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Purim in Satmar

In which Transylvania city didn't the Jews celebrate Purim? Or in which city in Rumania, Hungary or Poland? But which city could compete with the Jews of Satmar? Possibly no one.

As soon as Chanukah ended and the cards and dreidels were put away, preparations for Purim began. Every year there was something new, particularly the costumes. Thousands of costumed people filled the streets of the city.

First there were the cheder children who prepared their costumes weeks before, making sure that no one would be able to recognize them. Purim was so memorable that even after Pesach people spoke about it.

The chief organizers of Purim plays were the yeshiva students. Then, groups of women and other organizations. Which Satmarer doesn't remember the play about the sale of Joseph which was performed during the 1930s performed in the large meeting room of the Orthodox community? The play was supposed to run for two nights but the audience was so enthusiastic that the play was performed six times!

The play was directed and organized by our friend Azriel Neuman, who inherited his talent from his father z”l. Azriel lives in Hadera today. A great deal of the organization was done by R. Yehuda HaKohein Schwartz z”l who passed away at a young age not long after the program. The band was led by the conductor of the Great Synagogue, R. Naftali Stern, with the help of the main cantors R. Yehuda Rival and R. Yosef Wald z”l, and the tunes composed by R. Azriel Neuman had to be transcribed into musical notation. The stars were Yehuda Schwartz, 14 years-old, and grandson of the Fogel family, who played Yosef. How full of feeling was his rendition of a song begging for his mother Rachel's mercy when he was sold to the Yishmaelites.

Could one ever forget Michel Spiegel who played Yehuda with his beautiful tenor voice, swearing his brothers to secrecy about the sale of Joseph?

The patriarch Jacob was played with great skill by Mendel Goldberger who exuded great emotion when he saw Joseph's coat of many colors dripping with blood.

The success of the play was unanticipated. The expenses were also greater than anticipated and the profits were distributed to finance Passover costs for needy people.

Those who know, say that 800 couples in Satmar went from house to house to collect money, some for themselves and some for others. Satmar's wealthy Jews, who donated all through the year, were especially generous at Purim. There were many donors who fulfilled the mitzvah of tzedakah and especially the mitzvah of mishloach manot of Purim.

The holiday lifted the spirits of the community especially when the costumed Purim shpeilers turned up to entertain.

Purim 1944 took place in the shadow of the upcoming tragedy. People quoted the words of R. Shmuel Drumer, who answered when his wife asked in fear, “Shmuel what will become of our parents who were moved to the Ghetto in Kiralhoz. When will we see them?” R. Shmuel, who, it seemed, intuited what was to come said, “My dear wife. If Hashem wills it then we will see them soon and if not I promise you that we'll meet again in gan eden, heaven.”

May Hashem bring joy and happiness to His nation.


Not long after the Zionist idea spread through the Jewish world, it started to establish roots in Satmar. It only became popular among certain groups because most of the orthodox rabbis objected to it strongly and blocked its spread. Rabbi Dr. Samel Jordan of the Status Quo kehilla worked hard to interest his congregants and other rabbis in Zionism.

His son, Dr. Binyamin Zeev Jordan, was raised in a Zionist home.

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During his student years at the Budapest university he headed the Macabi Zionist student organization.

During the organization's 10th year in 1913, Dr. Jordan chaired the festive jubilee. During that same year he was selected to lead the national center of the Jewish National Fund.

For several years, Dr. Jordan practiced medicine in Satmar, and until the 1930s he was the lifeblood of the city's Zionist movement when he moved to Israel and practiced medicine in Jerusalem until his passing in the 1960s.

Among the Zionist activists one must note the banker Vilmos Klein who donated 1000 kroners to the biweekly Zionist newspaper, allowing it to function.

In 1912 Vilmos Klein and Dr. Joseph (or Andor) Rosenfeld, both from Satmar, were appointed to the presidency of the 10th Zionist congress in Hungary.

During the First World War, and for a few years afterwards, Zionist organizational work ground to a halt in Satmar. Satmar activists who participated in the National Zionist congress in Klausenburg Nov. 22, 1920, were: Karoly Farkas, Herman Gottleib, Vilmos Klein, Alek Markowitz, Yarmosh Shiffer, Dr, Mor Stern.

In 1924 the Zionist movement returned to activity though it never attracted a very large following in Satmar. One of the reasons was lack of support from the city's orthodox rabbinate which continued through the period of Rumanian rule.


Zionist Youth Organizations and Hebrew Language Education

In 1924 Satmar boasted three Zionist youth organizations, Aviva, for girls, and two Barisiay groups for boys. In 1926 the two Barisiya groups boasted 45 members and the Aviva 25 members. The Zionist press noted the excellence of the groups which attracted well educated young people, some of them young writers.

The youth mastered the Hebrew language. Their instructor was Rabbi Kalman Lowenkopf who lived in Kibbutz Beit Oren and died in Taf shin mem alef (1981).

In 1930 a regional committee was established in Satmar which included representatives from all the Zionist youth movements in northern Transylvania.


