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Preface

by Yehoshua R. Buchler

Translated by Madeleine Isenberg

This book deals with the Jews of Slovakia – the Jewish collective which for hundreds of years sat in the territory of Upper Hungary – called “Oberland” by the Jews, Feldvidék by the Hungarians, and in German, Oberungarn, because of the mountainous nature of the region. The Jews of the region were called “Oberlander”, to distinguish them from the other Hungarian Jews, who were called “Unterlander”, meaning inhabitants of a flat country. During the thousand years of Hungarian rule, the Oberland, today's Slovakia, was not a separate administrative unit with borders, but the historians continued to see its inhabitants as “Slovaks,” and separate from the rest of the Hungarian kingdom.

In this book, we refer to the geopolitical area that was established in practice only after the First World War and was known by name of the Slovak geographic region (Krajina Slovenská). In the period between the two World Wars, Slovakia was part of the Republic of Czechoslovakia alongside Bohemia, Moravia and Carpathian Russia. Its area was 48,936 km² and its borders, except for minor changes are identical with those of the Slovak Republic today.

 

Structure of the Book

The first part of the book opens with an historical introduction, a brief survey of the history of the Jewish community in the Slovak region from its inception in the Middle Ages to the present day, which includes only the main facts in general terms. It cannot be read as the full story of Judaism in Slovakia. That story has yet to be written and is still waiting to be redeemed. The introductory chapters review major key events or specific processes generally in chronological order, and their implications for the Jewish community, such as: the fall of Hungary in wars against the Ottoman Empire (1526) and the Turkish invasions; Jewish migration from neighboring countries to Slovakia from the second half of the 17th century and especially in the 18th century and the formation of dozens of new communities; the Emancipation Movement – the struggle for equal rights; the reconciliation between Austrians and Hungarians and the establishment of the Austro–Hungarian dualist monarchy (in 1867); the split in Hungarian Jewry and the division of communities according to religious streams from 1869; World War I and the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic (in 1918); the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the establishment of a Slovak State under Nazi auspices (1939); and the Holocaust during World War II.

As is customary in the Yizkor (Memorial) Books of a Kehila (Community)[1], we did not add notes and references to the historical introduction (“Chapters in the History of the Jews of Slovakia”). To help those interested, at the end of the introduction we added a list of sources and a general bibliography, and specific lists are found at the end of each entry.

Finally, it is worth defining the value of the official currency, the Koruna (Crowns), that was used during the period of the Czechoslovak Republic. After the stabilization of the Czechoslovak currency in 1925, its value was about 0.03 US cents; the value of the dollar was about 33 Korunas (Crowns).

 

Structure of the Entries

At the top of the entries appears the entry for “Bratislava[2].” The rest of the entries are presented according to the Hebrew alphabetical order, and according to the Slovakian names as they were between the Two World Wars. At the beginning of each entry is the name of the locality transliterated into Hebrew and Slovak, and in parentheses also the Hungarian name and sometimes the name in German, and in Yiddish as in Jewish sources.

Over the years, and especially after World War II, the names of several settlements were changed, and several other communities merged or were attached to a neighboring locality. In these cases, too, we maintained the name of the place as it was called on the eve of World War II, and its new name was indicated within the entry itself. Below the entry name, we indicated the district (okres; the geographical region of Slovakia was divided into 79 districts), the geographical location of the settlement and also

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the name of the region[3] (Župa). Even though division into regions was eliminated in 1923, it remained in daily use even after that.

The population table includes data on the number of residents and Jews over the years and the percentages of Jews, collected from the several censuses that were conducted during the 18th century, for the purposes of collecting taxes (conscriptions). The data are from the first general census of the population in 1787 and other sources. For the 19th and 20th centuries, we relied on the official censuses in the years 1869–1940, in which the inhabitants were classified according to their religion and nationality. In regard to the census data that were recorded in the 18th century for tax collection purposes, no more estimates should be considered.

At the beginning of each entry is brief background information on the settlement: its history, its economy, the national and religious affiliation of its residents, the political situation in World War II, the date of liberation, and other unique information for that town. We reviewed the history of the community from its foundation to its destruction during the Second World War, mostly in chronological sequence, and concise information about the survivors and renewal of the community in some of the places. The length of an entry is not always an expression of the importance of the community, Sometimes, we expanded or reduced our writing based on the amount of information available to us. As stated at the end of each entry are the archived sources and bibliography we used in documenting these.

Most of the entries in the book relate to communities in the accepted sense: an organizational framework of the general Jewish population in a given place that had religious institutions and its own kehila, and usually had a rabbi, or another authoritative religious figure. Because of the limited framework, we did not mention all the rabbis of the community, but only the most prominent among them, and similarly with the leaders of the community and other public figures. For a long period, the community guided the individual's way of life and behavior and cared for his personal safety and well–being. The kehila established religious institutions: synagogues, mikvah, cemeteries, educational institutions, funds, welfare and charity groups, slaughterhouses, and others. Life in the kehila was conducted according to its standards[4] (regulations) in which the rights and obligations of the leadership and the individual were detailed.

