May 2012 Commemorative Gathering in Bardejov

On May 15–17 2012, the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee organized a historic gathering commemorating the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Bardejov’s Jewish population in 1942. 

An international group of 131 travelers, including Holocaust survivors and their families, came to Bardejov from 6 countries: Australia, Canada, England, Israel, Mexico and the USA. They ranged in age from 3 to 87 years old. For some it was a homecoming, for others a chance to meet relatives for the first time or to see a place they had only heard of in family stories. Local government officials, clergy, townspeople, and student groups welcomed the guests and joined them in a number of public activities.

Highlighting the commemoration was a Solidarity March on Tuesday, May 15 that began at the train station—the location of the Jews’ final departure from Bardejov, a thriving Jewish community of more than 3,000 prior to World War Two —and that ended in the historical town center. Between 400 and 600 people participated in the walk, which shut down Bardejov’s main street for the first time in the city’s history, according to local police records. 

In addition, an overflow crowd attended a ceremony in the Old Synagogue at the Jewish Suburbia, and 140 people crowded into the Town Hall’s Government Chamber for a special reception with Mayor Boris Hanuscak, who welcomed visitors back to Bardejov, gave each a certificate of participation and a flower, and invited them to sign the city log book. Four hundred people crowded into the historic town square to hear speeches from a representative of Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič, Mayor Hanuscak, and Emil Fish, BJPC founder and a Bardejov Holocaust survivor. Seven “Righteous of Bardejov” were honored, and local students solemnly read the 437 family surnames of Jewish families who had lived in Bardejov prior to the 1942 deportations. Other students lit candles in memory of the Holocaust victims. Seminars, local tours, and presentations on genealogy and family history were also part of the multifaceted activities.