Eger, Hungary

also known as:
Erlau [Ger/Yid]

47°54' N / 20°23' E

~ Introduction ~

( Click the arrow in the buttons below for pronunciation. )

Eger   is part of the Kingdom of Hungary (11th century - present) in the Heves megye (county) in the Alföld (Northern Great Plain) provincie (province).

Other spellings/names for Eger are Erlau, Jager, Jáger, Jegar, Jagier, Eǧri and Agria.

Eger is located 23 miles (38 km) SW of Miskolc, 26 miles (42 km) NW of Tiszafüred and 107 miles (173 km) miles ENE of Budapest.

~ Maps ~

Heves county, Hungary
Map: Copyright ©2010 by Marshall J. KATZ

NOTE: Clicking a link will open a new page.

1910 Map: Heves megye/Eger (Click map to enlarge it)
1910 Map (Topographical): Heves megye/Eger
Austro-Hungary Military Map: Heves megye/Erlau (Eger) (Click map to enlarge it)
Street Map: Eger

~ Eger and Eger Jewish History ~

The name Eger is believed to derive from the Hungarian word Égerfa (alder tree). In German, the town was known as Erlau. That name was adopted in Yiddish and used by the Jewish population of the city until the city's Jews were interned and deported to Nazi concentration camps in the summer of 1944.

Eger has been inhabited since the Stone Age. Eger was formed in the 10th century by St. Stephen (997 - 1038), the first Christian king of Hungary, who founded an episcopal congregation in Eger. The first cathedral of Eger was built on Castle Hill, within the present site of the Eger Castle. Eger grew up around its former cathedral and has remained an important Christian religious center in Hungary since its foundation.

The 14th - 16th centuries were an age of prosperity for Eger. Grape growing and wine production, for which the town is still famous, began to be important industry at that time, producing both red and white wines of high quality from around the Eger wine region. The famous traditional wine varieties of the region are Egri Leányka, Egerszóláti Olaszrizling, Debrõi Hárslevelu (whites) and Egri Bikavér (a red). More recently, Chardonnay and Pinot noir wines have appeared. The region's wines are said to bear a resemblance to Burgundy.

In archival records, the first indications of Jews in Eger are as follows:
  • On 11 April 1465, in a will written by Andrew CSETNEKI of Eger, he lists his valuables and that he had pawned a gem and a gold ring to Jósa, a Jew.

  • In 1495, the Bishop of Eger, Thomas BAKÓCZ, in his bank account statement, a Jewish name of Johanni is recorded.

  • In 1693, Adam BATTHYÁNYI's accounting book lists: "Eger Zsidó (Jewish) money of 500 forints.
In 1552, during the Turkish advance into Central Hungary, Eger became an important border fortress, successfully defended by Hungarian forces during the siege of Eger and in the face of overwhelming odds. The castle's defenders, under the command of Captain István DOBÓ, are said to have numbered fewer than 2,000, including women and children. They successfully held off a Turkish army of 80,000 soldiers. The first writer of note to author the story was the Hungarian renaissance poet and musician, Sebestyén Tinódi LANTOS (c. 1510 - 1556), whose account may have come partly from eye witnesses. Most Hungarians know the story version found in the 1899 novel, Egri csillagok ("Eclipse of the Crescent Moon"), by the 19th century Hungarian author, Géza GÁRDONYI. His version is still required reading in Hungary's national school curriculum.

In 1569, Eger was attacked by a bigger army of Turks who, after a brief siege, took over the Castle. Eger then came under Ottoman rule for 91 years and was the seat of a Turkish vilayet (administrative division). Churches were converted into mosques, the castle was rebuilt and other structures were erected, including public baths and minarets.

After the Turkish conquest of Eger, Jews settled in the occupied areas. Driven from Spain in 1492, they found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. Spanish was spoken and most of the Jews followed the Sephardic Jewish rite. Jewish communities were formed, but, regard to religious issues, they turned to the rabbis of Constantinople and Salonica. Jewish life at the time of the Turkish occupation was good. Jews held leases, government positions and high military posts and freely traded in commerce. Jewish and Turkish traders established vibrant businesses. Eastern goods found their way into Hungarian homes at a reasonable price. Beside the Turks, the Balkans, and the Transylvanian Saxon merchants, the Jews created a trade connection to all three parts of the country. They marketed goods in both directions, such as Turkish agricultural and consumer goods shipped to the west and industrial products, raw materials and ores shipped to the east.

At about this time on the Alföld (Great Hungarian plane)—before the Tisza river was made navigable and the start of road and rail construction—transportation of goods was barely possible during most the year. Jews were mainly engaged in peddling and trading, roaming the countryside on foot or by wagon. During the Turkish occupation, public safety was terrible. This had a profound effect on the Jews, who were despised and excluded as an unlawful entity, exposing them to high risks in the countryside. However, Jews still preferred to live in the occupied areas, because the authorities, at least, did not harass them because of their religion.

In 1560 and 1561, Anthony VERANCSICS, the bishop of Eger, Bavaria and Moravia, sent for Jewish tradesman experienced with glass making to repair of the damaged fortress windows of Eger, which were probably damaged during the 1552 siege.

On 17 May 1627, the Hungarians of Nógrád once complained in memorandum to the Jewish Pasha (equivalent of British title "Lord") if the area, his name was MEHMET, and who, with his soldiers, caused serious damage to property in their town.

In 1660, Simcha KOHEN, the Rabbi of Buda, mentioned that Eger is one of the congregations where divorce was conducted and Jewish Get (divorce) papers were issued.

The rule of the Turks in central Hungary began to collapse after a failed Ottoman attempt to capture Vienna. The Vienna-based Habsburgs, who controlled the rest of Hungary, apart from Transylvania, steadily expelled the Turks from the country. In 1687, Eger Castle was starved into surrender by the Christian army, led by Charles of Lorraine, after Buda Castle had been retaken in 1686. In 1687, with the end of Turkish rule, Turks and Jews left Eger.

In 1695, the holder of the city, Bishop George FENESSY entered into a contract with the city to forbid persons other than of the Catholic religion to dwell in Eger. It was not until 1840 that Jews received permanent residence permits, but there is evidence of sporadic occurrences. Despite the ban, the Heves County Archives has data documenting Jews living or working in the area. For example, in 1769, a Jew named Joseph received a dwelling authorization from the Archbishop of Eger for his services in the Cardinal's print shop. Also in the archives, the 1825 census for Eger lists the Jews Abraham FRANSZL, James LORI, Mojse BRAUN and Herman LAZARUS.

In 1695, Bishop, György Fenessy, who was the landowner of Eger, made a contract with the leaders of the town to only allow Catholic inhabitants to live there. However, Jews were permitted to live in the neighboring villages, such as Maklar, Demend, Al-Debro, Fel-Debro, etc.

Eger soon began to prosper again. The city was reclaimed by its bishops, which caused many local Protestants to leave. Although the city supported the Hungarian leader Prince Francis II RÁKÓCZI in the 1703-1711 war of independence against the Habsburgs, the Hungarians were eventually defeated by the Imperial army. Soon after that, the city was ravaged by plague. However, immigration into Eger was strong and the population rose from 6,000 to 10,000 between 1725 and 1750. The bishops of Eger built beautiful buildings in the city in the 18th - 19th centuries. Many of the new buildings were built in the Baroque and later the Zopf and Neoclassical styles which included the cathedral, the Archbishop's Episcopal Palace, the county hall, the Lyceum (now housing the Eszterházy College of Education) and several churches. Mosques were converted to other uses.

