The Geographical Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary

The Geographical Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary


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Winner of the 2013 National Jewish Book Award

The illustrated three-volume Geographical Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary is a definitive, authoritative, and magisterial resource, thorough and exhaustive. It documents and chronicles the wartime fate of the Jewish communities in that country where virulent antisemitism is anything but dead, even today. With scores of detailed maps and hundreds of photographs, this reference work is organized alphabetically by county, each prefaced with a map and a con­textual history describing its Jewish population up to and into 1944.

Entries track the demographic, cultural, and religious changes in even the smallest communities where Jews lived before their marginalization, dispossession, ghettoization, and, finally, deportation to labor and death camps. The encyclope­dia endows scholars and lay researchers with both panoramic and microscopic views of the virtually last-minute destruction of most of the Jews of Hungary, until then the last sizable sur­viving Jewish community in occupied Europe.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780810129160
Publisher: Northwestern University Press
Publication date: 04/30/2013
Pages: 1640
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Randolph L. Braham is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he also is director of the Graduate Center’s Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies. Additionally, he is the author, coauthor, or editor of more than sixty books, including the monumental The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary.


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Copyright © 2013 Northwestern University Press
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ISBN: 978-0-8101-2916-0



Soon after the county was created by the administrative merger of Abaúj and Torna in the early 1880s, a significant number of Jewish wine and produce merchants, distillers, butchers, and publicans settled on several large estates and in agricultural towns such as Abaújszántó, Szikszó, and Torna. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, many Jews had migrated to village settlements, primarily from the densely populated Hegyalja area, and earned their living as hawkers, shopkeepers, and agricultural workers (Jews were permitted to settle in Kassa only from the 1840s). By 1910, the number of Jews living in the county was 14,000, or 7 percent of its total population. Under the terms of the Treaty of Trianon that followed World War I, the northern half of the county (including Kassa) became part of newly formed Czechoslovakia, while the southern half remained part of Hungary. The latter, left without a center, found itself in a tenuous economic situation, and, due to the younger generation's migration from the area, the number of Jews living in the region declined. At the same time, their number increased in the areas ceded to Czechoslovakia, partly as a result of the new state's constitution that classified Jews as a nationality, and partly because of the attraction of business-oriented Jews to Kassa. According to the 1941 census, 14,764 Jews (6.5% of the county's population) lived in Abaúj-Torna, including Kassa and other communities that had been re-annexed as a result of the First Vienna Award of November 1938. Nearly 70 percent of this community lived in the city of Kassa, while the rest were relatively evenly distributed in the following six districts. The numbers in parentheses show the number of Jews and the total number of inhabitants:

Abaújszántó District (907; 19,133), Cserehát District (574; 26,857), Gönc District (448; 16,952), Kassa District (718; 43,217), Szikszó District (1638; 35,837), and Torna District (400; 19,412).

In the 1941 census, 10,079 of the 66,981 inhabitants of the city of Kassa described themselves as Jewish.

In April 1944, the registration ordered by the German authorities and carried out by the Central Council of Hungarian Jews (Magyar Zsidók Központi Tanácsa) recorded 21 congregations in Abaúj-Torna: 20 Orthodox and one Neolog, of which eleven were main congregations and ten were branch congregations. By that date a number of these had become totally impoverished, and several had even disintegrated completely and thus were unable to carry out any sort of religious or organized community activity. This was, for example, the case in Abaújkér, Forró, Hernádcsány, Hernádgecse, Hernádzsadány, Krasznokvajda, and Szemere. This phenomenon also was demonstrated by the decline and isolation of previously more populous Jewish communities that survived in the villages. At the beginning of the 1940s, each of some 150 villages in the county had several Jewish families living in them.

The larger religious communities, primarily in the territories attached to Czechoslovakia after World War I, were divided by subtle differences between various religious trends, differing political intentions, and differences in approach toward assimilation. The division also was strengthened by the large number of Jews who migrated to Eastern Slovakia from Poland and the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s. These newcomers hardly ever came into contact with the Jews already living in the area and who had a different culture and spoke a different language. All of this not only increased the inequality within religious communities, hindering a united stance or possible resistance but also crippled the relatively successful assimilation process of previous decades. In addition, the tensions were compounded in the affected areas by the change of regime. This whole process contributed to animosity toward the Jews on the part of Christian inhabitants of both the urban and rural communities.

