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[Page 633]

Des and its Surrounding Region in Israel

Translated by Susan Geroe

Between WWI and WWII, the number of people from Des and its surrounding region motivated for an aliyah, be it by idealism or foresight, was unfortunately infinitesimally small. At the outbreak of WWII, only about 55 families from Des and its surrounding regions, totaling about 200 souls lived in the Mandate of Palestine of the time.

Immediately following WWII, the few survivors of the great catastrophe who did not want to return to their place of birth left under any and all circumstances from the liberated German concentration camps to Palestine to start rebuilding there their shattered lives.

The largest segment of the survivors, however, did not recognize in time the situation, did not know or did not want to know that no one and nothing was awaiting them in their old homes, and returned there.

Some people were hoping that perhaps a few members of their immediate family survived and would return to the old abode, others were motivated to recover the valuables left home, buried or given for safekeeping. A great number of people went back to their previous homes with the intention of liquidating the belongings and properties of the relatives that perished and then, emigrate. Of these people, some, who acted in time, were successful in carrying out their intents. Nonetheless, there were very few such people. Their great majority became intoxicated with the economic opportunities that existed after the war and continued their lives where they or their murdered parents left off. These were the people who were dealt the greatest disappointment. When they realized the mistake, it was already late. They missed the last opportunities and they stayed put, were slowly robbed of all their possessions and later, they did not even have the possibility to save their own freedom. Borders closed down and the Iron Curtain surrounded them.

Until the end of 1948, the still lawfully functioning Zionist organization was able to send off legally or half–legally a few aliyah groups. In great part, those people managed to reach the meanwhile declared State of Israel, only following the ordeals they encountered in Cypress.

This is how a few hundred people from Des and the surrounding region reached Israel.

[Page 634]

For the first time, Romanian authorities allowed filing immigration applications to Israel in the autumn of 1949. After a shorter or longer waiting period, the lucky ones received their exit permits and left the country with an allowance of forty or seventy kilo bundles per person, containing only their rags. The greater majority of these people were part of the older generations.

In the following years, within the framework of the family reunification action, Romania still allowed certain Jews to emigrate, but very seldom families. However, a part of these people, although in possession of passports to Israel, ended up in other countries, Western or overseas, to find their way in life.

A number of persons from among them settled in the country where their fathers, mothers, siblings, and children were murdered. Their action would surely not be recorded on the page of honor of the new Jewish history.

In 1960, the descendents from Des and its surrounding region that settled in Israel numbered nearly one thousand families, according to rough estimates, about 3,500 people. This number, sad on one side, but rather meaningful on the other, made it timely for the descendents of Des and its surrounding region to organize their own Landsmannschaft.

The formation of the Landsmannschaft was the initiative of Singer Zoltan, but his two–year long attempts in that direction were not successful. There was an enthusiastic group of “vatiks” in Haifa that helped in the acclimatization of the new immigrants from Des and its surrounding region and also organized in a dignified manner every year for the past fifteen the Azkara of the martyrs of Des and surroundings that died in deportation or forced labor. Still, they found the creation of a Landsmannschaft unnecessary.

At the head of this group stood Szekely Sandor who made aliyah from Des in the 1930s, the long–time former executive secretary of the Zs.N.Sz. local Des group, a prominent personality in the Hungarian Jewish community, with his close staff Hirsch Chuncsi, Kappel Abraham, and Edelstein Sulem.

Only two years later, the general assembly following the Azkara held in Haifa on June 20, 1962 brought about the positive result. At this Azkara, respectively at the assembly that followed, Singer Zoltan reviewed the program and the objectives of the association to be formed before the several hundred descendants from Szamos County. Following remarks from several participants, the attendants approved with the greatest enthusiasm and unanimously the formation of the Israeli Landsmannschaft of the descendents from Szolnok–Doboka County. Based upon the recommendation of the nominating committee delegates, the association was to be governed by a board of thirty members.

