Jewish Mementos in Vas Comitatus


The history of the Köszeg Jews begins in the 14th century when Miklós and János Gara in 1393 received permission by the King Zsigmon (Siegmund) to let Jews from abroad stay in their city. Scattered data from the archives shows that although there were not many of them their settlement was permanent. From the middle of the 19th century on there was a significant increase. In 1852 the mother community and the Chevra Kadisha were founded and the city offered property for a cemetery free of charge.

An extraordinary Character of the Jewish community at that time was Fülöp (Philip) Schey. The family which originated in Moravia lived on the land of the Esterházys in Lakompak (Lackenbach). Israel Schey, his son Mózes and his five children settled in Köszeg in 1785-86.

Fülöp Schey (born 1798 in Köszeg - 1881)

The third son of Mózes Schey was an independent merchant from 1823 on, he had business relations with the Westtransdanubial landlords Battyány, Esterházy and Erdödy. He worked together with his nephew Frigyes Schey who settled in Vienna in the 1830s. Fülöps too started to direct more and more of his work towards Vienna, but never left Köszeg. In 1844 he was a founding member of the Köszeg mutual savings bank, from 1846-68 he was vice president, from 1870-74 he was its president. He was also active in the Köszeg cloth and wool trading association. He increased his fortune as financer of the Habsburg court. He became the personal banker of the head regent, duke Albrecht. 1859 he and Frigyes were awarded Austrian aristocratic title of “koromlai”, in 1863 the magisterial title, and in 1869 the title of baron. He was also committed to social welfare within and outside of the congregation. In memory of his father he built a morgue at the Jewish cemetery, a synagogue with a school and a ritual bath. The synagogue was inaugurated in 1859. The Albertinum, a house for the poor, which he had built for 13.000 Forint on appointment of archduke Albrecht took up work the same year. It had living units consisting of a room, an anteroom and a kitchen for up to 15 people which were given out to persons of all confessions. He lived in Baden by Vienna and stayed there until his death. He contributed a considerable sum to the construction of a railway from Györ to Graz going through Köszeg. He also supported the kindergarten association under the condition that children were admitted regardless of their confession. He died 1881 in Baden. In his will Fülöp Schey includes donations to the Budapest rabbi school, the Vienna Israelite almshouse and the Nagymorton Jeshiva. He also provided for the Köszeg synagogue and its rabbi.

Fülöp Schey had the synagogue built in “Sziget”, a town on the outskirts of the comitatus. Construction started in 1858, in 1859 the synagogue was inaugurated. On the side of the street front there were two buildings, the Mikwe to the right, behind that the rabbi quarters, the classroom to the left and the teacher’s apartment behind it. The synagogue is on the inside of the property. The building’s many pieces rise around an elliptical center, it has a comlicated floor plan. The diameter of the inner room is 13,60 in East West direction together with the Apsis, in North South direction it measures 12,80. The stairs to the women’s gallery were on the left hand side of the ante hall. On the inner wall of the building there is a plaque commemorating the foundation of the synagogue in Hebrew and Hungarian. Among the righ, baroque painted patterns on the inside of the dome it reads: “Built in honor of the lord by Philip Schey of Koromla”. Today the synagogue and the two side buildings are in private hands. It is completely empty now.

The Jewish community joined the congressional branch and belonged to the VIII. community district. The community grew continuously, peaking in 1910, it then had 166 members. According to the last census the Köszeg community counted 95 people in 1944. The ghetto was located in the house of Artúr Deutsch on Schey Fülöp Street no. 8. 30 people from the Írottkö District were brought here. The house and yard were closed off and a 2 meter high fence had to be built in front of the facade on Schey Fülöp Street. The Jews were brought to the ghetto on June 11, on June 18 they had to walk to the train station from where they were taken to Szombatheley. Together with the inhabitants of the Szombathely ghetto they were deported to Auschwitz.

Köszeg was the gathering point for the forced laborers in the area, the headquartes of the commanders and the substitute contingent of the III. Honvéd Közérdekű Munkaszolgálatos Zászlóalj (defense battalion of forced laborers in interest of the public) were located here. The forced laborers lived in the casern, the wooden barracks of the Hungarian railway company and in the barracks in the Hámori Woods.

On December 3, 1944 around 8000 forced laborers arrived in Köszeg for entranchement works. They were put up in the municipal brick factory, the Czeke brick factory, the beer company and the Gulner mills. The dead were buried next to the stone wall of the Jewish cemetery and in the mass grave on Guba Hill. The laborers’ camps were emptied between March 22-25, 1945. A group of ill and immobile persons was locked into a shed on the property of the brick factory and gased. Around 2500 victims from the Köszeg camp were exhumed in 1947 and brought to Budapest where they were buried in the Rákoskeresztúr cemetery.

On July 10, 1949 a memorial for the Jews that died in forced labor and during the deportations was put up at the cemetery. In 1985 a park and a memorial were erected on the property of the former brick factory. A small plaque indicated in which of the three sheds the gasing had taken place.

by Johannes Scholem Graf & Alexandra Vogt