“Zalaegerszeg” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Hungary

46°50' / 16°51'

Translation of the “Zalaegerszeg” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Hungary

Edited by: Theodore Lavi

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1975


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Acknowledgments

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Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Hungary: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Hungary,
Edited by Theodore Lavi, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.


[Page 290]

Zalaegerszeg

Town in the district of Zala. The population in 1941 was 13,967.

Jewish Population

Year Number % of Total
Population
1735-8 16  
1784/85 103  
1840 349 10.1
1869 937 15.0
1880 1,005 14.9
1900 1,341 13.2
1910 1,359 12.1
1920 1,659 12.5
1930 1,047 8.0
1941 873 6.2
1946 133  
1956 60  

Until the end of the First World War

The first Jews settled in Zalaegerszeg at the beginning of the eighteenth century A document written in 1711 mentioned a Jew from the Rohonc community who directed a business in Zalaegerszeg, but did not live there. In 1736 there were 16 Jews who lived on the estate of Adam Batthyani. They had a teacher. In 1746 there were already nine Jewish families in Zalaegerszeg. The majority were merchants, and the rest were craftsmen and professionals.

The attitude of their neighbors to the local Jews was unfriendly most of the time, and more than once there were anti-Semitic outbreaks. For example, there was one in 1882 in connection with the blood libel of Tiszaeszlar. There was another outbreak in 1886, when the mob attacked local Jews after an anti-Semitic speech in Parliament. The whole district was one of the centers of anti-Semitism during the 1880's and 1890's.

It is thought that the community was established in the middle of the eighteenth century. There are tombstones in the cemetery from this period.

The Hevra Kadisha was established in the year 1800. Other welfare institutions in this town were: (established in 1836), a Women's Association (1841), Hevrat Lehem (1887), which distributed bread among the poor Jews every Friday, even to non-Jews. The Hevrat Chanukah took care of supplying clothes to poor children before the holiday. The Hevrat Maskil El Dal was another society.

The first synagogue was built on a plot of land that had been donated for this purpose by the Bishop of Szombathely. Until 1848 the community paid a symbolic rent for it. Afterwards the building became the property of the community. When it developed there was a need for a second synagogue. Its building began in 1903 and lasted a year.

From the rabbis of Zalaegerszeg during the first half of the nineteenth century we mention: Isaac Benowic, Elyakim Gotz, Shmelke Meizels (1754-1853).. All three were mentioned in the Questions and Responsa of the Hatam Sofer.

A school began to function in 1820, and in 1840 it had three teachers. In 1897 the school received government support. It functioned until the Holocaust. There also was a Talmud Torah in Zalaegerszeg, which was established in the first years of the community.

During the First World War, 205 members of the Jewish community were conscripted to the front. 33 were killed in battles.

Between the Two World Wars

After the war, during the time of the White Terror, the Jews suffered greatly. Organized gangs murdered approximately ten Jews. At this time a concentration camp was established in the town for people suspected of security reasons, including many Jews. In reports from 1922 we find shocking details about the situation of the Jews in the camp.

215 Jews were arrested in June 1922; some of them with their family, and among them were fifty children. A teacher who was interned in this camp continued to teach the children. The community organized a hospital cabin and a synagogue.

Among the political prisoners were some with foreign citizenship, and Jews who came to Hungary from Poland, and lacked Hungarian citizenship documents. They were generally expelled back to Poland.

The community, with the support of the JOINT tried to help those arrested, and collected money from Jews from all over Hungary for this purpose, but the donations were not enough for the many, many needy. Those arrested begged for food, clothing, and medicine in their letters. They also begged for help from the Jewish public to support their relatives who remained without a breadwinner. In the winter of 1922 there were 40 Jews without warm clothing in the camp. On November 16 another 97 Jews were brought to the camp from the town of Piliscsaba.

In 1923 the camp was closed, but the even afterwards the anti-Semitism didn't stop in Zalaegerszeg. Especially notorious was the local priest, Joseph Mindszenty, who was the Cardinal and Archbishop of Hungary after the Second World War.

There were 188 merchants in Zalaegerszeg in 1929, three wholesalers, 26 artisans, 13 doctors, 12 lawyers, 6 factory owners, three engineers, 41 clerks, 17 government officials, etc. One Jew owned a factory for painting on cloth, which was established by 1865. A brick factory and a engine mill were also owned by Jews.

In 1938 when the Discrimination Laws were promulgated, anti-Semitism renewed. The local authorities on many pretexts harassed the artisans and professionals. Many clerks were forced to resign from their positions. Others were arrested and placed in a concentration camp.

The Holocaust

In 1941 youths were conscripted into forced labor, and were sent to the Ukraine. Most of them died there. Others were sent to Bor in Serbia, and to other places.

In 1944 when the Germans entered Hungary, 10 Jews who were well known for their involvement in workers' activities were arrested immediately. They were sent to an unknown place, and disappeared.

In May of that year all the Jews of Zalaegerszeg were transferred to the ghetto, built in the Gypsy quarter. Only two streets were given to the Jews, who were densely crowded together. And as if it were not enough, they added Jews from Keszthely, Tapolca, Zalaszentgrot, Zalaber, Sumeg, Lenti, and Turje. All the men who were still fit for work in June were conscripted for forced labor. Only women, children, and old people remained in the ghetto. The rest were terribly tortured by the gendarmes, who tried to get confessions from them about hiding their valuables. On July 4 they were herded into railroad cars, 70-80 people to a car, lacking water and food, the windows sealed with wood. The number of those who were taken in this transport to Auschwitz, along with Jews from this area is estimated at 1,200 people. After the war about 100 returned from Auschwitz and forced labor camps. They renewed community life, and in 1947 a Hevra Kadisha was organized, but over time the majority of Jews left.

A monument was erected in 1947 to remember the martyrs of the city.


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

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