has fallen on the Status Quo community.

Here is a sketch of Satmar history.

Based on archeological findings we know that human habitation of Satmar is very ancient. The region was part of the kingdom of Dekbelus, the king of the Dacians, and it was captured along with the rest of the kingdom by the Romans headed by Caesar Turnus. This Dacian-Roman mix was created over the centuries into the Rumanian nation.

In the tenth century, Satu Mare was part of the principality of Voevodat, ruled by the Rumanian prince Menumorut who ruled northern Transylvania.

In the place that became Satu Mare there was a central fort known as Castrum-Zotmar. At the end of the 9th century the region was captured by the Hungarians along with the rest of Transylvania and became part of the Kingdom of Hungary. There was a mixture of peasants, Rumanians and Hungarians in the region. There are signs that during the Middle Ages Satu Mare was part of an autonomous Rumanian principality, which was part of the federal government of the Kingdom of Hungary. The beginnings of Satu Mare's emergence as an important commercial hub began with the eastward movement of Germans during the middle ages.

[Page 51]

During the period of German-Saxon settlement, from the 11th to the 14th centuries, numerous cities sprung up in Transylvania including Brashov-Kronstadt, Sibiu-Hermannstadt, Cluj-Klausenburg.

Around 1150, German merchants and tradesmen settled in Satmar and established the neighborhood which bears the Hungarian name Nemeti. It was the city's geographical location that drew them. The location was a crossroads between important routes from north east to south west e.g., from the Carpathian mountains in the direction of the new cities Oradea, Grosvardein, and Arad and from there westward to Pest. In a northeasterly direction there was Kasha Krakow. Satmar is located in the midst of a flowering plain which is a continuation of Hungary's plain and is fertile agricultural land. The Carpathian mountain range is located 20-30 kilometers north to northeast of the city. The city is also located on the banks of the river Samosh which during those years was surrounded by swamps. It's no wonder that the plains around Satmar attracted German farmers especially during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Satmar was a center of commerce and skilled labor for the region. A wave of Swabian Germans came to the region around 1712. The city played an important role during the war against the Turks. The city was located in a region the Turks had never captured and served as an important center for the Hapsburgs, who inherited the Hungarian monarchy in their struggle against the Turks.

Satmar played a central role in European history in one moment in time. During the years 1703-1711 there was an uprising in Hungary against the Habsburgs, led by Franz Rakotzy, the prince of Transylvania. After a tough battle, the Hapsburgs defeated the rebel forces and Rakotzy fled from Hungary. The Hungarian nobility signed a peace treaty with the Hapsburg Emperor known as the Peace of Satmar in 1711. This treaty was a turning point in European history and set the groundwork for the Austrian Empire. Following the signing of this treaty, Habsburg Emperor Karl VI was crowned King of Hungary in 1712, uniting the kingdoms of Austria and Hungary into one empire.

The building where the treaty was signed still stands today in the city's central plaza. In the interwar period the B'nai B'rith organization had its headquarters there. Today the building has become a historical archeological museum for the region.

The Austro-Hungarian collaboration lasted for 200 years until the double monarchy fell apart in 1918.

The 19th century was a time of growth for the city. Commerce and light industry grew and a middle class made up of Hungarians, Germans, and Jews rose in Satmar. During these years, unrest increased among the Rumanians accompanied by a rise in nationalist sentiment. Satmar was essentially a Hungarian city. Eighty percent of its residents were ethnic Hungarians.

Rumanian unrest did not take place inside the city but mostly in the towns and villages in the county. In the 19th century Satmar grew from 13,000 in 1850 to 20,000 in 1890 to 35,000 by 1910.

