APOSTAG: Bacs-Kishun Print

A baroque style synagogue in Apostag, 80 kilometers from Budapest,  was built with a classical facade in 176 and now is used as a library and a museum. The Jewish cemetery is adjacent to the former synagogue. It received the "Europa Nostra" award. photo before restoration [February 2009]

 

Synagogues Without Jews: photos. "Apostag, on the east side of the Danube some fifty miles south of Budapest and a current population of 2,660, still consists of one story houses among small farms and gardens on narrow streets. It is so inconsequential that it appears only on comprehensive maps.The kehillah of Apostag was one of the hundreds of village communities scattered throughout central Europe. The shaded cemetery bordering the synagogue courtyard contains gravestones from the beginning of the 17th century, which suggests that Jews may have lived there as early as 1630, the middle of the Turkish occupation. The land was under populated after the wars and 18th century nobles and landowners attracted immigrants to resettle the area. Jews from Austria, Bohemia and Moravia were among others who responded.

The kehillah, at about 600 persons and a fifth of Apostag's population, assumed responsibility as the religious center for Jews of still smaller villages in the region. Their first synagogue, built in 1768, burned in 1820. It was replaced by the present one, in the transitional Classical, so-called Zopf style in 1821 on the same site and incorporated the unchanged masonry structure of the earlier building. In 1840, the kehillah numbered 783 people, but it dwindled to half within 40 years, as many were attracted to the metropolitan centers when it became permissible to live there.The first of Apostag's rabbis from 1768 to 1818 was Rabbi Josef Moshe who set up the hevra kadishah and founded a yeshiva. The congregants loved his successor, Rabbi Basch, who opened a Jewish school in 1823. The kehillah opted for Neolog affiliation in 1878. The school functioned until the turn of the century, when it closed its doors as parental interest in a specifically Jewish education for the children dwindled.There was hardly any Zionist fervor. The Jews tended to assimilation and integration into Hungarian society and some of them attained high government positions. They served in the Hungarian army in World War I, but that did not protect their shops from looting by demobilized soldiers.

With no Jews remaining in Apostag after World War II, the community was officially disbanded in 1947 and the synagogue was transferred to the Organization of Hungarian Jews. Bought by the Apostag town council, the synagogue became a storage depot for agricultural products and fertilizer. By the mid 1980's, it was on the agenda for demolition, but a perceptive village teacher who recognized the admirable architectural and artistic features of the synagogue fought tenaciously for restoration until he had council approval. Starting with village funds, the project won grants from regional, national and Jewish sources. Local people volunteered to work on construction and landscaping. The restoration was completed in less than two years and a festive dedication was held in October 1987. The building now contains a concert hall serving also as a wedding chapel, a small Jewish museum, an elegant library in the gallery and an exhibition that honors native son, the writer Lajos Nagy, in the entrance lobby. The Europa Nostra Federation, founded in 1963 to encourage preservation and restoration of historic sites in Europe, awarded a silver medal for the restoration of the Apostag synagogue.

The Nazi transports of Operation Margaret in 1944, wrenched a hundred Jews away from Apostag. Only three of them returned after the war, but none remained. One of them was Chana Wittberg who came to live in Israel. She recounts her life in prewar Apostag, where she was one of few Jewish children. The Jews maintained cordial relations with their Christian neighbors; before Pesah, Chana's mother used to send her to bring samples of matzah for the neighbors to taste. There were no Orthodox families in the village and no rabbi, but all the Jews went to the synagogue on the holidays and retained some aspects of Jewish life. Everything changed after 1942 when Jews no longer had business permits and the Jewish children were chased out of school. Soon after, the Jews were packed into cattle cars and sent to Auschwitz. After the war, Chana returned and found nobody from her family and only two others of the community. She walked the empty streets dazed, found houses ransacked and the synagogue in shambles, with the floor ripped up because the goyim had searched for valuables. The next day Chana ran away from Apostag." [February 2009]

 

US Commission  no. 000002

Apostag is located in Bacs-Kiskun. Cemetery: at end of Iskola Utca. Present town population is 25,000-100,000 with less than ten Jews.

  • Town: Town Clerk: Szollosi Karolyne.
  • Local: Polgarmesteri Hivatal of Apostag Kossuth ulca 1. Interested: Bolvari Jozsef of APOSTAG (former mayor) and Purger A'rpadne of (Librarian in the former synagogue).
  • Interested: Herman Laszlo of Budapest VI Lovag u. 15.

The pre-WWII Jewish population (census) was 150. Herman and Heteny families and tzaddikim Herman Mihaly lived in this Jewish community. The Jewish cemetery was established about 1940. Buried in the cemetery is Herman Mihaly (Mihael Dov) at the end of 19th century. Last known Conservative or Progressive/Reform Jewish burial was ca. 1940. Dunaegyhaza (7km away) used isolated suburban site with sign or marker reached by turning directly off a public road. Access is entirely closed via broken fence and locking gate.

20-100 sandstone gravestones, 50%-75% toppled or broken, date from 1650-20th century. The cemetery has special section(s) for men, women and children. The rough stones or boulders, flat shaped stones or finely smoothed and inscribed stones, some with bronze or iron decorations or lettering and/or metal fences around graves have Hebrew, Polish and German inscriptions. The cemetery contains special memorial mounuments to Holocaust victims and a pre-burial house.

Peter Wirth completed survey on 11/15/91. Documentation: M.ZS.L; Klajko-Valaczka: APOSTAG; Wirth: Study plan for restoration of the cemetery.

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 June 2009 19:14