THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
Jews of Slovakia website. [October 2000] JewishGen
Bohemia and Moravia SIG website [August 2000]
Synagogues Without Jews [February 2009]
Lanyi Menyhert-Propperne Bekefi Hermin, Szlovenszkoi zsido hitkozsegei tortenete (History of the Jewish Communities of Slovakia). Kassa, 1933. (In Hungarian)
Historically part of Hungary and then Czechoslovakia, Slovakia's Jewish history reflects the story of these two states, but unlike the rest of Hungary, Slovakia remained under Habsburg rule after the Ottoman invasions of the sixteenth century. Large Jewish inward migrations followed. With increasing emancipation, he Jewish Enlightenment took place. Jews formed perhaps 4% of the population by the Second World War. Ensuing genocide killed the overwhelming majority of those Jews who had not fled. Although religious freedoms have been encouraged since the end of the Communist era, only about 3,000 Jews live in the country today. Dr Maroš Borský of Bratislava inventoried existing and demolished synagogues in Slovakia (100+ synagogues and prayer halls and almost 700 cemeteries). (the latter are still being identified and documented).See Dr Borský's detailed website entitled Synagoga Slovaca. Only about half-a-dozen places of worship are still active. Most cemeteries are abandoned or neglected.
"Leaders of Slovakias' Jewish community are calling for a nationwide crackdown on attacks against the country's Jewish cemeteries. The campaign follows an attack in which five recently-restored rare tombstons at the Jewish cemetery in Zvolen were destroyed and six other were seriously damaged. There were also two similar incidents in other Slovak towns, in which 60 gravestones were damaged." Source: Dateline World Jewry [September 2001].
"According to the 1930 census, 135,918 Jews (4.5% of the total population) lived in Slovakia. The plight of Slovak Jewry actually began with the establishment of autonomous Slovakia (Oct. 6, 1938), when the one-party totalitarian system of the clerical Slovak People's Party of Hlinka (HSL'S-Hlinkova Slovenske L'udove Strana) came to power. On March 14, 1939, Hitler made an independent state by causing the breakup of Czechoslovakia. A few days later Slovak leaders and the German Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, signed the Treaty of Protection (Schutzvertrag), thus making Slovakia in effect a satellite of Germany. In the first months of Slovakia's "independence" anti-Jewish restrictions were sporadically introduced; however, fundamental changes in anti-Jewish policy occurred only after the Salzburg Conference (July 28, 1940), attended by Hitler, the Slovak leaders (Father Josef Tiso, Vojtech Tuka, Sa-o Mach) and the leader of the local German minority, the so-called Karpaten-Deutsche, Franz Karmasin. At this conference the Slovaks agreed to set up a national-socialist regime in their country.
At the end of August 1940, Dieter Wisliceny, Eichmann's emissary, arrived in Slovakia to act as "adviser for Jewish affairs," and with him came a score of advisers to assist the Slovak ministries. The Slovaks set up two institutes with the objective of "solving the Jewish problem": Central Office for Economy whose task was to oust the Jews from economic and social life and "aryanize" Jewish property; the second was Center of Jews. The Slovak equivalent of the Judenrat, was headed by the starosta ("Jewish Elder"), Heinrich Schwartz, chairman of the Orthodox-Jewish community. When Schwartz was arrested for non-cooperation, a more obedient starosta was appointed by the authorities in April 1941. The "aryanization" process was carried out within one year: 10,025 Jewish enterprises and businesses were liquidated and 2,223 transferred to "Aryan" ownership. In order to solve the problem of employment of Jews, who were removed from economic life, the Slovak authorities ordered the erection of a number of labor centers and three large labor camps: Sered, Vyhne, and Novsky. In the fall of 1941, in an effort to clear the capital of Jews, a special ministerial order issued by Mach removed a greater part of the Bratislava Jews; some were sent to the labor camps and others to the towns of Trnava, Nitra, and to the region of Aari-Zemplen in eastern Slovakia, where the majority of Slovak Jewry lived. Concurrently, during a visit to Hitler's headquarters, Tuka requested the assistance of the Reich in the removal of the Jews from Slovakia. At the beginning of February 1942, the German Foreign Ministry formally requested the Slovak government to furnish 20,000 "strong and able-bodied Jews." It was decided that the first transports would be composed of young men and women aged 16-35. However, on the suggestion of the Slovaks that in the "spirit of Christianity" families should not be separated, Eichmann gave his consent to deport families together. The Slovaks had to pay 500 Reichmarks "as charges for vocational training" for every deported Jew, receiving in return a guarantee that the Jews would not come back to Slovakia and that no further claims would be laid to their property. The organization of transports was performed by the Ministry of Interior, Department 14, headed by Gejsa Kanka and afterward by Anton Valek, in collaboration with the Hlinka Guard and the Freiwillige Schutzstaffel (Voluntary Defense Squad of local Germans). The Jewish leadership, alarmed by rumors of the impending deportations, launched two appeals in the name of the Jewish communities (March 5, 1942) and in the name of the rabbis of Slovakia (March 6, 1942) warning the authorities that "the deportations mean physical extermination." On March 14, 1942, the Vatican sent a note of protest, and a few days later an oral warning was communicated on the direct instruction of Pope Pius XII by Slovakia's ambassador to Rome, Karol Sidor.
