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1984 photo: synagogue from close up. Photos of cemetery [February 2009]

Synagogues Without Jews: photos. "In the mid-18th century, Count Ferenc Esterhazy built a castle at Papa, a town located in the Bakony Hills of western Hungary and invited Jews to settle in the town. For the next two centuries, his plan worked well and the arrangement was beneficial to both parties. Today, however, the Esterhazy castle is no longer a home, but a museum, and the Papa synagogue---once the pride of the city's 3,500 Jews---is vandalized, forlorn and locked. No longer in the possession of the few Jews left in Papa, the grand synagogue stands at Petofi Sandor Street, in the heart of what was once the Jewish quarter.

The town chronicles detail the gradual establishment of a vibrant and traditional Jewish community. The first record of a Jewish family appears in 1698. Fifty years later, the Count permitted the establishment of a formal kehillah in the market area. The 15 families who lived in town were allowed to build a synagogue, set up an eruv (symbolic fence) and provide kosher meat and wine. It was a quiet time and the community prospered. In the early 19th century, they opened a ceramics factory, well known for its distinctive Hungarian-style products. Although Jews owned textile, paper and brick factories and a steam production plant, there were numerous tailors among them and over 100 families of tanners.By 1840, the Jewish community was 20 percent of the town population and their officials served the needs of the kehillah well. They managed a 25-acre plot of land that they would sell off periodically to finance their charitable institutions. There were social organizations for the needy, for Talmud students and for new mothers. In 1818, they established one of the first Jewish schools in Hungary. It later became more secular, included Hungarian subjects and began to enroll girls in the mid-19th century.

The tension between the Neolog and Orthodox movements did not prevent the building of the Papa synagogue between 1844-1846, although there was some controversy when the reformist rabbi, Leopold Loew, gave his dedication in Hungarian rather than Yiddish. The Esterhazy family was still in favor of the Jewish community and supported their expansions. The kehillah maintained the synagogue, hospital, high school, an outstanding rabbinical college and several community offices.

The blood libel plagued the Jews of Hungary in mid-19th century. When a girl from the village of Tiszaeszlar in northeast Hungary disappeared, church officials accused some Jews of murdering the girl to use her blood in Passover rituals. Karoly Eotovos, author and politician, exposed the lies and defended the accused. The defendants were acquitted, yet the anti-Jewish sentiment continued and there were attacks against Jews throughout Hungary. When the riots reached Papa's Jewish quarter, husky butchers and tanners repulsed the mob by brandishing their tools of trade.

Papa's Jews were active Zionists who promoted aliyah (going up) to Palestine. In 1862, a plucky midwife from Papa left for Jerusalem on her own, because she had learned that there was no Jewish midwife in the city. In 1904, the Zionist organization, Hovevei Zion, began a branch in the city. In Papa, even the Orthodox Jews advocated Zionism at an early stage: in the 1920s, Rabbi Aryeh Roth published an article, which defended Zionism from an Orthodox viewpoint.

At the start of World War II, Papa became a center for gathering forced labor before the conscripts were shipped to work camps. Papa's Jewish community leaders were sent to camps in 1940, and in 1944, the Jews were forced into a ghetto. On July 4 and 5 of 1944, 2,565 Jews of Papa and 300 more from the vicinity were forced into cattle cars bound for Auschwitz. After the deportation, the Germans stabled horses in the synagogue. When the war ended 500 Jews returned. Though they tried to revive Jewish life in the town, the 1956 revolution turned many of them into voluntary exiles. By 1972, the community had shrunken to 50 people, and in 1989, only a handful remained. For a while, a few Jews and Fidesz, an organization dedicated to the protection of minorities, took care of the synagogue. Fidesz had plans to restore the building for a cultural center, but these were not realized." [February 2009]


Pápa New Cemetery: Veszprémi Way 27. Telephone: (20) 426-9641. A Holocaust memorial inside the cemetery was held in 1974, then again in 1990. Caretaker is János Kovács, Veszprémi Road 27. [February 2009]

Pápa Old Cemetery: Next to the new cemetery, a Holocaust memorial was held in 1993. [February 2009]

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 June 2009 20:57
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