DESTROYED JEWISH COMMUNITY: KITTSEE

 

Development

The Jewish Community of Kittsee existed already in the 17th century. In 1648, the leather worker guild of the free town of Bratislava protested against three Jewish leather workers, located in the Liszty Noble Manor (Lisztyscher Edelhof) in Kittsee, who competed with them in town. In 1676, the Esterházys took the fiefdom Kittsee from the former manorial lord, Johann Liszty. From 1716 on, the small town belonged to the Prince Esterházy group called the ´Seven Communities´ ('Sieben Gemeinden' in German; 'Sheva Kehillot' in Hebrew).

In 1690, Paul Esterházy had published in Eisenstadt a 'Privilege' of the Jews, which referred to all of his estates, as well as Kittsee. In it is written, "that he allows the Jews all sorts of trade and also commerce like a butcher shop (not to run an inn), the commerce of a tailor, shoemaker, furrier, barber, goldsmith, the occupation as a doctor. They are also allowed to distil spirits, to take tolls, … They have to ask the authority for marriage licenses, to pay an ongoing charge for their protection, but they can settle their matters on their own under supervision of the manorial lord." (Gold)

In the year 1735, 155 adults and 111 children belonged to the Jewish community. In 1780, there lived 363 Jews in Kittsee. The numerical zenith was in 1821, when there were counted 789 Jews in Kittsee. In the following decades, especially after the abolition of the discriminatory conditions belonging to residence and occupation, a distinctive migration occurred; in particular, the Jewish traders migrated to the business centres: Wieselburg, Preßburg, and Wien. So, in 1880, only 111 Jews lived in Kittsee and by 1934, the number of Jews had decreased to 62.

 

 

Jewish Life

The final rabbi of Kittsee was Zwi Armin Perles. In addition to the religious infrastructure like the synagogue and the cemetery, there was the charity and funeral association 'Chevra Kadisha' ('Holy Fraternity'), headed at that time by Gabriel Berger.

" 'The Jew corpse comes!!' A crowd of boys shouts, as they were running on the village lane to the main square. Happy about the welcome alternation. The peasants were stepping forward from the inn, it is Sunday -, inside the inn the gipsy music was stopping, the peasant women of the small town were appearing in a large number.

Kittsee is a remarkable big, well preserved village. The main street is as broad as the Opernring (in Vienna) with no overview because of the dimension. The marvelous castle of the Earl Batthyány with the wonderful wrought-iron gate, a praised hospital, into which surgery-needy people up to Hainburg are brought, village church with a war memorial. I took the electrical tram, the Wien-Preßburg, as far as the small frontier town of Berg, then the bus, and was dropped off at the mayor office; from there I wanted to look for the old Jewish community without a guide.

Now a dolorous coincidence made it unnecessary to set off. From up there, the Jews of Kittsee are coming, the whole Kehilla (community), increased by the Pressburger relatives of the aged dead person, who was being carried to the funeral, beneath a black cloth. Very remarkable, this Jewish funeral procession.

No 'Pompfuneberer' (undertakers), no priest regalia, no funeral carriage with black horses, no flowers, no cantors, no music. And not at all the measured, ceremonial cadence, the disciplined, organized cortege, including mourners walking in procession. Not even the rabbi walks separated at a privileged place, but very much within the knot of his community. This dense, unsettled crowd, not being jutted out by anything as by the unplanned black covered box, appears overcoming in its silent plainness. Symbol of the appropriateness of all terrestrial. What was dust, becomes to dust.

The brothers of the Chevra Kadischa are carrying the chest on their shoulders alternately, the young people of the Kehilla, the 'Melatsches' (the still unmarried members of the Chevra) are taking over from them later. Two Balbattim (homeowners) are holding oxidised silver containers in their hands, in unusual form and from rare manner. They didn't take those pieces of jewellery to the graveyard to decorate the bare, serious funeral cortege: They are the old Zdoke cans (donation cans) from Kittsee...."