By 1780, Eger was the eighth largest town in Hungary, with 16,000 inhabitants and, at this time, was mainly a county administrative center. Like the county, Eger's economy was based on agriculture. Gyöngyös, the 18th-century center of Jewish life, and the Eger wine region, were the primary economic centers of the county. In 1867, there was a compromise between the Austrian and Hungarian political elite (previously the Austrian Monarchy). After 1867, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy encouraged "gründolási (investment) fever" and, in the 1880's and 1890's, it reached Eger. Credit institutions and industries were established and Jewish businesses increased in numbers. During this period, the inhabitants developed basic economic and social conditions.

The 19th century began with disasters. A fire destroyed half the town in 1800 and a collapse of the south wall of the Castle occurred in 1801, destroying several houses. Eger became the seat of an Archbishopric in 1804 and the church remained in firm control of the city, despite efforts by its citizens to obtain greater freedom. In 1827, much of the city center was damaged by fire again and, four years later, over 200 were killed in an outbreak of cholera.

In 1840, at the urging of the local bishop who wished to encourage economic growth, the Hungarian parliament allowed Jews to move into the towns and officially settle there. Because of Catholic center of Hungary was Eger, the Jews created a new Jewish community, with their own organizations. They settled in the center of the city, a necessity because of their occupations as merchants, craftsmen, and later, lawyers and doctors. The Jewish and Catholic communities interacted very well in their neighborhoods, secondary schools and in their businesses.

For the Jews who settled in nearby Galicia, it was very important to be able to purchase kosher wine and transport it to large Jewish communities. Thus, the Hegyalja, Tokay, etc., wine varieties produced around Eger, Gyöngyös and Verpelet were very popular with them. This demonstrates the significance of viticulture in the settling of Jews in the Eger district. In 1840, there were only 240 Jews, with 139 (nearly 60%) living in Verpelet, which was the most important wine-growing area of the district. The first Jewish settlers engaged in wine production and exports. The later arrivals were simply not able to deal in it and, so, pursued other livelihoods, such as renters, pub-owners, grocers, craftsmen, etc. The local wine of Eger was the first major export of the Jews settled in Hegyalja. Kosher wine production still occurs, with multiple varieties, in the wineries of Eger.

István (Stephan) SCHWARCZ was the first Jew to receive permission from the archbishop to settle in Eger. He came from Sály (a little village, nearby Eger). He married Borbála BRAUN. Her father was a rich merchant in Gyöngyös, the center of Jewish life in Heves county in the 18th and 19th century. Later, he founded the first steam-mill in Eger (as well as in Heves county) and a leather factory in the city. He was also the first leader of the local Jewish community. His family played a key role in Eger. He died in 1869.

Another important Jewish family in Eger was the KÁNITZ family. Lipót KÁNITZ was born in ó-Buda (Alt-Ofen) and settled in Eger in 1850. He founded a starch factory and it became one of the most important ones in Hungary. His sons founded more companies and banks in Eger. Dezso KÁNITZ was the most prolific member of the family because it was his idea to develop tourism in Eger, in 1918. The KÁNITZ family received nobility with the ecséri (title). Dezso's son changed his name to ECSÉRY. Lipót was the leader of the Eger Jewish community until his death, in 1938.

The settlers of Eger were mostly from the surrounding counties and the northern and northwestern areas. In 1841-42, 34 Jewish families lived in Eger, totaling 162 inhabitants. In 1843-44, according to the census, 56 Jewish families lived in the same area, totaling 306 inhabitants. They comprised one large land owner, two tradesman, three peddlers, three wholesalers, 11 retailers, 23 cottiers and 13 others in a variety of occupational pursuits. The richest amongst them was Stephen SCHWARTZ, a wholesaler. In his household, he had 13 persons registered: one daughter, three sons, six relatives, one Jewish and two Christian servants. He was a community leader with a significant income of 1,650 forints. Two more were registered as wholesalers: Grajner LUDOVICUS and Vilhelm TOTISZER, both in the high-income bracket: 1,150 forints and 600 forints, respectively. The only large property owner, Jacob GOLDBERGER, had an income of 1,100 forints.

In the second half of the 19th century, the average annual income of the majority of the younger generation increased through their involvement in the wholesale trade. Economic opportunities increased progressively and reduced the number of peddlers. In the field of industry, a structural change occurred whereby the younger had twice the number of craftsman as before, due both to the termination of guild restrictions and, from 1858 on, the authorization of Jews to participate in any industrial occupation. In the registers, one sees occupations such as tailor, shoemaker, tinsmith, baker, painter, butcher, tanner and distiller, as well as upholsterer, soap maker, cap, goldsmith, printer and seamstress. Overall, a total of 24 different industries. Most were master craftsmen with a maximum of one or two assistants. At this time, the following Jewish families were known to be landowners: KANITZ, STARS, PRESZLER and CZEIZLER. The number of Jews in public service positions did not increase significantly because there were few opportunities for them, but there was an increase in the intellectual fields, in support of public service, with a need for more lawyers and doctors.

In 1849, beside the SCHWARCZ family, the Leopold KANITZ (b. 1818 in Obuda) family moved to Eger and became the other family of dominance in Eger's Jewish community in the economic, social and religious spheres. KANITZ formed the "Leopold KANITZ and Sons" company for wine production and colonial-goods trading. He was one of Eger's most important wine-growers and wholesalers. KANITZ participated actively in the life of the Jewish community and become its honorary president. Lipót KANITZ had his grocery store in the Eger market in 1863, today Dobo Square, and later established his starch factory. He died at the age of 93. For many years he was a member of Heves county municipality and served as the Eger town councilor. He earned great recognition and merit for the reconstruction of the wine industry after the phylloxera outbreak and the reestablishment of Eger's international wine reputation. He maintained extensive connections to the rest of the wine-production world, with exhibitions in France, England and Belgium, receiving nearly fifty foreign and domestic medals and a diploma of excellence. KANITZ's children held important positions, having founded companies, factories and banks, and they participated in the life of the Jewish community, playing a leading role in charity work.

Eger's most prominent Jewish personality was undoubtedly Dezso KANITZ (b. 1856 in Eger), whose schooling was split between his time in Eger and Budapest. Later he managed the family estate in Nagyecsér. He was very young when he joined the city's economic life. In 1894, he founded the "Agrar Savings Bank Stock Company," which was directed by him until his death. In addition, 13 different commercial, industrial and agricultural companies were established by him and thus, greatly contributed to the town of Eger and Heves county and permitted economic life to flourish. More wine exhibitions resulted in many domestic and foreign diplomas and gold medals. He received numerous high honors during his long life. Dezso KANITZ died in 1938 at the age of 82.