The first board meeting was held on July 11, 1962, at the headquarters of Hitachdut Ole Hungaria, in Tel Aviv, when according to the assembly's directive, they elected the leadership from among members of the board, for the length of one year, as follows:

[Page 635]

The memorial committee in Haifa

Translated by Susan Geroe

Szekely Sandor
– President of the
Haifa Azkara committee
Hirsch Chuncsi
– member of
the committee
Edelestein Sulem
– member of
the committee
Kappel Abraham
– member of
the committee


[Page 636]

Honorary Presidents:
Professor Dr. R.L.Braham/Des–New York
Rav Mose Paneth/Des–Brooklyn
Professor Horovitz Mendel/Des–Paris
Noe Nandor/Des–Milano
Berger David/Des–Vienna
Dr. Schonfeld Miklos/Des–Kirjat Motzkin

Singer Zoltan/Des–Holon

Rosenberg Mose/Bethlen–Natanja
Jozsef J.Kohen/Szamosujvar–Jerusalayim
Rosenfeld Nathan/Magyarlapos–Petach Tikva
Matyas Herci/Retteg–RamatGan
Herskovits Mose/Nagyilonda–Holon

Executive Secretaries:
Schonfeld Michael/Des–Tel Aviv
Bar–On Deutsch Michael/Szamosujvar–Or Jehuda

President of the Gemilat Cheszed:
Albert Lazar/Des–Bne Brak

President of the Social Committee:
Singer Alexander/Des–Petach Tikva

President of the Editorial Committee:
Efra Bar–Dov/Des–Holon

President of the Klita Committee:
Keren Abraham/Des–Givatajim

President of the Azkara Committee:
Edelstein Sulem/Des–Haifa

President of the Disciplinary Committee:
Singer Jozsef/Des–Rechovot

Paneth Becalel/Des–Bne Brak

Eger Abraham/Des–Tel Aviv
Kalmar Sandor/Szamosujvar–Haifa


The new leadership went to work with great enthusiasm, proposing as its first steps the organization of the membership and the establishment of a financial basis. It turned to its American Des and Surrounding Region descendant brethrens with an appeal that resulted already later that year in the creation of the Israeli Landsmannschaft branch in New York, headed by Dr. Legmann Izrael as President, and Zelig Herci as Secretary.

Also during the first year of its formation, the association organized two successful social events; one, on the occasion of Simchat Torah in Tivon, the other, on Chanukah, in Haifa.

From the income of the two events, the first contributions from the membership, and donations received from the American branch, the Gemilat Chesed bank started granting no interest and no fee loans up to 500 Pounds, payable in twenty monthly installments. These loans were naturally granted first to newly arrived immigrants, and two sponsors had to guarantee it. The Social Committee granted help in form of cash to those in need, while the Klita Committee attended to handling their various needs with the authorities.

[Page 637]

Szekely Sandor and Matyas Herci at the
Simchat Torah event
Chief Rabbi Dr. Schonfeld Miklos lights the candles
during the Chanukah event in Haifa


With the occasion of the Azkara held in Tel Aviv in June 1963, the Association published an eight–page first issue of Des es Videke (Des and Its Surrounding Region) Landsmannschaft periodical, edited by Singer Zoltan and Efra Bar–Dov, a nicely formatted, demure (serious) content, and well illustrated publication.

The first issue of Des and Videke was followed by the second issue for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which already had a supplement in Hebrew, written by historian Jozsef Jicchak Kohen of Szamosujvar. The publication of the periodical was well received not only among the descendents of Des and its surrounding region, but also had widespread recognition within the entire Hungarian –Jewish community.

On August 20, 1963, the Landsmannschaft held its first general meeting to re–elect board officers and the leadership reported on the achievements for the past year. Two months after the general meeting for re–election, Singer Zoltan announced his resignation from the Presidency because he wanted to devote all his time and energy to one of the association's most important objectives, the creation of the Book of Remembrance. The Board members acknowledged with resignation the announcement and assured him of their utmost support in this noble work of historical importance. The Board elected unanimously Dr. Schonfeld Miklos to replace the former President.

[Page 638]

A few months later, Dr. Schonfeld Miklos announced that due to his other engagements, he would resign from his post as President. Following the Board's acknowledgement of the announcement, a council of three board members – pharmacist Hegyesi Eliezer, retired police commander Singer Jozsef, and dentist Matyas Alexander filled the position. Albert Lazar continued as President of the Gemilat Cheszed Bank, Paneth Becalel as its Treasurer, and Eger Abraham its Controller. To this day, the leadership of the Landsmannschaft remains as listed here.

Pictures take on the occasion of the 19th Azkara

Translated by Susan Geroe

Szekely Sandor opening the commemorative Service…


[Page 639]

Participants in the Commemorative Service
silently stood to honor the memory of the martyrs


Rabbi Cvi Meir Paneth lit the candle in memory of our dead heroes


[Page 640]

Lighting of the first candle in honor of the six million martyrs


Memorial service of Rabbi Dr. Schonfeld Miklos


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