PECS

PECS (Hung. Pécs; Ger. Fuenfkirchen), town in S. Hungary. The celebrated Turkish traveler Evlia Cselebi found Jews there (1663). During the conversionary activities of the Catholic Church at the end of the 17th century, following the end of the Turkish conquest, the Jews were expelled from the city; the city council then solemnly pledged (1692) that no Jews would set foot in Pecs again. It was not until 1788 that Jews were again permitted to settle there. Among the first to arrive was the Engel family who were among the leaders of the Jewish community for over a century. An organized community was formed in Pecs in 1840, but it already had a cemetery in 1827. The first synagogue was built in 1843 and the second in 1869; the latter, which was declared to be an architectural monument, still exists. Rabbis of Pecs were Israel Loew (officiated 1842–57); alexander kohut , author of Arukh ha-Shalem (1872–80); A. Perls (1889–1914), one of the most notable Jewish preachers in Hungary; and Z. Wallenstein (1923–44). The Jewish population numbered 72 in 1840, 385 in 1850, 4,126 in 1910, 4,030 in 1930 and 3,486 in 1941. Up to World War I the Jews in Pecs were prosperous and included several industrialists as well as merchants, contractors, wage earners, and artisans. After the enactment of the anti-Jewish laws in Hungary of 1938 and 1939, many who were thus deprived of their livelihood turned to crafts. The Jews in Pecs assisted refugees from Germany both from their own resources and with the aid of the "Wanderfuersorge." A number of Jewish doctors who had served in the Polish army arrived in Pecs after the German occupation (on March 19, 1944) and were also helped by the community. In May of that year the Jews in Pecs were concentrated into ghettos and at the end of June were sent to Auschwitz under conditions of extreme cruelty. After the war 414 Jewish survivors returned. In 1945 the community was reorganized, and in 1971 numbered approximately 500. By the turn of the century the population had dropped to around 300 mostly elderly Jews. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Scheiber, in: MHJ, 8 (1965), 80; J. Schweitzer, A pécsi izraelita hitközség története (1966); idem, in: Guttenberg Jahrbuch (1966). (Joseph Schweitzer)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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