Zionist youth on a field trip near Bodi Tonal lake


Rabbi Kalman Lowenkopf


That same year several Satmar activists were appointed to the national leadership of the Zionist organization. Among them were Dr. Joseph Borgida (living in Toronto), Dr. Mor Stern,

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Dr. Lajos Schwartz, and Yirmiyahu Shiffer, who died in taf shin mem bet (1982).


The Mizrachi

Religious Zionist youth movements were prominent from the early 1930s.They were organized into three groups. Mizrahi young men, Mizrahi young women, and Mizrahi workers association, HaPoel Hamizrachi.

There were 200 members in these groups in 1933, and the Zionist youth movement organized religious Zionist groups in the region.

The Mizrachi movement in Satmar was based in a large house on Otbosh Street #20 where all the branches were headquartered. The building also housed two synagogues, one for adults and another for Mizrahi youth.

On Friday nights the Mizrachi synagogue hosted oneg Shabbos activities featuring prominent religious lecturers, some of them from other cities, and the programs were well attended. The chairman of the Mizrachi was Moshe Meir Reiter, who also served as the president of the kehilla, and R. Shlomo Reich.

Two well known Mizrachi activists were R. Moshe Klein and R. Yeshayahu Lazer, both of whom had Hebrew speaking households.

Moshe Riederman and Victor Ordenlich led the Mizrachi youth organization. Miriam Klein and Bluma Weiss headed the girls branch.


Jewish Political Parties

In the Rumanian parliamentary elections of 1933, 837 Satmar Jews voted for the Jewish Zionist party.



A WIZO branch was organized in Satmar In 1933. Within a year, dozens of women joined, most of them from the city's elite. Mrs. Dulcie Goth led this organization. In 1935 the WIZO branch organized a Transylvania conference with 61 representatives from the entire region.


Jewish National Covenant

The Zionist groups active in Satmar in 1934 were, Zionist Youth, Beitar, Mizrachi, and HaShomer Hatzair. During that time the Jewish National Covenant included all of these groups.


Soup kitchen of the Jewish Women's organization of Satmar


Training for Aliya

The following numbers reflect Zionist activity in Satmar during the 1930s.

In 1930 100 shekalim were sold.
”  1931 309 ”
”  1933 338 ”
”  1934 298 ”
”  1935 350 ”
”  1936 340 ”
”  1938 609 ”
”  1939 788 ”

Division of the price of the shekalim by organization:

69 Eretz Yisrael and Workers
263 Barisiya
242 Mizrachi
214 General Zionists
Total 788


Change of Government in 1940

With the change of government in 1940, from Rumania to Hungary, Zionist activities declined. Slowly there was less interest in Zionism. The main reason was the economic decline of the Jews. Jews were down to their last pennies and anti-Jewish laws suffocated them. Everyone was so preoccupied with his own worries

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that no one had time for the problems of the land of Israel.

Then, the draft to labor camps began, and Zionist activities ground to a halt as the young men were taken to Ukraine.

Not just Zionism but all Jewish movements stopped operating. The communities and institutions were destroyed. Eighty percent of the Jews did not return from the concentration camps.

At the end of 1944 a small number returned, but that was a tiny fraction of original numbers. A drop in the ocean. But that small group decided to revive Zionist activities. In our city, this group included Dr. Joseph Burgida, Dr. Andor Rosenfeld. Rabbi Dr. Menachem Klein, Dr. Imre Markzemer, Yaakov Klein, Tzvi Braun, Yehuda Yaari-Waldman, Ari Katz, and Moshe Riederman. They worked for the land of Israel but not for long, as they began to leave. Each man went his own way and some reached the land of Israel.


The Founding of the Jewish State

With the founding of the state in 1948 a great wave of aliyah began, which almost emptied Rumania of its Jews. A large number of Satmar immigrants to Israel now live there. Others found their way to other countries. Satmar's Jews tell their children and grandchildren about the life that once was.

20 Otbosh Street, More memories

by Yitzchak Pollak, Nahariya

The story of the Jewish people of Satmar would not be complete without the address mentioned above, despite the fact that only a small number of residents understood its significance.

#20 Otbosh was the fortress of the Mizrachi movement. In addition to the synagogue that was located inside, it also housed a unique school, the Hebrew school whose principal was Rabbi Kalman Lebenkopf z”l. There was also a scout's group, Hashomer, which had been organized by the Zionist youth organization. In this building the Meetings of the Bar Kohkba football (soccer) team took place in this building, and other Zionist activities as well including the distribution of blue Keren Kayemet charity boxes.

The school was founded by the efforts of Rabbi Kalman Bonkopf. Sadly it was closed in 1931, most likely due to money troubles. This author remembers the school from the days of his childhood so he is unable to provide accurate details, but one thing he knows for sure, that Rabbi Bonkopf worked tirelessly to encourage knowledge of the Hebrew language in Satmar. He related the following incident in one of his letters.

The residence of the local Roman Catholic bishop was also on Otbosh Street. In that residence, was a college in which the priests were the teachers. Once, a teacher priest walked into the Hebrew school and asked Rabbi Bonkopf if he could observe a few of the lessons because it seemed impossible to him that the dead Hebrew language could be revived for everyday use. The priest knew Hebrew. The priest listened with great interest to lessons on math and on Israeli geography and before leaving he said, “I did not believe what they told me until now. But here I am the eyewitness to the resurrection of the Hebrew language.”