Between March 26 and October 20, 1942, about 60,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz and to the Lublin area to be killed. By the end of April the earliest evidence on the fate of deportees was received in Bratislava, when the first escapees from General Gouvernment of Poland arrived. Their eye-witness accounts were immediately forwarded to Jewish organizations in the free world. Thousands of Jews found refuge in neighboring Hungary (in 1944 some of them returned to Slovakia when the Hungarian Jewish community was in peril). Others sought protection through conversion to Christianity. From the end of July to the middle of September the transports were suspended due to various technical difficulties and perhaps also to intercessions, mainly from religious circles.
During the interim, the underground "Working Group" (Pracovne Skupina) arose on the initiative of Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandel with the objective of saving the remaining Jews of Slovakia. Led by Gisi Fleischmann, the Group was composed of Zionists, assimilated Jews, and rabbis. The Jewish underground succeeded in temporarily diverting the peril of deportation in the spring of 1943 as a result of negotiations with Wisliceny and bribes to Slovak leaders. Another achievement in 1943 was the rescue of fugitives from the ghettos of Poland, who were smuggled through Slovakia to Hungary with the help of the Ha-Halutz underground. By that time about 25,000 Jews were left in Slovakia, some of them "submerged," so that only part of them were officially registered, mostly "economically vital" Jews who were granted "certificates of exemption." About 3-4,000 persons were engaged in productive work in the Slovak labor camps, and others lived on false "Aryan" papers or in hiding. On April 21, 1944, the first two escapees from Auschwitz reached Slovakia after a miraculous flight. Their account of the annihilation process was sent on to the head of the Orthodox Jewish community in Budapest, Rabbi Von Freudiger, to alert the world and forwarded through Switzerland to Jewish organizations in the free world with an appeal by Rabbi Weissmandel demanding the immediate bombing of the murder installations in Auschwitz. The Allies rejected the appeal.
In the fall of 1944, during the Slovak national uprising, four parachutists from Erez Israel reached Slovakia to extend help to the Jewish remnant and to organize resistance. The Einsatzgruppen killed thousands of Jews during the Slovak revolt, and after its suppression (Oct. 28, 1944), about 13,500 of the remaining Jews of Slovakia were deported to concentration camps (including Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, and Theresienstadt), under the pretext of reprisal for their participation in the revolt (October 1944-March 1945). On the eve of the liberation (April 30, 1945), there remained about 4,000-5,000 Jews in Slovakia hiding with non-Jews or living clandestinely with "Aryan" papers. The losses of Slovak Jewry amount to over 100,000, including the Jews deported in the spring of 1944 from the territory annexed to Hungary. Only about 25,000 persons of the prewar community survived the Holocaust and the majority of them left Slovakia after the war, most of them for Israel." [Livia Rothkirchen]
Since 2004, Madeleine Isenberg and Mikulas (“Miki”) Liptak (an Evangelical Christian who lives in Kezmarok, Slovakia) have collaborated on cemetery and vital record research for towns in the