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The Christian churches and the Jewish community in Southern Slovakia, with

particular attention to Dunaszerdahely (Dunajská Streda) between the two World Wars

Introduction
Dunaszerdahely located about 50 km from Bratislava in the heart of the area called Csallóköz
had been a small town of about 6 thousand in the period of the 1st Czechoslovak Republic
(1918–1938). According to the census of 1930, only 8% of a population of 6,280 reported to
be of Czechoslovak nationality.1 Although everybody spoke Hungarian on the streets, only
47% of the residents reported to belong to the Hungarian national minority. This unusual
situation is explained by the presence of the Jewish community, because 35% of the
population of Dunaszerdahely at that time reported themselves belonging to the Jewish
nationality. The weight of the Jewish community at the time is even more emphatic if we look
at the distribution of the population by denominations. At the time of the same census, 43.3%
of the population of Dunaszerdahely reported to be Israelite,2 which means it had been a halfChristian and half-Jewish town, of which there were few similar examples in the Carpathian
Basin.
In this study, we are making efforts to find out what the attitude of Christians including the
Christian churches to the Jewish population was in that singular unique micro world also
called Small Palestine in his age. Partly considering the limited availability of sources and
partly in the interests of scholarly credibility, we intend to research the topic in a wider
context. Before analysing the example of Dunaszerdahely, we will firstly deal with the
relationship of the Czechoslovak State and that of the churches to the Jewish community, and
then we shall look at the same issue in the context of Southern Slovakia where the Hungarian
minority lived.
The sources of the topic are plenty but still insufficient. The contemporary Czechoslovakia
including its political and economic life is a period well-researched and also abounding in
archive sources. The same situation applies to Southern Slovakia, and basic research has
already been made regarding the evolution of Dunaszerdahely at the time. On the other hand,

1

József Kepecs: József Kepecs (ed.): A Felvidék településeinek nemzetiségi (anyanyelvi) adatai százalékos
megoszlásban [The nationality (mother tongue) figures of the settlements of Felvidék in percentage] (18801941). Budapest, KSH, 1996, p. 232
2
József Kepecs (ed.): A Felvidék településeinek vallási adatai I. [Religious data of the settlements of the
Felvidék I.] Budapest, KSH, 1999, p. 155

if we investigate the contemporary context of the Jewish issue, particularly the attitude of the
Christian churches to the Jewish community, we have to say the topic has not been
investigated at all: the problem has been totally left unattended by both Czech and Slovak
historiography. Researching the issue is made even more difficult by the fact that as a result of
the nature of the contemporary Czechoslovak State, the Jewish issue had not been part of
public discussion, so the press including the church press did not deal with it. The situation is
similar in the case of Dunaszerdahely. The daily papers published in the town (Csallóköz
News and Csallóköz Papers) did not deal with the topic of our study. The local Christian
churches have no archive sources to be assessed, and the Historia Domus of the local Catholic
parish has been lost. Therefore, the playing field of this study to reveal the relationship of the
Christian churches and the Jewish community in Dunaszerdahely have been rather limited.

The Jewish-Christian coexistence and its peculiar national policy relevancies in the first
Czechoslovak Republic
If we take the 1921 census as our starting point, the Czechoslovak Republic proclaimed on 28
October, 1918 included about 355 thousand people of the Israelite confession, 126 thousand
of whom lived in the Czech part of the country, 136 thousand in Slovakia and 93 thousand in
Sub-Carpathia.3 Those 355 thousand people, however, may not be regarded as a uniform
community, because they consisted of significantly different groups with regard to religion
and mother tongue. If we consider the degree of assimilation, we can see it diminished
progressively from west to east. It was the strongest in the Czech parts of the country and the
weakest in Sub-Carpathia. Similar regional differences can be found regarding the division of
Orthodox and Neolog Judaism, or else in the attitude to Zionism. In this study, we focus on
the Jewry living in Slovakia only, but we cannot disregard when outlining the context of their
political and social life that Czechoslovakia had been such a centralised state in which
Slovakia had had no autonomous rights, while the politics of the Czechoslovak State had been
identified by the experience and ideas of the Czech political elite.
The balanced and conflict free relationship of contemporary Czechoslovakia and the Jewry is
commonplace today. The person of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, to become Head of State later,
had a major part to play in the fact that international Jewish organisations and the
international press had been the supporters of the establishment of the new state already in the

Čermáková, Radka: Československá republika - Nový štát ve středný Evropě a židé. In Soukupová, Blanka –
Zahradníková, Marie (ed.): Židovská menšina v Československu ve dvacátych letech. Praha, Židovské múzeum
v Prahe, 2003, 15.
3

