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The Holocaust and the Christian society of Dunaszerdahely

(Dunajska Streda)

Sources
Although the attitude of the Christian churches to the Holocaust has already been the
topic of several publications, they mainly focused on the approach of ecclesiastical
leaders to the anti-Jewish laws. We, however, know next to nothing about how the
Catholic, Reformed, etc. churches and the relevant communities related to the fate of
the Jewry. It is true for Dunaszerdahely as well, where the topic of the Holocaust has
not been properly studied not to mention its relationship to the Christian population
and church, because not one paper has been written on the topic so far.
In the present circumstances, finding and revealing the potential sources had to
become one of the main goals of this paper. In an ideal world, archives provide the
most important sources, but that could not be our case for several reasons. A major
reason is the inaccessibility of the Archbishop’s Archives at Nagyszombat (Trnava).
That most important institution of retaining the ecclesiastical documents of Slovakia
has not been opened to external researchers, furthermore, the operator of the
Archives refuses to provide information on what kind of documents can be found
there.1
Since the parish of Dunaszerdahely had been part of the Hungarian church
organisation from 1938 to 1945, part of the archive sources can be found at the
Primate’s Archives at Esztergom. Still, the Ecclesiastical Archives mainly include
documents relating to the organisational issues of the parish of Dunaszerdahely but
there are no sources to reveal the relationship of the church and its leaders to the
Jewish issue.
Certain fonds of the Slovak state archives are more useful sources than church
archives. With regard to the history of Dunaszerdahely, the deposit archives of the
Bratislava State Archives at Végsellye are a treasure trove of source material.
However, the sources to be found relating to the period from 1938 to 1945 are fairly
scarce as the majority of the documents held at the High Sheriff’s Office at
The Arcbishop’s Archives at Nagyszombat – contrary to other Slovak church archives – even lacks a
website of its own.
1

Dunaszerdahely2 have been totally destroyed following World War II. That deficiency
is only partly made up by the preserved archives of the Notary’s Office at
Dunaszerdahely,3 which also includes documents relating to the fate of the
Dunaszerdahely Jewry. Of other archives, one should mention certain fonds of the
Bratislava State Archives including fragments of the documents of the local
organisation of the Arrow Cross Party at Dunaszerdahely4 as being helpful.
The lack of archive sources could be made up for by the contemporary media if we
were lucky. However, it is not true, either, for Dunaszerdahely. Before the First
Vienna Award the town had had a rich and colourful local press, as four papers had
been published there. One of them had been a Slovak weekly (Žitný ostrov), another
a Jewish paper in German (Der Jüddische Herold) and two Hungarian weeklies. Most
of the editors of Csallóközi Lapok [csallóköz papers] of a longer history, which had
been published since the beginning of the century by the printing house of Joshua
Goldstein, had been members of the local Jewish community but the paper had
readers among all residents of the city, while Csallóközi Hírlap [csallóköz news] had
been a Christian paper promoting the ideas of the National Christian Socialist Party.
However, the publication of all four papers came to an end in autumn 1938, and the
publication of only Csallóközi Hírlap could be restarted from the beginning of 1939.
The paper, which had been published till summer 1944, however, failed to reflect that
almost half of the city population were of the Israelite confession, and hardly any
information can be found in it about the local Jewry.
In addition to Csallóközi Hírlap, the only useful regional publication was Komáromi
Lapok [komárom papers], the paper of Komárom County. Although it did deal with the
Jewish issue the paper following the official line focused almost exclusively on
Komárom – as it used to be the paper of the city of Komárom and the Komárom
district before 1938 – so the problems of Dunaszerdahely were hardly mentioned in
it.
The Új Élet [new life] was the only Catholic paper of national significance of the
recovered Upland. The paper, which had been closely connected to the Ottokár
Prohászka Circles – a progressive movement of Hungarian Catholic youth before
Štátny archív Bratislava pobočka Šaľa (hereinafter: ŠABA PŠ), Hlavnoslúžnovský úrad v Dunajskej
Strede, 1938 – 1944.
3 ŠABA PŠ, Notárský úrad Dunajská Streda (hereinafter: NÚ DS).
4 Štátny archív Bratislava (hereinafter: ŠABA), Arrow Cross Party, okresná organizácia Dunajská
Streda 1939.1945
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1938, preserved its free spirit after the First Vienna Award as well. The paper
published in Kassa (Kosice) until 1944, which among others dealt in detail with the
reintegration of the Hungarians living in the Upland and with the so termed “Upland
spirit”5, did not at all adopt the anti-Semitic style typical of the contemporary
Hungarian public tone. On the contrary, you could say the topic of Jews was
ostensively missing from the paper, so surveying it has achieved little from the
perspective of our topic.
In addition to the books and documents relating to the Holocaust and the relationship
of the church and the Holocaust, a city monograph on the history of Dunaszerdahely
published in 2012 was a useful help for our research.6