Origin: Abeles Otto, Intermezzo in Kittsee, in: Wiener Morgenzeitung, February 20th, 1927, p. 4 et seq., from:
Reiss Johannes (Hrsg.), Aus den Sieben Gemeinden. Ein Lesebuch über Juden im Burgenland, Eisenstadt, 1997, p. 109 et seq.

1938

In the middle of April, the Jews from Kittsee and the neighbouring commune of Pama were got up by the SA one night, deprived of their property, and marooned in the River Danube on an isle of sand. They were found by border guards and residents of the Csechoslovak village of Theben (Devin) and temporarily accommodated. After some days of moving back and forth across the Csech, Hungarian, and German-Austrian border, Jewish relief organisations succeeded in organizing some accommodation facilities on a French towboat. It took some months to find countries of destinations for them. Numerous international newspapers reported on this incident.

Jewish families in Kittsee before 1938

Name, Profession, Address

Aladar Reisner, corner shop and innkeeper, Krachgasse 7/ Untere Hauptstr. 41
Heinrich Dux, poultry and pig fattening unit, Schattendörfl 33
Adolf Hecht, butcher, Untere Hauptstraße 11
Balassa, dentist, Hauptplatz 32
Sigmund Morgenstern, general dealer, Hauptplatz 24
Samuel Singer, butcher, Hauptplatz 22
Hugo Rot, corner shop, Obere Hauptstraße 16
Heinrich Grün, textiles/leather goods, Hauptplatz 48
Frau Grün, tailor
Cäcila Hofbauer, tailor, Hauptplatz 35
Moritz Zopf, merchant, Hauptplatz 21
Neufeld, draper´s shop
Mordechai Friedmann, general dealer
Dr. Leopold Perls, rabbi, Synagoge, Herrengasse
Joseph Schapierer, shohet, Synagoge, Herrengasse
Gabor Berger, tailor, Synagoge, Herrengasse
Esti Berger, tailor, Synagoge, Herrengasse
Salomon Singer, Synagoge, Herrengasse
Frau Singer, tailor
Moritz Knapp, brandy pub, Synagoge, Herrengasse

Origin: School project of the secondary school Kittsee, Jews in Kittsee

Remigrated after 1945:

Mrs. Glaser, nee Hecht (deceased)

This day, visible tracks:

Cemetery

In the cemetery stands amongst others the gravestone of R. Hayyim ben Asher Anshel. He died in 1784 in Kittsee, was teacher (melamed) in Kittsee, and earned his living by writing and illustrating of religious books like Pesach Haggadot or books of blessings. His works can be found today in museums and private collections throughout the world, such as, for example, the 'Kittsee Haggada' from 1770.

Memorial tablet for Joseph Joachim

Also in the Jewish quarter of Kittsee was born the famous fiddler and composer, Joseph Joachim, on June 28, 1831, the seventh of eight children. The family moved to Budapest in 1833. Beginning in 1868, Joseph Joachim was the director of the new founded royal academic college for music in Berlin. There he brought an orchestra and the legendary Joachim Quartette into being. He passed away on August 15th, 1907 in Berlin.


 

Synagogue

The synagogue presumably was built in the 17th century. It was situated in 15, Herrengasse

Picture: Austrian Jewish museum in Eisenstadt

 

The physical state of the synagogue was already in 1938 very bad. After 1945, it was, amongst other uses, a refugee housing for displaced Germans from Slovakia. In autumn, 1950, the building was demolished. Today in that place a commercial building stands.

Picture: Alfred Lang (1993)

 

Cemetery

The cemetery has an area of 11.633m² and is located very adjacent to the Kittsee castle. It exists since the 18th century. The cemetery of the former Jewish community of Kittsee is the only listed one in Austria. In the main the gravestones consist of marble from Mühlendorf, or sandstone.

Pictures: Alfred Lang and Marion Degwerth (1993)

 

 

by Johannes Scholem Graf

2010.09.01