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Békés (Slovak: Békéš, Romanian: Bichiş) is a town in Békés county at 46°46' N, 21°08' E about 10 km (6 mi) north of Békéscsaba and 190 km (118 mi) east of Budapest. The first (wood) synagogue in Békés burned down in a fire was built in 1660 CE  during the Ottoman period when many Sephardic Jews fleeing Spain after the Spanish Inquisition and expulsion period immigrated to locations within the Ottoman Empire that granted citizenship and tolerance to Jews. This may also be the origin of the first Jewish community in Békés.  Jews lived in Békés county in 1768 with three Jews in the village of Vari (Gyulavari) From the end of the 18th century, Jewish communities were founded in Vari, Dévaványa and Békésszentandrás. By the end of the 18th century, the town had its present five districts and the Protestant, Roman Catholic. and Greek Orthodox churches and the synagogue, all located within close proximity of each other. Annual floods of the Körös river meant a significant problem until the 1850s when the river was controlled.  Jewish population in 1836 was 542 Jews  and in 1870, 6255. From the 1850's to WWI, a a great number of Jewish institutions were built including Jewish cemeteries, synagogues, prayer-houses, mikvahs, schools and Chevra Kadishas (Békéscsaba, Gyula, Orosháza, Szeghalom, Békés, Szarvas, Battonya and Sarkad). In 1872 Békés was re-classified as a village. It was not until a hundred years later was a town again. In 1905, the current stone synagogue was constructed. [Jewish population: 537 (in 1869), 228 (in 1941).]  After 1941, forced labor, ghettos, and/or the concentration camps of Bekescsaba and Szolnok was the fate of many. Others were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Strasshof where an estimated 600 members of the synagogue in Békés perished, likely representing only a part of the greater Békés Jewish community. 5,000 Békés County Jews died in the Holocaust. 2000 survived of whom very few returned to the area. After 1945, the synagogue, in its destroyed condition, was used as storage facilities for local craftsman. Some time after this, KISZ (Communist Youth Association) renovated the building as their club house. Today, the synagogue houses the non-profit organization, Mégis Van Remény Egyesület ('There Still is Hope Association'), that runs a community center and restaurant in the building and hopes to find funding to restore the Judaica of the original synagogue as a Holocaust memorial of the  Békés Jewish community. Former synagogue (built in 1909) has a memorial on the side of the building indicating its former function. Today, Békés is made of several ethnic groups, including Hungarians, Roma, and with its near proximity to the Romanian border, Romanians who constitute approximately 5% of the population. The very small Békés County Jewish community is mainly in Békéscsaba where a new synagogue was built. See photo gallery at http://www.balogh-istvan.extra.hu/ [February 2009]

BEKES County: http://www.geocities.com/winter_peter_4 [date?]

 

Cemetery: Well-kept and still active cemetery with 250 tombstones is next to the road to Szarvas. The caretaker's shack and house has a marble plaque on its side. A crypt is in the cemetery. [March 2009]

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 01:18
 
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