The Zionist youth groups in the city were organized through the framework of Mizrachi youth and guided by experienced counsellors. I do not know the exact details, as I was a member of HaShomer and then Noar Hatzioni, Zionist Youth. The HaShomer scout group was under the leaders in Klausenburg. The members received serious Zionist indoctrination preparing them to move to the land of Israel. During those years aliyah opportunities were very limited and very few realized their dream. Among them were Naftali Stark, who emigrated in 1929 and the brothers, Yehuda and Yosef Berkowitz (sons of Haim Berkowitz, owner of a restaurant on Farkash Antal Street). They emigrated along with Malka Shomogi in 1931, and were among the founders of Kibbutz Dan.

Danny Stark emigrated in 1932. Tzvia Pollak who became a founder of Kibbutz Masada emigrated in 1933. Zeev Sando, one of the founders of Kibbutz Kfar Glickson, emigrated with several friends in 1934. Haim Braun and his wife Shoshana Gross also joined the kibbutz, as did Tzipora Weinberger, Tzontzi Gross, Olgi Lebowitz, Hugo Holzer, Yitzchak Fuchs and Pinchas Frankel. These were the members of the Zionist youth movements who currently live in Israel.

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The Jewish scouts were under the auspices of the city scouts chapter in Satmar. One Sunday afternoon, the Jewish scouts received a surprise visit from the city scout leader accompanied by two other men, who came to examine the scout activities. The Jewish scouts proved their loyalty to the scouting movement by erecting tents and demonstrating their knowledge of Morse code, first aid, etc., proving that they were real scouts.

The group was seriously immersed in Zionism. Hebrew language study, Hebrew songs, and Zionist lore were an integral part of their activities. They distributed and collected Keren Kayemet pushkas, and organized parties and plays. Their activities were under the supervision of Dr. Victor Jordan, the chairman of the Zionist organization, and Dr. Lajos Schwartz the head of the Keren Kayemet branch.

For many of Satmar's Zionists, Otbosh #20 was a second home. The Zionist education they received there stuck. Even after enduring the tortures of the concentration camps and labor camps many of them eventually made aliyah, each contributing in his or her own way to the development of the land.

Finally I must point out that Yitzchak Fuchs organizes annual meetings (for people who were between the ages of 15 and 20 when they lived in Satmar) at which we recall those who didn't make it and were unable to see the independent Jewish state come to life.

Jewish Life in Post War Satmar

The Russian Soviet army liberated Satmar from fascist rule on October 25, 1944. Thousands suffered the burden of slavery in various camps and many of them lost their lives as fascism continued to excrete its poison until the 9th of May 1945.

The Red army entered Satmar as the first buds were appearing on the trees. At that time the city had a bare minyan of Jews who had survived the terrible Holocaust. They were the first to attempt to rebuild.

Their first move was to start an organization, The Jewish People's Union, which served as a replacement for the defunct kehilla.

The Hungarians trembled to see the Jews returning. They feared that the Jews would take a much justified revenge against them. “Hungarian blood will flow in Satmar,” they whispered among themselves, but that did not happen. Returning Jews were not seeking revenge except for one instance. The accursed Hungarian police detective, Antashe, who through 21 years of Rumanian rule lived a life of luxury financed by money he extorted from the Jews, and was a Nazi collaborator, was shot dead by Yaakov Mordechai Churnin for his role in the murder of Churnin's two children.

The Jews who returned and established the Jewish People's Union were Avraham Ackerman, N. Aaron, Andor Berkowitz, Bandi Glick, Yeshayahu Davidwitz, Dr. Yosef Fisher, Haim Hersch Frischman, Dr. Erno Klein, Geno Klein, Samuel (Tzigani)Klein, Latzi Suger, David Spitzer and the Lampels, who had not been deported.

The Lampels played a huge role in the establishment of a hostel for orphaned Jewish girls. Both of them died within a short time of one another in Ramat Gan.

The mainstay of this group was David Spitzer, who was the chairman of the local branch of the Joint Distribution Committee. He applied prodigious energy to helping the survivors with their medical and financial needs.

Some of the group were latter-day Maccabees attempting to rehabilitate one synagogue so that the returning Jews would have a place to pray together. That synagogue was in the courtyard of the Rabbi's residence on Vardomb street.

Despite its leftist leanings, the Jewish People's Union did not block Jews who wanted to reorganize religious life. This was true with respect to other religions. At the time the authorities did not object to organized religious activities.

The Joint entered the picture, working together with the Union to help the most urgent cases. Part of the Jewish hospital was converted into a hostel for the returning Jews.

Satmar was a first stop and the hospital was a way station for those who wanted to continue on to their prewar homes. Among the survivors were many sick people who required medical attention. The excellent staff, Dr. Sandor Gross, Dr. Armin Fanibash, Dr. Latzi Vamos and Dr. Stashok struggled to treat difficult diseases they had never before encountered.

This author was among the seriously ill returning home with a strain of typhus fever characterized by high fever. I wasn't well

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enough to serve as a cantor in the first memorial ceremony which took place in Sivan 1945. I believe that Avraham Baruch (Buli) Spiegel filled in for me.

