Jewish Mementos in Vas Comitatus


Most of the Jews that came to the Vas comitatus from Moravia and Lower Austria in the 17th century settled on the estate of the Batthyánys. The holy burial society, Chevra Kadisha, in Körmend was already founded in 1705. This proves that there had been Jews permanently living there. The Jewish censuses of 1735 count more than 7 families, 28 people. By 1768 their number had doubled. The Jewish community which had been founded as a branch of the Rohonc community had developed its own institutions up to the end of the 18th century. Apart from their cemetery we also know of the school and their prayer house, both often were in the same building. The traveling Jewish merchants played an important role in the large estate. They mainly traded raw leather. The landlord leased the inn and the store. After the congress of 1868-69 the community separated and the Körmend Jews followed the neological groupings which had adapted the congressional reforms. Up to World War I the Jews played a vital role in the civic transformation of the city. The still young Körmend economy developed in line with the features of the area. The steam mill Frim the cement factory Deutsch and the brick factory Rechnitzer were strong representatives of the local industry. But most business was conducted by independent merchants or artisans. There was also a fairly high number doctors, lawyers and pharmacists. They held the top positions with insurance companies and banks. The viril registries which recorded those citizens paying the highest taxes also proved the economic impact of the Jews. During these years the first worldly scientists emerged: Antal and Jakob Frimm were remedial teachers, Ede Géber was dermatologist, the first university professor of Jewish origin: Ervin Körmendi Frimm, painter, his brother Jenő, a sculptor, József Nagy, ethnographer and educator, Lipót Nemes, remedial teacher and pioneer in child welfare, Lajos Rózsa, opera singer.

The remedial teacher Jakab Frimm was born in 1852. He first studied to become a teacher but after receiving his diploma he went abroad for an educational trip. Coming back he used his experiences to found the first “Hungarian Institute for Idiot Education and Care” in 1877 in Rákospalota, it was later moved to Buda. The institute was taken over by the state in 1890 but Frimm stayed director there until his death.

Lipót Nemes (Neu) was born in Körmend in 1886. He taught in the poor neighborhood of Angyalföld and then became a teacher at a secondary school. He was secretary of the Hungarian Society for Child Education, director of the Office for Child Welfare and the school, secretary general of the Congress for Child Welfare and worked for "Gyermek" (the child) magazine. His main educational work: A kültelki gyermek élete és jövője (Life and future of children in rural areas), Pedagógiai és gyermektanulmányi szempontok gyermekvédelmi
rendsze-rünkben (Aspects of educational theory and child education in our child welfare system). His diary was published with the title "A gyermekmentés útjai" (Ways of saving children).

The synagogue from 1865 was altered in 1888 and inaugurated in December. During World War II it was used as a military depot and then burned in March 1944.
Its former location on Dienes Lajos Street is now commemorated with a memorial plaque.

According to the last census conducted before the war the Jewish community of Körmend counted 320 people, 117 of which were taxpayers. 20-30 of them might have survived the war, the community dispersed, nowadays there are no more Jews living in Körmend. On June 20, 2004 a piece by the ceramics artist Ildikó Polgár was put up on Széchenyi Street to mark the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust. It commemorates the Jewish victims of Körmend.

by Johannes Scholem Graf & Alexandra Vogt