The position of the Jewry at Dunaszerdahely before the First Vienna Award

The establishment of the Jewish community at Dunaszerdahely can be traced back
to the beginning of the 18th century, when the first families settled at the market-town
of Szerdahely, the estate of the Pálffy family. The Jewish families migrating there
mainly from the western provinces of the Habsburg Empire received a 12-point
charter from János Pálffy in 1736 and the community started to develop fast after
that. In the first half of the 19th. century the four villages constituting the town today
(Szerdahely, Újfalu, Nemesszeg and Előtejed) held a community of 928 Israelites
side by side with 1709 Christian residents, and they were the majority at the markettown of Szerdahely. In 1910 44% of the town population were of the Israelite
confession7, so it was justly termed Kis-Palesztina [small palestine].
Dunaszerdahely had been part of the Republic of Czechoslovakia from early 1919,
whose democratic and liberal legal environment provided its Jewish residents with
legal security and protection from anti-Semitism. That was partly the reason why their
political dissimilation from the Hungarian population started (although not in cultural
terms, as they continued to speak Hungarian and were the consumers of Hungarian
culture). It was reflected, among others, in the fact that part of them voted for
5

On the „Upland spirit”, cf. Tamás Gusztáv Filep: On the „Upland spirit” and its afterlife”

(Approaches). Limes, 2007, issue 2, pp. 109–132.
6

Attila Nagy–Iván Nagy–Veronika Novák–Attila Simon–Barnabás Vajda: Dunaszerdahely.
Dunaszerdahely: The municipality of the city of Dunaszerdahely, 2012.
7 József Kepecs (ed.): A Felvidék településeinek vallási adatai I.[ecclesiastical figures of Upland
settlements] Budapest, CSO, 1999, p. 155.

Czechslovakian parties at contemporary parliamentary elections,8 and at
referendums the majority deemed themselves Jews and only the minority said they
were of Hungarian nationality.9
In the period in question the Jewish population of the town were not only holders of
all citizens’ rights but they also played an equal part in its cultural and economic life,
and had a role at every level of town governance. Residents of the Israelite
confession constituted 40-50% of the city assembly; they regularly provided the first
deputy of the city justice.

The fate of the Dunaszerdahely Jewry from 1938 to 1944
The First Vienna Award, which reannexed the city to Hungary, was a major turning
point in the life of the Dunaszerdahely Jewish community that triggered negative
emotions subsequently. The new regime dominated by authoritarian and
antidemocratic elements, in which anti-Semitic public speech was an everyday
phenomenon, had made it clear for local Jews right from the beginning that they
could not rely on the earlier liberal treatment.
The first apparent change was their exclusion from the city assembly; when the
District High Sheriff appointed the new assembly in spring 1939 (it was already a
major change that the assembly was appointed instead of being elected
democratically), neither the left wing nor the representatives of the local Jewry were
included in it.10 In fact, it was only the beginning of a process to push them out
completely first from the political and social and then from the economic life of the
city.
The operation of the so termed transfer committees started in spring 1939, which
were to review the national loyalty of the state employees of the recovered territories,
fitted into the above process. As a result of the actions of the transfer committees that
cannot be termed liberal at all local citizens (including Jews) lost their livelihood. The
committees often acted cold-heartedly, without taking into account the facts of the
Regarding the Dunaszerdahely results, cf. Československá statistika. Sv. 1. Řada I. Volby do
Národního zhromáždění v dubnu roku 1920 a všeobecné volby do obecných zastupitelstiev
v Čechách, na Moravě a ve Slezsku v červnu roku 1919. Státní úřad statistický, Praha, 1922. 67;
Csallóközi lapok, 1920. április 21; Československá statistika. Sv. 31. řada I. Volby do poslanecké
sněmovny v listopadu roku 1935. Praha, Státní úřad statistický, 1926. 66-67. old.; Krivý, Vladimír.
Výsledky volieb 1929 – 2010 za obce na Slovensku. http://sasd.sav.sk/sk/data_katalog.php.
9 József Kepecs (ed.): A Felvidék településeinek vallási adatai I.[ecclesiastical figures of Upland
settlements], Budapest, CSO, 1999, 155.
10 Štátny archív Bratislava pobočka Šaľa (hereinafter: ŠABA PŠ), Notárský úrad Dunajská Streda
(hereinafter: NÚ DS), k. 80, 80/2/1939 adm.
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previous twenty years and caused major problems for many families in that way.
Many people that had failed to meet the new expectations (and it was enough if a
family member had married a Czech or a Slovak, or if he/she had socialised with
Czechs or Slovaks) were dismissed from their jobs.
The choreography of major local events with a “national beat” held at
Dunaszerdahely in 1939 is a good indication of how Jews, who had been important
players of the local society before, were excluded from public life. You can mention
here the first celebrations of March 15th after the recovery of the Upland or a series of
festivals organised to commemorate the first anniversary of the First Vienna Award
when a country flag was inaugurated at the city. As seen from the reports of
contemporary papers as well as archive sources, residents of the Israelite confession
were given no part in the festivities, the local Jewish élite had been totally excluded. 11
The exclusion of the Jewry from local public life was a fairly quick process
accompanied by the spread of anti-Semitic public tone. To be frank, it did not appear
in local politics or social life at first, but it spread down from national papers and
national politics. The new style was promoted by the mass of bureaucrats flooding
the Upland from the mother-country, the officers first of the military then the civil
administration. The local population that had not been used to an anti-Semitic public
tone in the Czechslovak state only took over that form of speech and behaviour
slowly.
Some memoirs as well as a reader’s letter published in Csallóközi Hírlap on 5
February, 1939 gives an insight on how the local Jewish community responded. The
letter by Béla Pick is also a valuable document as it was the last public appearance
of the Jewry of Dunaszerdahely in the local media.12 Later on the voice and opinion
of the Jewry could not be heard in the Dunaszerdahely media shrivelled after the
Vienna Award.
It is a long article of a whole page entitled “The voice of the Jewry” indicating that it is
not a single person’s opinion but it is the whole community making up almost half of
the population of Dunaszerdahely that speaks. As it turns out from the article, the
author was mainly moved to write his letter because of the discussion of the 2 nd antiJewish law in progress at the time, but other attacks on the community by the