From 1841 until 1851, of the first 112 Jewish settlers, by occupation, there was one rabbi, one cantor, four teachers, two ritual slaughterers, one midwife, 38 merchants (comprising four feather and leather merchants, 11 woolen, flour, pipe, smoke, book and paper), six peddlers, 18 distillers (and their assistants), one innkeeper, four publicans, one tax-collector, four ragmen, 22 craftsmen: 2 cap makers, 11 tradesmen (silversmith, butcher, old-clothes man, glazier, waiter, tobacco cutter, tinker, coppersmiths, tanner, cigar maker, duvet maker and joiner), six tailors and three shoemakers.

The inhabitants of Eger took an active part in the revolution in 1848. Even though the revolution was suppressed, the age of landowners and serfs had disappeared forever and the municipality gained freedom from the rule of the archbishop in 1854. However, the main railway line between Miskolc and Pest bypassed the city, which was only reached later by a branch line from Füzesabony.

In 1852, the Eger Trade Company Ltd. was founded by Hermann POLATSIK and from 1886, the founder's son, Eugene POLATSIK led the company. The company was transformed into a public limited company in 1913 as a condiment, colonial, economic, and household items for short, knitted and wholesale woven goods. In 1935, a roofing production plant was established with 30 employees. Adolf REINER (b. 1872 in Füzesabony), was educated in his home town and moved to Eger to become a timber merchant and was later a city council member, county municipal member and also a member and president of the Jewish congregation in 1936. The "Adolf REINER Lumber and Building Materials Storage" company founded cement factory in Ludas in 1893 and in 1900, moved to Eger. Other plants included plants in Kalb, Karácsond, Füzesabony and Bélapátfalva. His crate factory employed 70 people.

The Eger economic growth started relatively late because of the late influx of Jews, but a generation later, in 1863, the impact of the Jews upon the economy of Eger was great evidenced by the impact of Jewish merchants and industrialists on the 29 September Saint Martin's Day fair and the 1 October autumn festival. Some of the Jewish merchants in Eger at this time were: Adolf ENGLÄNDER books and paper, Ignatius FEHER (1889-1944) furniture, Sandor GROSZ (1915-1943), Soma GROSZ (1897-1944) haberdashery, Sandor KARDOS (1904-1944) textile and outfitters, Zoltan KLEIN (1921-1940) glass and porcelain trading, Adolf REINER (1900-1938) timber merchant, Armin ROSENBERG cloth and wool merchant, Miklos SCHNEEWEISZ (1914-1932) hat merchant and Soma UNGERLEIDER (1890-1948) wine shop.

The accumulated capital from produce marketing, after the 1867 Compromise accord, was reinvested in the industrial enterprises. The Jewish entrepreneurs money and entrepreneurial spirit played a fundamental role in the Hungarian industrial development. A large part of the Jewish gozmalom (steam-mill) industry in Eger was first established by Stephen SCHWARCZ. In 1870, he was already shipping flour abroad. The steam-mill continued to operate after SCHWARCZ's death in 1869, but in 1883 went bankrupt. In 1887, at an auction, landowner Soma WEINBERGER of Szirmabesenyo purchased the mill for 125,600 florins. Shortly thereafter, the company name was changed to "KLEIN and WEINBERGER Egri Gozmalom," and production increased significantly in the coming year with the annual production of 10,000 ton of flour exported through Fiume and Trieste. Another steam-mill started production in 1880, the "LAZAR and KOHN" cylindriocal steam-mill company. In 1888, the commercial registry court of the county listed a "Cylindrical-Eger Gozmalom" as a new company and the owner of the company was Adolf WEISZ and son. They produced 36,500 tons of milled flour annually, none for export and had three officers and 20 workers. In 1907, the mill was sold and henceforth known as "David MEZEI Hengergozmalom Eger." (The traditional mills used millstones and this newer mill used grinding rolls.) In the Kertész street multi-level steam-mill complex, David MEZEI introduced new machinery thereby improving the quality of the meal and increasing the daily milling capacity. By 1909, the mill was producing 500 ton of milled flour per day by 70 workers.

A synagogue was consecrated in 1851 and, by 1885, numerous small Jewish communities were affiliated with the congregation. In 1878, the community split into two separate Orthodox and Status Quo Ante communities. The community's first rabbi was Yosef Tzevi WEISZ (1841-79), grandfather of Stephen WISE, the American Reform and Zionist leader. Two Jewish schools existed in Eger at this time.

The Gentlemen's Casino (men's club) did not want to allow any Jewish members but, in 1867, after the Compromise, Jews were increasingly allowed to become members.

The 1869 census for Eger had 19,150 inhabitants and Eger was the twentieth largest city. By the 1870's, it had become an important commercial center, yet had only a regional or provincial significance.

In 1873, the Eger Credit Institute of Commerce and Industry was established. It was initially founded by Jewish and German-born citizens, namely Alajos STERN, Adolph SCHWARCZ, Shawn KOHN, Samuel WEISZ, Polatsik HERMANN, Arnold GREINER and David SCHWARCZ. In 1890, the bank's president was Dr. David SCHWARCZ. The bank could not compete with the previously established financial institutions and, in 1901, went out-of-business. In 1894, the Jews of Eger had the primary role in founding the Agrare Savings Bank Ltd., in Heves County. (In 1906, the name of the bank was changed to "Agri Savings.") The bank presidency was held by Lieutenant Governor Zoltan KALLAY, but the CEO and founder was Dezso KANITZ, the director of the institute, being a prominent figure in the 100-year-old Eger Jewish community. The post of legal adviser was granted to the lawyer Gyula KANITZ, brother of Dezso KANITZ. The supervisory board members were all lawyers, namely Shawn BAUER, Alexander DARK and Ede ERNSZT (Chairman).

After grape phylloxera devastated the vineyards, in 1880, the advent of World War I meant new disasters for Eger's economy. After World War I and the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory, causing an economic and political crisis which severely impacted agriculture and food factories—causing the loss of most of their markets. After this, there was a consolidation, followed by the Great Depression, which caused further setback to the economic development of the town

From 1883 until 1893, there were several Jewish publishers, editors and journalists working in Heves county, such as Dr. Alexander SETÉT (SCHWARCZ)—a lawyer and editor of the daily Eger és Vidéke ("Eger and Region")—and David KOHN, who moved in 1894, was owner and publisher. After he moved, the newspaper was transformed into Egri Újság ("Eger newspaper") with Sandor SETÉT as its publisher and editor-in-chief.

Jewish professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, actively took part in the county's and country's economic development with their capital involvement in various industrial, credit, business and corporate ventures. They held a variety of positions in cultural and social life, mostly in conjunction with the Christian nobilities.

In 1890, the Jewish population grew to 2,396 (10.7% of the total). At this time, Dr. Jago KOHN was the first documented reference to a Jewish doctor in Eger, listed in the Hevesvármegyei Hírlap, the county journal/newspaper that was published twice weekly. At this time, doctors had a very difficult task tending to the public's health due to three primary factors: low life expectancy, high infant mortality and frequent epidemics. Also, it was difficult to teach the population elementary basic hygiene and create the conditions to change their bad habits. Alexander SCHWARTZ (b. 1863 in Eger) received his degree in Budapest, in 1887, and opened a private law practice in Eger. In 1935, the Hungarian National Medical Association presented Alexander SCHWARTZ with the honor of president of the county medical association. Members of the Heves County Pharmacy Association were mainly doctors from Eger and Gyöngyös. Its officers were Dr. Soma SCHONBERGER (President), Dr. Ambro BRÜNAUER (Vice-President) and Dr. Alexander SCHWARCZ (Secretary).