The culmination of World War I resulted in territorial changes along the Hungarian Rumanian border. All of Transylvania became part of Rumania, including Satmar. The Rumanians attempted to turn Satmar into a Rumanian city. Until World War II 60 % of the population remained Hungarian. Even today, according to census numbers, 50 percent of Satmar's residents are ethnic Hungarians. The city was a stop on the railway routes from Bucharest to Prague and Berlin, and was a transportation hub for northwest Rumania.The city developed as an industrial center. A large factory to build trains for the Rumanian railway system was opened. There were also factories for housewares, textiles, food, and machinery. During the 1930s the city's population grew to 50,000. In 1940 Hitler ordered northern Transylvania to be ceded to the Hungarians. For four years the Hungarians ruled Satmar until it was recaptured by the Romanians in October 1944. On August 23, 1944 the Rumanians separated themselves from the Third Reich and joined the Allies on the side of the USSR. The borders of 1920 were restored.

After the war the communist government added more factories and new neighborhoods south of the Samosh River.

The government encouraged cultural life including a Rumanian theater and a philharmonic orchestra serving all of northwest Rumania. The city now has 115,000 residents, half of them ethnic Hungarians.

At first glance it seems that the Jewish community of Satmar is of relatively recent vintage, dating only to the 19th century. The migration of Jews to Transylvania and to areas south of the Carpathian mountains began around 1850. Most of the migrants came from Galicia and some from other parts of Poland. The Jews of Hungarian areas, including Transylvania, looked down on Polish Jews. This is ironic because all of Hungarian Jewry has its roots in Poland. There were Jews in Hungary in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries but they were few in number. Some lived in the area of Satmar for a short time. In 1850 there were 128 Jews in the city. By 1870 the number grew to 1500, and in 1910 there were 7200.

[Page 52]

With regard to Satmar, there was a special reason for its organization as a Jewish community. In the years 1790 to 1830, municipal authorities banned Jews from living inside of the city of Satmar. Until the end of the 1850s, the Jews were restricted in where they were allowed to live and the government made it hard to perform kosher slaughter or to procure a license to open a synagogue. The community received formal recognition in 1852 and the synagogue was founded in 1858.

The community grew rapidly In the 1870s under the leadership of Rabbi Binyamin Zeev Mandelbaum, who served as the community's rabbi for over 50 years. In 1871 the community created a set of rules and in 1898 the Orthodox synagogue was erected. The elegance of its structure and decoration are testament to the community's strength during those years.

Until World War I several more relatively large synagogues were erected along with smaller synagogues, a large Talmud Torah and an elegant and up-to-date mikvah. With the selection of Rabbi Yehuda Greenwald, Satmar became a Torah center. He opened a large yeshiva which was considered among the most important in all of Hungary. Rabbi Greenwald was a great Torah scholar and he published a series of books about Torah and Halacha (Shevet MiYehuda and Zichron Yehuda).

In time the number of secularly-educated Jews increased. They wanted to integrate their performance of the mitzvos with a greater level of openness to the wider world. Rabbi Greenwald didn't appeal to them and the community fractured. A new Status Quo community was established with its own elegant synagogue, its own rabbi, its own school and other communal institutions.

In the years of 1902-1930, Dr. Samuel Jordan served as the Rabbi of the Status Quo community. He had a broad Hungarian and German education.

On the financial front, Satmar's Jews contributed to the development of banking and industry. In fact, most industrial initiatives in the city were started by Jews. In 1910 roughly 70 percent of local business and commerce involved Jews. In that same year 20 percent of local trades and industry were owned by Jews. Over 40 percent of the lawyers and 50 per cent of the doctors were Jews.

It's clear that by the second generation the children of the Jews overcame the cultural barriers and played a central role in the city's intellectual life. On the eve of World War I, Jews were well-represented in the city's intelligentsia. Satmar Jewry reached its fullest flowering during the interwar period.

