48°43' / 21°15'
Translation of the
Kosice chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Slovakia
Translation of the
Edited by Yehoshua Robert Buchler and Ruth Shashak
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 2003
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.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Translated by Francine Shapiro
Edited by Madeleine Isenberg
(Kassa in Hungarian, Kaschau in German, and Kashoy in Jewish documents).
The capital of Abov district, administrative and economic center of eastern Slovakia.
Kosice Population Table
Kosice is first mentioned in written documents in 1249, but it is known that it was established a long time before that. From its beginning, it was the property of the kings of Hungary, and there were big markets which also attracted merchants from neighboring countries. Kosice was situated on a crossroad, and controlled an important trade route from southern Europe to Poland and Russia, and a lively traffic developed there. In 1342 it became a free royal city, and that status gave it broad rights. Thanks to its new status, it became a center for international trade, especially in leather, cloth, and spices. A mint was opened there.
In 1554 it became the capitol of Upper Hungary (which included most of the area of Slovakia), and held government offices and the seat of the Roman Catholic church. At this time many schools were opened there, and in 1657 a university was founded.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, textile, ceramic, and clothing industries were started. Many artisans opened (work) shops, and their proprietors were organized in guilds, according to profession. The flourishing era was cut short during the wars of the Hungarian nobility against the Imperial army in the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century.
During these wars, part of the city was destroyed, many inhabitants departed, administration and government institutions closed, and its status wavered. There were fierce battles in the city and vicinity during the Revolution of 1848-49.
The stagnation in Kosice continued until the city was connected to the railway system, and became an important railroad crossroad.
After the long depression a rapid industrialization process began, accompanied by demographic increase. In the middle of the nineteenth century factories were built for sugar refining, iron products, bricks, beer, large stores, and a few banks. Thanks to the economic boom, Kosice once again became an administrative and economic center for northeastern Hungary. As time passed a cigarette factory, the Frank plant for a coffee substitute, the biggest in Slovakia, and a machine foundry started to work.
Citizens of the city made their living through trade, artisanship, and work in factories, and not a few of them became rich.
The population of Kosice was mixed, and included Hungarians, Slovaks, Germans, Ruthenians, Gypsies, Catholics, Lutherans, and also many Jews. There were various cultural activities. A national theater was founded there, and journals and periodicals were published in a variety of languages. Various social and political organizations were founded, one after another.
During the Czechoslovak Republic development and prosperity continued, the population grew. It was an administrative center for the eastern district of Czechoslovakia, the site of administrative offices, and army and police headquarters. The majority of the population made its living by supplying goods and services to the surrounding population. During the census of 1930 about 60% of the population declared themselves of Czechoslovakian nationality, while the rest were listed as Hungarians, Jews, and Germans.
After the Vienna arbitration of Nov. 2, 1938, when Kosice was annexed to Hungary, about 20,000 inhabitants, most of them Czechs and Slovaks, left the city.
The Hungarian authorities plotted against the Jews and Slovaks who remained in the city, and accused them of supporting the Czechoslovakian regime. Some public figures, Czechoslovakian supporters, were arrested and accused of illegal activity, then executed. Near the end of the Second World War dozens of city residents were murdered by Hungarian Fascist gangs under the command of Ferenc SZALASI, the leader of the Arrow Cross party, who was born in Kosice.
On January 19, 1945 the Soviet and Czechoslovakian armies liberated Kosice. From that time until the liberation of Prague, the capital, on May 9, 1945, Kosice was the home of the Czechoslovakian president, the government, and the higher institutions of the republic. During the Communist regime, from 1948-1989, Kosice continued to grow and develop. The government built new neighborhoods and many factories, including one for steel works, VSZ, the biggest in Czechoslovakia.
The History of the Jewish Community
We do not have exact information about the beginning of Jewish settlement in Kosice. There are testimonies that a few Jews settled there by the fifteenth century. In some documents from the sixteenth century, Jewish inhabitants of the city were mentioned. The name of a Jew who directed the local mint was mentioned in a document from 1524. Another document mentions that his predecessor was Jewish. It seems that Jewish settlement there in those years was not continuous. Frequent wars and pogroms from the middle of the sixteenth century in Kosice and its vicinity caused ruin, destruction, and the flight of the inhabitants. It's almost certain that at this time the Jews also left Kosice.
At the end of the seventeenth century, Jews settled in a few places in the Kosice district, against the will of the merchants of the city who feared Jewish domination of their trade, and demanded the authorities banish them from Kosice. Despite the fierce opposition of the merchants, and their repeated petitions to the authorities demanding their banishment, some Jews did settle there at the beginning of the eighteenth century in the nearby village of Rozhanovce (q.v.), and they came to Kosice on market and fair days. They were permitted to trade, but not to sleep there. The local authorities refused applications again and again to permit them to live in Kosice. Since there were many applications from Jews, but opposition of the inhabitants on the other side, again the authorities declared in 1765 it was forbidden for Jews to be in the area of the city when the sun set. In the 1780s it seems that some Jewish families lived on estates close to the city, under the patronage and protection of the local nobles. In a document from 1784 a Jew was mentioned who lived in one of Kosice neighborhoods, and was the owner of a concession to transport the mail. During this era, Rozhanovce was the center for Kosice's Jews.