11

Csallóközi Hírlap [csallóköz news], 19 March 1939 p. 5; 12 November, p. 2. and 19 November, pp.
1-2; Segédhivatali Tisztviselő [filing clerk], 25 November, 1939, pp. 1-3;
12 Csallóközi Hírlap [csallóköz news], 5 February,1939, p.2.

Christian society must also have played a part. As indicated by the address – Fellow
citizens, Hungarian brethren – the objective of the letter was to prove that the Jews
living on the recovered territories and particularly at Dunaszerdahely had always
considered themselves Hungarians. To prove his point, the author – who mentions
that he had supported in another local paper in 1919 the Saint Steven’s Day
commemorations banned by the authorities – lists a number of examples from the
history of the recent past. He speaks about the participation of the Jewry in World
War I and emphasises the part local Jews played at the time of the Czechoslovak
rule in preserving the Hungarian language and culture.
It should be noted how the author foretold the future with respect to the 2nd antiJewish law by saying the Jewry is prepared “not only for the decimation but also for
the total sarifice of our goods”13 While he was aware that the codification of antiJewish laws cannot be stopped, he still believed in the solidarity of the Chritian
society. He wrote he could not believe the Hungarian people wanted to crush the
creative spirit of the Jewry.
The above document is not only an indication of the discussion that could have been
still ongoing at the time between the local Christian and Jewish communities, which
can hardly be traced back from the sources, but it is a proof that the Christian
community was willing to listen to the Jewry, what is more, its opinion could be
published in a Christian paper.
That tolerance, however, failed to be to the liking of all. At least, it is a hint that the
editors distanced themselves from Béla Pick’s letter in the next issue of the paper.
What is more, a response by an anonimous correspondent signed as “villager” was
published on the first page.14 Its author questioned exactly what Pick had wanted to
emphasise, i.e. the Hungarian spirit of the Jewry. According to „villager”, - and it was
worded as an accusation – the Jews had not been assimilated and did not intend to
assimilate into the Hungarian nation, which was proved by the referenda and the
parliamentary elections held in the Czechoslovak era. The article, which fell behind
that of Béla Pick’s both in its argumentation and style, was one public wording of the
mentality that segregated, step by step, the Jewish community from the nation and
placed them in the dock

13
14

I.e.
Csallóközi Hírlap [csallóköz news], 12 February, 1939, pp. 1-2.

