SLOVAKIA

SLOVAKIA (Slov. Slovensko; Ger. Slowakei; Hung. Szlovákia), Central European republic; 1918–1993, part of czechoslovakia ; formerly a part of hungary . Since Slovakia was part of Hungary for almost 1,000 years, the annals of the Jews of this region were submerged in the history of the Jews of Greater Hungary. The Jews of Slovakia (termed "Upper Hungary," "Northern Hungary," or "Highland") were commonly called "Highland Jews" (Oberlaender). Jews appeared for the first time on the territory of contemporary Slovakia in the Roman fortification of the first century C.E. (limes) in the southwest, along the Danube River. This was several hundred years before the appearance of the Slavonic tribes in the region. These Jews might have been   slaves, tradesmen, or soldiers serving in the Roman Legions. In archaeological excavations of the fortifications, Jewish artifacts were discovered. The next possible appearance of Jews in the region might have been in the seventh century C.E. when a Frank tradesman named Samo (Samuel?) unified the Slavonic tribes against the Mongol Avars in 623–624. In the ninth century C.E., the first political bodies of the western Slavs were established. It seems that Jews had settled in municipal locations of the so-called Great Moravian Empire. These Jews might have been related to Jewish-Arabic tradesmen who wandered between Mesopotamia and Eastern Europe. The next significant Jewish appearance took place in the 10th century, when Jewish Khazar tribes accompanied the Magyar tribes that conquered the region. There is written evidence as well as that of names of localities along the Nitra River. Jewish settlements, in both urban and rural locations, continued to appear in southwestern and western upper Hungary. A further influx of Jewish settlers, who came along the trade routes from Germany and perhaps the Balkans, established themselves in Greater Hungary. Papal and Magyar royal legislation testified to Jewish existence in ancient Hungary. In the territory of upper Hungary, they lived along the lower Hron, Vag, and Nitra rivers, as well as the Danube. By the end of the 11th century, they experienced severe persecutions, particularly during the First Crusade, which crossed the region. Most hard hit were the Jews of Bratislava (former Slovak name Presporok; Pressburg in German; Pozsony in Hungarian). Sporadic references to the existence of Jews in the region are found from the mid-13th century. Official contemporary documents and rabbinical literature record a number of flourishing Jewish communities in Pressburg, Senica (Szenice), Trnva (Tyrnauo, in German; Nagyszombat in Hungarian); Nitra (Nyitra in Hungarian); Pezinok (Hung. Bazin); and Trencin (Trenteschin in German; Trencsén in Hungarian.) In the Pressburg (Bratislava) community alone in the 14th century there were 800 Jews, forming an autonomous political unit headed by a communal leader. Some of the Jews of this region engaged in agriculture and owned and cultivated vineyards, but the majority engaged in commerce and moneylending. After the Tartar (Mongol) invasion of 1241, which left behind a devastated land, the ruling dynasty invited foreign settlers, including Jews, to rebuild the country. Again Jewish communities established themselves, frequently at the same location as the earlier ones. But their life was not tranquil, and in 1360 the Jews of Kosice (Kaschau in German; Kassa in Hungarian) were expelled from the city in 1494. Several Jews of Trnava were burnt at the stake because of a blood libel; the same happened in Pezinok in 1529. Local incidents occurred from time to time. A rigorous wave of persecution followed the defeat at Mohacs in 1526, where the Ottomans annihilated the army of the Magyar kingdom. Jews were expelled from towns and could live only in villages and places where they were admitted by the local nobles. In time, the nobles' willingness to accept Jews increased. Aware of the Jews' contribution to the economy, they would settle them on their estates and granted land for synagogues and cemeteries. They granted certain privileges in exchange for hefty taxes and the promotion of trade and industry. Jewish life began to flourish again in western and southern upper Hungary, where Jews expelled from Austria and Germany settled, augmented by Czech and Moravian Jewish settlers. There were large numbers of Jews in the northern part of upper Hungary which, in the 17th and 18th centuries, was known as "Magyar Israel." Many of these Jews were refugees from the atrocities of the Ukrainian Hetman bogdan chmielnicki and the outrages of the haidamaks in Poland. According to the 