A few Jews were permitted to settle in Kosice at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1805 two Jewish family heads were there. In 1814 the city authorities permitted the widow ROTH to open a kosher restaurant in a street close to the city walls for Jews who came to Kosice on market days. On the list of Kosice inhabitants from 1831 the widow and household are mentioned as the only Jewish inhabitants of the city, although it is possible that a few more Jews lived there without permission. Two years later, in the census of 1833, 24 Jews were listed as Jews, who belonged to the Rozhanovce community and its rabbinate.
Limitations on Jewish settlement in the cities were abolished in 1840, and a small Jewish settlement developed. In 1842 the Jews of Kosice organized and founded an independent community. The Jews gained a license to rent a house in Zvonarska Road, and they converted it into a place usable as a synagogue. In the courtyard of the building they opened a cheder with separate classes for boys and girls. The children were taught to read and write, and three times a week they were given religious instruction. As time passed more Jewish institutions were established on Zvonarska Road, and most Jews lived on this street and neighboring streets, close to the walls of the city. In 1843 the Jewish community wrote it own by-laws. In this year the community included 30 families, inhabitants of Kosice and nearby towns. Very quickly the Jews founded more public institutions, and Kosice became the seat of the rabbinate. The first rabbi was Mordechai HaCohen, who moved to the city from Rozhanovce with other Jews. In 1844 the Hevra Kadisha was founded. In 1845 the cemetery was opened (according to another version, the cemetery was open only around 1860 after the city authorities granted the community a piece of land north of the city). In 1888 the first cemetery was so full it was closed, and instead a new cemetery was opened.
In 1845 Jewish merchants (4 textile merchants, one leather merchant, and a silversmith) were granted permission to opened stores in the center of the city. The merchants of the city organized a protest and demanded that the city authorities not allow the Jews to open more stores. Although the inhabitants protested, the Jewish settlement of Kosice continued, and by 1848 there were about 600 Jews.
In the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848-49 some Jews participated with the Hungarian rebels. In the city the revolutionary days were accompanied by attacks against Jews. On March 22, 1848 at night an agitated mob of farmers and local citizens burst into Jewish homes and shops, causing heavy damage to them. 198 homes and stores of Jews were robbed and damaged. The synagogue was profaned and more public institutions were injured. Non-Jewish residents of the city demanded that the city authorities expel all the Jews from Kosice, but were refused. When the rebellion was put down, the Austrian authorities levied a fine on the Jews of 5,000 gold pieces on the pretext that they supported the Hungarians in their revolution.
The great increase of Jews in Kosice continued throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. The community developed, and in 1867 when the Jews were granted equal rights, the population numbered about 300 families. The majority of Kosice Jews made their living through trade, artisanship, as members of the free professions, or entrepreneurs who established factories, mostly to further process products of the agricultural sector.
When the Enlightenment spread among the Jews, many of them supported change from the traditional way of life, and style of prayers in worship.
The leader of Maskilim ("The Enlightened") was Rabbi Dr. Aharon (Siegfried) BETTELHEIM. From 1861-1866 he was a sermonizer and secretary of the community, famous as an orator and talented author, a fighter for the Jewish Emancipation. He published a Jewish journal, Der Jude (the Jew), the first of this kind in Slovakia, where he advocated changes in worship and customs, and the style of the rabbi's performance, and the modern ideas he spread caused an acrid dispute among Kosice Jews, and the rabbi was forced to leave the city. Afterwards he immigrated to the United States, where he was doctor and a rabbi in several important communities.
In 1866 the first Reform synagogue was founded in Kosice, which heightened the dispute. The new synagogue included about 500 seats, (some of them in the women's section), but the Orthodox did not recognize it, and continued to pray in the old synagogue. The authorities arbitrated the dispute, and decided to sidestep the problem. They gave the synagogue to the Reform movement, but obligated it to build another synagogue in traditional style with their own funds for the Orthodox community.
At the Congress of Hungarian Jews, in Budapest 1868-69, David KAIN represented the Jews of the Abov region from Kosice. After the resolution of the Congress, the community of Kosice suffered a severe crisis. Most called themselves Neologs, and the Orthodox minority left the community and established a separate framework, which became a member of the Orthodox Communities' organization. This caused a break with the traditional organizational framework, estrangement among Jewish groups in the city, and a split, which continued until the end of the Second World War. After the Holocaust the two groups united into one community.