Lacking relevant sources it is difficult to decide the part played by the local Catholic
church and its leaders in the exclusion of the Dunaszerdahely Jewry from the local
public life and in the promotion of an anti-Semitic public tone that had been unfolding
since early 1939. As Randolph L. Braham also states, 15 it is a basic problem that our
information and sources relating to the behaviour and responses of the lower clergy
are extremely incomplete. Unfortunately, it is also true for Dunaszerdahely.
It should be mentioned, however, that life at the city of Dunaszerdahely was different
from the general situation in Hungary at the time for the following reasons:
- almost half of the population were of the Israelite confession who had held
important positions matching their ratio before 1938 – it did not allow a Christian
régime and public speech to become dominant, which did have an impact on the
local Catholics whether or not they wanted it.
- the more democratic character of the Czechoslovak state influenced the Catholic
clergy and the ecclesiastical hierarchy in the country. (It is true although it is well
known that the Slovak clergy did not lack anti-Jewish feelings, it is enough to mention
Andrej Hlinka). So the anti-Judaic or anti-Semitic spirit that had been clearly present
in the Catholic church of Hungary before 193816, was less prominent in the Upland
including Dunaszerdahely.
Studying the period before 1938 offers some assistance for us to learn about the
approach of the Catholic public at Dunaszerdahely to the Jewish issue. The local
organisation of the National Christian Socialist Party (OKP) is particularly important
since all who became tone setters following 1938 had come from that group including
the parish priest Gábor Markwarth, or the editor of Csallóközi Hírlap and Géza Szeiff
the district commissioner appointed after the recovery of the region.
The relationship of the OKP to the Jewry has been debated to this day. Although
researchers of the topic have stated several times – referring to the political
behaviour of and declarations made by its onetime president Géza Szüllő after the

15

Braham, Randolph, L.: A keresztény egyházak és a holokauszt Magyarországon. Áttekintés. [The
Christian churches and the Holocaust in Hungary. Review.] in Rittner, Carol – Smith, Stephen D. –
Steinfeldt, Irena (ed.): A holokauszt és a keresztény világ. [The Holocaust and the Christian world]
Pécs–Budapest, Egyházfórum–Balassi, 2009, p. 199.
16 See among others: Máté Gárdonyi: Üldöztetés és felelősség. A magyar holokausztról egyházi
szemmel. [persecution and responsibility. On the Hungarian Holocaust with a clerical eye] In Martonffy
Marcell–Petrás Éva (ed.): Szétosztott teljesség. A hetvenöt éves Boór János köszöntése. [divided
integrity. Hail to seventy-five-year old János Boór] Budapest, Hét Hárs–Mérleg, 2007, pp. 262–269.

recovery - that anti-Semitism was not present at the OKP17, it is a more complex
issue. The Catholic clergy held important position within OKP and Jews had never
been accepted, what is more, it was an element of criticism of the competitor
Hungarian National Party that “non-Christians” also held positions in it. The OKP in
that way could be a proper environment to be imbibed with if not political antiSemitism but with a certain anti-Judaism. The following facts confirm the assumption:
a faction of the United Hungarian Party held its first congress in Hungary in January
1939 and adopted a party programme built on “Christian foundations”; it is easy to
recognise that its anti-capitalist slogans were, in fact, directed against the influence of
the Jewry in business life.18 The sections of the party programme dealing with the
Jewish issue were an indication that measures going beyond the first anti-Jewish law
were considered necessary, most of which were actually introduced with the second
anti-Jewish law. No wonder, as Andor Jaross of the Hungarian National Party was a
leading figure in the party at the time.
Therefore, acquiring an anti-Semitic style could not present any difficulty for the main
players of political and clerical public life at Dunaszerdahely after 1938. It was
obviously promoted by Gábor Markwarth, who had been the parish priest from 1923
to 1941 and had also played a decisive part in the public life of Dunaszerdahely. He
was a member of the local leadership of the Christian Socialist Party, he revived the
local organisation of the Catholic Lads Club previously dissolved and was a regular
correspondent of Csallóközi Hírlap. After the First Vienna Award he was appointed
the rural dean of the Dunaszerdahely district and he – according to some Jewish
reminiscences – voiced anti-Semitic ideas.19 Those reminiscences, however, must be
treated with some reserve since he was also accredited with acts committed after his
time there.
Szüllő’s 1939 statement is worth mentioning in this regard. „There were no Jews in my party, the
Christian Socialist Party; there were Jews in the Hungarian National Party, there are no anti-Semites
in my party but there are in the former National Party” Quoted by Tamás Gusztáv Filep: A jog hatalma
– a hatalom joga (Szüllő Gézáról) [the power of law – the law of power (on Géza Szüllő] . Kommentár,
2007, 3. p. 57.
18 Cf. Gergely Jenő: A keresztény pártok és a „zsidókérdés” 1938–1944. [the Christian parties and the
Jewish issue] In Molnár Judit (ed.): A holokauszt Magyarországon európai perspektívában. [the
Holocaust in Hungary in an European perspective]Budapest, Balassi, 2005, 70.
19 Ferenc Kornfeld who survived the Holocaust in Buchenwald, Floessberg then Mauthausen
remembered him as such: ’The rural dean at the time, Gábor Markwarth was a dangerous anti-Semite,
he was an instigator during the war in his speeches. We were at home, we knew what kind of hate he
instigated from the pulpit at church. He was also a member of the town council.’
Zsidó élettörténetek a huszadik században. Interjú Kornfeld Ferenccel. [Jewish life stories in the
twentieth century. Interview with Ferenc Kornfeld] http://www.centropa.hu/object.84c17ac1-232f-4ea7a064-2519d08ef025.ivy?full=true
17

