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Translation of the
Čirč chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Slovakia
Translation of the
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 2003
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Slovakia: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Slovakia,
Edited by Yehoshua Robert Buchler and Ruth Shashak, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.
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Translated by Madeleine Isenberg
A village in the district of Sabinov, in the ari region of eastern Slovakia.
Čirč, a small remote village in the forested area near the Polish border, is first mentioned in the 15th century as a settlement in the estate of the PLAVETZ nobility, that later passed on to others of the Hungarian nobility. The inhabitants, mostly Slovaks and a few Ruthenians, Greek-Orthodox in their religion, made their living from forestry and sheep- and cattle-raising. During the period of the first Czechoslovak Republic, several sawmills were created in the area that generated possibilities for new businesses for many of the inhabitants.
During the Second World War, Čirč was incorporated within the Slovakian State, set up under the protection of Nazi Germany, and after the suppression of the autumn 1944 rebellion, it was conquered by the Germans. In January 1945, the Soviet Army liberated Čirč and the surroundings.
About the History of the Community
Until the middle of the 18th century Jews didn't live in Čirč continuously, apparently due to limited possibilities to earn a living. In the 1768 tax list, only one Jewish family was living in the village. In the latter part of the 18th century, settlement of Galician Jews began, and according to the dates on several ancient tombstones, a Jewish cemetery was opened outside the village. By 1830, an organized kehila (community) was functioning in Čirč, to which Jews from other smaller villages in the area also belonged.
In the middle of the 19th century, Jews of Čirč built a wooden synagogue, in the style typical of the old Polish synagogues. The kehila also had a mikvah (ritual or purification bath), a cheder (Jewish primary school), and a community center with apartments for holy vessels. The local shochet (ritual slaughterer) also served as the teacher in the cheder. The Jews of Čirč brought with them Galician Chassidism, and the local kehila was counted among the few in Slovakia that throughout all the years of its existence, conducted its life similar to the Chassidic communities of Eastern Europe.
With the split within the Hungarian Jewish communities in 1869, Čirč joined with the Orthodox. From the beginning of the 20th century, Čirč had a rabbi as its spiritual leader. For 40 years, Rabbi Mordechai LICHTENSTEIN (1871-1944) led the community, but perished in the Holocaust. Jews from other small settlements in the area belonged to this rabbinate. Rabbi LICHTENSTEIN was esteemed by the Jews due to his vast Torah knowledge, his spiritual quality, and leadership ability, and throngs of Jews came to him from communities in central Europe. Even non-Jews in Čirč and surrounding towns respected him greatly and came to him to seek advice. He established a yeshiva in Čirč and served as its head until the community was liquidated during the Holocaust.
In years between the two World Wars, the number of Jews in Čirč decreased, even while the activities and institutions continued as before. Aside from the synagogue, cemetery and purification mikvah, the kehila had a slaughterhouse for chickens and a butcher shop. Rabbi Mordechai LICHTENSTEIN continued his leadership. In the management of the Yeshiva, he was helped from within his own family, by his son Mr. Baruch LICHTENSTEIN.
During these same years, the Jews of Čirč continued to work in small business and workshops. Three were owners of grocery shops, two were tavern-owners, and the rest working in various workshops. Most of the Jewish families had auxiliary farms next to their homes.
The Holocaust Period
During the Slovakian Republic Jews of Čirč belonged to the Jewish Center that was set up in 1940 in the town of Lipany (q.v.). Over time in 1941, All Jewish businesses were closed by order of the authorities, and all Jewish men who were left without work or source of income were drafted into force labor.
At the end of March 1942, the deportations from Čirč began. First, the young men were sent to the camp in Majdanek in the Lublin area and the young women, to the Auschwitz extermination camp. On April 21, dozens more Jews from Čirč were sent via the collection camp in Poprad (q.v.) to extermination camps and ghettoes in the Lublin, Poland region. Several Jews who still remained were transported to Bardejov (q.v.) on 16 May 1942, and even they were added to the transports to the camps and ghettoes in the Lublin region. Rabbi Mordechai LICHTENSTEIN and his family received protection documents. At the time of the deportations, they moved to Lipany and Rabbi LICHTENSTEIN served as the rabbi of Sabinov (q.v.). In 1944, with the deportation of the Jews from eastern Slovakia, the rabbi and his family found refuge for a while with his brother-in-law, Rabbi Shmuel David UNGAR, rabbi of Nitra (q.v.). In the autumn of 1944, with Germany having conquered Slovakia, the Nazis grabbed Rabbi LICHTENSTEIN and in October 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz.
After the war, no Jews returned to Čirč. For dozens of years, the local Slovaks guarded the rabbi's home in hopes that the rabbi would someday return. Aside from the rabbi's abandoned home in Čirč, the synagogue building, mikvah, and cemetery still remain.
Yad Vashem Archives, JM/11011-11017, M5/117.
Cohen, Yeshivot Hungaria (Hungarian Yeshivas), 2, pp. 23-25.
Bárkány-Dojč, pp. 360-362
MHJ, vols. XVI
idovská ročenka (1940) pp. 22
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