This is surprising because Satmar Jewry had two difficult problems. The first was the transition from Hungarian to Rumanian rule. On the eve of World War I, 90 percent of the city's Jews declared that Hungarian was their mother tongue. Many Jews had difficulty adjusting to the change of power, especially given the Rumanian government's well-known anti- Semitism. The second problem was an economic breakdown which especially affected Jewish business people, tradesmen, and bankers. Despite these limitations the community continued to grow. By 1935 there were 12,000 Jews residing in Satmar, roughly one quarter of the city's total population. The Jews lent much character to the city.

The Jewish middle and upper middle classes brought a cosmopolitan flavor to the city. The level of the shops, cultural life, and newspapers in the city were influenced by this. The traditional Jews lived in the Jewish quarter located between the central square and the Samosh river. The Haredi and Hassidic Jews lived a traditional life, and supported themselves through business and various trades.

Within the Jewish community there were contractors, artisans, journalists, doctors and lawyers. Jewish-owned factories continued to thrive. There was a railway car factory owned by Yeno Sabo and Moritz Reiter, and the machine and vessel factory was owned by the Printz family. The Markovitz families owned a spirit factory, the Gut brothers, a cork factory. The brickworks was owned by Ephraim Williger, and the Freund family owned textile factories, whose wares were marketed throughout Rumania.

During this period the first buds of creativity appeared. There were several talented publicists, such as Yosef Burgida and the author and playwright Elish Katzar, who wrote a series of novels and plays about Jewish life. If the Holocaust had not come to end it all, Satmar would have produced many Jewish artists and scientists.

Jewish youth studied in the city's three high schools and most excelled at their studies.

Rabbi Eliezer Dovid Greenwald, the author of the Keren LeDavid, developed an important initiative with regard to social and religious life. The great synagogue became an important center of Jewish life and the building complex was expanded. An orphanage, a mikvah and a new bath house were added, and in 1927, a Jewish hospital which served the whole community was built. This hospital was well equipped with up-to-date equipment and non-Jews were treated there as well as Jews. In religious life Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum assumed leadership of the orthodox community. He originated from the Sighet Hassidic dynasty and he was well known for his zealotry. His selection in 1929 was disputed; he only assumed a leadership role in 1934.

Other Rebbes settled in Satmar and during the 1930s, and the orthodox community became increasingly Hassidic. One of the Rebbes was Rabbi Eliezer Fish of Biksad who was known as a miracle worker. Learned Jews published scholarly books which were printed by the local Jewish printing press.

[Page 53]

The story of Moshe Neufeld (Kibbutz Barkai)

Noted by Orna

Four million humans passed through the gates of the Auschwitz extermination camp. Only several hundred came out alive. Moshe Neufeld was one of those few, due to a series of fortuitous coincidences which allowed him to remain among the living. He tells his personal story without emotion as if he cannot find the words to contain his experience.

“I was born in the Northern Transylvanian city of Satmar. My family was traditional and middle class. My mother was extremely religious and she came from a rabbinic family who were Spinka Hassidim. My father worked as a travel agent and was the primary breadwinner. He spent a lot of time on the road. I was the oldest son and I had a brother and several sisters. I attended a government school and in the afternoon, a cheder. When I was 12, I joined the HaShomer Hatzair youth movement without my parents' knowledge.

My city, Satmar, was a city of conflict as it passed from Hungarian to Rumanian rule, but it was culturally Hungarian. When my story began, the city was still under Rumanian control and the government did not look kindly upon HaShomer Hatzair. All of the alumni of the movement were arrested by the police and even tortured, in 1939. As I was 16 years old at the time, I got off easy, that is two slaps on the cheek from my parents at home, who couldn't imagine how their good son with his peyos could get up to such trouble.

The Hungarian army conquered the city in the 1940s and introduced anti-Semitic race legislation. As a result, Jews lost their factories, fired from their jobs, expelled from school, and randomly beaten. The Nazi party grew in power and the local population cooperated with the anti-Semites either actively or passively by acceding in silence.

[Page 54]

I was expelled from school in 1942, and could not fulfill my dream of studying architecture. In place of that my father got me a job with a building contractor.