1785 census, the Pressburg community was the largest in Hungary, second to Nové Mesto nad Váhom (Waagneustadtl in German; Vágúhely in Hungarian). Trade routes, and in particular the movement of wine merchants from Hungary to Poland, helped promote Jewish life in eastern upper Hungary and Carpatho-Rus. From the 17th century, there was in increase in the influx of Moravian Jews seeking a haven from the Kurutz riots (1683), the residence restrictions, and the Familiants Law (1726). The majority of the newcomers settled in the western districts, bordering on Moravia, in places like Holic, Senica, Myjava, Nové Mesto nad Vahom, Tarencin, and Nitra. For many decades they preserved their old traditions, maintaining close spiritual and commercial ties with their kinsmen beyond the border. They even continued for some time to pay taxes to their former Moravian communities and to bury their dead there. Their synagogues were built on the models of those in Moravia, and services were conducted according to the Moravian rites. Youngsters from upper Hungary flocked to the Nikulov (Nikolsburg), Prostejov, and Boskovice talmud torah schools, and those from Moravia frequented the famous Pressburg and Vrbova yeshivot. Eventually, they started to establish their own centers of learning, such as Brezova pod Bradlom and Puchov. These were later replaced by wealthier communities or those with local importance. The Huncovce (Unsforf in German; Hunfalva in Hungarian) yeshivah served the Jews of north and east upper Hungary, the Dunajska Streda (Dunaszerdahely in Hungarian) and Galanta yeshivot served the center and southern Jewish population. Those three, along with the leading yeshivah of Pressburg, became the four leading yeshivot of upper Hungary. The leader was the yeshivah of Pressburg, which had been in existence since 1700, and was subsequently recognized by the government as an institution for the education of rabbis. It became particularly prominent through the influence of R. moses schreiber-sofer , whose descendants officiated for generations as rabbis of Press-burg and other towns. The yeshivah drew students from all over Europe. The landlords of those regions – the Hungarian counts Palffy, Eszterhazy, Pongracz, etc. – welcomed Moravian Jews, most of whom were industrious merchants and craftsmen who helped to develop their estates and foster trade with neighboring countries. They granted them protection and, in some cases, even erected synagogues and contributed land for cemeteries.   But the Jews were only slowly incorporated into the life of the region. In 1831 a cholera epidemic resulted in anti-Jewish riots in eastern Slovakia. The Jews were accused of having poisoned wells and causing the plague. During the Spring of Nations (1848–49), riots took place in many locations in western and central Slovakia. Many Jews enlisted to defend the Magyar Revolution by serving in the army. Some Jews joined the Slovak forces, defending Slovak national interests. During the Tisza Eszlar outrages, there were pogroms in upper Hungary (1882, 1883) as well. They were repeated when the Reception Law was accepted by the Hungarian parliament in 1896. From the mid-18th century, a schism developed among Hungarian Jewry. While the Orthodox asked to preserve their centuries-long religious traditions, others promoted reforms (in local parlance, neologs ). The schism led to the convocation of the Hungarian General Jewish Congress (1868–69) (see hungary ), after which the communities split into three main congregations: Orthodox, Neolog, and Status Quo Ante. With the establishment of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867, the Hungarian parliament passed the Emancipation Law the same year. The main aim of Hungarian domestic policy was assimilation of the minorities. To this end, Magyar became the official language of instruction and public administration. This "Magyarization" brought about a considerable amount of assimilation, especially among well-to-do middle-class Jews, who began to gravitate politically and culturally toward Budapest instead of Vienna. The liberal Hungarian authorities encouraged Jewish cooperation in the development of local industry, commerce, and finance. Jews began to be prominent in the free professions, such as education and journalism. The political economist Eduard (Ede) Horn of Nové Mesto nad Váhom became undersecretary at the Ministry of Commerce, the first Jew to rise to such a position in Hungary. While being a member of the Hungarian Parliament, Horn defended the interests of the Slovaks, thus promoting Jewish-Slovak understanding. But the Slovak-Jewish