period of World War I. He had become known to the international public related to the ‘Czech
Tiszaeszlár case’, the so-termed Hilsner Case.4 Masaryk was one of the few, who - despite
attacks by the Czech public - openly refused to accept that Anežka Hrůzová murdered in 1899
under unknown circumstances had been the victim of ritual murder, and he attacked those
who wanted to use the issue to incite anti-Jewish feelings.5 It, however, does not mean that
Masaryk (or the Czech and Slovak political elite) would have been free of anti-Semitism or at
least from its economic form. As indicated by Miloslav Szabó, an excellent Slovak researcher,
Masaryk represented the opinion in the Slovak issue that the Jewry had been a means of
‘Magyarization’ and therefore, believed the anti-liberal and anti-Semitic attitude of the Slovak
Catholic clergy to be desirable.6
Nevertheless, in the first Czechoslovak Republic of a democratic structure, the Jewish issue
was treated with a liberal attitude. Of course, the fact that the law provided full equality to
Jews and the legal environment was mostly free of anti-Jewish statements thanks to the
personal example shown by Masaryk and his authority did not mean a complete lack of antiSemitism or Jewish-Christian conflicts. It was particularly valid for Slovakia, where adverse
feelings regarding Jews had originated from an important source - nationalism - in addition to
the anti-Judaism of the backward and strongly Catholic Slovak society living mainly in rural
settlements.
In Slovakia – particularly in the ethnic Slovak territories to the north of the Hungarian-Slovak
linguistic border - the change of the Empire in 1918/19 had been accompanied in many places
by violent anti-Jewish movements, which had mainly taken the form of looting but also
demanded human life in more than one cases.7 At the beginning, they had been impulsive
actions triggered by a weakened public order and poor food supply. However, the second
phase of anti-Jewish movements had been encouraged by the Slovak intelligentsia and the
cheers of the state power building up,8 and at that time, the main motivation had been the

4

A Jew called Leopold Hilsner was accused of murder and, based on indirect evidence, was sentenced to death
for murder committed out of religious reasons. Thanks mainly to Masaryk, however, the sentence was declared
null and void, and although Hilsner was again sentenced to death in the new trial, the motivation was stated as
sexual. In the end, Hilsner was not executed thanks to the mercy of the Emperor and was freed in 1918 after 18
years in jail.
5
Regarding the part played by Masaryk in the Hilsner Case and his opinion on the Jewish issue, see:
Soukupová, Blanka: T. G. Masaryk a židé (Židé), židé (Židé) a T. G. Masaryk: legenda a skutečnost. In
Soukupová, Blanka – Zahradníková, Marie (ed.): Židovská menšina v Československu ve dvacátych letech.
Praha, Židovské múzeum v Prahe, 2003, 113–125.
6
Szabó, Miloslav: Od slov k činom. Slovenské národné hnutie a antisemitizmus (1875–1922). Bratislava,
Kalligram, 2014, 160.
7
Regarding documents on anti-Jewish movements, an important source is: Medvecký, Karol Anton: Slovenský
prevrat I-IV. Bratislava, 1930.
8
Jelínek, Ješajahu Andrej: Dávidova hviezda pod Tatrami. Židia na Slovensku v 20. storočí. Praha, 2009, 124.

nationalistic feeling. A key figure of that centrally encouraged anti-Semitism was Vavro
Šrobár, the most important Slovak participant to the establishment of the Czechoslovak State,
who had marked the Jews as the main adversary of the Slovak nation already at the turn of the
century. After the proclamation of the new state, as an omnipotent minister of Slovakia, he
made conscious efforts to link the issue of building the new state power to the settlement of
the Jewish issue, which in his opinion mainly meant curbing the economic influence of the
Jewry. An important moment of that effort was a revision of licences to sell alcohol and
tobacco carried out from 1919 to 1921, which was a means to drain the Jews economically.9
To understand the antipathy felt in the Slovak political elite against the Jewry, one should see
the major moments of the evolution of the Jewish community on the territory of Slovakia.
The ancestors of Jews living in Slovakia had mostly arrived there from the beginning of the
18th century as immigrants from the ‘eternal provinces’ and Czechia; while there were major
communities in Eastern Slovakia having arrived to the region from Halics and Sub-Carpathia.
The majority of the Jewry in the Felvidék (now: Slovakia) originally speaking German and
Yiddish had become Hungarian speaking due to the inclusive policy of the era of dualism and
the integration strategy of the Neolog line of Judaism with strong connections to the
Hungarian homeland. It is indicated by the fact that at the time of the 1910 census, 106
thousand, i.e., 75% of about 140 thousand people of the Israelite confession reported on the
territory to become Slovakia later said they spoke Hungarian as their mother tongue.10 It was
not simply a statistical figure, but a conscious commitment to the Hungarian nation: the Jewry
living in the cities of the Felvidék belonged to the most important consumers of Hungarian
culture spreading the Hungarian language. That exactly was the reason why the Slovak public
regarded the Hungarian speaking Jewry a promoter of the ‘Magyarizing’ efforts of the
Hungarian State in the age of dualism. The argument was especially strong given that the
clergy – particularly the Catholic - which had played an outstanding part in maintaining the
national conscience of Slovaks had had no sympathy towards the Israelite population. It is
true, such accusations were only worded after the Trianon Treaty, but at that time they were
sounded by the highest political groups. Vavro Šrobár, the omnipotent minister appointed to
govern Slovakia made several statements to the effect that the Jews were just as disloyal to
Czechoslovakia as the Hungarians and that they had only themselves to blame for any violent
actions against them at the time of the proclamation of the new state because they had been
9