In 1891, the first Hungarian Eger Building and Furniture Hardware Factory Company was formed by Armin BRAUN, Agoston FOGL, Sandor GEBHART and Alajos RÓZSA. Zoltan KALLAY, second supervisor, was elected President and David SCHWARTZ was Vice-President. Members of the board were David ALFOLDI, Joseph BRAUN and Alajos RÓZSA. The company's founding capital was 250,000 forints. In 1896, more than 100 workers were employed in the factory.

In 1891-92, during the age of Hungarian modernization, Jews played an important role in the economic growth of the county and acquired property through their talents. A register of the wealthy in Heves county was created listing its richest citizens, containing both Christian and Jewish names, and the following were ranked according to their place among the highest taxpayers: 1. Elias Savings Bank; 2. Joseph SAMASSA, Archbishop of Eger; 3. The Eger registry; 4. WEINBERGER and KLEIN; 5. Commerce and Industrial bank of Eger, 27. Isaac WEISZ; 33. Dr. Soma SCHONBERGER; 38. Leopold KANITZ; 41. Henry BERGER; 45. Mano BARNA. Also appearing in the register are Polatsik HERMANN, Philippe WEISZ, Adolf, Czigler SOMA and Mrs. Dávid BRÜNAUER. In 1894, on most of the county's taxpayer lists, Archbishop Cardinal Joseph SAMASSA was listed as the highest taxpayer. In the 210-person list, more than one-third (77) were Jewish. The majority of those listed were landowners or wholesalers and five white-collar workers. In the 1907 list, Archbishop SAMASSA was listed first, again, with 68,984 crowns, second was Count Michael KAROLYI with 61,613 crowns and fourth was Hatvany Deutsch ALEXANDER with 12,729 crowns.

The Eger and Gyöngyös regions cultivated a strong fruit culture which paved the way for widespread distilling. In 1890, in Miskolc, the Chamber of Trade and Industry directory mentioned the Ferenc PRESZLER distilleries in Eger as a large industrial distillery. In 1862, Mano BARNA established a furniture, general and upholstered products manufacturing company. His products were in high demand and, in 1877, attended the annual industrial art show. The company was awarded a medal of merit. Mor GOMBOSI operated his store between 1867 and 1893. The glass, porcelain, silver, household items and banking and currency exchange business was a "corporate architectural shop." Countrywide, printers and their many printing press owners were Jewish. In 1893, the Eger Printing Company was established and was the county's largest printing company. Among the founders of the county's leading nobilities, as the landowner, was (were) the gentile(s) Charles GRAEFL and Valer MACK, but among them were several prominent Jewish intellectuals, namely David ALFOLDI and Sandor SETÉT (SCHWARTZ), both lawyers.

In 1893, the Kohn Printing Company of Eger burned down and after the disaster, David KOHN published a statement in the "Hevesvármegyei Hirlap"" newspaper announcing he was moving to Budapest. The article demonstrates the flexibility of the Jews who, 20 years before, replaced the original stonemason's trade with printing and newspaper publication. In 1870, Samuel LÖW worked as a tinner in Tiszafüred beside the soda water plant he operated and, in 1888, he established the first printing press. In 1893, he moved to Eger and purchased the large printing press. He became publisher of the "EGER" newspaper. In the 1930s, his son, Bela LÖW, became the Eger bank manager. In 1912, the David Fleischmann Printing Company was fully operational.

After decades of fighting and after the Compromise, the emancipation of Jewish residences in Hungary finally occurred. On 25 November 1867, Prime Minister Gyula ANDRÁSSY submitted a bill that the House of Representatives unanimously accepted. A large majority in the House of Lords agreed. The bill that was submitted,, declared: "The country's Jewish inhabitants, like the Christian inhabitants, are granted all civil and political rights." Both were entitled in the same fashion. The declaration further stated, "All previous contrary laws, customs or regulations are hereby rendered invalid." This law, however, only created the equal rights of the individual; full religious emancipation had to wait until the 1890s. The Compromise created the legal framework for the economic emancipation of Hungary's Jews as a social progress for the acceleration of assimilation.

In 1891, Heves County recorded 55,578 men who could read and write (of which 3,861 Jewish) and 45,602 women (of which 3,809 were Jewish). The county's population of 233,785 had a Jewish population of 10,873. Of the total population, only 43.78% were literate, but 71.13% of the Jewish population was. By comparison, in 1890, nationwide, 44.5% were literate, while 65% of the Jewish Population was. The county's total population was slightly below and the Jewish population was 6.13% above the national average, respectively. In the municipality of Eger, the figure was even worse, with only 43% literate.

In 1855, Jewish religious education started in Eger, established by Stephen SCHWARCZ, the Jewish community chairman. Dr. Soma SCHONBERGER and Mor DÉCSY (school board president) opened the school with three classes. In 1859, the school expanded to four elementary school classes. There were four women teachers, one male teacher and one needlework instructor who taught partly in Hungarian and partly in German. The bible was translated into German. The speech and logic classes were conducted in Hungarian. The students had 32 lessons per week, including 12 hours of Hungarian, 12 hours of Hebrew and 8 hours of German.

In 1863, the community, led by President Joseph GRÜNBAUM, donated a plot of his land for a new school building, erecting four spacious classrooms. After 1868, the language used in the school was only Hungarian. Each week, the students had six to eight hours of religious education, prayer translations and Bible studies. Their studies continued outside the school in bible study as well. Saturdays and holidays, public worship was held where the teachers explained the relevant Torah section. In the city's other schools, religious instruction was conducted by the rabbi and the teachers. The Jewish school was in a much better position than the city's other schools. In 1891, a class had 120 to 137 children. The Jewish school had 160 children in four classes, so that they only had a class average of forty, which was a relatively small class number at the time and a better educational environment. Because of the large class sizes, a small number of Orthodox Jewish community members bused their children to the Catholic elementary school because they wanted to separate their children from the Status Quo Ante children.

Between 1855 and 1895, the schoolteachers were Dr. Lazarus SCHONBERGER, Leopold KNOPFLER, Soma DEUTSCH and Vilmos HAHN. In 1896, the teachers were Mor LAKNER (director from 1855), Lazar MÜLLER (from 1861), Soma WEISZ (from 1880) and Teresa FOLDES-CZIGLER (from 1882), and the needlework teacher from 1857, Johanna JOLESZ-LAKNER. The Orthodox Jewish community had a Talmud Torah school with two-classes and the community associations J'szod Htora (a higher degree of Talmud Torah school) was supported and maintained. In the 1844-45 academic year, only one Jewish student was listed in the Catholic Cistercian grammar school of Eger. In 1863, of the 497 pupils, 43 were Jewish. The Jews that settled in Eger tried to direct their children toward an intellectual path, even before the Emancipation. In the Catholic public teacher's college, among the 66 Catholic students, only two were Jewish. The Jewish students, according to the ministry, were allowed to participate in the holidays and were excused from attending the lectures. In 1912, of 466 pupils, 18 (or 4.8%) were Jewish. Jewish parents sent their children for more pragmatic real (practical) studies. In the Orthodox and Status Quo Ante communities, Daniel REISS and Max SCHWARTZ were the first religious teachers, respectively.