The Neolog community organized and founded its institutions immediately after the Budapest Congress. It was headed by very famous public figures, who also had a high position in non-Jewish society, among them Dr. David KAIN and Dr. Yakov MOSHKOVITS, who was chief physician and made an important donation to the urban health system. The Neolog Hevra Kadisha, and the Jewish women's organization, which founded a soup kitchen and directed various social activities, started in 1870, while other mutual assistance societies began at that time. In 1888 a new cemetery was opened near the village of Barca, south of the city. The cemetery was open to all Jews, but had separate sections for Neolog and Orthodox. In 1911 the Neolog synagogue was enlarged and renovated.
The first Neolog rabbi (since 1879) was Rabbi Dr. (Armin) Avraham PERELES, a talented preacher, who was outstanding in acumen and leadership ability. He was followed by Rabbi Kalman LIEBERMAN, followed him, assisted during the years 1894-1897 by Rabbi Dr. Simon HEVESI-HÄNDLER, a scholar and enlightened man. Afterwards he was the Chief Rabbi of Budapest, and one of the spiritual leaders of liberal Jews in Hungary. At the end of the nineteenth century Rabbi Jozef KLEIN was elected to the rabbinate, and officiated until 1914. Then came Rabbi Mano (Emanuel) ENTEN, born in Tarnova, a Halachic scholar, famous thanks to his books and essays in Halachic Judaism.
The Orthodox community gained recognition as a separate community in 1871. A few Batei Midrash belonged to them, in which public prayers were said, a mikva, a Talmud Torah (opened in 1872), a kosher butcher and slaughterhouse, a matzo bakery, and other public institutions. They also founded traditional charitable societies, among them a free loan fund, a clinic for the poor, a burial society, and a learning society: Talmud, Mishna, etc.
In 1882 the Neolog Jews completed the new Orthodox synagogue, in accord with the judgment of the arbitrators in the 1866 case. The first Orthodox synagogue (which was nicknamed the old) was founded in Zvonarska Street on a big plot bought by one of the leaders of the community. During the years the synagogue was enlarged several times, in order to make it suit the needs of the community. The building was 16 x 28 meters. Afterwards a yeshiva, Bet Midrash, Talmud Torah, mikva, a slaughterhouse, soup kitchen, an apartment for religious workers of the community, and the community offices. It seems that the first Orthodox Rabbi was Rabbi Yehuda Leib JULES, who came to Kosice from Sarisske Luky at the beginning of the 1870s he opened the first yeshiva in Kosice. His assistant was Rabbi Moses (Moshe Levi) JUNGREIS. In 1889 Rabbi JUNGREIS was named chief rabbi and head of the upper yeshiva, with dozens of students. After his death in 1906 his son Rabbi Ignac (Ithak Zvi) JUNGREIS, who also headed the yeshiva until his death in 1933, succeeded him. Before the First World War, Rabbi Avram SCHWARZ lived in Kosice, who founded and directed another yeshiva.
A short time after the establishment of the Orthodox community, there was a split. The liberals came under the leadership Rabbi Avram Abba Katz ZELENFREUND, who did not like the path of the Zealots, withdrew and established Congregation Adat Shalom. After a short time Adat called itself a status quo community, one of the first in Hungary. Its members, some dozens of traditional families, established a separate synagogue, and some public institutions. They were keepers of traditions, and their lifestyle was religious, and because of it the very strict rabbis did not excommunicate them. Their Rabbi, Katz ZELENFREUND, a distinguished and famous scholar books, Pras Avot, P'nai Avraham, and others gained him wide renown. He was the rabbi in Kosice until his death in 1819, and followed by Rabbi Mordechai ECKSTEIN.
The Jewish educational system was based on the traditional cheder, and the Talmud Torah. In the middle of the nineteenth century it had between 100-150 pupils. Children of the well-to-do either studied general subjects with private tutors, or in public schools. In 1859 a private elementary Jewish school was opened in Kosice, the Israelische Volksschule, which included four classes. It was taught in German, and included boys and girls. In 1862 it closed because of the small number of pupils. In 1868 the community opened a four-class elementary school in a rented house, and in 1872 a fifth class was added. Approximately 120 pupils studied there, first in German, then in Hungarian. After it was broadened 326 children learned there. The distinguished educator, M.N. ROTTENBERG directed the school, and published an educational weekly, Shomer Yisroel.
After the split and the separation of community institutions, the elementary school became Neolog. The Neolog community continued to develop and invest in education. In 1884 a new and modern Neolog school was built in 1884 near the synagogue. Over a period of time an elementary school was established for boys, in which taught religious and secular studies. From the 1870's it also had a yeshiva and Talmud Torah with a few dozen pupils.
In the three communities there were some funds, charitable organizations, and self-help societies before the First World War. The old Agudat Nashim Yudiot widened its activities, and gained more appreciation, thanks to the variety of its activities for all the people of Kosice.