The renewed kehilla was led by Alexander Freund along with Moshe Berger, Yehiel Klein, Yehuda Leib Weiss, Shimon Weiss, Aryeh Leib Rosenberg, and Herschel Schwartz.

The first returnees organized a burial society. Those who organized the burial society were David Meir Weiss, Avraham Wolf Tirnauer, Moshe Yehezkel Lefkowitz, Shmuel Friedman (Bavony), Yosef (Yoske) Freund, Shmelke Rosenberg and Yehoshua Yaakov Rosenfeld.

The first concern of the burial society was to organize its administration. Another priority was repairing the Orthodox cemetery which had been badly damaged during the shelling of the nearby railroad station. This work demanded strength and a great deal of money, and so a fundraising drive began. This author was restored to health with G-d's help, and took on the task of renovating the cemetery.

As a result of the bombings the cemetery was pockmarked with eight large craters and 400 graves were damaged. Many of the tombstones were broken and bones were spread through the cemetery grounds. To our great good fortune we found the cemetery map which had been hand written by Shmuel Dovid Greenberger z”l. Today this map serves as the authoritative source with which to locate graves. We used it in our work restoring the tombstones to their correct locations.

The Status Quo cemetery sustained only light damage during the bombing. Signs of damage are still visible on several graves but not a single grave was unearthed.

A Rabbinical court was reestablished. Its members were Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Friedman z”l, previously the rabbi of Rachov, Rabbi Moshe Aryeh Freund shlita, now head of the rabbinical court of the Eda Haredit in Jerusalem, Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Weiss z”l, now Rabbi of Neveh Achiezer, and Rabbi Yosef Greenwald shlita, previously the Rebbe of Pupa and now residing in New York.

We prayed in the large Hassidic synagogue of the small tradesmen on Bathory street. After that, the Chevra Mishnayos Bais Medrash reopened as did Oroshov and the Vishnitz Hasidim. Before the High Holidays of 1946, the Shaare Torah Bais Medrash reopened.

The Great Synagogue on Vardomb Street and the Status Quo synagogue which was in great disrepair were opened for the high holiday season in 1947.

In Sivan 1946 we held a massive memorial gathering on Bathory Street where the ghetto had stood. At the ceremony, government and various religious representatives were present. A Soviet military delegation was welcomed in Russian by Imre Polian-Friedman, but the main attraction was Rabbi Dr. Alexander Safran, the chief Rabbi of Rumanian Jewry. A large crowd marched in a procession to the cemetery to the burial of hundreds of Sabonei ha R. P. and en route to the cemetery Rabbi Dr. Safran, and this author, assisted by two young ladies from Satmar, laid floral wreaths on the graves of the Russian war heroes in the public park in central Satmar.

Some of the returnees could not adjust to their great loss of family and property and they scattered to various lands, some to the land of Israel. Others tried to reestablish their lives. Many married. Every day there were weddings.

The kehilla organized itself once again. R. Alexander Freund served as its president and he served until his sudden death in Bucharest in Cheshvan 1948. He is buried in Satmar. He was succeeded by a committee which consisted of Moshe Berger, Shimon Weiss, Yehiel Klein, Tuvia Fruend and Tzvi Schwartz.

The ritual slaughterers were R. Hillel Levinson, R. Lipa Schwartz, and R. Avraham Haim Wurzberger. R. Ephraim Rosenbaum served as the shamash, R. Isaac Lipa Friedman as the secretary and as chief cantor R. Naftali Stern. Everyone performed these tasks until they emigrated to Israel.

Not long after the Holocaust, the Status Quo kehilla was also resurrected under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Fischer, Geno Klintzer. Rabbi Dr. Menachem-Erno Klein served as the rabbi until he emigrated to Toronto, where he died. The kehilla struggled to survive. Often, there was no minyan on Shabbos even though R. Alexander Freund secured funding from the Joint to rehabilitate the Status Quo synagogue as well as the Orthodox synagogue. The exceptionally beautiful Status Quo Synagogue was destroyed in 1947.

Following the establishment of the state of Israel there was a great wave of emigration and the Satmar kehilla shrank from week to week. Every month we had to choose new leaders and new gabbaim. Some people did not have the patience to wait for passports and they emigrated illegally crossing the Hungarian border under cover of darkness. Some of them reached Israel. During this period community leaders and gabbaim were no longer elected as they had been in the past; they were appointed by the Union. The heads of the kehilla at the time were Yitzchak Schwartz and Dr. Emil Markowitz, Beri Weinberger and others. The current leader of the kehilla is our friend Misu Adler who administers the affairs of the community with great care.

The Jewish hospital building which was partially destroyed by the Nazis was renovated in 1946, funded by local sources as well as the Joint. During the last day of Passover 1946, a massive yizkor service

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was held at the Shaare Torah, attended by all of Satmar's Jews who donated large sums toward the rehabilitation of the hospital. Everyone was able to inscribe the names of their martyred loved ones on two marble tablets which were affixed to the hospital's internal walls. In Cheshvan 1948 all hospitals in Rumania, including the Jewish hospital of Satmar, were nationalized. This author was able to move the marble blocks to a special memorial mausoleum which was erected in the Orthodox cemetery. See photo.