Regarding the revision of licences of pubs and tobacco shops, see Szabó, op. ib. pp. 214–218.
Gyula Popély: Népfogyatkozás. A Csehszlovákiai magyarság a népszámlálások tükrében 1918–1945.
[Diminition of people. Hungarians in Czechoslovakia as reflected by censuses 1918-1945] Budapest, Regio,
1991, p. 61.
10

servants to ‘Magyarization’.11 The same attitude could be said to be universal not only in the
field of politics but also in public and academic life. It can be best summed up by a statement
made by Anton Štefánek, considered to be the founding father of Slovak sociology: ‘The Jews
were always an alien body in the regions populated by them. They lived among us as
foreigners, they had a different language, a different religion, and they made business and
behaved in a different manner. They fully exploited the advantages originating from the
political protection of the ruling Hungarian race, the economic underdevelopment of Slovaks,
their natural tolerance and the carelessness of both simple people and the intelligentsia (…) It
is a historical fact that our cities had become ‘Magyarized’ so quickly because the Jews
provided social support promoting dogged but silent de-nationalising activities in the fields of
language, economy and culture among the Slovaks.’12
As stated by Éva Kovács, anti-Semitism failed to appear in the politics of leading Czech and
Slovak politicians or in their political programmes, although the idea had not been alien to
them.13 Although the Jewry living in the Felvidék had had adverse feelings regarding the new
state at the beginning, they quickly accepted the new political situation as a result of the
democratic political atmosphere of the Czechoslovak State and the gestures by leading
statesmen (mostly Masaryk) made to them. The fact that the official Czechoslovak politics
had supported and legalised the recognition of the Jewry as a national minority right from the
beginning played a major part in the process. That important measure was not only based on
the opinion of Masaryk, who looked at the Jews as a community with particular features not
to be mistaken for any other community, but also on his intentions not much hidden to reduce
the statistical number of Germans and Hungarians in that way.
That calculation was correct, but the Jewish community failed to respond uniformly because
the Orthodox communities representing about 70% of the Slovak Jewry refused to accept the
Jewry as a nation in the modern sense due to theological reasons. Therefore, only about half
of the Jewry in Slovakia used the opportunity offered, while the others confessed themselves
to be Czechoslovak, Hungarian, German, etc.14

Hradská, Katarína: Židovská komunita počas prvej ČSR. Vzťah slovenskej majoritnej spoločnosti voči
židovskej menšine. Česko-Slovenská Historická Ročenka, 2001, 52–53.
12
Cited from the publication of Štefáneknek; Základy sociografie Slovenska [Foundation of sociography in
Slovakia] published in 1945 Mlynárik, Ján: Dejiny židu na Slovensku. Praha, Academia, 2005, p. 71.
13
Éva Kovács: Felemás asszimiláció. A kassai zsidóság a két világháború között [Odd assimilation. The Jewry
of Kassa between the two world wars] (1918-1938). Fórum Kisebbségkutató Intézet, Somorja, 2004, p. 18.
14
At the time of the 1930 census, 53% of those stating to be Israelites reported to belong to the Jewish national
minority and 32% to the Czechoslovak nation. Sčítání lidu v republice Československé ze dne 1. prosince 1930.
Díl I. Praha, SÚS, 1934, p. 106.
11

The expectations of Czechoslovak politicians – including the followers of Masaryk - were
mainly directed to promoting the dissimilation of the Jewry from the Hungarians, and even
violent means were sometimes used to the same effect.15 Slovak nationalism, however, wanted
more; the assimilation of the Jewry to the Slovaks. It was a difficult process because the Jews
did not feel their mobility could be accelerated if they assimilated to the Slovaks - particularly
in the first years of the Republic.
The relationship of high politics and the Jewry was rather contradictory. While the official
Prague policy supported Zionism in effect, it also wanted the Jews to vote for the
Czechoslovak parties. It had partly become true because the Jewish Party had a relatively low
number of supporters in Slovakia. Most Israelites - particularly Orthodox ones – voted for the
ruling so-called ‘Czechoslovakist’ parties as a form to express their loyalty towards the
Czechoslovak State. 16 They included the largest party of the country, the Agrarian Party, the
Czechoslovak Social Democratic Workers Party or the Tradesmen’s Party.
The political sympathies of the Jewry were greatly linked to the relationship of the national
minority issue and the Jewish issue. Although the Jews tried to stay away from the
controversies of national policy, they failed and the struggles in the Felvidék between the
(Czech) Slovak and Hungarian nationalism had an impact on them as well. While the (Czech)
Slovak public expected the Jewry to assimilate linguistically to the (Czech) Slovak majority,
the Hungarian politics in Slovakia also wanted to make them its ally in its minority struggle
against Czechoslovak power. Two escape routes offered themselves to the Jewry that was
unable to and did not want to meet both sides’ expectations. One of them was Zionism, the
idea of Jewish nationalism. And the other was the internationalism of the Communist
movement. It is true, whichever they joined they had to face the animosity of both the Slovak
and the Hungarian nationalism.
The attitude of the Jewry towards the national minority issue was not neutral for the
Hungarian community in Slovakia either, because a great number of Jews lived in the cities of
Southern Slovakia, in Pozsony [Bratislava], in Komárom [Komarno] in Érsekújvár [Nové
Zámky] and in Kassa [Kosice] whose importance was greatly increased for that reason. Their
importance also increased because a part of the Hungarian middle class (about 120 thousand
people) left the Felvidék for Hungary after the area became part of the new state. On the other

15

At the 1921 census, a number of Israelites of Hungarian mother tongue in Kassa were registered - despite their
will - as belonging to the Jewish national minority. Cf. Kovács, op. id. p.41.
16
The Constitution of Czechoslovakia between the two World Wars recognised the existence of a uniform but
fictitious Czechoslovak nation as opposed to the Czech and Slovak nations existing in reality. In that spirit, the
efforts for Slovak autonomy were rejected and a centralised state with Prague in its centre was built up.