understanding was a difficult affair, as the Magyars encouraged assimilation of the Jews into Magyar culture and policies, and encouraged their participation in the Magyarization drive of the authorities. Many Jews, in particular inhabitants of larger cities, the well-to-do, and those affiliated with Neology, actively supported Magyar nationalist interests. Thus they clashed with the Slovak nationalists. During the second half of the 19th century, Slovak nationalism increased. Attempts of some Slovak leaders to foster an understanding with Jews living in the territory were unsuccessful. This was exacerbated by the fact that several Slovak leaders, beginning with Ludovit Stur (1815–56), took a severe anti-Jewish stand, and the national poet Svetozar Hurban-Vajansky (1847–1916) was a racist. Many of these leaders were Lutherans, who represented the young but developing bourgeoisie. The nationalistic feelings of members of a religious minority merged with clashing economic interests. The Lutherans, sensing the pressure of the Catholic Church, wanted to cement their position in Slovak society. Thus the Slovak literati, many of them Lutherans, promoted Judeophobia in the land, which naturally added to the hostility toward the Magyarization. Soon the Lutherans were joined by the Catholics. Here the clergy, partially Magyarized, waved the first banners of Judeophobia. With the expansion of nationalism within the Catholic public, it took a leaf from the Protestant books and combined nationalism with antisemitism. Significantly, Jews from nationalistic cities, particularly the rural countryside, were less affected by Magyarization, and there were cases of Jewish-Slovak understanding. Immigrants from Galicia who flocked in particular to eastern Slovakia after the annexation of part of Polagdon by the Habsburg Monarchy (1771), not familiar with local conditions and needing to establish themselves economically, contributed much toward the hatred of Jews. An open campaign was conducted in the Hungarian parliament (see Istóczy affair), and anti-Jewish riots took place in a number of towns (1882, 1883). The Reception Law (1896), which placed the Jewish religion on an equal standing with the Christian religion, gave rise to the foundation of the Slovak Clerical People's Party, whose basic tenets were anti-Liberalism and the struggle against Jewish influence, and became a major factor in spreading antisemitism among the devout Catholic population. The rise of Slovak nationalism at the end of the 19th century coincided with the beginning of Zionism; of the 13 local Zionist groups established in Hungary subsequent to the First Zionist Congress, eight were in Slovakia (Bratislava, Nitra, presov , kosice , Kezmarok, dolni kubin and banska bystrica ). Moreover, Bratislava was the site of the first Hungarian Zionist Convention, held in 1903, as well as of the first World mizrachi Congress (1904). However, Zionist activity came to a standstill during World War I, only to reemerge with new impetus after the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic (1918). The end of the war (1918) was accompanied by a wave of political and social disturbances and outright robbery with no ideological basis. Dozens of Jews were killed, executed, and injured. The Bolshevik revolution in Hungary in 1919 spilled over into Slovakia. As many Jews were involved in leading the revolution, the situation of Jews in Slovakia was affected as well. Only when the Prague authorities took over the management of the country did the situation quiet down. During the disturbances, Jews escaped from the villages or were expelled. Occasionally Jews would defend themselves with weapons. Poverty among the Jewish population, one of the results of the disturbances, was slightly ameliorated by the Joint Distribution Committee. The newly created democratic state brought about radical changes in the political status of Jews: for the first time, the Jews had the right to declare themselves members of the Jewish nation. The new framework also permitted collaboration among the Czech, Slovak, and Subcarpathian Jewish leaders. The first official contact was made with the participation of the delegation from Slovakia at the Congress of the Jewish National Council, which convened in Prague (Jan. 3–6, 1919). At this congress the foundation was laid for the formation of   the Jewish Party (Židovská strana ). Upon the return of the delegates, the National Federation of Slovak Jews (Svaz Židov na Slovensku) was established at piestany on the model of the prague and brno National Jewish Council. It was to play an important role in the