Today the government in Satmar looks favorably on Jewish religious life in the town. The synagogue, kosher meat, matzos, Passover wine, the religious funerals, exist but the number of Jews living in Satmar continues to decrease, and it looks like the city will not have any Jewish residents.





The Editor

I must deny the rumor which spread among former Satmar residents, that I am continuing the work started by Marcel Berger z”l and Ari Katz z”l. This is simply incorrect. The truth is, that the information collected by Berger and Katz had disappeared. Aside from several photographs from Ari Katz's personal collection which were donated, following his death, to the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, I was unable to locate any of it. I began work on this book, anew. I collected the materials and did the writing and editing myself.

As for money which was paid over the years, I'm being asked for them now. Please note I do not know what happened to that money. Not one agora reached my pocket, and I am not responsible for that money.

Administrative costs for this book were in excess of $200. The money was provided for me in slow increments by Yaakov Wulliger. I am happy to show my account books to anyone who wants to see them. Whatever money was sent to me, was turned over to the treasurer of this enterprise, Yehuda Yaari (Mishi Waldman) z”l and Piri Spitzer.


Yizkor memorial tent remembering Holocaust
martyrs. Elu Klein is standing at the entrance.

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The Promise I Didn't Keep

by Moshe Neufeld, Kibbutz Barkai

For 38 years Moshe N. fulfilled this vow but at the end he was overwhelmed by feelings of longing and he returned to the city where he was born and resided until the expulsion.

After my liberation from the death camp, I swore that I would never return to the city of my birth and from which I was expelled, or to Germany.

Following a 14 hour train trip from Bucharest I arrived in Satu Mare in Northern Transylvania. My cousin greeted me at the train station. We hadn't seen each other for forty years. Before we left I wanted to linger for a while at the station to see the stop where I got on the cattle cars together with my family in 1944, when all the Jews in the city were deported to Auschwitz. I immediately recognized the spot. I remembered the ramp from which we were pushed onto the cars, 70 to 80 people in each car, Hungarian soldiers pushing us with many others around to help them, showing no respect for older people or children.

For 38 years I fulfilled my promise and didn't go back to visit even though I had opportunities to do so. This time, however, I gave in.

Recently I have been filled with a sense of longing and a desire to reunite with my past and to visit the city I called home until the expulsion. The city was completely different. During the Second World War Satmar experienced heavy bombing. My family's home, the home where we lived before we were deported, was still standing. A Hungarian family had made their home there. They couldn't tell me much about the house. They were new tenants placed in the house by the Rumanian government. I tried to remember whether we had hidden anything before our speedy departure to relocate to the ghetto. Perhaps I'd come across some object or photo of my family, but I didn't. The walls of the house were silent, inanimate witnesses to what had taken place here in the past.

I was flooded with memories. I remembered my family, my father and my mother, my brother, my younger sister. I remembered the spring morning when we left the house with rucksacks on our shoulders to make our way to the ghetto.

Before the war Satmar had been home to 15,000 Jews, 25 percent of the city's population. Satmar was typical of Eastern Europe. Most of the community identified as modern orthodox, although the local Rabbi, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, waged a vigorous battle against Zionism. In Israel his name was mentioned as he led the battle against the Zionist state from his new home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, fought now by Satmar Hassidim in Jerusalem.

When I met members of the community during my visit they told me that 200 Jews currently live in Satmar. This number also includes intermarried Jews. “We have many funerals but no births,” they said. They were aware that in less than one generation there would no longer be Jews in Satu Mare.

As I walked through the streets where the Jews had lived, feelings of sadness overcame me, seeing the many synagogues destroyed with heaps of trash next to them. The community doesn't have the resources to take care of the synagogues. Almost all of the houses were destroyed and replaced by new buildings. I remembered the Jews who had once filled the buildings and the streets on which we had played as children. I remembered our neighborhood bakery where we brought our cholent pots on Fridays, and on Shabbos afternoon I brought the pot home, the smell of the cholent whetting appetites from all around.

There was a Shomrim cell on the street where we lived. I was a regular visitor from the time I was 12. The cell was located in a basement. From 1938-39, that space was full of 70-80 members ages 12-21, and there was a great deal of activity, mostly on Shabbat afternoon when we gathered together in groups divided by age, each with its own flag. Our activities were about culture, Hebrew language, sports, and summer camps and we raised a great deal of money for the Keren Kayemet, as did most of the youth movements in the city.

Most of the shomrim came from traditionally orthodox homes and the parents were often unaware of where their children had gone. During those years 1935-39 there were anti-Zionist forces in the city which objected strongly to Zionist activities. The Hashomer Hatzair, were not accepted by the other youth movements.

In 1939 all activities ceased. The cell was closed, members of the movement were arrested and accused of communist activities and tortured by the Rumanian secret police. I was released because I was only 13 and still a minor.

During my last visit to Satu Mare I spoke to many people hoping they might know what became of the other members of the movement. I wanted to know what happened to my friends who had disappeared after the wave of arrests in 1939, but I didn't succeed. I met

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a few of my friends from the movement who had emigrated to Israel in 1935. Some of them have settled on kibbutzim. They led me to a cache of printed materials from the movement in the 20s and 30s, the peak years of the movement in the city.