The German army captured northern Transylvania in 1944. My region remained in Hungarian hands, but Hungary was allied with Germany and the Southern part of Transylvania remained part of Rumania. After the conquest of my city things started to change so quickly that it was hard to grasp just what was going on.

The Germans issued decrees for the Jews. We weren't allowed to own radios or telephones. We weren't allowed to enter certain streets and locations. Our property was confiscated and we were placed under curfew. Toward the end, we were all forced to relocate to a ghetto.

We lived in cramped conditions in the ghetto but we did not suffer from starvation. The Jewish leadership dealt with the Germans. Assuming that rebellion would lead to even greater catastrophes, Jewish leadership encouraged us to abide by the German laws. The Germans began to liquidate the ghetto almost immediately, only 2 weeks after it was established. They organized us into transports of 3000 people, all from the same streets. The Germans loaded the Jews into cattle cars without revealing where they were going. Within a few days the entire ghetto was sent outside the borders of Hungary. I was in the last transport. A German officer explained that we were traveling to Germany along with our families and that we would work in a labor camp to help the German war effort. Although we already heard reports of Nazi atrocities through Polish refugees, we preferred to believe the Germans, possibly as a result of our naivete and possibly as an attempt to preserve hope. This was characteristically Jewish, always hoping for a miracle from Hashem.

The train we rode on was used for transporting animals. The railroad car was made of wood and there was very little air or light. Sixty people stood in the car. We could not take our possessions, only a small amount of food and undergarments were allowed for the journey. The conditions on the train were very difficult. Due to the overcrowding and lack of ventilation many people fainted. Instead of a toilet we had a bucket which was kept in a corner of the car. We hardly received water. There were 2 buckets for 60 people. The SS guards beat us at every opportunity and tried to remove any property we might have been carrying. My family was lucky. We found places to sit and somehow we survived the journey.

After four days, I remember that I looked out through a crack and I saw a group of people outside. They were dressed in striped uniforms and they waved to us. They looked relatively well and this caused us to hope that the terrible stories we had heard were not true.

The train finally stopped. We had arrived in Auschwitz. Suddenly the doors opened and I heard the noise of screaming, beating, barking dogs and threats. They hurried us out of the train and separated the men and the women into two groups. We were in shock. We didn't realize what was happening around us. This was the Germans' intention.

During these moments I lost sight of my sister and my mother. I wasn't even able to say goodbye, and that was the last time I ever saw them.

The men were taken to Birkenau which is where the selection took place. We did not understand the meaning of the selection. Only later did we realize that those who were sentenced to death were taken to the gas chambers that same day.

After the selection we were stripped, shaven of all of our body hair, and given striped garments. I remember a young Jewish man who sat at the side, a camp veteran mumbling to himself in Yiddish “Yidn nisht gut.” I recall that I did not understand what was not good. I still did not realize that I was in an extermination camp.

In the evening we were taken to large barracks. Each barrack housed 2000 men, with terrible overcrowding. People slept on top of each other. Anyone who needed to perform bodily functions used a barrel that stood in the entranceway and lost his place when he returned. That was the first time I witnessed the terrible sights of a body of man who committed suicide on the electric fence, and several corpses near the shower. I saw a group of Jews push a man onto the electric fence. Afterwards I learned that the man was an informer who had informed on Jews, and they took revenge on him.

I did not receive anything to eat on my first day in Auschwitz. The next day in the afternoon, they brought barrels containing soup made from vegetables that were used to feed animals. Every 10 men received a potful. Everyone was extremely hungry and finished eating the soup very quickly even though it was boiling hot. In later days our nutrition consisted of this soup, a slice of bread at supper, and ersatz coffee for breakfast that didn't always arrive.

We were in a transit camp. Every few days they removed groups of men for labor. We knew that the Germans mainly needed skilled laborers and so one day when they came to take men for work my father, my brothers and I claimed to be builders. The Germans needed only one builder and I was chosen. I wasn't able to say goodbye to my father because the Germans forced me to leave.