consolidation of the life of the Jewish population after the hardships of war and the revolutionary transition period (1918–19). Another factor that contributed significantly to the improvement of the situation of the Jewish masses was the work of the american joint distribution committee , which established credit cooperatives and granted individual loans. The organ of the Federation of Slovak Jews, Juedische Volkszeitung ("Jewish People's Paper"), launched in Bratislava on Aug. 2, 1919, came to play an important role in the struggle for the rights of the Jewish minority of Czechoslovakia. According to the first Czechoslovak population census (Feb. 15, 1921), 135,918 persons in Slovakia (4.5% of the total population) declared themselves Jewish by religion; 70,522 of them declared themselves Jewish by nationality; of them 34.62% were gainfully employed, and the rest were dependent family members. The majority of the Jewish population was engaged in commerce and finance, followed by industry, handicrafts, and agriculture. In the free professions, lawyers and physicians were predominant. Of the 217 existing congregations, 165 were Orthodox, governed by the Bratislava Autonomous Center; the remaining 52 were organized in the Congress (Neology) and Status Quo Ante associations, which later unified under the name "Jeshurun." The political chasm dividing the different congregations became manifest during the parliamentary elections, and factions such as the Conservative Jewish Party and the Jewish Economic Party attracted votes from the Jewish Party, which was struggling for the rights of the Jewish minority. Individual Jews were also members in the Social Democratic Party, the Magyar National Party, and the Communist Party. In the first two elections (1920, 1925), the Jewish Party was unable to muster 20% of the vote in one constituency and failed to enter the parliament of Prague; it was only during the third elections (1929) that it achieved representation through ludvik singer (succeeded by angelo goldstein ) and Julius Reisz of Bratislava. The latter was also a delegate to the Provincial Assembly, created in Slovakia in 1927; his place in parliament was taken after the fourth elections, in 1935, by Ḥayyim Kugel . The years of stability in the late 1920s brought prosperity to a wide stratum of the Jewish population and a general upheaval in social and cultural life, centering mainly around the Zionist organizations, the newly founded youth movements, and wizo , all of which were instrumental in disseminating Jewish culture and the Hebrew language and fostering relations with Ereẓ Israel. A new generation, for the most part socialist in outlook, was educated at Bratislava and Prague universities. The German and Hungarian language tradition still prevailed among the older generation, and Jewish writers and journalists continued to write in either of these languages. Blaming them for the process of Magyarization and claiming that they owned two-thirds of the nation's property, the spokesmen of the rightist Slovak People's Party openly incited the people against the Jews. In the late 1930s, anti-Jewish demonstrations in Slovakia were led by the Nationalist Youth Movement (Om ladina) and the Volksdeutsche students. In 1937 the delegate of the People's Party even proposed in the parliament of Prague that the Jews of Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia be transferred to birobidzhan because of their high birthrate and since anyhow they were Communists. The situation of the Jews deteriorated greatly in the autumn of 1938. After the Munich conference, the Prague government was compelled to grant autonomy to Slovakia, and the Slovak People's Party seized power at the zilina conference (Oct. 6, 1938) and established a quasi-Fascist and antisemitic regime. For Holocaust and contemporary periods, see czechoslovakia ; czech republic and Slovakia. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: MHJ; P. Ujvári, Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929); M. Lányi and H. Békeffi-Propper, Szlovenszkói zsido hitközségek tortenete (1930); R.J. Kerner (ed.), Czechoslovakia, Twenty Years of Independence (1940); D. Gross, in: Juedisches Jahrbuch fuer die Slowakei (1940); J. Lettrich, A History of Modern Slovakia (1956); L. Rothkirchen, in: The Jews of Czechosḷovakia, 1 (1968). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Y.A. Jelinek, Zidovská nabozenská obce na Slovensku v 19. a 20. storoci a ich spolocenská postaventie (2002). (Livia Rothkirchen / Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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