I visited the basement where we used to hold our meetings before the War. Today it's used as a storage room for the residents of the building. On the walls I could still see pictures and phrases from that time. I read the words, Tiger Group, and Eagle Group, to which I had once belonged. Part of the picture of the eagle was still visible which I drew on the wall around which we used to gather.

Here beneath the slogans and the emblems young men and women dreamed that they would emigrate to Israel and join the hatutzim in fulfilling the Zionist dream.

Most never made it. They were tortured in prisons or murdered by the Nazis in camps during the Holocaust. For the six days that I was in the city which I had so loved as a youth, I felt like a stranger. I wanted to run away and never return.

I left the city before dawn in the dark as the rain was pouring down. I left behind several dozen frightened Jews who don't have the courage to leave. They believe that they are preserving the remains of the past. After they die there will be no more Jews in Satu Mare.

As I made my way to the train station I saw crowds waiting in long lines in front of grocery stores, hoping to be the first to be able to buy something to eat for their families. I saw mothers who had waited the entire night for a cup of milk for their children. This time the crowds didn't rejoice as they did during our expulsion in the spring of 1944. They also didn't know that I was an Israeli Jew, born here, who quickly left to return to his homeland.


Cantor Yehuda Rival z”l and his choir
Top row from right: Naftali Stern, Yoel Klein, Yosef Glick, Davidowitz, Moshe Wald, Zalmer
Second row: the conductor Yosef Wald, Avraham Friedman, Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss, Pesach Abramowitz, Yosef Frank, Cantor Y. Rival, Yermiash, Mordechai Maisels, Lichstein. To the right of Cantor Avraham Weiss, A, Klein

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Factory of Death in Auschwitz Arbeit macht frei
Copied from a picture by Moshe Neufeld

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Tools of Destruction copied from a picture by Moshe Neufeld

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A prominent Satmar woman, Mrs. Anna Hegedus, nee Molnar, wrote a book in 1945 which she published in Satmar. Its title is, Why. The subtitle is, The experiences of a woman who was chased from the yellow star to the red star.

The editors of our volume find it apt to quote from the introduction to Mrs. Hegedus's book, in which she recalls her mother. We also quote the second half of chapters 22 and 23.

Yehuda Fried drew our attention to the book, Why.


My good and dear mother

Let this book serve as your tombstone from marble, the stone I couldn't erect on your grave because you don't have a grave. Your tired body was not treated to a proper burial so that you could rest next to your beloved husband and daughter in the Satmar cemetery. We, your children, can never leave a flower on your grave.

The winds of Auschwitz scattered your ashes together with the ashes of hundreds of thousands of other mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and children. Let this be a permanent shame to all who watched without showing mercy and even took pride in this travesty. There will be revenge!

As a permanent memorial to our mother, the widow of Henrick Molnar, nee Fanny Moskowitz, who was murdered at age 84 in one of the gas chambers on the third day of June 1944, her body burned in a crematorium in Auschwitz. We mourn you forever and thanks to fate we remained alive. Your children, daughters-in-law, son-in-law and grandchildren. Satmarnemethy May 1, 1945.



From a hand that appears paralyzed my pen trembles, as I write the words I live.

Do you understand the meaning of these words?

Can you feel their meaning as someone who was as close to death as I was? I who could almost feel the breath of the angel of death, I who they already wanted to bury, I remain alive.

I live and it is already May again. The orgona flowers have opened and I can smell their scent. It was spring then but I didn't feel it. The orgona flowers opened up but to my eyes they appeared black. They released their scent but I turned my back to them. Who in the ghetto was able to enjoy springtime?

The hate, the degradation, the ocean of tears? Who had time to think of flowers? We didn't have the eyes to see the beauty. We could even smell the stink of our lowly state. Our faces forgot how to smile. Our hearts were broken.

But now I live again !!!

I am able to enjoy another spring because I still wait. I still hope that my loved ones will return. That we will reunite and heal our aching wounds together.

But what if they don't return home? What if I'm waiting for nothing? What if there's nothing to hope for?

Then there will never be a spring, and orgona flowers the color of night will bloom over the tombstone that is set over my broken heart.

Satmar, May 1, 1945


Second Half of Chapter 22

On April 3, 1945 my train pulled into Satmar. I pressed my hand to my heart. It seemed to be jumping from joy or from pain? Which? I didn't know. Who knows why? How will the city of my birth accept me which had expelled me and tried to cause me to become extinct.

As I reached the hostel for the deportees in Satmar my heart filled with doubts. How would they accept me there? Breakfast and hot water to wash with waited for me and the others who returned. Only very few of us returned home. I was among the first. Nobody knew how long the hostel would continue to operate. How long would it be until all the survivors returned?

After a warm welcome I went out to walk in the city. The bombed railway station was flattened to dirt. Many buildings had been destroyed. Our home had been damaged but it was still standing.

Suddenly someone ran toward me, my dear friend Gizi, who sacrificed herself to help us during those difficult days. With cries mixed with laughter we embraced and she brought me to the house which remains my home to this day. I never felt as isolated and alone as I did on that day as I made my way back home. May Hashem reward her for her goodness.