hand, the majority of the Jewry that had reported being Hungarian in its language earlier,
stated to belong to the Jewish or Czechoslovak nationality at the Czechoslovak census causing
in that way a statistical loss of about 80 thousand people to the Hungarians. It damaged the
Hungarians particularly at the towns and cities close to the linguistic border, because the
language law linked the use of the minority language to the national minority rather than the
mother tongue. For instance, the Hungarian language ceased to be used in official
communication in Pozsony and Kassa, because the ratio of Hungarians declined to below
20% officially although the number of Hungarian speakers was much higher.
The apparent dissimilation of the Jewry from Hungarians as well as the fact Jews voted for
Czechoslovak parties in great numbers had become a repeated accusation against them by
Budapest and the Slovakian Hungarian politics. The accusations gained real momentum in the
new situation arising after the 1938 Vienna Awards. According to the Hungarian politicians
of the Felvidék fitting into the Horthy regime, the Jewry in Czechoslovakia ‘completely broke
away from Hungarians’ and ‘failed to take sides’ with it.17
The accusations, in fact, were false because the Jewry of the Felvidék whose greater part
continued to be strongly linked to the Hungarian nation did take part in the Hungarian politics
of Slovakia; furthermore, it occupied several major positions in it. As proved by the book of
Éva Kovács on the Jews of Kassa, Jews played a decisive part in the Hungarian politics of the
city. Two deputy chairmen of the Hungarian National Party, Ignác Hercz and Béla Halmi
were members of the Kassa community. In the course of the 1932 local elections, there were
22 Jews out of 77 candidates of the Hungarian opposition at Kassa, which is amazing because
the National Christian Socialist Part was rather unwilling to support Jewish candidates.18
There was another quite important factor, i.e., irrespective of its alleged nationality, the Jewry
at the Felvidék continued to be one of the most important consumers of Hungarian culture: it
purchased and read Hungarian papers and books and it attended Hungarian speaking theatres.
It was also indicated by the response of Slovak politics and public opinion, which was quite
sensitive in its responses seeing that political dissimilation did not walk hand in hand with a
cultural distance from Hungarians. The contemporary Czech and Slovak press and not only
nationalistic types of papers was full of accusations saying the Jewry is ungrateful to the State
See among others the statement by Andor Jaross at the trial against him by the Peoples’ Court. László Karsai Judit Molnár (ed.): Az Endre-Baky-Jaross per. [The Endre-Baky-Jaross trial] Budapest, Cserépfalvy Kiadó,
1994, p. 154.
18
Igazságot a felvidéki zsidóságnak! [Justice for the Jews in the Felvidék!] Budapest, Pester Lloyd Kiadó, 1939,
p. 15. Taken from here, the figures are published in Gusztáv Tamás Filep: Zsidó magyarok a két világháború
közötti csehszlovákiai magyar közéletben. Széljegyzetek egy elhanyagolt témakörhöz. [Jewish Hungarians in the
Czechoslovak Hungarian public life between the two world wars. Marginal notes to a topic neglected.] Irodalmi
Szemle, 2001, Vol. 7, p. 64.
17

it lives on because it continues to speak Hungarian on the streets and on public transport
facilities, it reads Hungarian language papers, in one word, it is the keeper of Hungarian
culture. Such accusations resulted in threats in numerous cases, as indicated by a quotation
from the daily ‘Slovenský denník’ close to the Prague Government in 1938, where there is an
unmistakable reference to the situation of the Jews in Germany, and then - unless they
abandon the use of Hungarian and German languages - they are threatened ‘we will have to
regard it as provocation against Slovaks and the Slovak language.’19
It is not easy to answer the question of how the churches in Slovakia related to the Jewry.
Since the Jewish issue was practically taboo for the public at the time of the first
Czechoslovak Republic, the churches did not communicate their opinion on the issue - at least
no official statements are known on the topic either by the Catholic or any of the Reformed
Churches or by the Greek Orthodox.
So we can only rely on two things: we can take into account the aversion of the Slovak
population indicated above, and we can use the attitude of certain groups connected to
different churches as our starting point. One of the most important points of reference for the
issue is the Slovak People’s Party of Hlinka and its leaders, because the Party was closely
interwoven with the Catholic clergy. It was rooted in the Catholic People’s Party of Zichy and
the teachings of Ottokár Prohászka had a significant part in shaping its ideology. Its founding
chairman, Andrej Hlinka, who was a Catholic priest himself, referred on several occasions to
the ‘Christian anti-Semitism’ of Prohászka as its inspiring force. Hlinka - although this is
generally denied by Slovak historians - could never get rid of his anti-Semitic views and
practically laid the foundations for his party, led by another Catholic priest, Jozef Tiso after
his death, to become the main player of Holocaust in Slovakia. In the period of the first
Czechoslovak Republic, however, father Hlinka was not the only person connecting the party
and the church, because there were a series of village priests who were almost the elongated
hands of party activity. So the anti-Jewish attitude displayed by the party may not be
separated from the structures of the Slovak Catholic church.

