Jewish Mementos in Vas Comitatus

Szombathely Part 4

The wealthy members of the Jewish community were honorable citizens, often paid the highest taxes, and had political influence. The dynamic development of the city is unimaginable without the Deutsch, Geist and Stadler families. The houses, merchants’ shops and entrepreneurs shaped the face of the city in formation.

The Geist family

The family came to Szombathely in 1850. Lajos Geist (born 1842 in Felsőoszkó, died 1913 in Abbazia) founded an agricultural, trade and business enterprise which boomed in Szombathely and the comitatus, in 1885 he built a lumber yard and steam driven sawing mill. The family also founded the first steam bath house of the city. The modern bath (steam bath and electricity) was an important institution for the public health sector. The building on Malom Street has been torn down. He owned and leased property in Szombathely and the Pinka Valley, he also had several residences is Szombathely. In 1913 the king awarded him a Hungarian title of nobility, the "szergényi", for his achievements in public and economic domains. Between 1898 and 1913 he was head of the congressional community. In 1898 he was also elected head of the VII Israelite district. From 1877 on he was a member of the Szombathely city council, the commission for finance and the commission for agriculture and nutrition.

Jenő Geist (1872-1944) was landowner, Hungarian royal head councilor and member of the Association of Szombathely Merchants, as well as owner of the laborer’s health insurance company. He was also a member of the city council. From 1922 on he was elected head of the city council and stayed in this position until 1929. As head of the council he tried to aid the development of the Jewish community, he planned the enlargement of the Jewish neighborhood and bought property for this purpose.

The Stadler Family

The merchant Izsák Stadler came from Nikolsburg in Mähren to Szent Márton, in the 1840s he moved to Szombathely. His sons, Salamon and Károly, worked in a shared company at first (Izsák Stadler's sons), later they each did independent trade. Károly was merchant of dry goods, Salamon traded in dry goods and fashion. With the separation in the Jewish community they joined the orthodox Jews. Károly Stadler was treasurer from 1894-96 and from 1896-99 head of the Jewish community. He opposed any kind of reform. Following the calling of his religion he was very charitable and also founded welfare institutions. He established a school and prayer room in his house on Belsikátor No 2 (the house no longer exists), in Jerusalem he built a prayer house and free accommodation.

Between the two world wars the Jewish lawyers, doctors, carpenters, merchants and artists of Szombathely belonged to the intellectual and economic elite of the city.

Dr. Ernő Heimler

was born on February 18, 1879 in the Vát community which lies in the comitatus of Vas. His father was an orthodox Jew, a rural innkeeper. He spent his childhood in Vát and probably started his schooling at the Jewish elementary school in Szombathely. He studied law at the university and partly financed his studies through tutoring fellow students. Due to his financial situation he could not live in Budapest permanently, but traveled to the city for exams. He came in contact with the young workers’ and socialist movements and under their influence later became attorney of the Social Democrats and the workers. In 1906 the Szombathely Socialist Party elected him to be the labor union attorney and Heimler offered them free council. In the 1910s he already was very close to the workers’ movement and he often made himself heard in the name of workers, employees in trade and in matters concerning urban development.
His role in the Soviet Republic made it difficult for him to return to his old profession. He became active in the newly founded Social Democrat Party. In 1935 he was elected member of the legislative assembly of the comitatus, the first time a member of MSZDP (Hungarian Social Democratic Party) had been elected was in 1919.
The Social Democrat Heimler, attorney of the poor, the orthodox Jew helped with the establishment of the Szombathely Zionist Organization. To him Zionism was the only possible answer to the solve the Jewish Question. A few days into the German occupation he was arrested by Gestapo detectives and deported.

Jenő Heimler

(born 1922 in Szombathely - died. 1990 in London)

After the Jewish elementary school he graduated from the Jewish high school in Budapest. Since he could not go on to study he started an apprenticeship as photographer. With 17 his first compilation of poetry titled “Örök hajnal” (Eternal Morning) was published, and Zseni Várnai recommended it to his readers. His poems and prose earned him appearances at literary events by the Szombathely Jewish community. His second volume, "Vallomás a szóhoz" (Explanation of the Word) was published with the support of the Israelite Hungarian Literary Community. After the war, in 1946, the talented young poet published only one book: "Napfogyatkozás után" (After the Solar Eclipse)

Completely orphaned, Heimler tried to hide in a mental asylum after his father was deported. The then fled to the Szombathely Ghetto where the orthodox community’s Dajan, rabbi Gestetner, married him to his bride. He was deported to Auschwitz, then Buchenwald and, making use of the outbreak of a fire, fled. But as he had no place to go, he voluntarily returned. In Buchenwald he worked in a plant, then in the kitchen. When the American troops drew closer he was forced to go the Czechoslovakia where he stayed until the end of the war. 1959 in London he commemorates this decisive year of his life in his book “Night of the mist”. Jenő Heimler started all over. He took up studies at the university in Budapest which he then continued in England in 1946, in 1947 he left Hungary for good. 1950 he earned a degree in labor union studies the London School of Economics. 1951-53 he was a social worker in counseling. 1953-65 he was responsible for the social welfare of the Middlessex district council. He did studies on long term unemployment (Hendon Experiment). In 1964 the WHO summoned him to Geneva and then sent him to the United States as an expert for public welfare.
In 1965 he was transferred to Hounslow in London as part of the so-called Hounslow Project which examined primary prevention of social marginalization and worked on development and application of an adequate scale to measure the social impact of such marginalization, this scale has become known as the Heimler Scale. He has become a guest lecturer at the universities of Washington, Seattle and Saskatoon, in 1970 he was appointed professor of Sociology at the University of Calgary.

(to Jewish Szombathely Part 5)

by Johannes Scholem Graf & Alexandra Vogt