Translated by Jerrold Landau
The First Jews
As opposed to most of the settlements of the area, Jews did not settle in Iza until a very late period. Not only in the censuses of the Jews of Maramures in the 18th century (there were four censuses: in the 1720s, 1730, 1740s, and 1760s) is the name of the village of Iza not mentioned; but even in the census of 1830, in which there were very few residents of Maramures registered who were not Jewish, the name of this village is not mentioned. We do not have verifiable information regarding the reason for this, but it is possible to surmise that Jews were at first not permitted in this village by either the local population or the local noblemen. On the other hand, the Jews themselves did not display any inclination to settle in Iza, for the village was close to the city of Chust, and it was better to reside there.
It seems that the community began to sprout during the 1850s, and it continued to grow from that time. Our knowledge of Iza is very scant. The foundations of the community were laid down with the passage of time, a Beis Midrash and mikva were built, and a Chevra Kadisha [Burial Society] began to operate. According to the testimonies of one of the survivors given after the Holocaust when she was still a young girl, most of the Jews of Iza were poor laborers who earned their livelihood from the toil of their hands. Only two families owned land and were considered wealthy. According to her, this was one of the poor villages of Maramures. Nevertheless, the Jews of the village donated generously to charitable causes. For example, when the Kolel Munkacz and Ten Districts was founded in the year 5669 (1909), the Jews of Iza gave 335 Koruna to the Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes fund of that kolel. The chief collectors were Reb David Hoffman and Reb David Tzvi Friedman, apparently both communal notables.
The first shochet in Iza was Reb Shalom Adelstein. Following him was Leibish RzemibshFuchs the shochet. Approximately 120 men worshipped in the synagogue of that community.
The living spirit and head of that community was Reb Chaim Ktina. He was a great scholar, and owned a store. All of his children were great scholars.
Reb Chaim Ber Gross, an honorable householder, scholar, and shop owner, was the head of the Chevra Mishnayos. Reb Yitzchak Itzkovitz, also a scholar, was the student of the author of Arugat Habosem.
Reb Leib Henger, known by his nickname Henger Mikoshli, was a Gd fearing scholar. Rabbi Chaim David Gross, who was known as the Genius [Iluy] of Iza, was apparently called by the name of the village in which he was born (see entry on Petriva).
The Jews of Iza were Hasidim of Sziget, Dolina and Burshtyn.
This village belonged to the rabbinate of the Chust district.
The final shochet was Reb Anshel Adelstein, who later became a shochet in Safed, and lives in Jerusalem today.
The Jews of Iza suffered in full measure during the Holocaust. Several tens of Jews of the village who did not possess Hungarian citizenship documents were deported to Poland in the summer of 1941. Most of them were murdered near KamieniecPodolski, and others met their deaths in other places in Galicia. As far as we know, none of the deportees of 1941 returned.
After the conquest of Hungary by the Germans, the lives of the Jews of Iza turned into hell. No Jews dared go out to the street after the decree of the yellow bands. The gentiles would break the windows of the houses and beat any Jew that was seen on the street. The survivors recall that the chief inciters were two Ruthenians who were residents of the village, Ivan Mihalka and the assistant notary Petra Kamen.
The village of Iza also had its own ghetto, something that did not exist in larger villages and towns. The ghetto was set up in the center of the village, and was surrounded by a gate. It was a sort of branch of the Chust Ghetto. Aside from the 400 local Jews, Jews from other nearby villages to the north, mostly on the highway, until Meydan, were also brought into the ghetto. Apparently, the ghetto of Iza was designated to solve transportation problems in the area, for transportation routes were not well developed. Jews from the villages of Iska, Uber and Unter Bistra, Berezna, Podobovets, Harintch, Lipsha, Meydan, Pilipcha, Kalatshyn, Kashli, Velyatin, Nanova, and perhaps two or three other villages were brought to the ghetto. Approximately about 5,000 Jews lived in the ghetto in a very crowded state and under unthinkable conditions. The setting up of the ghetto began a few days after Passover and finished on the last week of April 1944.