Various regulations and administrative rules were introduced in Abaúj-Torna for the implementation of the anti-Jewish laws that were extended to the reannexed territories beginning at the end of the 1930s. Anticipating the impending strictures in the Hungarian heartland, the local authorities zealously revised trade and manufacturing licenses, resulting in the closure of numerous companies. At the same time, Jewish stallholders were banned in some places from the weekly and daily markets, while provincial Jews involved in agricultural production increasingly were subjected to confiscation and redistribution of their agricultural properties. In the whole of the re-annexed territory, only a few individuals were exempted from the measures contained in the anti-Jewish laws, "in recognition of their services rendered under foreign occupation"; altogether 151 Jews were so exempted.

Following the beginning of the German occupation, the decrees restricting the Jews' fundamental human rights and the very basis of their existence, as well as the subsequent preparation and completion of the deportations, were carried out in a particularly radical and extraordinarily intensive manner in Abaúj-Torna County. The county seat, Kassa, where significant German military units arrived on the very first day of the occupation, March 19, 1944, became the center of Operational Zone I in the master plan of the Final Solution in Hungary. Zone I (covering the whole of Carpatho-Ruthenia and northeastern Hungary) encompassed Gendarmerie District VIII. Because of its "favorable" location in the vicinity of the Polish border, and because it was a railway junction with many rail intersections and links, Kassa acquired the dubious distinction of becoming a transfer point from which the Hungarian deportees were handed over to the Germans for delivery to the extermination camps. Indeed, this issue already had been discussed at a meeting held in Kassa on April 24. Participating were Adolf Eichmann, Dieter Wisliceny, Hermann Krumey, and the Hungarian officers in charge of the Final Solution program, including Albert Takács, László Leó Lulay, László Endre, and László Ferenczy. The meeting focused on the ghettoization and the detailed execution of the Final Solution in Zone I. Eichmann ordered Rudolf Hoss, the camp commandant ofAuschwitz, to Kassa so that he could personally check the suitability of the city as a transfer hub. The transportation plan was completed at a conference held on May 4–6 in Vienna, where other details of the deportation process also were discussed.

Although the ghettoization decree was not issued until April 28, the county was one of the first in the country to begin the roundup of Jews, starting on April 16. The operation was based on the decisions taken at a meeting, held at Munkács on April 12, by the top civil servants, police chiefs, and gendarmerie commanders of the Carpatho-Ruthenian and northeastern Hungarian region. A desire for the plan's speedy implementation and the relatively high percentage of Jews living dispersed in small villages explain the establishment of a ghetto only in Kassa. Within a matter of a few days, the Jews from neighboring communities were first billeted in the apartments of fellow Jews living in Kassa and then transferred to the city's brickyards. They were allowed to take only minimal amounts of food and underwear with them. (According to some sources, the Jews from Szikszó District were taken to Miskolc, which was much closer to them.) The ghettoization was directed by Prefect Péter Schell, Deputy Prefect Barna Fáy, and Col. Gyozo Tölgyessy, commander of Gendarmerie District VIII (Kassa). Colonel Tölgyessy also took part in an April 7 conference at the Ministry of the Interior, where the decision was made to segregate the Jews. The brutal and swift completion of the campaign was due largely to the active participation of district and local officials—most of them newly appointed and especially zealous—and of the gendarmerie. These factors were especially evident during the searches and confiscation of Jewish assets and the ghettoization of those few Jews who had been exempted from the anti-Jewish laws. The administrators of the reannexed territories carried out the various decrees and orders slavishly and officiously and failed to show any empathy or sympathy for the local communities, adding to the demoralization of the Jews.