It is, however, certain that the parish-priest Markwarth was one of the leaders of the
local organisation of the so termed Baross Society established in early 1939.20 That
association of Christian tradesmen was, as in other cities and villages, a driving force
and main ideologue of the exclusion of Jews from the national economy, which was
made possible by the review of the tradesmen’s licences stipulated in the second
anti-Jewish law. It was no coincidence that a few weeks after it had been established
the local organisation of the Baross Society launched an unmistakable campaign
calling for the boycott of shops held by Jews with the slogan “tell me where you shop
and I’ll tell you who you are”.
The anti-Semitic atmosphere dominant in the national public life, however, was
scarcely reflected on the pages of Csallóközi Hírlap that hardly ever published any
articles dealing with the local Jewry. It, in fact, focused on publishing the text of
different decrees. The paper even held its low profile when it had an opportunity for
the contrary. When in the course of a house search carried out following a
denunciation in early 1934 the authorities found the evidence of a kosher cut carried
out in secret in the cellar of a Piroska Weiner, Csallóközi Hírlap only published a
short news item not even mentioning that those involved were Jews.21
Linked to the review of tradesmen’s licences, the issue of 5 September, 1939
published a report entitled Tradesmen’s licences in a not very eye-catching part of
the paper.22 Its edge, however, was not mainly directed against the Jews but against
licence holders that “had obtained them by nepotism” and against slap-dash workers.
When the author concluded “that rout must be ousted from decent tradesmen”, he
first thought of them. Nevertheless, paying his tribute to the spirit of the time, he
added at the end, „the Jewish issue will also be solved naturally, numerus clausus in
the world of artisans will boost the ancient, honest, thousand-year old Hungarian
industry”.
Due to the lack of sources indicated earlier, we have no exact data on the result of
the review of tradesmen’s licences at Dunaszerdahely. On the other hand, we know
the figures of the recovered (left bank) region of Komárom County from a statistical
report in the paper Új Élet [new life].23 In the region, all in all 594 licences were
withdrawn - all from persons categorised as Jews. 887 new licences were issued - all
20

Csallóközi Hírlap, [csallóköz news]1939. March 12,p. 4.
Csallóközi Hírlap [csallóköz news], 7 February,1943, p. 4.
22 Csallóközi Hírlap, [csallóköz news] 5 September, 1939, p.7.
23 Industrial revision in the Upland. Új Élet, May 1942, pp.50-51.
21

to Christians. In accordance with the distribution of the Jewish population by
settlements and trades, we can conclude that the licences of almost 100 people were
withdrawn at Dunaszerdahely, which caused those people economic and social
hardship.
Our sources are scarce on how the local church and the Catholic public responded to
the Jewish issue in the period from the second anti-Jewish law till the launch of the
open persecution of Jews in spring 1944. It is, however, a fact that the situation of the
local Jewish community started to deteriorate step by step beginning from 1941, as –
from that time onwards - Hungary started to follow the German pattern in the solution
of the Jewish issue. Its first moment was the deportation of Jews of unclear
citizenship. It involved thousands of Jews having fled to Hungary mainly from Poland,
Slovakia, Romania or Serbia, etc many of whom found refuge with their brethren at
Dunaszerdahely. They were arrested in July 1941 and confined to collection camps
one of which was at Dunaszerdahely. From there – in anticipation of the deportations
of 1944 – they were transported in cattle cars to Kőrösmező and then handed over to
the German authorities already having occupied the Ukraine, who simply slaughtered
the crowd of about 12 to 15 thousand Jews deported from Hungary near the village
of Kamenec Podolsk.
At the same time a group of the Dunaszerdahely Jews – about 60 people – were
arrested and interned for a short time. The procedure was repeated several times in
the next period; there were some who spent some time in the internment camp at
Kistarcsa more than once.24 The war aginst the Soviet Union meant a turn of events
with respect to forced labour service as well. The non-combatant labour corps
ordered out to the front, incuding the men of Dunaszerdahely, did not only have to
face the cold of Russia and the lack of food but also their officers who wanted to
humiliate and break them physically as well. The Jews ordered to do labour service in
Russia had little chance to survive and many Dunaszerdahely citizens met their
death there.
Beginning from 1941, measures making the life of the Jews of Dunaszerdahely more
and more difficult followed each other in quick succession. Thus, their radio sets were
confiscated, their kosher butcheries were banned. The Baross Society was
particularly active in the introduction of restrictive measures. At the session of the city
assembly held on 16 June 1942 the League proposed that the Yeshiva still operating
24

