Jewish Mementos in Vas Comitatus

History of the Jews in the Vas Comitatus

Text: Balázs Edit
Photos: Lukács Erzsébet, Kovács László

After the Roman settlements (Savaria, Körmend) we only know of Jewish settlement in Vsasvár in the 13th century through the loan issue concerning a Jew named Farkas as well as through the Jewish cemetery. In Körmend too, there is a court case, "judei de Curmend" (Körmend Jews), mentioned around 1300. The Jews settling on royal territory or on the property of the comitatus trustee were from Styria or Carinthia.
After the Turks were driven away the population of the Vas comitatus slowly increased, partly due to the settlement of Hungarians, but mostly due to settlement of foreign nationals, especially Germans.
According to West-Transdanubial census there were 179 Jewish families living in the Vas comitatus in 1725, 152 of them in Rohonc (Rechnitz), 15 in Szalónak (Schlaining), 7 in Németújvár (Güssing), 3 in Muraszombat (Murska Sobota) and 2 in Szentgotthárd. They had probably come from Lower Austria, Leopold I. had banished the Jews from Lower Austria and Vienna in 1670-71. There was also significant immigration after 1726, when Karl III. placed marriage restrictions on all Jewish families in Mähren, meaning that only one son per family was allowed to get married.

The censuses show that the Jewish families were spread all over the comitatus and that their number increased (1783: 402 patriarchs, 1835: 760). They generally tended to trade, vending in markets and solicitation. Even though some of them were better off, they mostly lived in very poor conditions and paid high taxes (e.g. the monetary tax to the state or under certain legal titles to the comitatus or the landlords).
Jews settled on the land of the Batthyány, in Szombathely and also other market cities and managed to develop communities, some of them rather small, others larger. With the general assembly the majority of the Jewish communities followed the orientation of the congress, they formed the VIII. congressional municipal district, its administrative center was Szombathely. To the municipal district belonged the neological Jewish communities of Celldömölk, Körmend, Kőszeg, Muraszombat, Németújvár, Rohonc, Sárvár, Szentgotthárd, Szombathely, Városszalónak and Vasvár. The communities of Simonyi and Jánosháza were orthodox, in Sárvár there was an orthodox as well as a neological community, the former however was the more important one. The only functioning status quo community of the comitatus was that of Rábahídvég. During the turn of the 19th and the 20th century there were 12 elementary schools with 20 teachers in the 10 of the 16 Jewish communities (Sárvár and Szombathely each had two schools).

Before World War II there were 14 synagogues, 8 prayer houses and 7 prayer rooms operating in the comitatus. Nowadays only one prayer hall in Szombathely is in use. Fortunately, the image of the lost synagogues (some destroyed, some burnt) is preserved on a postcard, a private photograph and maybe in some publication. The buildings that survived now serve other purposes or are vacant.


Bernstein Béla A zsidók története Vas megyében In: Bernstein Emlékkönyv szerk. Mózer Ibolya (Partes Populorum Minores Alienigenae) Szombathely 1998/4. 25-213.
Braham,Randolf,L.: A magyarországi holokauszt földrajzi enciklopédiája Bp. 1250-1249.
A vasi zsidók. Emlékére a mártirhalált szenvedett vasmegyei zsidóságnak Tel Aviv 1974.
Balázs Edit - Katona Attila (szerk.): "Baljós a menny felettem" Vallomások a szombathelyi zsidóságról és a soáról Szombathely 2001.
Katona Attila: A zsidókérdés közigazgatási megoldása Szombathelyen In: " Baljós a menny felettem" Vallomások a szombathelyi zsidóságról és a soáról szerk. Balázs Edit-Katona Attila Szombathely 2001.241-275.
Balázs Edit - Katona Attila: "…Zsidónak maradni és magyarnak lenni…" Mozaikok a szombathelyi zsidóság történetéből Szombathely 2004.
Szántóné Dr. Balázs Edit: A körmendi zsidóság és hitközségének rövid története In:A körmendi egyházközségek és hitközség története szerk. Vizi László Körmend 1993. (Körmendi füzetek) 481-569.
Balázs Edit: A szombathelyi izraelita elemi népiskola In: Gyerekek a történelemben szerk. Mózer Ibolya (Partes Populorum Minores Alianigenae) Szombathely 2003/8. 137-154.
Balázs Edit: A zsidó jótékonyság és intézményei Vas megyében a második világháborúig In. Fogyatékosok a történelemben szerk. Mózer Ibolya (Partes Populorum Minores Alianigenae) Szombathely 2006/ 10. 153-172.
Gál József: Bárdos Alice; Szombathely 2003.
Balázs Edit: "…A jó zsidó egyúttal jó hazafi is…" Dr. Bernstein Béla rabbi In: Életünk 2006 7-8. sz.111-117. Katona Attila:"…légy erős, mi azok vagyunk" Levelek a szombathelyi gettóból In: Életünk 2006 7-8. sz.122-133.

by Johannes Scholem Graf & Alexandra Vogt