The Jewish-Christian coexistence and the Christian churches in Southern Slovakia and
Dunaszerdahely
If we want to investigate the Jewish-Christian coexistence at Dunaszerdahely between the two
wars, the atmosphere surrounding the Jewish issue in Czechoslovakia and the characteristic
features of the relationship of Slovakian Hungarians and Hungarian politics with the Jewish
19

Slovenský denník, 7 May, 1938, p. 4.

issue were decisive factors. In addition, however, you should not forget the local traditions of
Jewish-Christian coexistence which also had a major impact on the attitude and behaviour of
the local Christian society and its churches to the Jewish community of the town.
Jews appeared at the small city of Szerdahely constituting the core of the town of
Dunaszerdahely in 1709 and the Pálffy family settling them there confirmed their position
with a charter in 1736. The community benefiting from its proximity to both Pozsony and
Vienna developed fast. Israelites represented 46% of the about 3 thousand population of
Dunaszerdahely, which was legally merged in 1854 from four settlements (Szerdahely,
Nemesszeg, Újfalu and Előtejed), and their ratio did not significantly change until the
Holocaust. By that time, the second half the 19th century, the specific structure of the town
had been formed. Accordingly, the Jews mainly engaged in commerce (including many
peddlers) and crafts took up the central areas of the town, while the Christian population
mainly living from agriculture was confined to the peripheries of the town. The division of
labour probably useful for both parties and the balance of power may have been the reason
why the sources reflect much more collaboration than conflicts. Although Pozsony where
major anti-Jewish riots broke out in spring 1848 was close, the chronicles only spoke about a
few failed attempts by foreigners arriving into the town of Szerdahely, when they were trying
to incite the Christian craftsmen’s lads against the Jews.20 The only major Jewish-Christian
conflict of the pre-Trianon period was linked to the 1887 elections, when a campaign meeting
of the candidate of the Anti-Semitic Party at the town was followed by minor disquiet at the
town and fire broke out in the town centre where the Jews lived on the evening of the
elections.21 And although the investigation by the authorities excluded wilfulness, neither the
contemporary press nor local tradition believed the fire burning down 38 houses had been an
accident.
The nature of the local power also contributed to minimising conflicts, because the Israelite
community was always represented in the local government after it was regained in 1861.
What is more, the local Jewry had already been taking part in the elections before civil
equality became the law the 1867. The judge of the town was almost always Christian but his
first deputy usually represented the Jewish community. Jews were not infrequently the
majority in the 40-strong local government. For instance, between 1894 and 1896, over half of
the elected 20 representatives may be assumed having Jewish origins because of their names,

20
21

Attila Nagy at al: Dunaszerdahely. Dunaszerdahely, Dunaszerdahely város önkormányzata, 2012, p. 63.
The contemporary Hungarian and European press also reported on the event.

and their weight was further increased in the assembly as the majority of the other 20 people
in the assembly as ‘virilis’ (i.e., largest taxpayers) were also Israelites.
When on 8 January, 1919, the first advance parties of the army of the Czechoslovak Republic
just established arrived at Dunaszerdahely from the direction of Galánta, they found a
community speaking one language (practically only Hungarian) but divided by religion and
therefore culturally. About half of the population were Israelites whose ratio was the highest
(49%) by the 1919 extraordinary census, while it always exceeded 40% in the period between
the two wars. The duality of the Christian and Jewish population characterised everyday life
as well. Although the Christian and the Jewish population did not live separate from each
other, there were streets (for instance, Teleki street or Rózsa street) where almost all residents
were Jewish who also represented the majority of people engaged in commerce or working in
the banking industry. Therefore, the rhythm of trading at Szerdahely was adjusted to the
cultural and religious habits of the local Jewry: life came to a standstill for the Sabbath (i.e.,
from sundown on Friday), while shops were open until 10 a.m. on Sunday and this could not
be changed although Christian Socialists tried to do so on several occasions
The majority of associations and federations were also organised on the basis of different
religious communities in that half-Christian half-Jewish town, called Small Palestine in the
contemporary language, but of course there were leagues including both Jews and Christians.
According to a note in 1931, 7 out of 13 formerly registered associations at Dunaszerdahely
were explicitly Jewish in their nature.22 The Chevra Kádisa was outstanding among them
which had been operating at the town since the beginning of the 18th century. Its main
responsibility was to take care of the cemetery and of the elderly. The Chevra had its own
prayer house and it operated an Old People’s Home, where elderly people who were single or
ill were given accommodation, board and medical supervision. The next charity association
was Chevrat Málbis Árumim, i.e., an organisation supporting poor children. The Chevras
Thoras Chesed had a similar part to play supporting Talmudists. The Bikus Cholim was an
association taking care of the sick, while the Menza provided meals for Talmudists. The
Michael Pópe Association had also been established for the Talmudists, while the ladies of the
community could join the Israelite Women’s League established in 1895.
Different Zionist organisations also appeared at Dunaszerdahely in the period between the
two wars and many youth had become their enthusiastic followers. They included the
Hasomér Hacair, the Betár or the Mizrachi. Due to the operation of such organisations, the
štátny archív v Bratislave (hereinafter: ŠABA PŠ), fond Notársky úrad Dunajská Streda (NÚ DS), k. 71,
2315/1921.adm.
22