Nagy Attila, et. al.: Dunaszerdahely, op.cit. p. 118.

at Dunaszerdahely should be closed down and the bocher should be expelled from
the town, „more than 160 Jewish boys of an alien race are staying in the town; they
are completely disparate from the behaviour, habits and morals of the Christian
population and are unfamiliar with cleanliness. Their deportation to their home
settlements is absolutely necessary for reasons of public safety, law enforcement,
public health and public provisionment, which can only be achieved if the school is
closed down. In today’s world of the war their presence in the streets in groups as if
in demonstration has an unfavourable impact on the public mood.” 25 The Assembly
accepted the view of the Baross Society and turned to the County and the
government to have the Jewish school closed down. Bureaucracy, however, moved
slowly in that case too, as the Jewish religious school was only closed down in June
1943 when sub-prefect Reviczky had the Yeshiva closed down with reference to a
report by the district health officer.26 At the next meeting of the Assembly held on 11
September 1942 a decision was made – again proposed by the Baross Society – that
Jews must not go to the market and do their shopping there before 10 a.m.27
The progressive deprivation of the rights of the Jewry and the gradual deterioration of
their situation raised the question of how the Catholic church could approach the
issue. As it is well known, the representatives of the Christian churches voted for the
first and second anti-Jewish laws although they indicated their objections.28 You
could accept the opinion that they were motivated by the terror of a “larger wrong” i.e.
the right wing gaining momentum,29 but it still cannot exempt the clergy from its
responsibility. On the other hand, they objected to the third anti-Jewish law submitted
to Parliament in 1941. Their reasons, among others, were that the law regulating the
institution of marriage interfered in church matters. Although the rejection of the law
was an important sign for the government that racial legislation was not approved by
the churches, the moral value of contesting the law was much reduced by the fact
that the Christian churches openly defended the bapitized Jews only.
As a result of an increasing pressure on Jews, the demand for baptism increased,
which was the source of further debates within the Catholic church. The debate also
ŠABA PŠ, NÚ DS, k. 3, Zápisnice zo zasadnutia obecného zastupitelstva, 16 June, 1942.
ŠABA PŠ, NÚ DS, k. 81, 34/16/1943adm.
27 ŠABA PŠ, NÚ DS, k. 3, Zápisnice zo zasadnutia obecného zastupitelstva, September 11, 1942.
28 Regarding the objections of the clergy to the first and second anti-Jewish laws, cf. László T. László:
Egyház és állam Magyarországon 1919–1945. [Church and state in Hungary], Budapest, Szent István
Társulat, 2005, pp. 281–290.
29 Cf. Gárdonyi: Üldöztetés,[persecution], op.cit. p. 269.
25
26

reverberated at Dunaszerdahely as well, as it can be seen on the first page of
Csallóközi Hírlap dated 9 August, 1942 in an article entitled ‘The Catholic viewpoint
on the Jewish issue’.30 As it turns out from the introductory sentences, the publication
of the article was triggered by the opinions related to the approach of the church to
the Jewish issue. Thus, the author intended to take a stand in two questions: one, the
rumours that the Catholic church was baptizing Jews in masses, two, to explain the
approach of the church to the Jewish issue in general. Regarding the topic of
baptism, the author laid down that you could not talk of mass baptisms. If there are
Jews who are interested in baptism, the church acts in that regard according to its
own rules; i.e. it demands several months of preparation and only baptises those who
request it in an act of sincere, inner faith. Regarding the standpoint of the church on
the Jewish issue, the author names the crucifiction of Jesus and the continuous
antichristianism of Jews as the origin of any anti-Jewish manifestation. He believes
Jews had an adverse effect on Hungarians not only from an economic but also from
a moral point, which justifies anti-Jewish measures. Although the author advocates
anti-Jewish measures, he also indicates that “Jews are also people and you must
treat them in a humane way”. The above article, which appeared unsigned on the
front page, possibly reflected the opinion of Catholic tone setters at Dunaszerdahely
and obviously coincided with the views of the Catholic high clergy, i.e. it promoted the
exclusion of Jewry.