In 1892-93 (the third school year), of 119 students, 62 were Jewish. The Israelite "filléregylet" provided free lunch for 20 to 25 students, regardless of religious affiliation. Bernard KELLNER established a mutual fund on 3 May 1911 and, once a year, a poor student received the grant, alternating every year between a Jewish student and one from another denomination. In 1921, the school was renamed Istvan DOBO and, in 1936, become a secondary-school. Latin was now included among the subjects studied. Reviewing secondary level degrees, of 1898, are the following names from Eger's Jewish community: Desi BROWN, Adolf BERGER, Béla BÉKEFI, Aladar GRÜNBAUM, Rudolf KUNOVICS, Adolf LANG, Ignatius SCHNEEWEISZ and Joseph WEISZ. Dr. Imre SÁNDOR, (1887-1944) graduated in 1905 and, in 1911, received his medical degree at the University of Budapest. In 1913, he was the district doctor of Eger. In 1914, Ernest KLAUSZ graduated, later becoming a world-famous designer and painter. In 1916, Dr. Elizabeth KRAUSZ became the first woman to graduate with a medical degree, a major achievement for a Hungarian (Jewish) woman at the time. In 1917, the second woman to graduate was Dr. Elsa (neé DEUTSCH) CSERÉPFALVI who graduated with a dental degree. She had her dental practice in Eger and died at a very old age. In 1918, Imre CSERÉPFALVI (Elsa's brother), the famous publisher and Imre KLAUSZ, an excellent swimmer, died in the battle of Budaörs in 1921, when Carl, the last Hungarian King, wanted to come back. He was the only victim. In 1944, George KROÓ, a well-known musicologist graduated here. In 1893, the first music school was established in Eger by Erno LANYI, the Jewish conductor in the Eger Cathedral. As a rule, the only way to reach the middle class was through schooling. It was also a way to assimilate and fit into society. In 1910, the province of doctors and lawyers were in excess of the national ratio of the Jewish religion resulting in the judiciary and the public health role of a higher rate, but not one Jewish lawyer's name from Eger survived from this era. A lawyer who not only performed his professional activity, but contributed in other activities as well, greatly contributed to the social, economic and cultural life of the county. The county bar association leaders and members of the board were mostly Jews. Sandor SCHWARTZ (SETET), 1865-1925, was born in Eger and, in 1890, was awarded his legal degree, after which he opened his practice in Eger. The Eger theater was established in his memory and today is called the Géza Gárdonyi Theatre.

In 1895, of the total cultivated area of 607,621 cadastral yoke (1 cadastral yoke=1.421 acres), 14.76% was Jewish-owned or -cultivated. The Jewish landlords and tenants invested their commercially earned assets in agriculture, thus ensuring the backward flow of capital into agriculture and farm modernization. In the second half of the 1880s, after the catastrophic grape phylloxera plague destroyed vineyards, their reestablishment was funded by wealthy Jewish merchants, mostly from Gyöngyös, Eger and the surrounding main wine-growing regions. In 1909, on the county's largest wine-producer list, two Jewish names are mentioned: Dezso KANITZ and Gyula KANITZ.

In 1896, the local press regularly provided news about social events. According to the religious traditions and social values of the time, often the list of donors had many Jewish names. They donated considerable sums to many different charities. Among the city council members, the following Jewish names are listed: Mor BRENNER, Augustine BUCHER, Adolf FISCHER, Samuel FRIEDMANN, Samuel LICHTMANN, Mor MATEKOVICS, Hermann POLATSIK, Zsigmond ROTH, Moor STEINER, Dr. Soma SCHONBERGER, Adolph SCHWARCZ Jr., Dr. David SCHWARCZ, Sandor SCHWARCZ, Ignac WEISZ and Kalman GROSZ. In 1902, the administrative and financial department members were Mor MATEKOVICS, Mano RUZSIN and Dr. David SCHWARCZ. The city's legal section lists Sandor SETET (SCHWARTZ) and the health board lists Dr. Ambro BRÜNAUER, Dr. David SCHWARCZ and Dr. Kalman GROSZ. The industrial and commercial section lists Louis FISHER and Mor ALFOLDI.

In 1906, two banks were founded in Eger:
  • The Heves County Credit Bank Ltd. — The bank's CEO Geza KANITZ was another brother of Dezso KANITZ. Six of its ten board members were Jews including Dr. Alexander DARK, Dr. Ede ERNSZT and Gyula KANITZ. The supervisory board of four members, two legal advisors, the chief accountant and all the officers were Jewish.

  • The Hevesmegyei Népbank Co. (Heves County Peoples Bank) — The Executive Director was William FLEISCHMANN. Five of the seven board members and three of four members of the supervisory committee were Jewish, as well as the legal counsel and accountants.
In 1907, the chief medical officer of the city was Dr. Leopold SCHONFELD.

In Hungary, there are two types of secondary schools:
  1. "General" secondary schools: where academic subjects are taught; and
  2. "Real" secondary schools: where practical subjects are taught.
The General secondary school of Eger was funded by a monastic order which did not like teaching Jewish students, so when the Real secondary school was established, most of the Jewish students attended it. Dr. Henry CZIGLER was the doctor and teacher of hygiene in the real high school.

In 1909, the Jews of Eger were involved in and shared the sport successes in the newly created ETE - Egri Torna Egylet (Eger Gymnastics Club—a non-Jewish institution). In the early twenties, the Eger Sports Association was formed because the non-Jewish members seceded from the ETE and the ETE became exclusively a Jewish athletes club. Eger's swimmers were not yet prominent. Imre SZASZ, the Jewish ETE swimming coach, educated pupils who were heading for sports competitions. Ernest KLAUSZ was the first sprint swimmer. At this time, the ETE swimming team included Imre KLAUSZ, Eugene KORNSTEIN, Joseph KORNSTEIN, Eugene NICHOLAS, Imre SZASZ, Eugene REJTO, Paul REVIT, Nicholas SCHIFFER, Alexander UNGAR, Louis WOLLAK, Louis GRÜNZWEIG, László Koves, Andrew SETÉT and Emery Szego.

The demography of Jewish population in Heves county, according to the "schematizmus" (a directory of parishes and census published by the bishop each year), indicates the number of Jews in 1816 as 1,592; in 1851 as 6,879, and, in 1869 as 11,533. As one can see in the following table, Eger had the highest number of Jews living there in 1910 compared to Gyöngyös and those living elsewhere in the county. Later, due to the decline in economic opportunities and the resulting exodus, the Jewish population steadily declined in Eger district and city.

Census Numerical Trends

District or City Total Population Jewish Population
1880 1941 1840 1880 1910 1920 1930 1941
Eger District 38,845 52,005 240 1,058 752 614 639 487
Eger City 20,699 32,482 2,328 2,674 2,559 2,128 1,787
Gyöngyös 16,892 24,986 385 2,476 2,330 2,250 2,136 2,971
TOTAL 209,933 325,421 1,953 10,928 10,244 9,371 8,175 7,053

During World War I, many Jewish men enlisted and many died a heroic death, as was the case with the rest of the population. From the Jews of Eger, 30 people died and many were wounded or became prisoners of war, such as Alexander FLEISCHMANN, who was in Siberia until 1922, when he returned home.

