History of Jews in Žilina

Pečať Židovskej obce Žilinaהיסטורית יהודי ז'ילינה

Jews appeared in Žilina only in the second half of the 19th century. Until the middle of the 19th century only two Jewish families could live in the town, because the town was not willing to accept more Jews. However during the day, they could come to do the business, but at night they had to leave the town. The two mentioned families were the Wix and Spanyols. This fact can be explained so, that Žilina as the town with German middle-class majority did not accept Jewish refugees and thus they settled in further or closer neighbouring villages: in Varín, Martin, Rajec, Čadca and elsewhere. The Poppers, Rosenfelds and Weils are the first families we meet here, except for the above mentioned family of Wix and Spanyol.

Increase of Jewish population
Later on the number of Jewish families was growing up. In 1850 the Jewish inhabitants built a house of prayer in the town and they also had cheder – the Jewish public school (in Kuzmány´s Street behind the synagogue). In 1881 the religious community was so big that they built their own synagogue, where the worship took place till the construction of a new synagogue. At the same time they proceeded to build the Jewish public school with Dr. Karol Kohn as the first schoolmaster. The high quality of the school is shown by the fact that the third of the pupils were Christians: 58 Catholics, 27 Protestants, 5 of state religion (Czechoslovak religion) and 9 without any religion. Later on, Jozef Šalgo, an excellent educator, became the school administrator. He was a member of the District Cultural Committee of Žilina. Yet in 1908 Dr. Emil Klein was one of the founders of the Žilina sports club.

Jewish club Makabi
The Jewish club Makabi contributed to the sport development in Žilina in high rate. The club was intended especially for youth and its character was not only a gymnastic and sporting one, but also educational and cultural. Makabi was officialy established in Žilina in 1931. In 1937 they organised the Olympic Games in Žilina, named “Makabiáda”, according to the Jewish club Makabi.

Orthodox and Neological religious community
In Žilina, there were two religious communities: the Neological one and the Orthodox one created in 1921. The Orthodox community was acknowledged by State only in 1925. A very important action of the community was the first established Jewish secondary technical school in Hungary between the centuries. Many important Jewish rabbis were working in Žilina, among them a poet Dr. Arnold Kiss, later on a rabbi in Veszprém and Budín. During the first third of the 20th century the number of Jews increased so much that there occurred a current need to build a new synagogue. It was one of the most modern and most beautiful constructions in Slovakia. About 3 500 Jews lived in Žilina in 1942.
Žilina was a big reception camp, where many trains were dispatched to the concentration camps from. The last neological rabbi was Dr. Hugo Stránsky and Dr. Alexander Marton was a community chairman. The last rabbi of orthodox Jews was Martin Klein and Ignatz Klein was a chairman. 700 Jews came back from concentration camps, while 400 of them emigrated immediately. The first synagogue was built in 1881 and it was used till the new synagogue was built. The new synagogue is a modern one with cupola and takes part of the most famous representatives of modern European synagogical architecture. This remarkable functionalist object was built in 1929 – 1931 according to the projects of an important German architect Peter Behrens.

Centralised Jewish camp in Žilina is associated with violent deportation of Jewish Slovak population to the concentration camps on the Polish territory during the Second World War. In Žilina, it started working on 21st March 1942 and it was established in military objects of Štefánik´s barracks on Rajecká road, in the district of Rudiny. Jews from all the Slovak parts were centralised there, usually all the families, men, women and children. They lived in wooden barracks; they slept on transversals wooden boards on the straw and used their own blankets. At the most of 1 200 persons and at least 150 of them were centralised in the camp. Municipal Council of Žilina, led by the mayor Vojtech Tvrdý, did not agree with the camp to be built up on the town territory. That is why the choice went on for the barracks, not owned by the town in period, but they were possessed by the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic. 

Jewish religious community Žilina

Jewish religious community Žilina
הקהילה היהודית בז'ילינה

Hollého 9, 010 01 Žilina
Tel.: +421 (0)41 562 04 85
Fax: +421 (0)41 562 04 85
E-mail: zilina@kehilazilina.sk
Web: www.kehilazilina.sk

The building in Hollého Street No 9 in Žilina was constructed in 1934 according to the projects of Ing. Arch. Michal Maximilián Sheer. Under construction, Israeli Women Group was the owner of the house. In May 1944, there were the first two refugees from Auschwitz Rudolf Vrba (originally named Walter Rosenberg) and Alfred Wetzler. They wrote a 30-page account on the events with Jews in Auschwitz. When the account was finished, it got to the whole world via working group. It provided for information about mass murders that had been made there during Holocaust. This account is considered to be one of the most important 20th century documents. After the war the building served as accommodation for returnees from concentration camps. Today, there is situated the residence of the Jewish religious community

Source: Jewish religious community Žilina www.kehilazilina.sk, Jozef Feiler www.zilina-gallery.sk 

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