idea of immigrating to Palestine had become popular among the Jewish youth of
Dunaszerdahely, although only a few of them opted for actual immigration at the time. The
Zionist organisations mainly used sports to attract the local youth. For instance, the Betár had
a table tennis team, but Makkabea had also had a sports club at the town. The sports loving
youth of Dunaszerdahely also maintained the team of the Dunaszerdahely Athletics Club
(DAC), which was the most important sports club at the city. Béla Wiener had been chairman
and Ármin Kornfeld deputy chairman of the club and there were a great number of Jewish
youth among the players of DAC.
The new state did not only set forth a new social and political environment but it also resulted
in a new situation in the relationship of Jews and Christians in which forces converging and
alienating appeared at the same time. The foreign occupation, which hit the people of
Dunaszerdahely disregarding their religion, initially increased the internal unity of the
population, Christians and Israelites alike. The Jewish and Christian original population of the
town was uniformly Hungarian in the eyes of the Czechoslovak power, so when hostages
were taken from among the residents in the early summer of 1919, the followers of both
denominations were included.23 It is no accident, either, that when the Czechoslovak
authorities banned the celebrations of the day of Saint Stephen in summer 1919, a leading
personality of the local Jewish public, Béla Pick, defended the Christian holiday on the pages
of Csallóköz Papers, because it had been an expression of their loyalty to Hungary, so Pick
called it to be a festival for the Jewry as well.24
The coexistence of Christians and Jews at Dunaszerdahely between the two wars were
basically characterised by fair relations and mutual cooperation. Two Hungarian weeklies
were published at the city. Csallóköz Papers was the older one printed at the printing house of
Józsué Goldstein supported mainly by local Jewish businessmen and edited by Jews. The
other one, the Csallóköz News was under the influence of the local leaders of the National
Christian Socialist Party but it was also printed in a Jewish printing house, that of Mór Ádler.
The two weeklies showed respect towards each other, which might seem unusual today. The
Csallóköz Papers also served the Christian community and always celebrated Christian
holidays with long articles. And the News – although written in a Christian spirit - never
attacked either the competitor paper or the Jewry itself.

ŠABA, f. Služnovský úrad v Dunajskej Strede 1862 – 1922 (hereinafter: SÚ DS), k. 3, 33/1919; Csallóköz
Papers, 11 June, 1919, p. 3.
24
An article termed ‘the voice of the Jewry’ recalls the event: Csallóköz News, 5 February, 1939
23

The lack of conflicts between the two religions was probably also the result of the Orthodox
character of the local Jewry, because it did not only mean a more marked separation but also
some quite transparent division of responsibilities as well. As we can learn from Sándor
Márai, the Christian community mostly looked at the assimilated Jews trying to adapt to the
Christian society as their competitors,25 which was also the origin of anti-Semitic feelings, and
not in the Orthodox Jewry.
If there was any tension between the two communities at Dunaszerdahely, it mostly appeared
on the political scene including local and high politics. Exploiting the liberal system of the
Czechoslovak Republic practising tolerance towards the Jews, the local Jewry could quickly
find its place in political life, while it used markedly different strategies in high and local
politics.
The National Jewish Party was not too welcome for the Orthodox Community of
Dunaszerdahely as it was mainly supported by Neologues and Zionists. That is the reason
while only 3% of the votes went to that Party in 1925. In accordance with the nationwide
trend, the local Jewish community supported the Czechoslovak government parties, which
was a kind of means for them to express their loyalty to the state and its leaders. That was
why the Czechoslovak parties obtained 46% of the Dunaszerdahely votes at the 1925
Parliamentary elections although - by 1921 data - Czechs and Slovaks only constituted 3% of
the population. The Tradesmen’s Party was particularly popular among local Jews obtaining
19% of all votes cast at Dunaszerdahely in the 1929 elections.
On the other hand, there was a strong interest representation of Jews in local politics. 2-3
clearly Jewish parties competed in local elections, while there also were Jewish candidates of
the other parties (such as on the lists of the Communists or of the Czechoslovak parties). In
that way, several kinds of competition took place in the local elections, because in addition to
Christians competing Jews, there was an internal struggle among Jews as well measured
mainly by the degree of devoutness. Contrary to the Parliamentary elections, the local
Christian society accepted that the Jews failed to vote for the list of the Christian Socialist
Party because it did not mean a support for the Czechoslovak powers. Although the
opposition Hungarian parties and Jewish parties were competitors in the local government,
their cooperation can be said to be good and they took an identical stand regarding national
‘We all who lived in the house found the Galician relatives of the Jónap family, who wore caftans and flying
locks of hair, nicer than the totally civilised owner of the glass factory and his family. We watched the high style
bourgeois life of the Weinréb family with particular jealousy; we were afraid of them we did not know why? In
limited social contacts, the man was polite and neutral to Christians, while he was condescending and haughty
with the «poor» Jews of the ground floor.’ Sándor Márai: Memoirs of a citizen. Budapest, Európa, 2000, p. 16.
25