The deportation process began on May 15, 1944. According to the petition addressed to Prime Minister Döme Sztójay by the Jewish Council on June 22, approximately 12,000 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz, while according to the Kassa railway commandant, their number was closer to 15,000. The transports departed on May 19, 25, and June 2, though other data suggest that they left on May 16, 17, 24, and June 3.

Despite the inconsistent data, it is obvious that the losses incurred by the Jews of Abaúj-Torna County were especially high in the villages and small towns, especially when considered in a national context. Of those deported, approximately 8,000 were sent straight to the gas chambers. The Nezic decision not to exploit them for labor reflects the effects of the inhumane treatment to which they had been subjected earlier and also indicates that by that time most of them were totally unfit for work. The number ofJews who returned from the camps is estimated to be approximately 450, which means that 90 percent of the county's Jews and 70 percent of the Jewish population of Kassa perished. This is supported by the fact that in 1949—in the territory truncated once more after the war—only the following three congregations were reconstituted in any fashion: Abaújszántó, Encs, and Szikszó. Only 15 branch congregations with a total Jewish population approximating 240 remained in the neighboring villages. In the ensuing period, those Jewish survivors who once again became Czechoslovak citizens, and who identified themselves as Germans or Hungarians, faced the potential danger of expulsion or population exchange under the new Czechoslovak laws targeting Germans and Hungarians.

Sources: FJ; GM-H; HMTI, 445–49; L-ZS, 104–6, 142–43, 407; MO-D; MSK-42, 200–209; MSK-83, 202–7; MSK-108, 40–43; RLB-H, 104, 547–81, 634–36, 702, 743, 827, 1357–58; TSK-1941, 192–207; ZS-H.


Abaújszántó was established in the 1760s, making it one of the oldest Jewish congregations of Abaúj County. Its members soon built a synagogue and established a chevra kadisha, a talmud Torah, an elementary school, and a yeshiva. Subsequently large numbers of Jews settled in this manorial area. It was known as the "Western Gate" of the Tokaj Foothills (Tokaj-Hegyalja) and was where the famous Zimmermann wine cellars, among others, were established. Although emigration from the area already was common in the last third of the nineteenth century up to the beginning of World War I, the settlement's Jewish community remained the secondl argest—after Kassa—in Abaúj-Torna County. In 1910 its 893 Jewish inhabitants constituted 19 percent of the district's total population.

A number of antisemitic incidents took place in Abaújszántó in the fall of 1919, including arrests and the burning of merchandise. Although order eventually was restored, the younger generation was seriously affected by emigration beginning in the 1920s. This coincided with the strengthening of the rigid and isolationist Orthodox movement, demonstrated by the attempt to reopen the Jewish elementary school in 1932. During this period, the local yeshiva attracted devout Jews from all over the country. By the beginning of the 1940s, the community numbered only 680 members (13.9% of the district's population). Its leaders at the time were Gyula Weisz and the registrar of vital statistics, Rabbi Jeno Deutsch.

The anti-Jewish laws and decrees introduced in the late 1930s were designed to cripple Jews economically and were accompanied by a general increase in antisemitic incidents. The windows of the synagogue and of private homes were broken, passersby were attacked and physically abused, inciting slogans were painted on walls, and Jews were arrested on trumped-up charges of sabotage.

Hostility toward the Jews was exacerbated by the arrival of refugees, many of them Yiddish-speaking, from Poland and Slovakia who sought refuge in the yeshiva and in private homes. Other refugees arrived because Abaújszántó also was the concentrated center for forced-labor service companies. Because of the resentment caused in part by the influx of refugees, there were only sporadic examples of individual Christians making brave attempts to protect Jews.

Following the onset of the German occupation, the local Jewish population was registered as the first step in preparation for ghettoization, and newly arrived units of gendarmes rounded up the Jewish community into the school building on April 16, 1944. According to the general guidelines, each individual was allowed to take two changes of underwear, fourteen days' worth of food, and a parcel weighing no more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds). During the ensuing days, these Jews were taken to the Kassa ghetto, which became the destination of all the Jews from the district.