The Jews of Kosice were involved in city life, and at this time they strengthened their support of emancipation, and the desire to integrate into society as a whole, especially among the enlightened. At this time most of the Jews of Kosice spoke Hungarian and supported Hungarian cultural institutions in the city. They had a most important share in the local economy, and were among the pioneers of industry and banking in the city. The also were in the majority of professionals, especially doctors, lawyers, and pharmacists.
At the end of the nineteenth century the Jewish residents took part in the Hovavei Zion movement, and at the beginning of the twentieth century a Zionist branch was established, headed by Yoshua RUSNIAK and Zvi SPIELBERGER, who were some of the founders of the Zionist Organization in Hungary. The Zionist student movement, Bar Kochba, was also active in the city, and in the First World Conference of the Mizrachi Movement in Bratislava (q.v.) in 1904; one representative from Kosice took part. Even at this time, Kosice was one of the centers of Zionist activity in Hungary.
In 1909 three local Jews Zvi SPIELBERGER, Moshe JUHASZ, and Ludvig GRÜN were elected to the national Zionist leadership in Hungary, and in May 1910 the Zionist National Conference of Hungary was in Kosice. Yoshua RUSNIAK from Kosice also took part in the first Zionist congresses. In 1913 a branch of Agudat Yisroel was also established in Kosice by the initiative of Rabbi Yitzhak Zvi JUNGREIS.
One might mention Rifka KOHUT (1864-1951), who immigrated to the US, and was a famous social worker and educator, among the public figures who were born in Kosice. She headed a national charity, and was the president of the Jewish Women's Congress in the US.
During the First World War hundreds from Kosice were taken into the Austro-Hungarian army. Fifteen of them were killed in battles. The war years brought masses of Jewish refugees who fled because of the progress of the Russian army. Many of them settled in Kosice, and integrated into the already pluralistic community. The two Admorim, Rabbi Shmuel ENGEL from Radomyshl, and Rabbi Abraham Shalom HALBERSTAMM from Stropkov (q.v.) moved their Hassidic courts to Kosice. The synagogues couldn't contain any more worshippers, and a new Beit Midrash and Hassidic klois were established, in which Rabbi Wolf REICHMAN and Rabbi Avram Hirsh KLEIN and their Hassidim prayed.
The Jews Between the Two World Wars
During the First World War the Jewish public suffered social and economic tremors and crises, and the many refugees who crowded into the city added to the difficulties. After the war there were political changes, too, which made the situation more acute. The Jewish Social Organization, organized in Kosice before the end of the war, helped a broad spectrum of the needy, and thanks to the financial support of the Joint, it was active in lessening difficulties, and rehabilitating those harmed by the war. This association also ran a Jewish orphanage in which 70 children were educated.
The communities and their institutions
After the war the Neolog community was the biggest in the city, and had 560 heads of families, who paid communal taxes.
The Rabbi Dr. Emanuel ENTEN continued to be the rabbi of the community. During the era of the Czechoslovak Republic, Dr. Alexander NEUWIRTH, Dr. Vojtech (Bela) WEISS, Dr. Eugen MOLNAR, and Dr. Ignatz HERZ headed the community successively. In 1927 it erected a new and magnificent synagogue, which cost 4.5 million crowns. The synagogue included 600 seats for men and 500 more in the Women's section. In its courtyard an elementary school was established, one of the most modern in the state, which included ten classes (several on the same grade), rooms for teachers, a gymnasium, a laboratory, and an office. The languages of instruction were Slovak and Hungarian. Besides communal institutions some charities and mutual help societies were also active. In 1929 the Neolog community became a member of the Liberal Communities organization, Yeshurun.
The Orthodox community, which was headed by Shimon SHERMAN, had about 3,000 members after the war (384 family heads paid the communal tax). The community budget to maintain its institutions and workers in 1922 was 860,000 crowns. In 1923, after the death of the Rabbi Yitzhak Zvi JUNGREIS, Rabbi Shaul BRACH was elected head of the community. He was born in Nitra (q.v.), became one of the distinguished rabbis in Slovakia, and was elected Chief Orthodox Rabbi of Kosice. Divrei Shaul, and Likutei Shaul, and other titles are among his most important works. Rabbi Shaul BRACH also headed the Yeshiva of Kosice, which was at the height of its development during his time. Then it had about 300 students, and gained the status of an institution of higher learning by the government of Czechoslovakia. Except for directing the yeshiva, Rabbi BRACH was also the head of the Shas and Mishnayot societies, from which generated some talented scholars. Many of the rabbis of this generation were his disciples.
He was assisted by the dayanim, Rabbi Hanoch PACK, the author of Zichron Yosef, and Rabbi Joshua FRIEDMANN, and Rabbi Rafael BLUM. Rabbi BRACH was also active in public affairs, was one of the leaders of Agudat Yisroel, and the central office of the Orthodox community in Czechoslovakia. We can learn about his total opposition to Zionism generally, and to religious Zionism (Mizrachi) in particular, we can learn among other things from the preface to his book, Avot Al Banim, which was mostly dedicated to the struggle against Zionism.