Following my instincts and perhaps out of a dangerous naivete, I approached the boss of the barracks and I explained to him that my former boss was one of the prisoners. He was an excellent builder, much better than me and his workers were with him. The SS man was convinced. He took my father, my brother, and me with him. That's how the three of us were able to stay together, but not for too long. En route to Auschwitz 2 they stopped our group and removed all of the children, including my brother, who was 15 but looked younger because he was weak and starved. This was the last time I saw my brother. After the war I tried to find him, but I was unable. I assume that he was taken to the gas chambers like the others.

Auschwitz B was a labor camp. I was lucky there too and that is how I managed to stay alive. The kapo who was in charge of me was

[Page 55]

a good man, a German socialist and a political prisoner. He understood right away that I was not a builder and so he assigned me an easy task, to work in the hothouses growing vegetables for the families of the SS. My job was to repair the glass in the hothouses after it shattered following bombing raids. There were no other people in this huge hothouse, hundreds of meters in diameter. I had a lead bucket with a double bottom. The bucket was full of clay and the hothouse guard didn't notice the double bottom. I spilled the concrete on the floor, grabbed a few tomatoes, hid them in the bucket and then I put the clay back on top. That's how I got some tomatoes to eat, a few for my father and a few to sell in the camp. Tomatoes had tremendous value. I could exchange one for an entire loaf of bread. If I had been caught stealing vegetables I would have been shot right away, but those vegetables saved my life. They kept me from suffering from extreme hunger.

My father was unlucky. He was also taken to work in construction. When the Nazis realized that he was not a builder they gave him heavy bricks to carry from place to place which weakened him greatly. One morning, Oct 22, five months after our arrival in Auschwitz I ran to my father's barracks and I saw him standing with a small group of men. At that point he was sick and weak. Both of us knew where that group was going. I remember that I couldn't speak to him, I just gave him my hand and in Hungarian I said “I will avenge your death.” I left and ran to work. We both knew that this was his end and that there was nothing more to say.

Our lives continued this way for three more months. At night our faces lit up from the fires in the crematorium and we joked sarcastically about the dead. Human corpses became an everyday sight, but deep in our hearts we hoped that the Red army would free us.

And then in mid-January with the European winter at its peak and snow and winds all around, the last 2000 people, most of whom were sick, were taken out of Auschwitz. We received bread and canned meat and we started to march on foot in the terrible cold in the direction of Germany. This was the notorious death march, and from the first day many of us died from diseases, weakness, or just froze in the snow. Only those who left Auschwitz in good physical condition were able to survive.

Why didn't they kill us on the spot? It seems that there were differences of opinion among the Nazi leadership. Some Nazis wanted to leave a few Jews alive to use as a card in future negotiations. The exterminations ceased and the crematorium stopped working.

The march from Auschwitz to Germany took four months. On the way we stopped at 6 extermination camps and we stayed at each one for a week or two. The journey was extremely difficult. There is no room here to detail the difficulties. On the final day of the war, the day that Germany fell after Berlin was conquered and Hitler commited suicide, I was freed. This was May 10, 1945.

I remained in Germany until Pesach 1946. Then I decided to move to Israel and l joined a group of Polish partisans. In Italy I joined Barkai. Later on I was interned in Cyprus and in the Atlit prison camp but these are other stories for another time.

Young people will accuse our generation of going like “sheep to the slaughter.” I try to explain that one must understand the complex reasons for our lack of objection. The Germans intentionally broke our spirits even before we reached the death camps. By the time we reached Auschwitz we did not have the strength to fight back. The Jewish leadership did not encourage us to fight back. The young people of fighting age who could have rebelled were removed to labor camps and so the only ones remaining were the very young and the elderly.