After World War I, economic recovery was very slow. A book, "Gárdonyi's "Egri csillagok," was written in 1899 and it was hoped that this book would make the area a popular tourist attraction and help with the economic recovery. The book pointed out the tourist attraction of the Egri castle where archaeological excavation of the castle was resumed and it was hoped this would increase tourism to the area.

After World War I, the PRESZLER family contributed widely to the economy in Eger. Alexander PRESZLER (b. 1899 in Eger), who served in the 27th Artillery Regiment during World War I, was a vineyard owner. He graduated high school and then went on to complete the viticulture, horticulture and wine-making college in Germany. From 1918, he managed the family estate, comprised of 145 acres of grapes and around 7,000-8,000 fruit trees with his primary products being the production of wine. In 1931, for the quality of his wines, he won a number of honors. He also had a rum, liqueur and even a vinegar factory. Francis PRESZLER operated the alcohol distillery in Eger during the period 1884-1944. Martin PRESZLER operated the vinegar and liqueur company during the period 1921-1950. Zsigmond PRESZLER (b. 1863 in Eger), graduated from high school and then worked in his father's company. In 1901, he became the owner of the plant, which was established in 1856. The annual production of approximately 100 ton hecto liters. (1 hecto liter = 100 liters). The vinegar factories annually produced 900 ton hecto liters. The company participated in several exhibitions and, in 1902, earned a gold medal for its product.

In 1910, Miklos MEZEI was instrumental in establishing the Egri Vizilabda Klub (Water Polo Club of Eger), a program that continued in Eger until 1917. He had been hired from Miskolc, where he was born and established his reputation as a "top notch" swim coach. After his position in Eger, he continued to work with other Hungarian clubs as a swim coach. He died during a swim meet, sometime prior to 1936. The official Egri Vizilabda Klub webpage makes mention of Miklos's contribution between 1910 and 1917.

In 1920, a new era in sports started in the country and in Eger, too. Under the patronage of Gyula GOMBOS of the Hungarian National Defense Association, a sports association was established in Eger (abbreviated as MESE, in Hungarian). Non-Jewish swimmers, Aladar and Zoltan BITSKEY and Szigritz-Tarródy GÉZA, immediately come to mind because they became Hungarian champions and holders of multiple swimming records. The Egri Torna Egylet ( ETE - Gymnastics Club of Eger) became solely a Jewish Association. The members of MESE, with their subsidies and all, enjoyed exceptional privileges. The Jewish ETE leadership had to fight constantly for a chance to train its swimmers, making training and supplies nearly hopeless. The training schedule, despite these obstacles, steadily increased, albeit slowly. Thus, the following notable Jewish swimmers emerged: Alexander BIEBER, Stephen SCHIFFER, Laszlo KUNOVITS, Stephen SCHNEEWEISZ, Imre GRÜNZWEIG, Nicholas SZIGETI, Erno KARDOS and Laszlo KARDOS. After them came Andrew, Ivan and Tibor KLEIN and finally, George LAZAR.

In 1921, Tata held the first national rural swimming, diving and water polo tournaments in which ETE participated. Imre KLAUSZ deserves special mention because he swam the 100-meter backstroke in 1.26 minutes, the fastest time. On 23 October 1921, Imre KLAUSZ, during the attempt to remove the monarchy occurred, he was killed in Budaörs with the Ostenburg detachment. ETE finished in second place in water polo, second place in the 100-meter women's breaststroke (Donka NEMET) and diving (Imre SZASZ), while the 4 x 100-meter finished third in the medley relay. In 1922, at the second national championship, the KLAUSZ family again created a new sensation: the 100-meter backstroke—the "Imre KLAUSZ Memorial"—was won by Joseph KLAUSZ, which was a huge surprise, defeating the then already famous and favorite, Aladar BITSKEY. The ETE team came in second in water polo and diving (Imre SZASZ, again) and he was a participant in the 4 x l00-meter mixed relay race. In 1923, in Békéscsaba, the ETE water polo team defeated Orosháza 7-0. In 1924, again in Békéscsaba, Imre SZEGO placed second in the 100-meter backstroke. In 1925, in Kaposvar, ETE placed third in water polo, and Imre GRÜNZWEIG took second in diving. The other divers, Nicholas GRÜNZWEIG and Alexander UNGAR, led in the provincial level. Joseph KLAUSZ arrived in Budapest in 1924 and, for years, defended the ETE in the Magyár Torna Klub (MTK) (Hungarian Gymnastics Club), the most famous Hungarian Jewish sports club. The year 1929 was significant for ETE when Imre HELLER, a member of the Hungarian national swim team, became the national champion in the 200-meter breast stroke.

In 1923, Eger Viticulture Company's CEO, Bela LÖW, was a member of its supervisory board, along with the lawyers Ede ERNSZ and Gyula KANITZ. Gyula DANCZA, a wine merchant, settled in Eger in 1913 with his family. His ancestors were also wine merchants. In 1920, he opened his wholesale wine business in Eger which, from 1936, operated as a "Borforgalmi Pinceszet" (commercial wine cellar) and dealt with marketing choice wines from the area's estates.

Eger's Jewish merchants played a major part in shaping the economy and dealing with the public. In the county seat, until the beginning of World War II, the large capital-rich Jewish entrepreneurs found companies in the food, clothing and manufactured goods areas. Endre SZEKELY, a clothing dealer, held the leading role among competitors such as KARDOS and Son (carpet furnishings), Zoltan KRENN (glass and porcelain), HOFFMAN (iron and household goods), Simon FISCHER (vinegar factory), Adolf ENGLÄNDER (stationery and bookstore), ILLES (radio and technical), Aladar REINFELD (watchmaker), POLLAK and KATZ (textile merchants), Julius DANCZA (wine merchant), ISAAC (men's clothing), FISCHER (food store), GERO (baker), BLUMBERGER (bakery) and GROSS (paint stores). The city's food market had a separate area which was the meat market, where Jewish and Christian merchants offered their goods for the poorer customers' needs.

The inhabitants of the poorer sections of the city resided in the Hatvani, Maklári and Rac districts. A number of Jewish citizens operated businesses in this area where the owner had a close personal relationship with his customers. In these shops, one could find all basic foodstuffs, goods and more. In the suburbs, like regular guests, were vendors peddling their goods from door to door. Sometimes, the peddlers themselves became buyers.

In 1927, the bar association of Eger was presided by David ALFOLDI and which board members were Jakab KURCZ, Balint BRÜNAUER, Arthur SCHWARCZ and Bela ALFOLDI. Its members included Louis FISCHER, Joseph FISCHER, Joseph GROSZ, Andrew HEIMLER, Joseph HELLER, Zoltan HEVESI, Louis REISZ, Dezso ROTH, Arthur SCHWARCZ, Andrew SCHWARCZ, Dezso SCHWARCZ and Stephen SCHWARCZ.