During the Czechoslovakian Republic era, the Orthodox community was enlarged permanently, and at the beginning of the 1930's it included about 700 families. In 1927 its members built a new and spacious synagogue (its size was 35x25 meters) in Moorish style. Close to it an Orthodox elementary school, in which the language of instruction was Slovak, a Talmud Torah, and a large, modern matzo bakery were built. At this time in the Orthodox community a group of worshipers prayed in the Sephardic style-i.e, as did the Hassidim. They prayed in the old Beit Midrash, which was converted into a Hassidic Klois. Rabbi Shmuel ENGEL, who moved to Kosice, was famous for his sharpness, and his important books Sha'alot and Tshuvot Maharash, Pitchei Marash, and others. He was nominated Dayan and Morei Tzedek, and until his death in 1935 he was the religious leader of the big Hassidic community in Kosice. During this time there were a few more famous rabbis, among them Rabbi Shalom ADLER, the rabbi of the community Yeshuat Yisroel, Rabbi Joshua FRANKFURTER, head of Hevrat Mishnayot, and Rabbi Itzhak (Isaac) EICHENSTEIN, who was the head of the Beit Midrash HaGadol in Zvonarska Street.
The status quo community, which included some dozen families, kept an independent framework, also after the establishment of Yeshurun, the Liberal Communities Organization. Its head was Moritz KLEIN, and Rabbi Mordechai ECKSTEIN continued to be Chief Rabbi until he was deported to Auschwitz in 1944.
In 1927 the BoldB Neolog synagogue became the place of worship of the Yeshurun community. It was remodeled slightly to suit the needs of the traditional community. Between the two world wars the old charitable societies widened their activities, and new institutions and organizations were set up, including all sorts of social activities.
The Jews in the society and economy
The era of the Czechoslovak Republic was distinguished by the involvement of Jews in city life, and the cultural and social awakening in Jewish society. Jews had high positions in public administration. At the beginning of the 1920's, five Jews were elected to the City Council, and two to the District Council.
Jews were directors of urban institutions, such as the gas and electric companies, and public maintenance. The city engineer and two district judges were Jewish. Jews also headed general social and political organizations, and held an honored place among the activists of the Communist Party, and parties of the Hungarian minority. In 1935 Dr. Zoltan FARKAS from Kosice was elected to the Upper House of the Czechoslovak Parliament as a representative of the Social Democratic Party.
The national consciousness was also strengthened among the Jews. The population census of 1930 showed that about half the Jews of Kosice (5,733 of 11,514) declared they belonged to the Jewish people. The rest defined themselves as Hungarians and Slovaks. The national Jewish party gained much support among the Jewish public, despite protests of the rabbis. It gained about 10% of the vote in municipal elections in 1925, and had five representatives on the City Council. In the 1928 elections, about 1,700 voted for this party.
Kosice was the site of the leadership of the national Jewish party for all eastern Slovakia and Carpato-Russia. Two Jews from Kosice, Ignatz GOLDBERGER and Dr. Armin KABOSCH were members of the Central Directorate of the party in Czechoslovakia. To oppose the Jewish National Party, the Orthodox founded the Jewish Merchants' Party, which also had representatives in the City Council.
The 1920s and 1930s represented the height of Zionist activity, and Kosice became a Zionist center in Czechoslovakia. A spectrum of Zionist organizations existed. A WIZO had 670 members, and was one of the strongest.
In 1929 6,500 crowns were donated in Kosice to plant a forest in Palestine, named for the President of Czechoslovakia, T. G. MASARYK. Before the seventeenth Zionist Congress in 1931, 408 shekels (which entitled the buyer to vote -FS) were purchased in the city.
Dr. Ludvig GRÜN headed the Zionist association in Kosice. Dr. Jozef LOEWY was a member of the active directory of the Zionist organization in Czechoslovakia.
Jewish sports associations, Maccabi and Koach, that included hundreds of youngsters and adults from all Jewish circles, developed a variety of activities. The Koach association (established in 1920) focused on seven areas: soccer, swimming, bicycle riding, volleyball, tennis, handball, and table tennis.
The Maccabi Association, which was founded in 1921, was distinguished by sport activities, and from the local branch came some distinguished sportsmen, who also competed in national contests. In the 1930s the two associations began to cooperate, and in time they united.
Hashomer Kadima (afterwards Hashomer Hatzair), was the first Zionist youth movement which opened a club in Kosice. It was founded in 1921, and was the largest youth movement in the city. Then came branches of Betar, Ziorei Mizrachi (afterwards B'nai Akiva), Hanoar Zioni, and Maccabi Hazair. Ha Mizrachi Hashomer Kadima and B'nai Akiva opened offices of the national leadership in Kosice and organized conferences in it. Dozens of graduates of youth movements in Kosice who were trained on farms made aliyah before World War Two.
