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Békéscsaba

BÉKÉSCSABA

BÉKÉSCSABA , capital of Békés county, southeast Hungary. Jews first settled there at the end of the 18th century. The first Jewish community was organized at the beginning of the 1830s. The town, an agricultural and commercial center and later a railroad hub, attracted Jewish settlers, who helped develop the town's commercial life. Their number ranged from 110 (0.5% of the total) in 1840 to 2,458 (5.0%) in 1920. The first synagogue was built in 1850. Following the denominational rift of 1869, the community identified itself at first as Orthodox, but three years later as Status Quo. In 1883, the Orthodox seceded and formed their own congregation, building its own synagogue in 1894. The Status Quo community inaugurated its own synagogue in 1896. The community's Jewish elementary school opened in 1865. In the early 1940s the congregations operated separate high schools. The last two rabbis of the Orthodox community, Judah Wolf and Isaac Tiegermann, and Rabbi Jacob Silberfeld of the Status Quo community died in the Holocaust. Illés Szabó, who was elected rabbi in 1941, survived and eventually emigrated to Israel.

According to the census of 1941, the last before the Holocaust, the city had a Jewish population of 2,433, representing 4.6% of the total of 52,404. After the German occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944, the Jews were first deprived of their rights and property. They were rounded up between May 7 and 14 and placed into a ghetto that was established in the local tobacco factory and its environs. At its peak the ghetto included 3,113 Jews, of whom about 2,500 were from the city proper. The others were brought in from the neighboring villages and towns, including Bánhegyes, Békés, Ebdröd, Gyula, Orosháza, Szarvas, and Tótkomlós. In addition, the Jews from three districts in the neighboring Csanád, Arad, and Torontál county – Mezökovácsháza, Battonya, and Elek – were brought to Békéscsaba. The approximately 350 Jews from Mezökovácsháza were first placed in the local ghetto situated in the Mentelep area. The 414 Jews from villages in the Mezökovácsháza, Battonya, and Elek districts were first taken to a temporary ghetto established on the socalled Mandel farm, near Magyarbánhegyes. The ghetto of Békéscasba was liquidated on June 25 and 26, 1944, with the deportation of the Jews in two transports: one, including the Jews of Orosháza, Kunágota, Battonya, Magyarbánhegyes, and Tótkmolós, was directed to Strasshof, Austria, where most of the Jews survived; the other, including the Jews of Békés, Békéscsaba, Csorvás, Gyula, and Mezöberény, was directed to Auschwitz, where most of them perished.

The few hundred survivors – deportees and labor servicemen – reestablished their community after the war. But the anti-Jewish riot of November 30, 1946, coupled with the policies of the Communist regime that came to power in 1948, induced most of them to leave the city. In 1949, close to 500 Jews – 204 Neolog and 230 Orthodox – were still living in the city, but by 1968 their number had shrunk to 151. The Orthodox synagogue still exists; the Neolog was sold in 1961.

bibliography:

F. Révész, A békéscsabai izraelita hitközség multja és jelenje, (1926); Braham, Politics; pk Hungaria, 180–82.

[Randolph Braham (2nd ed.)]

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