Liptovsky Mikulas

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LIPTOVSKY MIKULAS (Slovak Liptovsky Mikulás ; Hung. Liptószentmiklós ), town in N. Slovakia, until 1998 Czechoslovak Republic, since 1993 Slovak Republic. Jews appeared for the first time in documentation related to Mikulas in the 17th century. The local legislation was emphatically anti-Jewish. Jewish merchants visited the region and developed business relations with the nobility. In 1720 Ephraim, a Jew from Holesov, negotiated Jewish settlement in Mikulas with Count Samuel Pongracz. The latter rented the Jews several of his houses in the main square, free of charge. In 1729 an independent community was founded. It purchased land for a cemetery, a synagogue, and space in the square for new houses. It founded a bet midrash, a mikveh, and a hevra kaddisha. In 1740, the congregation hired its first rabbi, who initiated a talmud torah and the expansion of the synagogue. His successor founded a yeshivah.

Intensely engaged in trade, the Jews exported wool, cheese, and leather. They also dealt in wood, noting the high quality of the forests. Wood and wood products have remained a characteristic part of the trade of Slovakian Jews.

Liptovsky Mikulas was divided into two parts: densely populated Vrbica, and the smaller Mikulas with a big concentration of Jews. In 1828 there were 801 Jews. In 1835, Izak Diner was elected president of the congregation, and in 1865 mayor of Mikulas. The first Jew in Hungary to be elected mayor of a city, he held the position until 1872.

The period of Rabbi Lob Kunitz established the basis for intellectual activity, for which Mikulas was named "the Jewish Athens."

The dispute between Reform and Orthodoxy started early in Mikulas. While the majority of the members chose the Reform path, the Orthodox established their own congregation in 1864. They selected their own rabbi and founded their own elementary school with emphasis on Jewish studies. The two congregations fused in 1875.

In 1848–49, the Spring of Nations affected Mikulas Jewry. Many local Jews considered themselves Magyar patriots and enlisted in the army. In 1880 the Jewish population numbered 1,115.

In May 1919 the National Federation of Jews in Slovakia convened in Mikulas. The Zionist movement was active, and it included the sports organization Maccabi, founded in 1921; Hashomer Kadima, the Zionist scouting movement; and the youth movement Gordonia Maccabi ha-Ẓa'ir.

In 1939 Slovakia proclaimed independence, under the aegis of Nazi Germany. Although the new state immediately began to persecute the Jews, the Mikulas community did not feel particular pressure. The population behaved as it did in the past, until 1940 when the Aryanization – i.e., expropriation – of Jewish property began. Former neighbors turned hostile, deprived Jews of their property, income, and jobs, and pressed to evict them from their apartments. In 1942 the deportation of Jews to Poland began. About 885 Mikulas Jews were deported to Lublin and the Sobibor extermination camp. When deportations stopped temporarily in the fall of 1942, Slovak Jews, as well as some others, escaped and crossed Slovakia's border; Mikulas was among the small surviving communities that assisted the escapees. In the fall of 1944, when the Slovak anti-Nazi uprising began, several surviving Jews joined the forces, while others sought places to hide. The German army rounded up the surviving and hidden Jews; some were executed on the spot, others were deported to Poland.

About 20% of pre-war Jews managed to return to the town. In 1947 there were 394 Jews in Mikulas. Thirty-eight Jews participated in anti-Nazi resistance within Slovakia, in the Soviet Union, and in the west. In 1948–49, most of the Jews immigrated to Israel. The synagogue was turned into a warehouse, and the cemeteries were destroyed. In 1989 the synagogue underwent a thorough reconstruction, partially by young Jewish and Slovak volunteers. There was a plan to turn the synagogue into a memorial.

Simon Goldstein, a native of Mikulas and graduate of its schools, was the first Jewish lawyer in Hungary. Samuel *Fischer, another Mikulas native, founded the Fischer Verlag publishing house in Berlin.


E. Herzog, A zsidók története Liptó-szt.Miklóson (1894); M. Lányi and H. Propperné Békefi, Szlovenszkói zsidó hitközségek története (1933), 179–224; Y.L. Bato, in: Das neue Israel, 21 (1968), 471–5; Israelitische Annalen, 3 (1841), 19–20; 181, 231–2; Jews of Czechoslovakia, 1 (1968), 72, 74, 77, 91; A. Schnitzer, Juedische Kulturbilder (1904); Magyar Zsid Lexikon (1929), 536, s.v.Liptószentmiklós; mhj, 7 (1963), s.v.Liptószentmiklós. Add. Bibliography: E. Bàrkàny and L. Dojč, Židovské náboženské obce na Slovensku, (1991), 287–92.

[Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)]