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Presov

PRESOV

PRESOV (Slovak. Prešov ; Hung. Eperjes ; Germ. Preschau ; Ukr. Prjasev ), town in E. Slovakia. From the late Middle Ages, foreigners attended the fairs of Presov, but the Jews had to leave in the evenings. The official rationale was that Jews were a different creed, but documents indicate that the burgers and guilds feared business competition. In the decree of Hungarian King Mathias ii Corvinus, the guilds prohibited members from doing business with Jews. Austrian Empress Maria Theresa (1740–48) permitted Jews to stay in the city for the fair, but local law specified that a burger who provided a Jew accommodation would be fined. The Jew would be beaten, deprived of his wares, and expelled. So Jews settled in nearby villages. Things improved during the reign of Emperor Joseph ii (1780–90) but declined again after his death.

In 1780 a Jewish businessman from Tarnopol, Poland, settled in Presov. Prosperous and well connected with the imperial court in Vienna, Markus Holaender (1760–1849) could not be expelled by the burgers, who were determined to oust him. In 1789 he received permission to live in Presov. Soon other Moravian Jews arrived. In 1830 a prayer room was established in Holaender's house, and in 1847 the first synagogue was erected. In 1855 the ḥevra kaddisha was established; in 1857 a primary school was opened; and in 1870 the mikveh opened. In 1887 the old cemetery, dating back to 1827, was replaced.

During the Magyar Revolution of 1848–49, many Presov Jews enlisted in the army. In 1868 Holaender's son, Leo, presided over the Hungarian Jewish Congress in Budapest, and led the Neolog (Reform) faction there. The Presov congregation joined the congress (Neolog organization of Hungarian Jewry). In 1871 the Orthodox split and established a new congregation. The influx of Orthodox Jews from Galicia and neighboring villages soon overshadowed the Neologs. In 1892 the Orthodox erected their own synagogue. The Neologs constructed a new synagogue in 1888 after theirs had been burnt in a townwide fire.

In 1836 there were 89 Jews in Presov; in 1844 there were 120; in 1851 there were 170. The community increased fast and in 1880 there were 1,221; in 1900 there were 1,211; in 1910 the number reached 2,673. In 1930 there were 4,858. In 1940, on the eve of the deportations, the official number of Jews was 4,308.

In 1860 the Neologs elected Dr. Mayer Austerlitz to serve as rabbi. Officiating until his death in 1913, he had a lasting impact on his congregation and the Jewish community. In 1912 a nusaḥ "sefarad" Ḥasidic group left the Orthodox congregation and organized one of their own. They hired a rabbi, created their own yeshivah, and built a synagogue, a talmud torah, and other Jewish installations. Each congregation had its own school system. In 1931 the Orthodox established a Beth Jacob girls' elementary school. Presov also had a vocational school for metal work.

During World War i many young men enlisted in the army. After the war, a wave of antisemitism swept upper Hungary. In Presov, all Jewish stores on the main street were looted and demolished. As a result, Zionist political parties and youth movements were formed. The Czechoslovak Communist Party was also engaged in political activity among the Jewish public and Jewish youth.

On the eve of the deportations, there were 6,000 Jews in Presov. In addition to the local population, the city hosted Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, and Poland.

In October 1938, Hlinka's Slovak People's Party, a clerical nationalistic and Fascist party, proclaimed Slovakia's independence under Nazi supervision. One of their first orders of business was to persecute the Jews. In November 1938 Slovakia lost a part of its mainland, which was annexed to Hungary. The party blamed the Jews for the loss. On March 14, 1939, Slovakia proclaimed independence under the name the Slovak State. Again, the Jews were persecuted as violent demonstrations accompanied the proclamation. Jews were assaulted in the streets and their property vandalized. Soon all Jewish institutions and organizations were shut down. Jews were expelled from schools, and the Presov community was charged with the responsibility of teaching the children. The next year, appropriation of Jewish property under the pretext of "Aryanization" began. Jews were losing their property and sources of income. In the spring of 1941, the Hlinka Party ordered Jews to wear a yellow armband. Six months later, all Slovakian Jews had to wear a yellow Star of David. In January 1941 a mob burned down the Orthodox synagogue. During the winter of 1941–42 Jews who lived on main streets were forced to leave their apartments. Consequently, Jews expelled from Bratislava sought accommodation in Presov.

In March 1942, deportation to the camps in Poland began. In Presov, the deportations started on May 12. Some 6,000 of Presov's Jews perished in the Holocaust. While still crowded around Lublin, the home communities did their best to provide the deportees with money, medicine, and food. The remaining community organized a network of smugglers to transfer goods, money, and letters to the exiles. Jews who manage to escape from the camps and reach Slovak borders were transferred to safety in Hungary. In the spring of 1944, with the approaching front, the Jews of eastern Slovakia were ordered to resettle in central and western Slovakia.

At the end of August 1944, an anti-Fascist uprising took place in Slovakia; 26 Presov Jews participated. Among the six Presov Jews killed in the attempt was Egon Roth, leader of the Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir movement and head of the effort to help the Jews who had escaped from Poland.

In 1947 there were 548 Jews in Presov. There was only one congregation. The Orthodox synagogue was restored, as was the mikveh. A memorial was erected for the Holocaust victims. A kosher kitchen and restaurant supplied meals for those who returned but had no place to stay, as well as those on their way home. In the spring and summer of 1945, mobs attacked and vandalized Jewish installations, shouting antisemitic slogans. This prompted the remaining Jews to immigrate abroad.

In 1957 the synagogue underwent restoration and the cemetery was cleaned. During the Velvet Revolution, there were 60 Jews in Presov, who faced an unexpected problem: an American Jewish company wanted to purchase the Orthodox synagogue and transfer it to the United States. The Jews deterred their government from selling out. The Jewish Museum was reconstructed and opened in November 1993. The Orthodox synagogue is occasionally used for services. All other synagogues are used mainly as warehouses.

bibliography:

M. Atlas, in: Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden, 4 (1967), 17–32, incl. bibl. add. bibliography: G. Amir, Presov the Story of a Jewish Community: One among Many (2002); E. Bárkány-L. Dojc, Zidovské nábozenské obce na Slovensku (1991), 335–41; Yizkor, Pietné odhalenie pamätnika martyrov v Presove, 18 augusta 1991 (1992), 3–5; A.J. Licht, Galed (Tashmad).

[Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)]

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