issues. Major differences arose, however, on symbolic topics linked to the expression of
loyalty to the Czechoslovak State: for instance, whether or not to send a greeting cable on the
birthday of the President of the Republic.
Although the Hungarian character of the Jews of Dunaszerdahely was not doubted either by
them or their environment, only a few Jewish votes were cast on the two important Hungarian
parties, the National Christian Socialist Party (OKP) and the Hungarian National Party (MNP)
at local elections in Dunaszerdahely and they received few votes at Parliamentary elections
too although it was known of the MNP that there were several Jews among its important
leaders and the local Jews of Kassa belonged to the main supporters of the Party - as referred
to above. On the other hand, the Party was unable to attract the local Jewry at
Dunaszerdahely.
It is easier to understand that only a negligible number of votes were cast for OKP, because
the party built on Christian Socialist ideology was closely connected to the Catholic clergy.
Priests played a decisive part in its leading bodies and regional organisations and no important
decisions could be made without the approval of the so-termed clerical wing operating within
the party. It was also due to the Catholic clergy that no Jews were admitted. Subsequently it
was acknowledged by Géza Szüllő, who had been the chairman and the decisive person in the
party for many years; although he believed that there had not been any Jews or any antiSemitism within the party. 26 However, he was mistaken there, because there were several
incidents indicating the moderate anti-Semitism of the OKP. For instance, Jenő Lelley, the
Chairman of the Party until 1925 supported, together with two other MPs, the so-termed
‘numerus clausus’ law submitted to Parliament as a motion by the German Christian
Socialists, which was to restrict the number of Jews at the German University of Prague.27 The
leading officers of the party and the party press did use, albeit not frequently, the means of
anti-Semitic rhetoric. It is not an accident that the merger of the two Hungarian parties had
been prevented for many years by the OKP objecting to the presence of Jews in MNP.28
The OKP had a strong position at the town where it regularly obtained the highest number of
votes both at Parliamentary and local elections. The local organisation of the party and its
Gusztáv Filep Tamás: A jog hatalma – a hatalom joga. Szüllő Gézáról. [The power of law - the law of power.
On Géza Szüllő.] Kommentár, 2007, Vol. 3, p. 57.
27
Regarding this, see: Reggel, 30 April, 1925, p. 3.; Prágai Magyar Hírlap, 5 December, 1923, p. 3.; Digitální
knihovna NS RČS 1920–1925, Poslanecká sněmovna – stenoprotokoly, 246. schůze, Pátek 20. prosince 1923.
http://www.snem.cz/eknih/1920ns/ps/stenprot/246schuz/s246010.htm
28
At the 1926 negotiations on the cooperation of the two parties, one of the conditions of OKP was ‘the
expansion of liberal Jewish elements’ from MNP. Béla Angyal: Dokumentumok az Országos
Keresztényszocialista Párt történetéhez [Documents to the history of the National Christian Socialist Party]
1919–1936. Somorja, Fórum Kisebbségkutató Intézet, 2004, p. 70. document, p. 336–338.
26

leaders (Géza Szeiff, Vendel Uhrovics or Lajos Srenker, who also had been the town judge
for a long time) did not use anti-Semitic means either at the time of election campaigns or at
any other times, and the Jewish issue as such did not play a part in local politics. The topic
was also absent from the pages of Csallóköz News edited by Géza Szeiff and we have no
information indicating anti-Semitism by the local Catholic parish, either. The parish did not
have its own paper but the Saint George Calendar published by it was free of the Jewish issue.
The only momentum where the Christian-Jewish conflict openly appeared in town politics
was the opening of shops on Sundays. The heads of the Catholic community including the
parish priest tried in vain to achieve that the Israelite merchants should also close their shops
on Sundays.
Since no archive sources are available on the topic, and no regional church press publications
appeared at Dunaszerdahely or even in the whole of Csallóköz, only indirect sources can be
used to assess how the local churches related to the Jewry. We can be assisted here by
analysing the attitude of the Slovak churches to the issue, the behaviour of the Hungarian
Slovakian clergy and the local - not religious - papers.
The Catholic Church was the most important Christian church at Dunaszerdahely, because
almost 90% of the Christian population were Catholics. Relying on press sources (there are
no archive sources in that regard), the relationship between the Catholic parish and Catholic
population of Dunaszerdahely and the local Jewry can be said to be free of conflicts. It
practically corresponded to the atmosphere characterising the Slovak Catholic church
including the Hungarian clergy and its politics, where there was no place for open antiSemitism. The Hungarian church press in Slovakia was also free of anti-Jewish articles; we
can only meet some in the second part of the 1930s. Two such articles have been found in the
Hungarian paper of ‘Actio Catholica’, the Parish News in 1937. The first was published in
relation to the Easter holidays, and it is no accident the atmosphere is created by images of
Jews responsible for the death of Christ.29 Then – reiterating that the Jews wanted to control
the global economy and all the nations, it emphasised the settlement of the Jewish issue was
unavoidable. Although the article rejected looking at the Jewish issue as a racial one, it
proposed to introduce a ‘numerus clausus’ to prevent Jews from having a monopoly in certain
branches of the economy. However, the author of the article could have realised the potential
consequences of such measures, so he proposed to open free spaces of some ‘ancient trades’
for the Jews hit by ‘numerus clausus’.

29

Árnyak a fény körül. [Shadows around the light.] In Plébániai Értesítő, 1-4 April, 1937.