The non-Zionist orthodox were active in Agudat Yisroel, and Tzeirei Agudat Yisroel movement, which had hundreds of members. Religious girls were members of the Beis Yakov movement, that was involved in educational and social work.
Many of the Jews of Kosice were oriented to Hungarian culture, and were members of political and social organization of the Hungarian minority in the city. Some had leadership positions. The majority spoke Hungarian, and some even registered as members of the Hungarian nation. They were a small section of the elite of Jewish society, identified with the national Hungarian movement, which insisted on annexing the areas of Slovakia to Hungary. On the other hand, the majority of the youths, especially Zionist activists and the ideal of a Jewish nationalism, had a stronger tendency to identify with the democratic Czechoslovakian republic. In the 1930s there was an Association of the Jews of Slovakia, and a second Association.of Slovak Jews. Dr. Andre MARCUS led the second organization. It spread Slovak culture among the Jews, and encouraged them to integrate into Slovak national life. From 1935-38 it published the periodical Rozvoj.
Some Jewish journals were published during those years in Kosice, among them Kassai Hirlap (in Hungarian), Judische Tradition (in German), close to the viewpoint of Agudat Yisroel, the Yiddish weekly Yiddishe Folkszeitung , and from 1932 another weekly in Yiddish and Hungarian, Dos Yiddishe Vort- Zsido Szo. A local periodical was also published in Kosice in German dedicated to society and culture, called Judischer Wochenkalender, which enjoyed wide popularity.
In the economy the Jews continued to enjoy a much more important position than their proportion in the population. The majority of the (about 60%) made their living by trade, and the majority of business establishments in the city were owned by them.
Jews were especially outstanding in the textile and clothing branches, wood, and building materials. Many of them were artisans, and also salesclerks, agents, clerks, and a large group of free professionals: about 30 doctors, fifty-four lawyer, 15 engineers, and seven pharmacists. The Jewish industrialists and entrepreneurs were outstanding: A factory for manufacturing wood products (FODOR and LUSTIG), a factory for paint and mineral oil (SZEKELY and partners), a chemical fertilizer factory, a soap plant (Adolf FRIEDMANN), a factory for machines and turbines (FLEISCHER and partners), a factory for leather goods and furniture, a flour mill, a factory for concrete products (GLASS and FREIDMANN), the Globus publishing and printing house, and other smaller factories. Jews were also the owners of insurance agencies, and some banks.
They were noteworthy among the intelligentsia of the city, and among them were some lecturers and professors in the upper educational institutions, journalists, artists, authors, and other intellectuals.
During the Holocaust
In the population census taken at the end of 1938 in the areas annexed to Hungary there were 11,420 Jews, or about 20% of the whole population. Already I the first weeks of the new regime, the Hungarians began to display an unfriendly attitude to the Jews, started to accuse them of supporting Czechoslovakia, and also of being Communists. On Nov. 10, 1938 the Hungarian gendarmerie began to expel dozens of Jewish families whose Hungarian citizenship was doubtful. Some hundreds of Kosice Jews, men, women, and children, were taken by trucks of the Hungarian army to the Slovakian border that was nearby, and remained in a no-man's land between the two states for a long times without the money, work, or housing, or the possibility of gaining the most basic essentials. During this time they had a little aid from the Slovakian side. At this time some dozen Jews who were suspected of belonging to rightist organizations or democratic parties were transported to Hungarian concentration camps in Garany.
At the beginning of 1938 the Arrow Cross-Fascist anti-Semitic party, which began agitation against the Jews, tortured them, and demanded the authorities enact severe economic laws against them. The Arrow Cross Party and its leader, Ferenc SZALASI, who was born in Kosice, enjoyed great support among the people. In 1940 the local authorities expelled Jews from some economic activities, and levied limitations and severe decrees. Some 461 Jewish merchants were deprived of business licenses, and many free professionals were fired from work, and lost their licenses. The majority of Jews who still worked in public service, and Jews who wee members of the local council were dismissed from their jobs. The results of the activities of the authorities against the Jews were significant in a short time. About 3,000 local Jews and refugees needed support from welfare organization of the Jewish community (OMZSA). In the summer of 1940 hundreds of the Jews of Kosice were enlisted into forced labor units, and were sent to work camps.
The campaign of pursuit against the Jews continued and intensified in 1941. In June the last two Jews were expelled from the city council, Dr. Bela HALMI, and Dr. Armin WICKERMAN, members of the Hungarian National Party. The Hungarian police entered dozens of offices and clubs of Jewish movements and organizations, whose activities were prohibited, and confiscated their possessions. In July 1941 there was another expulsion in Kosice of Jews without Hungarian citizenship. About 300 men, women, and children were expelled to the occupied area in the Ukraine, and in the autumn all were murdered in the Kamenets-Podolsk area. At the end of 1941 about 10,000 Jews remained in the city.