Demographic changes, mainly as a result of accelerated internal migration from the mid–19th century, resulting in dozens of village communities, some of them important archeological sites, had dwindled over the years, and in some of them the regular communal activities ceased. We found it was also fitting to mention communities in which fewer than 50 Jews remained on the eve of World War II (according to the criteria determined for documenting an entry). Several small localities were reviewed and included as a sub–entry within another entry for a nearby settlement in which an organized community continued to exist. In the appendix to this book, we presented a list of localities in which more than 50 Jews lived but in which no independent community existed. At the end of the book is an index of place names and of an index of people's names, and a table of contents in English for the places according to their Slovak, Hungarian, and German names.

 

Sources

In preparation for writing Pinkas Hakehilot Slovakia (The Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities: Slovakia), we encountered several basic problems that made the work difficult. Historiography and basic research on the history of Slovakian Jewry is still in its early stages. We lacked basic information about the development of the Jewish community in Slovakia during the late Middle Ages and especially in the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as having limited information on social, religious and economic development in the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century.

Pinkas Hakehilot Slovakia is based on a variety of sources: archival material, religious literature, research, journalism, monographs, and memoirs. The basic information about the early period was derived mainly from monumental documentation prepared over a period of decades by Jewish–Hungarian scholars and compiled in 19 volumes under the title Monumenta Hungariae Judaica. This collection contains countless documents collected in Hungarian archives and externally, documents that shed light on the development of the Jewish Yishuv (settlement) and Jewish life in the Hungarian kingdom from the late Middle Ages to the 19th century. Most of the documents refer to the legal and economic status of the Jews and the relations between them and the authorities.

From the middle of the 19th century we had many more diverse sources of information, including continuous and up–to–date information on the Jewish communities in Upper Hungary – today's Slovakia. For the Czechoslovak Republic, we primarily used the many publications of the Central Bureau of Statistics of Czechoslovakia, which contain detailed data on the Jewish population in the region of Slovakia. To describe the economic occupations of the Jews in their places of residence, we relied mainly on lists from the local chambers of commerce that were compiled in the “Address Book” (Adresář) that was published in the 1920s and 1930s in Prague, akin to “The Yellow Pages” of today. Possibly these data are deficient and not always accurate, but reflect a general picture of economic activity and the occupations of the Jews, the number and types of businesses owned by them and their percentages of all businesses in their places of residence.

Most of the records regarding how the communities conducted their lives, their local associations and national community organizations were lost during World War II.

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The little that remained was transferred to the Slovak State Archive in Bratislava. This material includes diverse and comprehensive information on some of the communities, especially from the period between the two World Wars. Some of these sources were detailed at the end of each entry; general publications were included in the general bibliography list at the end of the introduction. Three maps were attached to the book.

 

Transliteration

In converting Slovak, Hungarian, and German names into a Hebrew transliteration we relied on the phonetic pronunciation of the vowels and consonants. In the vowels and consonants of these languages, that have no parallel in Hebrew, we attempted to imitate as much as possible the original sound:

The Slovak š would be considered as ש; č as צ; ž as ז

The consonants ď ť ň ľ pronounced with soft emphasis, as ד, ט, נ, ל

The vowels ä and ö are considered like the Hebrew segol; ü and y, become a י (yod) in Hebrew. A dash after the vowels a e i o u y indicate a short vowel. The combination of letters ch = ח or כ ; ia   יַ; ie = יֶ ; io = יוֹ ; iu = יוּ

* * *

Finally, I would like to thank all the people, bodies and institutions that stood by us and helped us prepare the book. The first to be thanked is my teacher and friend Dr. Shmuel Spector, until recently Head of the Department of Jewish Communities at Yad Vashem, and Prof. Dov Levin, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who helped me greatly with guidance and counseling. I am grateful to my partner and my friend Dr. Gila Fatran, who wrote an important and unique chapter on the relations between Slovaks and Jews, and architect Arie Fatran, who prepared the maps and helped with the collection of photographs for the book; Prof. Pavel Mestan, director of the Jewish Museum in Bratislava, who turned over important documents to the Yad Vashem Archives; and to Dr. Peter Salner, a member of the Slovak Academy of Sciences and the head of the Bratislava community.

My heartfelt thanks to the assistant editors, Ruth Shachak and Bracha Freundlich, who worked alongside me for a long time and who contributed greatly to the improvement of the language, finding and preventing many errors; To Yosef Wankert, who participated in the linguistic editing of the historical introduction; to the workers at the “Achva” printers, Dalia Haftman and Zamira Gaoni, who with extraordinary devotion and awareness of the project, reviewed and introduced many more corrections and even rendered their own suggestions. My thanks also go to Dr. Bella Gutterman, the director of the publishing house, who accompanied the book in its later stages, and did everything in her power to hasten its appearance. Finally, I would like to thank my wife Esther and my children, who accorded me the fragrant atmosphere that enabled me to write.

Yehoshua R. Buchler, son of Josef, who perished on February 22, 1945 in the Dachau concentration camp,

And Terezia née Weinberger, who was murdered in October 1944 in Auschwitz

Translator's Notes

  1. In translating the Hebrew pages into English, the Hebrew word, Kehila, meaning Jewish community, is often interchanged with the simply the word, community. These have both been used both here in the preface as well as within the entries of the book themselves. Return
  2. The capital of Slovakia, once known as Pressburg. Return
  3. Might also be translated as county Return
  4. Such standards were written for each community by the kehila leaders, and were modified and renewed as necessary. Return

 

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