DESTROYED JEWISH COMMUNITY: Kobersdorf

Development

The Jewish community in Kobersdorf ("Kabold" in Hungarian) developed in 1526-1527. After the Hungarian army was defeated by the Ottomans in the battle of Mohács, the displaced Jews from Ödenburg (Sopron) found refuge in Kobersdorf. In the 16th century Kobersdorf was a fully developed community with a synagogue, cemetery, a "Shochet" (Jewish ritual butcher), a "Chazan" (who leads the prayer in the synagogue) and a community court of law. By the year 1569, it already consisted of 18 families living in seven houses.

In 1671 the Jewish community was dissolved due to a ‘banishment decree’ from Leopold I., however soon after, the Jews were allowed to return to Kobersdorf, as ‘protected Jews of the Esterházys’ (Jews protected by the Esterházy family).
Since the 18th century Kobersdorf had belonged to the ‘Esterházy’s seven Jewish communities’.

In 1735, 184 Jews lived in Kobersdorf; in 1836 their number increased to 716. In the second half of the 19th century the number of Jewish inhabitants shrank drastically, although it stayed relatively constant in the following years: In 1869 there were 310 Jews and in 1900, 327 Jews lived in the community. The 20th century saw a new decline in Kobersdorf’s Jewish population; in 1910 there were 256 Jews and in 1935 only 172 remained.

 

Jewish Life

A travelogue by Otto Abeles in the Wiener Morgenzeitung from March 3 1927, gives a look inside Jewish life in Kobersdorf. He writes:

“When the strict Rabbi from Zelem (Deutschkreutz) was recently in Kobersdorf, he indignantly claimed, that the screen (grille) between the women’s section and the men's section of the new synagogue is not opaque enough, and asked the community members to attach a wire netting as thick as those in Zelem, which properly protect the women from men’s gaze. He was not received well by the people of Kobersdorf. They said: if this wooden grill was good enough for their great Rabbi Abraham Zwebner, who was buried in Palestinian soil, then the isolation of the women’s gallery with a wire netting was surely not necessary. They are simple people, the Kobersdorfer inhabitants. The "Kehilla" (community) frustrated Jews, mostly cattle dealers and hawkers, who are out of town during the day or come home just before the Shabbat (Saturday) begins, have little time, and no particular aptitude, for ‘Learning’. They are pious and true, but do not let themselves be intimidated by those more pious than them or even fanatic. Thus the Zelemer Rabbi’s threat, never to return to Kobersdorf until the wooden grill in the synagogue is reinforced with a tight meshed screen, must presumably be fulfilled. The Kobersdorfer Jews are unlikely to carry out the desired changes in their Synagogue, as much as they strive for their Jewish guests, particularly the summer guests. The laudable Kobersdorfer sparkling mineral water, the aromatic forest air, the long walks in the mountains that attract many summer visitors here; the farm houses and the Jewish landlords are set to host them, Kobersdorf is the spa resort of the ‘Schewa Kehillot’ (the seven communities)”.

Sources: Riegler Matitjahu Phillip, Geschichte der Juden in Kobersdorf, in: Gold Hugo (Ed.), Gedenkbuch der untergegangenen Judengemeinden des Burgenlandes, Tel-Aviv/ Israel 1970.

In the Kobersdorf chronicle, the integration of Jews within the village community is indicated:

“… The single lane Schlossgasse and then also the two lane Neugasse were the living quarters of the Jewish population. In between, however, Christians build their houses.
... The Jewish citizens of Kobersdorf were fully integrated in the fields of art and culture, as well as sports. They were included in all events of public life. We find representatives of the Kobersdorfer Jews in many images and documents of the theater society, music groups, the sports club and town festivals. The Jews who fell in World War I are noted at the war memorial, just as the athletes and officials are listed in the various memorial publications. The sports club dedicated the following obituary to them: ‘We want to commemorate our dear athletes and officials, who stayed out there in foreign soil or perished in concentration camps. The association will always honor their memory’. The Jews in Kobersdorf celebrated and adhered to all their holidays, in accordance with their commandments, and their Christian neighbors gladly helped them on the Shabbat. In the summer months, many Jewish guests came to Kobersdorf, where they often stayed with Christian families. Because the Jewish guesthouse couldn’t feed all the summer guests, food was given out in the so called 'Riegler-Auskocherei'. …”

Sources: Hausensteiner Margarethe, Kobersdorf. Ein Ort in seiner Geschichte, Tradition und Entwicklung, Kobersdorf o.J.

 

1938

The information about the fate of the Kobersdorf Jews after March 12 1938 is quite scarce. They also received banishment orders. 87 of the 95 Members of the Kobersdorf community fled to Vienna. From there, with help from the Israeli cultural community, they tried to escape abroad.
There are 166 names of Jews victims that either lived or were born in Kobersdorf - in "Yad Vashem" (The central database of Shoah (Holocaust) victims' names) - see in http://www.yadvashem.org/wps/portal/IY_HON_Welcome

 

Returned after 1945

Three People

Among them, was Dr. Stefan Kertész, born in 1904 in Kobersdorf, who was active as a doctor in his home community until 1938. He was able to immigrate to Israel, and in 1948 returned to set up his practice again. In 1961 he left Kobersdorf for good and relocated to Vienna.

 

Visible traces today:

The Synagogue

In 1860, the Jewish community had built a synagogue in historical style. In November 1938 the synagogue was devastated, but not destroyed. In fact, the synagogue was meant to be blown up, however the explosives experts refused, because on the same day, a child was killed in the demolition of a synagogue in Deutschkreutz. So the synagogue remained, although in a poor condition. The association for Conservation and Cultural Use of the Synagogue in Kobersdorf has tried for years to have the synagogue renovated and restored. Up until now it was only possible through the most essential structural operations to save the synagogue from total collapse.

 

 

 

The cemetary

The 5.690m² Kobersdorf cemetery, established in the mid 19th century, is the only forest cemetery in Burgenland. Until 1938 it consisted of 1,200 graves. In 1949 the cemetery was handed over to the Israeli Cultural Community. Today there are still hundreds of gravestones in the cemetery, only a few minutes away from the synagogue.

by Johannes Scholem Graf
Helped in editing: Yohanan Loeffler and Leah Kaminsky

2010.12.13