My relatives in Rumania were still alive and they quickly came to see me. How good it felt to be reunited with our family especially since my dear beloved daughter was lost, and I was forced to wander in strange lands among strange people. Oy. How terrible was my feeling of loneliness. How terrible it was to feel that there was nowhere I belonged.


Chapter 23 End

I reached the end of my journey.

For several weeks I had been in the house and I was attempting to rebuild a life of friendship, our new nest. Some of my loved ones returned home and a warm house waited for them. Together we tried to forget the horrors we had experienced and to heal our wounds together.

On May 31, a year before the final transport left the city. The Jews who had returned held a memorial ceremony. Young people who escaped from labor camps and from the horrors of Auschwitz. Young girls who suffered an entire year of tortures and suffering. These were the representatives of the Satmar Kehilla joined by a very small number of older people who had miraculously survived.

This small group organized a memorial service in the synagogue. The cries during the yizkor prayer were heart rending.

This was the death song of thousands those who were burned, those who were murdered, those who were buried without a song or a prayer. To all of those who died without burial, those whose bodies remained on the roadsides to be eaten by birds and animals.

Everyone was sunk in deep mourning. Everyone cried and eulogized because there were so many dead. Many of us who had hailed from large families were now alone and some families were destroyed completely, no one surviving at all.

There were no parents and no children. No sons and no daughters to those who returned. All that was left for us to do was to weep.

After that we marched through the ghetto, the place where we suffered so much.

Most of the buildings were damaged or destroyed. Maybe it was better that way. The bitter memories will never leave our hearts.

The same streets which a year earlier were so full of life were now empty. The buildings which were so crowded testify to a life full of suffering and tortures.

Where did it all disappear to?

Where were the smiling children? The children who sweetened our bitter lives?

Our elders, the young mothers radiant in their holiness who sacrificed themselves for their babies. Where are they, those who were murdered because of the insanity of a crazy man?

Who is responsible for all of this?

How will we fill the void? Who will heal our wounded hearts? Perhaps G-d.

We went to the cemetery to cry at the graves of our loved ones who G-d in His kindness granted a burial place in the city where they had lived and loved suffering, their ashes not scattered over the grounds of Auschwitz.

All of this shall remain as a monument to our humiliation to the eternal shame of all of those who did this to us so that they should never forget what they did.


Editor's note: The author of the book, Why, was the wife of Zoldan Hegedus, the manager of the lumber yard in Biksad. This author spent several months with him in camp. After the liberation we went home and after walking for several days Hegedosh took ill and died in a hospital in the vicinity of Olmitz, Czechoslovakia. Mrs. Hegedosh sent me a letter from South America, and I bore witness to the death of her husband in front of the chief rabbinate of Safed.

Uncle Stern Remains Hungry

The older generation of Satmarers still remembers R. Yosef Stern, father of the late well known author Ilish Katzir z”l who passed away 30 years ago. R. Yosef Stern was a notable member of Satmar. Every Wednesday, the market day in Satmar, he sold glassware and enamelware next to the white house. In addition he was the flag bearer for the Chevra Kadisha in charge of

[Page 158]

funerals. He had a paralyzed hand but in spite of his disability, he was exacting in his measurement, cutting and organizing of the windows and frames.

I heard this story from R. Yosef and I shared it with his son Ilish Katzir at one of the memorial ceremonies.

I studied at Rabbi Mandebaum's z”l yeshiva. One day I visited the Rabbi's apartment on Vardomb Street. The Rabbi sat at his desk and the Rebbetzin stood behind him. I was opposite them. A bottle of liquor and a plate full of sliced cake was on the desk.

The Rabbi invited me to have some. “Nu Yosel, say a blessing,” and he pointed to the bottle and the cake. I was hungry, and reached out my hand to take some, but the Rebbetzin shook her head as if she was saying no.

I pulled my hand back in shock. I didn't understand what was going on. I continued talking with the Rabbi and he reissued his invitation to have a bite. Again I stretched out my hand, and again the Rebetzin shook her head. I pulled back a second time.

The Rabbi didn't know what had happened and he said in a loud voice, “Nu Yosel why aren't you eating? How many times do I need to invite you?” I stretched out my hand which was now shaking, and once again the Rebetzin shook her head. I left feeling hungry and frustrated.

Later I learned that the Rebetzin suffered from a nervous ailment, and because of it her head shook, but many people, including myself, thought she was expressing her will.

The loss of the photographs of the 1946 memorial service

Whoever took the photographs of the memorial service from the synagogue in the Montefiore neighborhood committed a crime. This loss was a setback for the yizkor book project because the thief absconded with valuable documents which cannot be replaced.

In Sivan 1946 a memorial service took place in Satmar in the former ghetto on Bathory street. The chief rabbi of Rumania, Rabbi Alexander Safran, attended. Fifteen photographs were taken at the ceremony showing Bathory street, most of it damaged from shelling. Local government representatives from the army, the municipality, religious and communal leaders, rabbis, and a choire, were seated on the podium. The march was led by a military band, a military honor guard, and pallbearers dressed in black. Rabbi Safran and this author laid a wreath on the graves of the war heroes in the main square. Rabbi Safran delivered a eulogy in the building of Bais Medrash Chevra Mishnayos, and he participated in the funeral of the head of the kehilla, Rabbi Alexander Freund z”l. This row of photographs was attached to a piece of white oak tag, with another 10 photos which were taken at the memorial service in NagyBanya. I held on to the photographs for four years. When I moved to Israel I brought them with me.