Moshe says that when he was young he tried to forget these terrible sights and to not think about the Shoah. In recent years he felt a need to remember and to write down his memories so that future generations would know what happened.

Every year he tries to locate documentary materials and keeps close touch with Yad Vashem and Haifa University and he hopes to write a book. We wish him success in his labors.

[Page 56]

My visit to the Dachau Camp

by Naftali Stern

This article originally appeared in the Hungarian weekly, Mirror on 82.6.10.

My three-day visit to Germany started on the memorial days for the destruction of our loved ones. During this memorial day period I shall recount the story of this painful visit.

A few days ago I traveled to Munich to deal with the transfer of the bones of Rabbi Haim Aaron Weiss the Rabbi of Hidelmash to the Holy Land.

I spent three days in the capital of Bayerin where I stayed at the home of Mr. Meir Freidman who was born in Arad, Rumania and now lives on 21 Richard Strauss Street. It seems that the German neighbors were “pleased” by my external appearance because the day after my arrival a huge swastika appeared on the wall of my host's home. His son Moshe tried to scrape it off but I told him “no Moishy, If you remove this two more will appear tomorrow.”

During my three-day visit I prayed at the Orthodox synagogue on 15 Posard Street. When I asked someone where the synagogue was I was told, “Go straight ahead and you'll see a police car parked. That's where the synagogue is.” At first I didn't understand the relationship between the synagogue and the police car. Only later I learned that the synagogue is under constant police surveillance. I noticed that during services an armed police officer is on patrol in the vicinity of the synagogue.

I had some free time and I visited the cemetery in the city of Feldafing where many Jewish prisoners who died immediately after the liberation are buried. Among them is Moshe Willinger z”l who was born in Satmar, and whose Israeli family decided to re-inter his remains in Israel. Sadly I wasn't able to locate his grave.

After that I visited one of the hells of Germany, the Dachau concentration camp. The three hours I spent there were among the most difficult in my life.

Dachau is much smaller than Auschwitz but its layout resembles that of Auschwitz. The ditch surrounding the camp is filled with water even though there's no longer anyone seeking to escape. The barbed wire fence and watch towers still stand. Most of the barracks were destroyed but one can still see the three story beds, and I visualized myself on the third bunk.

I heard Hebrew being spoken by the other visitors. I met two young couples, from Haifa, and then I continued my journey.

They show short films every day in the screening room. The films depict the history of the Third Reich from its beginning to its end including all the atrocities packed into a 23-minute film.

There were three houses of worship in the camp, one Jewish, one Protestant and one Catholic.

After that I went to see the crematorium, the heart of this hell on earth. On the ceiling, I noticed the holes through which the Germans pumped in Zyklon gas. On a marble block there was a warning which read, “Touching the walls can lead to death.” After that I entered the room where hangings took place where I could still see pieces of rope on the walls.

Two rooms were used as crematoria. The first had two ovens and the second had four, their doors open, a chain keeping visitors from going too close, but I, who brought 3,000 bodies to bury, did not pay attention to this warning. I breathed deeply and yelled out, “G-d,” and I stood in front of the open ovens. I kissed the door of the oven six times in memory of the six million and I tenderly patted the red bricks.

At the entrance to the oven I lit ten candles I brought with me. No one said anything about the fact that I did this.

I cried bitterly as I began to recite the prayer, Keil Rahamin (Merciful Lord). All of a sudden 100 tourists appeared, some crossing themselves or falling on their knees. A few covered their heads with whatever they found (most of these people were gentiles) and tearfully they spoke to me in English, or Dutch or French. They held my hand. They kissed the seams of my clothing. A few hugged and kissed me. They asked for my address in Israel and they wanted to be photographed with me. They accompanieded me to the train station, their eyes full of tears and we parted.

Bnai Brak, Sivan tef shin mem bet (1982)


[Page 57]

“And of Zion it shall be said”

By Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Kelmer,
author and journalist, US

(Satmar, NagyBanya)

With great trepidation I approach the task of writing my recollections of the great city of Satmar which was a beacon of light for Jewry until after the Holocaust.

