“The Sárospatak congregation was an organized, vibrant community with a happy Jewish life. Is it possible that all this happened in another planet? All of this was engulfed in flame, together with the cute children, the pretty girls, the worrying and working parents, the charming traditions of the Holy days, the melodies of the prayers and the voices of the babies from the Synagogue’s courtyard. In my dreams I see and hear you – Father, Mother, Uncles and Aunts, girls we loved secretly, teachers and tutors, friend and girlfriends and all of you, the blessed Sárospatak community.”
Abraham Andi Goldstein
Bat-Yam, Israel, June 2000
Jewish Synogogue in Sárospatak Artist: Elek Gyori
In the 1780s, a Jewish congregation already was active in Sárospatak, a well-known educational center and the seat of Sárospatak District.
During the split of the Jewish communities in Hungary, Sárospatak defined itself as Orthodox. A Women’s Association, which was established in 1880, was concerned with welfare.
Although the congregation was primarily Orthodox, and the Hasidic Jews had their own synagogue, the unity of the community was maintained. The language of instruction in the Jewish elementary school was Hungarian. A school was established in 1885, and the language of instruction was Hungarian. A Talmud Torah and Yeshiva were established there. In 1930 the Yeshiva had 25 students, and the Talmud Torah had 50.
The majority of Sárospatak Jews made their living through trade, a minority were artisans, and the rest made their living in agriculture or through professions. In 1930 there were 90 merchants, 17 artisans, 6 farmers, 4 teachers, 3 physicians, and four lawyers.
According to reports from the 1920s, the spirit of 1848 under which “Jews and Christians lived side by side” prevailed. There is a legend that the Jews prevented the destruction of the town in 1848. It was said that when the Russian soldiers entered the town, the Protestant students of the Seminary threw stones at them. In reaction, the Russians aimed their cannons at the town. But the notables of the Jewish community went to appease the Russian commander, and indeed he was placated.
Street scene,Sárospatak, Hungary, 1920s
Street scene,Sárospatak, Hungary, 1920s
World War II and the Holocaust
In 1938 the Jews of Sárospatak suffered from non-stop inspections of their documents. Four families, who didn’t have enough time to prove their Hungarian citizenship before a certain date, were expelled over the border and murdered by Ukrainians. Close to the High Holy days of that year, many wealthy members of the community were arrested, including community leaders. They were marched through the city streets like prisoners, arrested, and placed in a concentration camp. In 1940 the Jews could not sell wine, tobacco, et cetera, or own a radio without a special license.
Sárospatak, Hungary, 1940, Jews in a work battalion of the Hungarian army.
Sárospatak, Hungary, 1940, Distribution of soup to forced laborers.
According to the census of 1941, Sárospatak had a total population of 13,213, of whom 1,036 were Jews. Sárospatak District during that same year had a total population of 35,442, of whom 1,668 were Jews
In 1940 several thousand labor servicemen were deployed in Sárospatak, where they worked at the local airport. At the beginning, their working and living conditions were quite tolerable, especially because their relatives were allowed to visit them. With the assignment of additional companies, however, conditions worsened. After Hungary joined Nazi Germany in the war against the Soviet Union in late June 1941, most of the labor servicemen were sent to the Eastern Front in the Ukraine.
The many orders and decrees issued for the implementation of the anti-Jewish laws deprived the Jews of their livelihood and dignity. Their situation became far worse after the German occupation of Hungary began, on March 19, 1944. The Jews of Sárospatak were rounded up on April 16, 1944, and were concentrated first in the Jewish school building.
The wealthy members of the Jewish community were tortured there in order to find out where their valuables were hidden. The belongings of the Jews were collected in the synagogue and were soon looted, along with the furnishings of the synagogue. Then they were crammed into cattle cars and taken to the ghetto of Sátoraljaújhely, a place notorious for its terrible conditions.
The leaders of the congregation did their best to help their fellow Jews despite the meager resources at their disposal and even maintained a soup kitchen while the ghetto was in existence. From there they were taken to Auschwitz in four transports which left Hungary between May 15, and June 2.
Synagogue, Sárospatak, Hungary, 1920s
After the War
After the war, less than 200 survivors returned. They attempted to reorganize the community, but their number declined because of emigration, mostly to Israel. In 1949, Sárospatak had a Jewish population of 162. Today, there are no original families left.
The text of this article is summarized primarily from The Geographical Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary published by Northwestern University Press in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies.
Also see Sárospatak Victims’ Scroll of Names for names of those who perished in the Holocaust.
Jewish Population of Sárospatak
|Year||Number||% of Total|
Sárospatak total population in 1941 was 13,213.
Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) 2016
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah as it’s known in Hebrew. This day commemorates and honors the victims and survivors and heroes of the Holocaust. Growing up all I knew was that many Hungarian relatives had died. 70% of the Jewish population of Hungary were murdered. No one talked much about it.
I knew the significance of the numbers tattooed on the arms of many of the workers in my grandfather’s clothing factory. As I got older I learned of the horrors of the Holocaust. It was not until 2007 that I learned that I had living relatives in Hungary! This was after Amethyst and visited the town where my grandfather had been born – Sárospatak.
To remember the relatives I have never met, to honor those relatives who survived and to thank the heroes of many kinds who helped save lives I have updated my website page on Sárospatak.
Let us remember the 6 million Jews and the hundreds of thousands of Roma, disabled, gay and other martyrs killed in the Holocaust as well as the total of 60 million who died during World War II – civilians and military.
And today, let us remember how hate of those who are different can lead to terrible tragedy, especially when combined with the power of a vast military machine. Let’s also consider this as we choose our leaders this year.
Sander Feinberg May 4, 2016