The article entitled ‘The Catholic press and the Jewish issue’ mainly attacks the Catholic
community and not the Jews.30 Although it says the accusations of rising anti-Semitism i.e.,
that Jews control certain branches of the economy and also the public via the press are true, it
is of the opinion that not the Jews but the Christians themselves are responsible for the
situation. The author believes the carelessness of Christians and their insufficient religious
conscience was the reason for the economic expansion of the Jews. The solution is not to
restrict it but Christians should be more assertive and should learn from the Jews.
In addition to Catholics, the followers of the Reformed Church were significant at the town
and its neighbourhood, but their voice could hardly be heard in the local press. The Reformed
Church was considered a Hungarian national church in Slovakia as it consisted of Hungarians
except for a few Slovak-language groups or communities in Eastern Slovakia. The Hungarian
followers of the Reformed Church had the tradition of balanced relationship with the Israelites
and it was not different in Southern Slovakia or in the Csallóköz either. As a result of the
more tolerant attitude of the followers of the Reformed Church to Israelites, the converts of
the Israelites usually embraced that confession, which caused no tension between the two
communities.
Their problem-free relationship is indicated by the fact that the Jewish issue practically never
appeared in the papers of the Hungarian Reformed Church in the Felvidék between the two
wars. The official paper of the Uniform Reformed Church of Slovensko and Rusinsko
Reformed Church and School only took up the topic in 1938. The topic of settling the Jewish
issue was first addressed by Ignác Darányi when the so-termed ‘Győr Program’ was
announced. In response, an editorial by Sándor Ágoston was published in the 21 May issue of
the above paper entitled ‘Is there a Jewish issue?’31 In an age when you could only read about
the detrimental nature of the Jewry, the article with its tolerance is a good indication of the
attitude of the Reformed Church in Slovakia. The author of the article mainly deals with the
question why Hungarian Israelites have not converted to the Reformed Church as opposed to
the Jewry of the Netherlands. He believes the reason for that is not mainly in the Jews but in
the followers of the Reformed Church that cannot be properly attractive for Israelites with the
strength of its own religious life. In that regard, he defends converted Jews expressing the
opinion that the life they live is not less Christian than that of ‘thoroughbred followers of the
Reformed Church’. The response of the article to the question whether or not there is a Jewish

A katolikus sajtó és a zsidókérdés. [The Catholic press and the Jewish issue.] In Plébániai Értesítő, December,
1937, pp. 2-4.
31
Reformed Church and School, 21 May, 1938. pp. 1-2.
30

issue is that the real problem is not represented by the Jewry but by the loss of faith of
Christians.

Summary
The liberal atmosphere of the first Czechoslovak Republic did not only provide favourable
conditions for the Jewish community living in Slovakia, but it also let the Jewry identify with
the Czechoslovak State and be loyal to it. They expressed their loyalty, among others, by
supporting the Czechoslovak parties at Parliamentary elections or by confessing they
belonged to the Jewish or Czechoslovak nationality.
On the other hand, the Slovak population was unable to get rid of its aversion to the Jewry
that had its roots partly in traditional anti-Judaism, partly in economic factors and partly in
nationalism. The Jews were not only accused of being the promoters of liberal and Bolshevik
ideals alien to the nature of Slovaks but also of being the vehicle of ‘Magyarization’. Such
accusations were particularly strong among the followers of the Slovak People’s Party, which
had had strong links to the Catholic clergy with Andrej Hlinka, a priest not free of antiSemitism, as its leader. It might be assumed that anti-Semitism had strong positions within the
Catholic Church, but it is true the Church had never taken any anti-Jewish steps or
communicated such views formally.
The Orthodox Jewish community of Dunaszerdahely called ‘Small Palestine’ faced similar
problems as Jews living in other parts of Southern Slovakia. It stood in the cross-fire of the
Slovak and Hungarian nationalism, since the former expected it to distance itself from the
Hungarian culture in its language, while the latter wanted it to identify with the Hungarian
efforts politically.
It also meant the Jewry living in Slovakia did not primarily have to face the traditional antiJudaism advertised by the Christian churches but had become the target of the ethnic and
nationalistic strife typical of the Felvidék. The Slovaks accused them of serving Hungarian
interests while the Hungarians said they were traitors to the ‘Hungarian cause’. An escape
route from that situation was to reject both types of nationalism and to approach the idea of
Zionism or to find refuge in the internationalism of the Bolshevik ideology. Both were
actually popular at Dunaszerdahely.
Most Hungarians living in Southern Slovakia were either Catholics or followers of the
Reformed Church. Both had to face a number of problems that were related to the dissolution
of historic Hungary and the establishment of the Czechoslovak state. As a result of
nationalisation, which had been fairly fast in the Catholic Church, the pontifical posts had

been transferred to Slovaks, and the Hungarian followers fought in vain to establish a separate
Hungarian Diocese. The Czechoslovak state regarded the Reformed Church as a Hungarian
church right from the beginning, and it related to it accordingly: its clerical constitution was
not accepted and it provided no training of theologians for it.
For that reason, the Hungarian churches of Slovakia looked at the state power as their main
adversary rather than the Jewry also speaking Hungarian, which also meant that they
manifested no anti-Semitism. The review of the Hungarian church press indicates the ‘Jewish
issue’ was only discovered as a topic immediately preceding the First Vienna Award, in 1938,
but the tone used was still different from that of similar press manifestations in Hungary.
It is paradoxical, however, that the life of the Jewish community at Dunaszerdahely took a
similar turn after 1938 as their fellow Jews in Hungary although anti-Semitism was totally
absent in the public life of Hungarians living in Slovakia or at Dunaszerdahely from 1918 to
1938 including the attitude of the Christian churches there. In 1944, they perished in the Shoa
and the local Christian society or the Christian churches did not express any more sympathy
or helpfulness towards them than in other Hungarian regions.

Literature and sources

Archive sources
Štátny archív Bratislava pobočka Šala
Fond Notárský úrad Dunajská Streda
Štátny archív v Bratislave
Fond fond Župa Bratislavská II.

Contemporary press
Csallóköz News 1925–1938
Csallóköz Papers, 1920–1938
Parish News, 1936–1938
Reformed Church and School, 1921–1938
Slovenský denník, 1935–1938

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