In 1929, 400 Jewish families lived in Eger, of which, 340 paid community tax. The composition of the 340 Jews, by occupation, were one worker, two civil servants, three industrialists, three wholesalers, five contractors five engineers, seven teachers, 17 physicians, 18 lawyers, 24 officials, 25 farmers, 40 private citizens, 60 craftsmen, 80 merchants and 52 others.

According to the 1929 Jewish Lexicon of taxpayers, about 400 families (of which about 342 paid taxes), listed are: three wholesalers, 25 farmers, seven teachers, 80 merchants, 18 lawyers, two officials, one worker, three industrialists, 17 doctors, 24 civil servants, five employers, 60 craftsmen, five engineers, 40 self-employed and 52 other professions. The wholesalers, industrialists and professionals belonged to many of the local elite.

In the Eger community government, there were 33 Jewish Members, they being David ALFOLDI , Mor ALFOLDI, Nicholas BINET, Ambro BRÜNAUER, Dr. Balint BRÜNAUER, Zsigmond CSILLAG, Samu CZEIZLER, Karl DEUTSCH, Joseph EICHBRUNN, Joseph FISCHER, Gustav FLUCK, Soma GROSZ, Dr. Armin GRÜNBLATT, Dr. Ede HEIMLER, Joseph HELLER, Alfred KAUFMANN, Dezso KANITZ, Julius KANITZ Jr., Gyula KANITZ, Bela LÖW (bank manager), Mor MOSKOVITS, Jeno POLATSIK, Nicholas PRESZLER, Zsigmond PRESZLER, Adolf REINER, Nicholas REINER, Dr. Dezso SCHWARTZ, Joseph SCHWARTZ Jr., Soma SCHWARTZ, Sabdor SETET, Ignatz UNGAR, Zsigmond WEINBERGER and Ede WEISZ.

Of the county's largest taxpayers, in 1929, first on the list was Louis SZMERCSÁNYI, Archbishop of Eger, with a 175,505-pengo tax. Eugene POLATSIK (wholesaler) was twelfth with an 11,585-pengo tax and Dezso KANITZ (bank manager) was seventeenth with a 10,845-pengo tax.

In 1932, the chairman of ETE (now only a Jewish sports club) was Mor KOLOSY, its founding president and Victor KOZMA was the secretary. The board members were: Eugene SZABO, Armin PRESSLER, Franz STEINER, Elemer SZABO, Imre SZASZ and Joseph BENKO. It must be stressed that, in the 1920's, ETE played a very important role in Eger's Jewish life. It was the only place Jewish youth had for sports and an education, and under incredibly harsh conditions. The warm thermal pools, particularly Lake Bekes (Froggy), created a place in Eger for swimming teams to practice. To ETE, this sport brought the most success. In 1933, the ETE team was second in the water polo championships comprised of Stephen BIRO, Tibor KLEIN, Stephen SCHNEEWEISZ, Ignatius BIEBER, Gyula VADASZ, Ivan KLEIN and Imre NEMET. In the first league, Jewish teams were not permitted. Imre HELLER was the Hungarian breast-stroke champion. Nicholas WEBERMANN competed in the 800-meter freestyle in the 1937 youth championships. His brother, Gyuri WEBERMANN, finished second in the 100-meter breast-stroke. The 3 x 100-meter swimming team also placed second for ETE comprised of Nicholas WEBERMANN, Gyuri WEBERMANN and Tibor GERSTL.

During the period of the anti-Jewish laws, Jewish youth was banned from the tournaments. Secretly, they swam competitively and Stephen PRESZLER, Laci BOROS, Sugar BANDI, Gyuri STERN and Tomi HERCEG all swam with above-average results. Their coaches were Imre HELLER and his successor, Tibi KLEIN, who taught them tirelessly and inspired the young swimmers. The tennis section of ETE worked nicely as well. In Érsekkert, the great tennis courts were built next to the centuries-old sycamore tree. Here, the Jewish youth found a noble pastime. With respect to tennis, ETE member Imre NEMET gained a national reputation.

In the wrestling and boxing section, KOHN, FRIEDMAN, and DAVIDOVITS were responsible for many of ETE's victories. Its hard-working managers and coaches were Gyuszi FLEISCHER and Tibi KLEIN. ETE's large success was due to the efforts of Dr. Andrew SZASZ, the club's medical doctor and the lawyer Bela JONAS, the club's executive chairman. Finally, ETE would not have been able to have such great successes without the support of the Jews of Eger, whose financial contributions helped the athletes. Sadly, the vast majority of ETE's club members died in the Hungarian forced-labor battalions and in the Nazi concentration camps. After the Holocaust, only a few former ETE members survived, but most of them moved or emmigrated and without them, it was impossible to continue the work of ETE.

In 1934, a virilis list (largest taxpayers list) was published with the elected county committee members. Its 52 members included EGER (lawyer), Louis FISCHER, Henry FLEISCHMANN (Domoszlo resident landowner), Joseph HELLER (lawyer), Bela LÖW (bank manager) and Adolf REINER (timber merchant). In 1923, the "Eger Hevesvármegyei Compass" (a Heves county business directory) mentions Dr. William GUTTMANN, an Eger practitioner's name. The list also included the following Eger doctors: Dr. Ambro BRÜNAUER, Soma BAUER, Mor BALLA, Armin GRÜNBLATT, Miklos GUTTMANN, Dezso LICHTMANN, Alexander SCHWARTZ and Mrs. Paul KLEIN (midwife). In 1929, the number of practicing Jewish doctors were: three in Heves, three in Tiszafüred, seven in Hatvan, 15 in Gyongyos and 17 in Eger.

Prior to 1936, the Eger Traders Association (formed in the 1890's) had, as its president, Louis FISCHER. By 1936, the association had 180 members, "a nice library of members." After 1936, the president was Francis GROBER, the Christian iron monger, but the board members were all Jewish: Eugene POLATSIK, Armin PRESZLER, Andor SCHWARTZ, Eugene BALAZS (legal advisor), two secretaries: Bela GROSZ and Bela FISCHER, Isaac FRANZ , David Gardener (majordomo), John GÖTL (treasurer), Dr. Andrew NEUMANN (inspector), Julius HELLER (clerk) and Eugene KUNOVITS (librarian).

Rabbi Emil ROTH revolutionized the education of Eger's Jewish youth in a rather short period of time. He became the rabbi of the Jewish community in Gyor in 1936. Among Hungary's rabbis, he strongly promoted the tenets of Zionism and the learning of Hebrew. He was responsible for splitting Judiasm into three teneants: Orthodox, Reformed and Status Quo after the compromise in 1867. During the darkest moments of the Holocaust period, he behaved in an exemplary way. Even when the Gyor Zionist underground movement came to rescue him, he would not abandon his congregation. Before the deportation, on Saturday morning-because of his speech the night before about human dignity-he was beaten by the gendarmes in front of the scared and already doomed Jews of Gyor.

In 1937, Rabbi Zoltan RACZ, a graduate of the theological seminary, came to Eger from Enying to officiate at the Status Quo Ante congregation. In the most tragic of years, he stood at the head of the community and, when the disaster occurred, together with his followers, he was deported to Auschwitz (from which he survived). The community notary Samuel HALASZ and Alexander FISCHER witnessed it. The chief cantor's post—occupied by young QUARTIN and Henrik FISHER—was vacant for a long time. In 1925, Samuel BLASZ became the acting cantor. Others involved in Jewish community life, in other functions over the years, were N. LITTAUER, M. RITTERMANN, Mór KLAUSZ and Samuel WEISZ.