From the day the second temple was destroyed there wasn't a city with such wide and diverse Jewish cultural activity as Satmar. In shock we look at the testimonies which make us recall exemplary people who merited our town with the presence of Elijah the prophet during every day of the year.

When will our nation know that in Satmar's wide streets lived Jews whose actions were all for the sake of heaven? It was as if the wise men of Nehardea, Sura, Pumpedisa were transplanted for generations to a place of proud spirits full of creators of Torah novella, science, ethics, sport, arts and crafts.

Our town was exemplary in its beautiful prayers. Hassidim from the Carpathian mountains brought us elevated Torah. The few that escaped from the cries that pierced the heavens of young and old, the weary ones moved to strange lands.

Our faith in redemption shall not wane. Our Jewish spirits live on. We remember what Amalek did to us.

The eyes of our holy martyrs spray a never-ending fire and show us the way until the end of time. This book is a memorial, a reminder to remember those we lost. May future generations try to understand the Torah scholarship of those who were lost. Everyone who imitates their actions, those angels who surrounded us while we were unaware can catch a glimpse into the glory of the Shehina.


I remember Satmar Well

Yehuda Fried

My former teacher, R. Naftali Stern, calls us from the first page of our book to remember Satmar. I feel as if this call is aimed at me. Is it possible to forget Satmar? No.

We read in the Torah that when Yosef interpreted the butler's strange dream in jail he requested to be remembered and helped to be released from jail. The parsha ends with the words, “the butler didn't remember Yosef, he forgot him.”

We are not like that. Not only do we not forget, we remember well.

It's hard for me to collect my thoughts on paper. I am worried about displeasing my readers. I am not a writer. My holy martyred parents didn't educate me to be a writer.

[Page 57]

I spent most of my youth within the walls of the school located in the great synagogue on Vardomb street. I was a member of cantor Ribel”s z”l choir led by the editor of this volume and after that the chief cantor. How pleased my parents were to see their little Yehuda (Yidu) singing in the choir. I remember how we sang with our notes in our hands. I looked around the synagogue and I saw the happy faces and the satisfaction of the worshipers, among them the elite of Satmar Jewry who filled the giant sanctuary. Young and old prayed together with enthusiasm especially during the High Holidays. How pleased we choir members felt we were the heroes of the day.

Where are these dear people now? Worshipers at nearly 30 synagogues and among them hundreds of children. Add to that the many students who attended cheders, schools and yeshivot. We received the answer from the prophet Jeremiah thousands of years earlier. The editor of this volume quotes these words in his introduction “My sons left. We are gone.”

We had a vibrant Jewish life. There was the weekly market every Wednesday, the days of preparation preceding Shabbos and holidays, the crowds at the fish store, the many purchasers of lulavim and esrogim before Sukkot, and of matzos for Passover. There were those who rushed to the mikvah to immerse before Shabbos, and long lines at the bakeries to purchase challah. Sports fans were happy when their teams won, Bar Kokhba, and disappointed when they lost. And of course on Shabbos or Yom Tov hundreds of stores were shuttered, and no one waited at the Jewish taxi station.

They left and they didn't return. For us, almost forty years have passed. We remember and we don't forget.

There is a saying, “he who is covered by dirt must be forgotten.” We know that the dead are forgotten from the heart but what does one say about those who aren't covered by dirt, one whose ashes are spread by the winds through the fields of Silesia and the shores of the Viskal? These are the ones we must remember even if we don't want to. And in this I quote the editor: Remember Satmar.

Tel Aviv erev Shabbos kodesh erev rosh hodesh shvat taf shin mem gimel (1983).

First wife of the editor Bluman, his mother-in-law and sister-in-law z”l
Monument in the Satmar memorial to the editor of this volume's first family


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