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Bardejov

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Bardejov

Bardejov.jpg

Basic Information

Location Bardejov, Presov in Slovakia
Country Slovakia
City Bardejov

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility yes
Geographical Coordinates 49.29468,21.27644

General

Bardejov is a town in North-Eastern Slovakia. It is situated in the Saris region on a floodplain terrace of the Topia River, in the hills of the Beskyd Mountains. It exhibits numerous cultural monuments in its completely intact medieval town center. The town is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites and currently maintains a populations of about 30,000 inhabitants.

History

Jewish Presence in Bardejov:

Like many European small towns, Bardejov maintained a strong Jewish population before World War II and the Holocaust.

The presence of Jews in Bardejov dates from the early Middle Ages. Expelled from Bardejov in 1631, Jews from Galicia resettled there in the mid-18th century. These descendants of the Galician Hasidic dynasty founded by Rabbi Chaim Halberstam lived northeast of the marketplace and worked initially as farmers in nearby villages. By 1806 they began to establish community buildings. Eventually they built a thriving, self-contained complex north of the town center, which was planned according to Talmudic regulation and included a large synagogue (consecrated in 1830), a congregational building, a slaughterhouse, and a ritual bath.

In 1869 some restrictions against the Jews were lifted and the Jewish population grew to 1,011 (out of a total population of 5,307). Most were store owners, businessmen, and artisans. The Jewish community contributed to the overall economy of the town and to its distinguished printing history.

By 1900, Bardejov’s Jews had established a Hebrew printing press, becoming one of the last centers of Hebrew printing to be established in Europe before the Holocaust. From 1900 to 1938, two Hebrew presses at Bardejov printed over 100 volumes. Nearly all were Rabbinic or Hasidic texts, reflecting the town’s cultural and religious distinction as the seat of one branch of the Halberstam Hasidic dynasty. By 1919, the Jewish population in Bardejov had reached 2,119, with 40 settlements surrounding the Jewish quarter and united under the local rabbinate. Although by the 1940's Jewish children attended public schools and there were a large number of Jewish municipal council members, most of Bardejov’s Jews maintained an Orthodox way of life, praying in numerous synagogues established in the town.

By 1940, many of the town’s 2,441 Jews had been pushed out of their businesses by the Slovakian state; 200 were sent to labor camps. As World War II escalated, refugees arrived from nearby Polish ghettos. On April 18, 1942, approximately 400 Jews in Bardejov were deported to Auschwitz via Zilina. Jews from the surrounding areas were brought to Bardejov. From May 15 to May 24, they were taken with Bardejov Jews to Lublin. Of the 3,280 Jews deported from the region in 1942, 2,100 were from Bardejov. Although the lives of a few hundred Jews were spared to become workers, many of them were killed or exiled in 1944.

After liberation by the Soviet army in January 1945, seven Jews emerged from their hiding place in a wine cellar of a store in the main square and some returned from the Polish forests. The town became a center for refugees and for immigration to Palestine. By 1949, Bardejov’s Jews had re-established a small community of 200. After more than two hundred and sixty years of continuous Jewish presence in Bardejov, there are no Jews living in the town.

In March 2006, the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee was founded as a non-profit organization by Emil Fish, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp who was born in Bardejov. In July 2005, Mr. Fish returned to Bardejov with his wife and son for the first time since 1949. His response to the disrepair and dilapidation of the synagogues and the Jewish cemetery was a resolve to restore and preserve these properties. The committee is composed of Bardejov survivors, their descendants and friends, and others interested in commemorating the vanishing Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. Today, the committee's stated mission is to: "restore the Jewish properties of Bardejov, Slovakia"; "build awareness of the cultural and historical significance of Jewish life in Bardejov and Slovakia"; and "advance knowledge of Jewish ancestry and heritage."

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