In the inter-war period, the community continued to flourish and Zionist activity intensified. The publication of the Hungarian racial laws of 1940 seriously undermined the economic position of the Jews. In 1942, Jewish males between18 and 42 years of age were drafted into the labor battalions and sent to the Russian front where most perished. The local bishop, Gyula CZAPIK, forbade parish priests from assisting extremist groups. Eight Jewish women were saved by working in the bishop's kitchen. On 8 June 1944, the Jews of Eger were deported to Auschwitz.

In World War II, the city suffered under the retreating German army and the arriving Soviet army, but it managed to escape major bombardment.

In November 1945, the Jewish community in Eger totaled about 150 souls, mostly the ex-forced labor unit members and some women. In April 1946, a memorial was inaugurated in the courtyard of the children's school, a touching ceremony to memorialize the children who were deported and murdered. After the speeches of Rabbi Johanan SCHREIBER, Dr. Gyula PRESZLER, Endre SZEKELY, Zoltan SUGAR and Rabbi Cholet POLLACK, the mourners recited the Kaddish (the mourner's prayer) for the perished children. All of Eger's churches and agencies were invited to attend theunveiling. Only a few representatives of the political parties attended. The Jews themselves have remained alone in their pain. In this once-noisy schoolyard, the monument is meant to indicate that once it was full of life with children running and playing during the school's recesses.

On 28 August 1949, a monument to the martyrs of Eger was inaugurated in the Eger cemetery. The memorial ceremony was attended by the city and Communist party representatives as well as the Catholic and Protestant church representatives. After Cantor Dezso WEISER's memorial song, Rabbi Jeno SCHUCK inaugurated the memorial, which was taken over by Endre SZEKELY on behalf of the Chevra Kadisha society.

In 1949, the Eger Status Quo Ante Jewish community numbered 294 and was chaired by Dr. Louis KRAJ and then Bela GROSZ (its congregation president). Stephen S CHWARCZ chaired the Orthodox Jewish community. At this time, the Status Quo Ante community had more than a hundred taxpayers as members. During the high holidays, approximately 70-80 men and 50 women prayed in the synagogue. At this time, the two religious communities totaled approximately 400 souls. Among them were many from the countryside. The "native" Jews of Eger started moving elsewhere before the war and that movement from Eger continued in the post-war years. Many people moved to the capital, Budapest, and even more people left Hungary. A large number of the youth became interested in the Zionist movement and immigrated to Israel. In 1950, Rabbi Johanan SCHREIBER moved to Jerusalem and thus began the decline of the Orthodox Jewish community in Eger. Sometime later, the two religious communities were united as ordered to by the Communist state.

The momentum of immigration was motivated by the 1956 Hungarian Revolution when there was an increase in anti-Semitic attacks and about 20,000 Jews emigrated from Hungary. The emigration of the more religious and the death of the elderly severely affected Eger's Jewish community life. Fewer people frequented the synagogue, even on the high holidays. In the late 1960's, the Status Quo Ante synagogue was demolished since it had not been used for prayer, and the Unicorn Hotel and Restaurant was built on the site.

In 2004, a memorial tablet was inaugurated on the wall of the Orthodox synagogue in Eger and at the railway station of Maklar. Every year, a Holocaust martyr memorial service is organized at the cemetery.

Today, Eger is a prosperous city and popular tourist destination, with a charming Baroque town center, historic sights and thermal baths. Eger has a population of over 56,000 inhabitants (2005). The postwar Jewish community in Eger numbered about 300, in 1959, but only about 20 Jews live there today (2010), mostly the very elderly.

~ Epilogue ~

The Jewish community of Eger cannot be isolated from the other Jewish communities of Hungary. Prosperity and destruction occurred at the same time and under the same circumstances in all the country's Jewish communities. However, Jewish life in Eger differed in detail from the life of all other Jewish communities. Their mental development was not only affected by the synagogue and the school, but by the Castle of Eger, the Bükk and the Mátra Mountains. Their educators were not only the rabbis and teachers, but the whole social environment of Eger. The Jewish community boosted industry and trade in the small town which had just shaken off the economic shackles of feudalism. It established viticultures (wine grape-growing regions) among the people who cultivated an agricultural economy for centuries. It created and maintained strong religious, cultural and social institutions in the community, throughout the years. The Jewish community had lived and flourished in peaceful coexistence in Eger. What our ancestors created within this short period is wonderful.

Source (portions):
Egri zsidó polgárok - A history of the Jews of Eger, Hungary, before and during the Holocaust
Copyright ©2004 by Ágnes (née SZEGÕ) ORBÁN, Ph.D.

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, (2001), p. 355.

Wikipedia: Eger, Hungary

Yiskor Book of Eger

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Created by: Marshall J. KATZ, USA
Compiled by: Ágnes (née SZEGÕ) ORBÁN, Ph.D., Hungary
with assistance from
Imre BREZNAY, Hungary
Imre CSERÉPFALVI's autobiographical book
Eszterházy Károly Tanárképzõ Fõiskola, Eger
Dr. Sándor FORGÓ, Eger
Zsigmond GONDA, Eger
László HABIS, Eger
Agnes HAMORI, Eger
Heves County Archive
Hungarian Banknote Catalogue
Jewish Archive, Budapest, Hungary
Jews of Eger Yiskor Book, Israel
JW Player
Károly VÁNDOR, Hungary
Eugene KATZ, USA
Katalin KISZÁLY, Eger
Péter KÓCZIAN, Hungary
Jozsef LAIC, Hungary
János NOVÁKI, Hungary
Magda SÁNDOR, Hungary
Ari TESLER, Belgium
Wikipedia: Eger, Hungary
Wikipedia: Erlau (Hasidic dynasty)
Wikipedia HU
You Tube
Amos Israel ZEZMER, France
and the following
JewishGen members/descendants
contributors of Eger Jewish families:

Larry BARCZA, Canada
Miklos (Nicholas) BARCZA, Canada
Péter BREUER, Hungary
Rózsa (née BRÜLL) BREUER, Hungary
Judit BÜRG, Hungary
Pál DANCZ, Hungary
András EBERGÉNYI, Hungary
Mrs. Valeria FISCHER, Hungary
Ibolya (née FLEISCHMANN) FISHER, Hungary
Janos GARDONYI, Canada
Anna (née LÖW) KLEIN, USA
Avraham KLEIN, Israel
Imre NOVÁK, Israel
Ágnes (née SZEGÕ) ORBÁN, Ph.D., Hungary
Miklós ORBÁN, Hungary
Patrick ROSENFELD, France
Magda SÁNDOR, Hungary
Péter SÁNDOR, Hungary
Endre SZÉKELY, Hungary
Gábor SZÉKELY, Hungary
Károly SZELÉNYI, Hungary
Dr. László TARDOS, Hungary
Gábor VÁRHEGYI, Hungary
Anikó VÉRTES, Hungary
Edit (née NAGY) WIDDER, Hungary

Updated: June 2020

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