The men and youth were taken to work in the Chust mountains. They worked under the supervision of the S.S. soldiers with the risk of bombardment and mines, and went
from hiding place to hiding place. There was no attempt to escape from the workplace, which was situated in a thick forest, in which it would have been easy to disappear and hide. Nobody knew the magnitude of the danger. Everyone wanted to return to the ghetto at night, where the family members, parents, wives, children, etc. were waiting for them. The food that everyone brought with them ran out. Young wives who were busy with children, and whose husbands had already been in the work camp for years, measured out a bit of milk to assuage their children who were screaming from hunger and demanding food, and they were unable to help. The babies were crying and the mothers were crying with them. When the Gestapo recognized the state of hunger, they sent messengers to the neighboring villages, from where Jews had come to the Iza Ghetto, to fetch a bit of wheat and flour from the former Jewish houses and distribute it to the residents of the ghetto.
Later, the decree to cut off the beards and peyos came. This decree to remove the Divine image from their face broke the Jews of Maramures completely. It was not only the Divine image that was removed from their faces, but also their human form. They were turned into wild animals who were open to everyone. All the males between the ages of 1460 were put to work, sometimes even at futile work, in order to confuse the head and dull the senses so that there will be no time to think and plan for means of salvation at the last moment.
On Wednesday, 2 Sivan 5704 (May 24, 1944) the S.S. captains arrived and issued and order that half the people be removed from the Iza Ghetto. Approximately 2,000 people were gathered together next to the entrance to the ghetto at noon. There were many chances to escape even at this point, but nobody took advantage. From there they were brought to the yard of the burnt church of Iza, where they remained for the night. Just like six weeks previously, a long march set out on the road leading to Chust. Only the sick and the elderly were loaded on the wagons. Many S.S. soldiers were waiting for the Jews at the entrance to Chust from the Iza road. The Jews were brought to the brick kilns of Binyamin Davidovitch, located close to the Chust railway station. Some of the Jews of the Chust Ghetto (see entry) were already there, waiting to be loaded on the railway cars. There, many Jews endured searches and confiscation of valuables that they still had. They even confiscated the shrouds from an elderly woman from Lipsha that she had prepared from her last day (see the article on Lipsha). They were transferred from the brick kiln to the railway tracks. A long train with ten cars was waiting on one of the side tracks. The Jews were loaded upon the cars with great cruelty. Family members were separated with blows from rifle butts. When one car was filled with the assigned quote of 7080 people, they began to load the next car. Families were separated without any consideration. The first transport from the Iza Ghetto reached Auschwitz on the Sabbath of the eve of Shavuot. The second transport arrived three days later, after enduring a similar process.
There were several attempts of escape from the Iza Ghetto, but none succeeded. In his testimony given a short time after the Holocaust, the shoemaker Mendel Jutkovitch states: Since I already had experience, since I was on the Russian front already in 1941 and saw the fate of the Jews of Poland, I decided to escape from the Iza Ghetto. I fled to the forests of the area along with four other people. We hid in the forests for several weeks. In the meantime, we succeeded in obtaining Ruthenian papers. We met other Jews in the forests who were hiding after escaping from the ghettoes. We entered the city of Chust dressed as Ruthenians in order to obtain food and news. Unfortunately, a gentile woman recognized us and turned us in to the gendarmes. They tied us up in the office of the gendarmes and transferred us about 50 people to the city of Nyíregyháza in Hungary. We were brought to the counterespionage offices where they beat us with whips until blood flowed and we fainted. Since the Nyíregyháza Ghetto no longer existed, they transferred us to the city of Debrecin, where all the captured Jews were concentrated. From there, they deported us to Auschwitz.
Today, there are no Jews in Iza.
Shlomo Rosman, Zichron Kdoshim, Rechovot, 5729 (1968), pp. 307314, 322329.
Yad Vashem Testimonies: 015/939, 015/1423, 015/2367, 015/2369.
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