The Holocaust of the Dunaszerdahely Jews
The situation of Hungarian Jewry including the Jews of Dunaszerdahely took a tragic
turn in spring 1944 when the country was occupied by Germany. By that time the
legal deprivation of Jews had become complete. They had been banned from doing
business or trading, their shops had been closed, their apartments appropriated, so
most families had become destitute living in very bad conditions. In the following
weeks several hundred decrees were published (restriction of Jews’ food portions,
banning free movement or travel, banning entry to cinemas or swimming pools,
restriction of shopping facilities, dissolution of their congregations) to achieve their
complete isolation and exclusion. A decree proposed by Andor Jaross, minister of the
interior and passed on 5 April, 1944 obliged all Jews older than 6 years of age to
wear the yellow star.
30

Csallóközi Hírlap, 9 August, 1942, pp. 1-2.

Meanwhile the Budapest administration decided to draft another 50 thousand Jewish
men for labour service to achieve German military objectives. In a paradox, the
decree saved the lives of many Jews as those drafted avoided transportation to
Auschwitz, so they had slightly better chances for survival than the women, children
and the elderly left at home.
A memorandum addressed to the High Sheriff of the district early in April by the local
organisation of the Party of Hungarian Renewal proves there were some at
Dunaszerdahely who had been waiting impatiently for an even more radical solution
of the Jewish issue. Referring to the special position of Dunaszerdahely – i.e. almost
half of the population were Jewish – the authors asked for an “augmented solution” of
the Jewish issue, total control of Jewish property, boosted up raids and the review of
any and all exemptions.31 A few days later in a letter addressed to the national
leaders of the party they demanded, in addition to clarifying their relationship to the
Party of Hungarian Life (MÉP), the isolation of the Dunaszerdahely Jews and
relocation of at least part of them.32
A general meeting of the parish priests was held in the Dunaszerdahely decanal
district on 2 May, a few days after the decree to ghettotise had been published. One
could expect the fate of the Jews was mentioned at the meeting and some position
was taken on the issue. According to the minutes of the meeting, however, the topic
had not been taken on the agenda,33 which illustrates the indifference of the clergy
to the fate of the Jews.
Ghettotising in the Csallóköz as part of the 2nd Székesfehérvár gendarme-district was
executed in the middle of May in the course of which about 3200 Jews from
Dunaszerdahely and the neighbouring villages34 were concentrated in the ghetto
bordered by Teleki, Bacsák, Rózsa, Csillag and Fő streets. In accordance with
central decrees, the Jews were allowed to take with them no more than 50 kilos of
luggage and a fews days’ of food to the ghetto, but the gendarmes robbed them of all
31

Komáromi Papers, 15 April, 1944, p. 4.
ŠABA PŠ, NÚ DS, k. 81, b.c 1944.
33
Primate’s Archives, Diocese’s Archives, 3785/1944.
34 In addition to Dunaszerdahely, the Jews of the following settlements wee ghettotised: Albár,
Amadékarcsa, Baka, Balázsfa, Balony, Bős, Csallóközkürt, Csallóköznádasd, Csiplizpatas,
Csilizradvány, Dercsika, Dunakisfalud, Felbár, Felsővámos, Diósförgepatony, Gelle, Hegyéte,
Királyfiakarcsa, Lőgérpatony, Nagybodak, Nagylúcs, Nagymad,, Nagyudvarnok, Nemesabony,
Nemeshodos, Nyárasd, Nyékvárkony, Padány, Patas, Pódatejed, Pozsonyeperjes, Sikabony,
Somorja, Szap, Szentmihályfa, Alistál and Vásárút. Cf. Braham, Randolph L. (ed.): A magyar
holokauszt földrajzi enciklopédiája. [geographical encyclopaedia of the Hungarian Holocaust] Volume
I. Park Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 2007. p. 621.
32

