TOPOLCANY (Slovak Topolčany ; Hung. Nagytapolcsány ), town in Slovakia. The first documentary evidence of the Jewish appearance in Topolcany is from the 14th century. In the following centuries Topolcany was not a pleasant place to live because of the many wars and battles in the area.
The first Jews arrived in Topolcany from Moravia and Uhersky Brod in 1649 and established families. The anti-Jewish legislation of Emperor Charles vi (1711–1780) and of his daughter Maria Theresa (1740–1780) encouraged further settlement of Moravian Jews in upper Hungary. Jews in the city engaged in trade, including international trade. Attempts to expel Jews in 1727 and in 1755 failed. Jewish community life expanded and by 1755 there were a cemetery, a synagogue, and a ḥevra kaddisha. In the census of 1735, there were 50 Jews in Topolcany. The "Toleranzpatent" (1782) of Emperor Joseph ii (1780–90) permitted further settlement of Jews and commerce. By the end of the 18th century a yeshivah was established, under the supervision and instruction of Rabbis Asher Anshel Roth (Ruta) and Abraham Ullmann.
The community grew quickly. In 1830 there were 561 Jews in Topolcany; in 1840 there were 618; and in 1850 there were 760. In 1880 there were 1,119 Jews and in 1910 there were 1,934. The 1930 census records 2,991. On the eve of World War ii the number was 2,700. Toward 1942, the number reached 3,000, which included Jews from surrounding villages who moved there, concerned for their safety.
Jews lived a quiet life in Topolcany in the 19th century; but in 1848 during the Spring of Nations, Jews were attacked and robbed. In 1918–19 pogroms took place and Jewish property was looted and destroyed.
After the 1868 Congress of Hungarian Jewry, the Topolcany congregation chose the Orthodox stream. Zionist activity centered on the youth movements, and the Maccabi sports movement organized the young people. A Jewish school, a talmud torah, an old-age home, and women's associations extended the social life of the congregation. The Communist Party was also active, particularly among the youth. The Jewish political party clashed with parties representing the Orthodox (mainly the Agrarian Party).
About 80% of the retail trade was in Jewish hands, largely in the horse and cattle trade, wood, food and beverages, and construction material.
In 1938 Hlinka's nationalistic fascist Slovak People's Party gained supreme power in the country. On March 14, 1939, it proclaimed the Slovak state with Nazi support. Jews were the primary target. The Hlinka Guard, with a storm trooper unit, cast a dark shadow on social and political life. Under the guise of "Aryanization," the Jews lost their property and livelihoods. In 1942 the Slovak authorities began to deport the Jews to the extermination camps in Poland. The local population took the opportunity to pillage and divide up Jewish property left in the apartments and stores and grabbed Jewish real estate.
When the deportations stopped in fall 1942 about 2,500 Jews had been deported. Only several hundred Jews were left in the town. They were joined in the spring of 1944 by several dozen Jewish families transferred from eastern Slovakia when the Soviet army closed in. By August 1944 an anti-Nazi uprising spread in parts of Slovakia. Jews from Topolcany in labor camps were liberated and returned home. Thus before German troops arrived to quell the uprising, 1,000 Jews gathered in the city. A few days later, the Germans sent all the Jews to Auschwitz. Fifty who hid were found by the Slovak inhabitants and were shot by the Nazis in a field in nearby Nemcice.
In 1947, there were 320 survivors living in Topolcany. A memorial to the Holocaust victims was erected in the Jewish cemetery. One of the synagogues was restored. Antisemitism continued to plague the Jews. The gentiles who had stolen Jewish property were resentful of the Jews' demands to return their belongings. In September 1945 rumors spread that a Jewish doctor was poisoning children and that Jewish teachers were replacing nuns. A pogrom swept the town. Jewish property was pillaged and destroyed, and 47 people were injured. An army unit sent to disperse the rioters joined the mob. In 1945–49 most of the surviving Jews emigrated. The Great Synagogue was turned into a warehouse.
L. Venetianer, A magyar zsidóság töténete (1922); M. Lányi and H. Propper, A szlovenszkói zsidó hitközségek története (1933); Y.R. Buechler, The Story and Origin of the Jewish Community of Topoltchany (1976); E. Bàrkàny and L. Dojč, Židovské náboženské obce na Slovensku (1991), 206–9.
[Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)]