Kosice was one of the places that Jews who succeeded in fleeing expulsion from where they were living came to. Many refugees from Poland also found shelter in the city for a brief time. The Jewish public and the community institutions aided the refugees, and gave them forged papers, food, sometimes also some money, and smuggled them into Budapest. Most of the smuggling was done by members of youth movements, who organized themselves into underground groups, and helped to smuggle refugees to Romania, and from there to Palestine. Hungarian policemen arrested many of those active in smuggling, who were caught giving shelter to refugees from Slovakia and Poland. Zoltan SCHÖNHERZ from Kosice, active in the Czechoslovakia Communist party, was condemned to death, and executed in 1942 after the Hungarians accused him of espionage.
At the beginning of 1944 the Neolog community numbered 875 heads of families, taxpayers, about 4,500 souls. The community continued to function as usual under the leadership of Dr. Akos KOLOS and had 38 workers. Rabbi Emanuel ENTEN continued to be Chief Rabbi.
In the community school there were 630 pupils, and in the orphanage, supported by its budget, lived some dozens of children.
At this time there were about 3,000 members of the Orthodox community, 682 families who paid taxes. After the death of Rabbi Shaul BRACH in 1940, the Dayan, Rabbi Heinrich (Hanoch) PACK, succeeded him. The head of the community was Eugen UNGER and Rabbi Lazar (Eliezer) WEISSBERG was the Dayan. The Orthodox community employed 16 workers, and maintained a soup kitchen, which gave hot meals to 200 needy people.
After the occupation of Kosice by the Germans on March 19, 1944, forty distinguished members of the two communities were arrested and held as hostages.
To free them, a ransom of a million Pengos was demanded of the Jews of Kosice, an astronomical sum in those days. The Jews paid the whole ransom, but those arrested were not freed. After a short time a unit of the Nazi security police was located in Kosice, together with the Hungarian authorities. They planned the stages of expulsion, and method of execution. Since Kosice was a central railway junction, it was made a central transit station where Hungarian policemen transferred supervision of the transports to German SS men.
At the beginning of April, 1944 a Judenrat of 20 members was set up, half Neolog and half Orthodox by orders of the authorities. The head of the council was Dr. Akos KOLOS, and Artur GÖROG was his assistant. On April 16, 1944, after Passover, Jews from towns in the district were concentrated in Kosice, about 4,000 from Moldova, Torna, and little rural communities. These people were temporarily located in Jewish homes, and in buildings of JAKAB's local brick factory. On April 20, 1944 a ghetto was established in the brick factory, which was directed by Hungarian police officer Tibor SO. Two days later Deak Street was speedily evacuated, a street mostly populated by Jews, and they were mostly brought to the Orthodox synagogue. On April 24, 1944 the state secretary, Laszlo ENDRE, who was responsible for Jewish among the public figures that were born in Kosice Affairs in the Hungarian government, visited Kosice and a group of SS officers came with him to coordinate the concentration and the expulsion of the Jews. On the 27th the Jews were ordered to assemble in the synagogue area, on Zvonarska and Zariny Streets, and from there they were taken to the ghetto. On the next day the commander of the police reported that there were 11,839 Jews, 7,833 of them inhabitants of Kosice, and 4,006 inhabitants of other places in the district. The police commander arrested another 220 Jews. In the temporary ghetto conditions were very difficult and only after a few days a kitchen and a clinic were established. The police enforced a reign of terror and tortured the Jews cruelly. A 17-year-old girl who tried to flee the ghetto was shot to death and her corpse displayed as a warning. About 1,000 Jews remained outside the ghetto, whose professions were needed, and some were privileged (army officer, soldiers with medals, war invalids, political activists of the Hungarian minority, and others).
On April 29th they were concentrated in a ghetto of the privileged," which was established on some streets in the southeastern parts of the city. The commander of this ghetto was Laszo CSATARI, an officer of the Hungarian gendarmerie. On May 19, 1944, all its inhabitants were transported to the central ghetto. The expulsion of Kosice's Jews and those of nearby communities began on May 15, 1944. That day they made a temporary side branch of the station platform near the ghetto to transport about 6,680 people, mainly Jews of the vicinity to the death camp of Auschwitz. On May 19, 1944 a transport left Kosice with 3352 people, and another expulsion train left on May 24th with 3172 Jews from Kosice and the vicinity. At night between June 3 and 4, 1944 the fifth and last transport left Kosice of 2,439 Jews. In total, about 15,700 Jews were deported from Kosice in five transports to the Auschwitz extermination camp.