The deportation of Abaújszántó's Jews began on May 15, 1944. The rabbi was saved by his brother, Adolf Deutsch, who was in charge of Budapest's Orthodox Jewish community religious schools. The rabbi left Hungary with the Kasztner group on June 30- Following the deportations, vehement altercations arose in the settlement over the division of Jewish assets, in particular over Pál Rónai's mill and its contents.

The extent of human loss is indicated by the fact that the reestablished congregation, including those Jews remaining from the neighboring communities, numbered only 61 individuals. Its leaders were Rezso Friedmann, Jeno Szántó, and Samu Bárdos. Increasing migration eventually resulted in the disintegration of the congregation in 1950.

According to the 1941 census, Jews were living in the following communities of Abaújszántó District:

Abaújkér (17; 1,001), Abaújszántó (681; 4,908), Alsócéce (4; 250), Boldogkoújfalu (8; 864), Boldogkováralja (27; 1,145), Felsodobsza (23; 1,471), Fony (18; 982), Gibárt (9; 524), Hernádbüd (4; 401), Hernádkércs (10; 651), Korlát (29; 629), Mogyoróska (1; 342), Nagykinizs (18; 489), Pere (6; 869), Szentistvánbaksa (14; 610), and Vizsoly (38; 1,281).

Sources: MSK-42, 202–3; MSK-83, 202–3; RSPM, 83–85, 180–85; TSK-1941, 192–207; ZSZ, 165–239, 268–77; ZS-H, 45–46, 845, 869; ZSL, 3–4.


Jews began moving to this community in Szikszó District at the end of the eighteenth century. Soon afterward, a congregation was established along with an elementary school and a talmud Torah. The community continued to expand after World War I—a rare exception in the county—and what had been a branch congregation now became an independent rabbinate that helped to boost religious life still further. The community had 174 members (15.7% of the population) in 1910 and 339 (19.2%) in 1941.

Following the establishment of the new Trianon borders, the settlement became the seat of an independent district, and its importance as a market town increased. However, from the end of the 1930s, Encs's local Jewish institutions disintegrated; most of the men were forced to join the labor service, while those who were left at home were subject to internment and other methods of intimidation. The merchant Zoltán Friedmann, for example, was arrested and accused of signaling to Soviet aircraft.

The community's secular leader during the Holocaust was Ferenc Klein, and its rabbi was Ezekiel Czitron. The community's remaining Jews were transferred to the brickworks ghetto in Kassa in mid-April 1944 and were taken from there in several transports to the Auschwitz extermination camp.

Nothing is more characteristic of the ignorance, complacency, and misplaced optimism of the Jews—fostered by the Hungarian and German authorities' deliberate rumors—than the belief that an internment camp holding several thousand Jews still was operating in Encs at the beginning of August 1944. The Central Jewish Council (Központi Zsidó Tanács) was similarly duped at the same time by the totally unfounded rumor that internment camps existed in several locations.

Although only 87 Jews were living in the community and five other linked settlements in 1949, congregational life was successfully reestablished. Ferenc Klein continued as its president.

Sources: ME, 211–12; MSK-42, 206–7; MSK-83, 202–3; RSP-M, 85–86, 195–98; TSK-1941, 192–207; ZS-H, 190–91, 870.


Just as in a number of other market communities close to the market center of Kassa, a large number of Jews already were living in the manorial settlement of Gönc, the seat of Gönc District in the eighteenth century. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the community grew dynamically with the establishment of a series of social and educational institutions and the construction of a new synagogue in 1863. The number of Jews in the community rose to approximately 220 in 1910, or 7.7 percent of the total district population. It was around this time that the previously independent Gönc congregation joined the rabbinical district of Abaújszántó.

Following World War I, although the younger generation became familiar with the principles and political program of Zionism, the district authorities prevented the growth of Zionism and its organizational expansion.

Excerpted from THE GEOGRAPHICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE HOLOCAUST IN HUNGARY by RANDOLPH L. BRAHAM. Copyright © 2013 Northwestern University Press. Excerpted by permission of Northwestern University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Foreword by Elie Wiesel....................     xi     

Preface....................     xiii     

Historical Overview....................     xv     

THE COUNTIES OF HUNGARY: 1944....................          




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