In Taf shin yud alef (1951) I brought the photos to our first memorial service held in Tel Aviv. The photos made a strong impression on the participants and were passed along from hand to hand. Who could believe that someone would dare to fold them up and slip them into his pocket? What a terrible shame. I waited hoping that the person would return the photographs but that did not happen.

[Page 159]

The Editor's Parting Words

At last I reached the end of my work, the Memorial book of the Jews of Satmar.

Dear readers. I fulfilled the mission to which I was entrusted. With G-ds help I present this volume. Look through it, dear reader. Here you will find those you knew and loved, the synagogues, the grocery stores, the boutiques, the promenade, the schools, the cinema, the sports field and more. Everything you will never want to forget.

Display this book in a prominent location in your home that you can always gaze upon it. Open it and see your father and your mother, your brothers and your sisters, your son or your spouse or your children. Look at it when your heart is full of pain or joy but always keep the name of Hashem on your lips. Your pain will lessen, your joy will increase, and this book will guide you as you remember how your fathers lived their lives.

Dear reader, the road to putting this book out was not easy. There were many obstacles on the path. I was ready to give up more than once, but Hashem held my hand and I completed the work.

I experienced many disappointments and frustrations. I was the target of criticism. I was told to leave out certain things; there were times when I did and times when I did not because I had to remain faithful to the truth.

As a child I breathed in the air of NagyBanya where I learned to love Hashem and to trust Him. In this spirit I continued in Satmar and after that in the Holy Land and in this way I will carry on until I breathe my final breath.

In spite of everything, with all the love in my heart I present this book to all including my critics.

As I pointed out in the introduction there are mistakes and inaccuracies. I am not a professional writer or editor nor were my father or grandfather writers or editors.

Accept this book in the spirit of friendship. Read it in the spirit that I wrote it. Gaze at the faces of your fathers and mothers with love.

Like a farmer who plants seeds in the earth I wrote letters which turned into words and then sentences.

Memories. Pleasant memories and memories thick with pain. Memories which include all of this, what was once yours, mine and ours.

Remember what holy writings teach us, from which I borrowed the name of this volume. Remember, also you my dear reader.

With blessings of friendship and love.
Naftali Stern

Remember Satmar!



The editor

Thank you to everyone who helped to assemble this book over three years, and for its successful production.

Thank you to the students of Chana Bash Kelmer (Anci) who took care of the correspondence and kept in touch with the other Satmarers and also helped us to raise funds.

To Dr. Rachel Roszi Davidowitz Rosenberg, a member of the editorial board. She worked hard to produce this book and convince others to help. It's

[Page 160]

a shame that we didn't connect earlier.

To Yaakov Villinger, who encouraged me and stood by my side through the long months of my work. Congratulations to Yaakov Yoel.

To Moshe Yehuda Yaari (Mishi Waldman) z”l, for his help in taking care of financial matters and for his excellent advice. Sadly he is no longer alive. His death was sudden and tragic. Dear Mishi, rest in peace in the soil of the Holy Land which you worked so hard for and loved so dearly. (See the memorial announcement in the family memorial.)

To Yosef Laslo who helped us with all of his might. It's too bad that we didn't value him enough, and to his gifted daughter Dafna who develops photographs as a hobby and helped us process the photographs.

To Shlomo Landau who traveled to us from Jerusalem to join our meetings. His expert advice was very helpful and he was among our first generous donors.

To Rav HaGaon Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Miller, shlita (Kiryat Ata) formerly the Rosh Yeshiva of Temesvar-Ir Yosef, who checked the Hungarian text and refused to take payment.

To Yehuda Fried (Yidu) who purchased materials and photographs for the book. His advice helped us to progress, and he served as our ambassador to reach out to Satmarers all over the globe on behalf of our book.

To our “foreign minister” Yakov (Janci) Farkas for helping to interest the Satmarers outside of Israel in our book, and for taking the trouble to travel from Kiryat Motzkin to Tel Aviv for our meetings.

To Sara Spitzer Piri Spiegel who did the lion's share in producing this book. Even though she joined us relatively recently, she dedicated herself to this holy task. Without her contribution this book would never have been completed. She also raised half the funds. I write this without considering Mrs. Spitzer's natural modesty and for this I apologize.

I thank my wife Fraidy Ilonka Fisher for her help. I wouldn't have been able to write the long column of family memories without her assistance.

To my dear sons Haim and Avraham Shlomo (both born in Satmar) who proofread the Hebrew text.

Finally special thanks to the United States branch of the Memorial Volume committee, Avrahm Ephraim and Yaakov (Munyi) and Itzu Elefant.

Thanks to Julius Braun and Eva Bleier Green, who raised funds that made it possible to publish more copies of this volume than we had originally planned for, and also helped to collect information. May this be a merit for them for eternity.

[Page 240]

Note To the Fischer children

Your father's photograph wasn't included in the family memory section due to a technical error. We are entering it here. Please accept our apologies. The editor

R. Shmuel (Smindrik) Fischer


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