The population of Kosice was generally indifferent or even showed satisfaction over the expulsion of their Jewish neighbors, and the harsh actions before it. Many cooperated with the police, and took part in the robbery of Jewish wealth that remained after the Jews were expelled. Only a few protested against what was done to the Jews, and some local leaders even tried to help them. The Catholic bishop CHARSKY (of Slovak origin) together with some priests organized a protest march to the brick factory, against the expulsion of the Jews. About 100 Kosice Jews found shelter with inhabitants of the city, or families in nearby villages, who risked their lives in order to save Jews. Dozens of Jews succeeded in fleeing the ghetto and infiltrated the Slovakia area full of danger and obstacles. Among them were refugees from Slovakia who had fled in 1942 to Kosice. Some of them participated with the partisans, and during the time of the Slovakian Rebellion, fought against the Germans. In November 1944 a transport of 220 Jews from the city of Miskolc stopped in Kosice. According to testimonies, members of the local Arrow Cross inserted poison gas into the closed carriages causing the death of all the Jews.
On January 5, 1945 a few days before the liberation of Kosice, members of the Arrow Cross hung 12 men on the city streets who deserted the Hungarian army and the forced labor, among them were five Jews.
After the War
After the liberation many Jews were concentrated in Kosice, among them survivors who came out from their hiding places in the forest, survivors of the camps and work units, and also Jews from cities and towns of Eastern Slovakia. About 800-900 Jews of Kosice survived, mainly survivors of the death camps and forced labor units. 1,000 survivors made their way at this time through Kosice on the way back to their former homes in Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and other countries. During their stay in Kosice the refugees received help from the Joint and community institutions.
As soon as the war was over, quick activity began to revive Jewish life in the city. An office was established in the city to receive refugees and repatriate them, and took care of their primary needs. Also a soup kitchen and hostel was opened for the homeless and refugees. The members of the three Kosice communities, united to form one community of an Orthodox character. The new Orthodox synagogue, the Bet Midrash in Zvonarska street, the mikva, cemetery, and other public institutions were cleaned and refurbished, and began to function again. Moritz ROTH was elected leader of the community, and with him worked Rabbi Raphael BLUM and Rabbi Izak EICHENSTEIN, who returned to the city. On Rosh Hashana 1945 in the two synagogues public prayers were held and many people took part in them. After a short time Rabbi BLUM opened and headed a yeshiva. When he immigrated to the USA in 1947, Rabbi Izak EICHENSTEIN succeeded him. The yeshiva was one of the two yeshivas in Slovakia after the Holocaust, and it had some dozens of students.
Gradually the returnees reconstructed their lives in the community framework. Memorial tablets dedicated to the Jews of Kosice who were murdered in the Holocaust were placed in the cemetery and in the synagogue in Zvonarska Street. Some of the survivors had new families, others reconstructed their businesses and an intense social life developed. During the time many Jews from villages in SE Slovakia came to live in Kosice. In 1948 Alexander SCHWEIDT headed the community. It had about 3,600 members, and aside from them there were hundreds of Jews who were not members of the community.
The Zionist movement became active in Kosice immediately after the liberation, and the city was the location of the Central Office of the Zionist organization in eastern Slovakia, headed by Zaharia GOLDSTEIN.
Heinrich NEUGROSCHEL and Izidor WACHS headed in succession the local Zionist Assn. In 1947 the Jews of Kosice donated to the Jewish National Fund 712,000 crowns to plant the Forest of Czechoslovak Martyrs in the mountains of Jerusalem. There were Zionist clubs of all movements and parties wee opened, and were social centers for hundreds of Jewish youths. The biggest youth movements in Kosice were HaShomer Hazair and Bnai Akiva. Betar, Maccabi HaZair, and HaOved Hazioni were also active. The Bnai Akiva movement opened a small yeshiva, Midrashiat Ben Zakkai. Hashomer HaZair and Maccabi HaZair opened training centers before aliyah. The sport association, Maccabi restarted its activity, and Agudat Yisroel, which also renewed its activity, opened a Beit Yakov hostel for Jewish girls. During the years 1948-1949 the majority of the Jews of Kosice emigrated to Israel and other states. At the end of 1949 more than 1,000 Jews remained. The community continued to function, and some more hundreds of Jews from villages and towns in the area joined them. Rabbi Samuel GROSSMAN was the community rabbi, succeeded by Rabbi Salomon STEINER. All the communities of Eastern Slovakia were placed under the jurisdiction of the Kosice rabbinate, and the community of Kosice supplied them with religious services for many years. The community also maintained a kosher restaurant in the city.
Some hundreds of Jews already belonged to the Kosice s community during the 1990's, under the leadership of Dr. SCHICK. After some years without a rabbi, there is again a rabbi in Kosice. There is a Jewish youth movement in the community framework, and religion lessons. The community owns a synagogue, formerly the Orthodox synagogue, and has recently begun to renovate it, and another synagogue, cemetery, community house, mikva, and a kosher restaurant. During the last few years some buildings that formerly contained its institutions and were confiscated by the Communists, were returned to the community. Some Jewish organizations began activities again. The former Neolog synagogue is now a concert hall, and the Status Quo community synagogue is now a warehouse. The Jewish cemetery is still in use, and it includes some large monuments of Hassidic rabbis.
Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2020 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 8 Nov 2016 by MGH