their valuables in the ghetto and then in the course of their deportation. The High
Sheriff appointed a Jewish Council to control the ghetto led first by József Wetzler
and then by Gyula Steiner appointed by the High Sheriff. József Herskovits
discharged the duties of physician of the ghetto, who nursed the Dunaszerdahely
Jews devotedly both then and in the course of their deportation to Auschwitz. He
survived the concentration camp and finally died in Israel. The ghetto was vacated on
8 June and the Jews were packed into the synagogue and its courtyard. The people
squeezed in there had no medicines or proper food to live on.
The Christian population of Dunaszerdahely responded to the events in different
ways. Those under the influence of the contemporary anti-Semitic propaganda
gloated over the tragedy of their fellow citizens while many entertained hopes of
making easy money. Their opinion was reflected in some articles of Komáromi Lapok
speaking cynically about a cleaner and nicer town versus spiteful Jews in the context
of ghettotising.35 Next to an insensitive majority, however, there were some who did
not only sympathise with their former neighbours but also tried to help them. The
memoirs on the website of Centropa as well as some telling remarks in Komáromi
Lapok are evidence. In the article “3200 Jews in the ghetto” a Christian woman is
given as a negative example, as she wanted to take some milk for the Jewish
children in the ghetto and when she was held up she poured the content of the can to
the ground.36 After the deportation of the Jews the paper reiterated the story and
described the attempt of help by writing the woman took sides “with the blood sucker
alien race” instead of giving the milk to Christian children.37
The deportation of the Dunaszerdahely Jews started on 15 June. About 3 thousand
people – mostly women, children and the elderly as most men had been in labour
service – were crowded into 60 cattle cars stationed at the railway station of
Dunaszerdahely. The train starting on Thursday stopped at Kosice on Friday night,
where 2969 persons were counted in the cars.38 There the Hungarian gendarmes
handed over guard to German SS soldiers and the train arrived in the death camp of
Auschwitz at dawn on Sunday. Their fate is known from there: after unboarding they
were selected and children, the elderly and those unfit for work were taken to the gas

35

Komárom Papers, 27 May, 1944, p. 6.
Komárom Papers, 17 June, 1944, p. 5.
37 Komárom Papers, 15 July, 1944, p. 2.
38 The exact figures are based on the notes of the commander of the Kosice railway station.
http://www.holokausztmagyarorszagon.hu/tables/tables_4.html
36

chambers at once. Able women and men were mostly transported to other camps
including Dachau and Mauthausen where they were forced to work as slaves of the
German military industry as long as they could. If they were strong and had luck, they
could even survive the death camps. But only a few of them had such a chance,
since less than five hundred Jews returned after the war out of about 2700 who had
been living at Dunaszerdahely when World War II broke out. Most victims lost their
lives at Auschwitz, but the bones of the Dunaszerdahely victims also lie in the ground
of other settlements in Germany and Poland in addition to Mathausen, Buchenwald,
Dachau, Bergen-Belsen and Mühldorf. Most survivors were men while the elderly and
the children of the Jewish community of Dunaszerdahely had disappeared for ever.
Although we do not have exact figures, the number of the victims from the
Dunaszerdahely Jewish community must have been around 2100 to 2300.
Quite many took the deportation of the Jews for an opportunity to make easy money
and – although the authorities forbade looting Jewish property – there were a number
of examples of it in the days of ghettotising and the deportation. Average citizens,
however, could only lay their hands on goods of lower value, as any valuables had
already been appropriated by Arrow Cross Party leaders and other people of
influence.
The Catholic church also queued up for the profit. Even before the deportations, it
requested that six Jewish properties in the immediate vicinity of the church should be
demolished. The town leaders convened an expert committee including the local
parish priest Ödön Janovics and two brick masons that approved the request of the
parish and decided on the demolition of the houses involved.39 Then, on 22 July the
town auctioned off the properties to be demolished that were purchased by the
Roman Catholic parish – obviously in a manner agreed in advance.40 According to
the agreement, the buyer was obliged to demolish the houses on the plots within two
weeks. In that way the church obtained valuable properties in the centre of the town
at a fairly low price.

Summary
The wartime relationship of the Catholic and Jewish communities represented at
about equal rate in the population of the town before the war has not been fully
39
40

ŠABA PŠ, NÚ DS, k. 81, 1990/1944adm.
ŠABA PŠ, NÚ DS, k. 81, 2358/1944adm.

revealed to date and is difficult to restore in the lack of proper sources. Research is
also made difficult because the Jewish community has practically disappeared from
the town in the Holocaust and as a result of the Aliyah (immigration to Israel) at the
end of the 1940s and those that remained have rather opted for quick assimilation.
On the other hand, the local Christian community has had no interest in starting a
discourse on the topic.
In accordance with the sources available, we believe the Christian public at
Dunaszerdahely having been socialised in the Czechoslovak Republic only gradually
adopted the anti-Semitic public speech typical in post-First Vienna Award Hungary
before 1938. The attitude of Csallóközi Hírlap, which avoided it till the end, is a good
example. Thus, the elements settling in the town from the mother country played a
decisive part in boosting anti-Jewish sentiments (not to mention the fact that the
same constituted the core of the local organisation of the Arrow Cross Party),
although the responsibility of Gábor Markwarth, the parish priest at Dunaszerdahely
is beyond doubt. Similarly, there is evidence for the responsibility of the Catholic
church in the pillage of Jewish property.

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