First evidence of Jewish presence in Bardejov area.
Hungarian forces defeated at the Battle of Mohács. Jews expelled from all major towns in geographic area of modern Slovakia.
The first Jews recorded as living in the town of Bardejov are a goldsmith and a wagoner.
Jews are expelled from Bardejov.
Two Jewish families live in Bardejov.
Austria annexes Polish Galicia and inherits its large Jewish population. In the ensuing decades, many Galician Jews settle in Bardejov.
Habsburg Emperor Joseph II issues Edict of Tolerance, which grants Jews religious freedom, the right to attend public schools and universities, and to engage in previously closed occupations. The Edict also eliminates onerous taxes and restrictions on Jews.
42 Jews live in 15 houses behind the city walls. They operate a school, house of prayer, and poor house.
Jews are required to adopt fixed German surnames and to keep vital records (birth, marriage, and death) in official registries.
Date of oldest legible headstone in Bardejov’s Jewish cemetery. It belongs to Menashe son of Rafael.
Bardejov’s Jewish Community is officially founded. The nearby villages of Zborov and Kurima also establish communities; Raslavice and Lukov soon follow suit.
Bardejov’s Chevra Kadisha Jewish burial society is officially established.
The Old Synagogue is established just outside Bardejov’s city walls. The stone structure becomes part of a large Jewish Suburbia compound, which later also includes a study hall (Beit HaMidrash) and ritual bath (Mikvah).
Prohibition against Jews living in “royal cities,” including Bardejov, is lifted.
480 Jews live in Bardejov.
Austro-Hungarian Empire adopts Act of Jewish Emancipation.
Jewish Congress in Pest culminates in schism of Hungarian Jewry.
Moshe Halberstam becomes rabbi of Bardejov and establishes a seven-decade family dynasty whose rabbinic authority encompasses many nearby villages.
Bardejov Spa, developed and operated by Jews, is visited by Austrian Empress Elizabeth (“Sissi,” wife of Franz Joseph I).
1,710 Jews live in Bardejov. Two Hebrew printing presses, M. Blayer and M. Ch. Horovitz, are established. Over the next four decades, they publish some one hundred rabbinic or Hassidic texts.
Bardejov’s town council approves expanded eruv network, enabling Sabbath-observant Jews in and near Bardejov to carry certain objects on the Sabbath. The original eruv was set up a few years earlier.
The Mishnah Study Association founds the Chevra Mishnayot Synagogue on Stocklova Street.
The first Czechoslovakian Republic. Bardejov’s Jews assume prominent civic leadership positions, own 90 percent of Bardejov’s businesses, and increasingly enter the liberal professions. Jews form voluntary associations dedicated to religious and charitable work, and various cultural, social, educational, sports, and Zionist activities.
2,119 Jews live in Bardejov. They make up one-third of the town’s total population. Nearly three dozen nearby towns and villages are under the auspices of Bardejov’s rabbinate.
A charitable association that aids the sick and needy founds the Chevra Bikur Cholim Synagogue on Klastorska Street.
2,264 Jews live in Bardejov.
Hitler’s Nazi army invades the Czech Sudetenland. Josef Tiso establishes an autonomous Slovakian government.
Slovakia is forced to cede territory to Hungary. The new autonomous Slovak state makes an aborted effort to deport destitute and foreign Jews. 308 deported Jews return to Bardejov after the operation is declared unlawful.
A nominally independent Slovak Republic, that in fact is a puppet state of Nazi Germany, is established.
The new republic enacts first significant anti-Jewish decrees. Jews are defined by religious and racial criteria. Quotas limit the number of Jews in certain professions, such as law and medicine, and Jews are dismissed from the Civil Service.
Quotas restrict the number of Jewish students in public schools. Jews are later forbidden from attending public schools altogether. “Trustees” are appointed to oversee major industrial and commercial enterprises of Jews as part of process of eliminating Jews from the economy.
World War II begins. Bardejov is used as a staging area for the German invasion of Poland. Local Jewish stores are looted. New legislation prevents Jews from obtaining passports or driving motor vehicles.
Jews who emigrate forced to leave assets behind.
First Aryanization Law enacted. Jewish businesses must “voluntarily” take on an Aryan partner. Jews limited to forty percent of business profits. The “voluntary” aspect of Aryanization is soon abolished.
Jews must complete two months of labor in lieu of regular army service. Jews are completely excluded from regular army service with the creation of segregated labor units in 1941.
“Negotiations” in Salzburg, Austria enhance the power of radicals, such as Vojtech (Bela) Tuka and Alexander (Sano) Mach, within the Slovak regime.
New laws prohibit ritual slaughter and ban Jewish students from public schools. Jews’ business liquor licenses are annulled, prompting the closure of 19 local liquor businesses. Strict new banking rules require Jews to deposit their savings and jewelry in blocked bank accounts.
New laws limit the employment of Jews.
Second Aryanization Law enacted, extending the program to all Jewish assets, business and private. The Central Economic Office, led by Augustin Moravek, is authorized to mass liquidate Jewish enterprises as part of a systematic plan to eliminate Jews from the economy and to redistribute their assets to non-Jews.
Unemployed Jewish men aged 18–60 drafted to special work centers for forced labor service.
A massive Jewish Codex with 270 individual provisions is enacted as the regime’s comprehensive “solution to Jewish issues.” The Codex is propagandized as a European-wide model for solving “the Jewish Problem.” The Codex defines the concept of race, requires Jews to wear visible labels in public, denies Jews rights of privacy and freedom of movement. The Codex bans religious practices, prohibits school attendance, and reaffirms the accelerated Aryanization policies of the Central Economic Office. A few individual Jews procure exemptions from the strictures of the Codex.
Mandatory registration of Jews. The “Supis Zidov” census enumerates some 4,477 Jews in the Bardejov area.
Young Jewish women are the first from the Bardejov area slated for deportation. Many elude the deportation by artificially contracting symptoms of typhoid as part of a ruse engineered by Refuel Rudolf Löwy, the longtime leader of Bardejov’s Jewish community.
Four-hundred-thirteen young Jewish adults are deported from Bardejov to Poprad. From there, most are deported to Auschwitz.
The Slovak Assembly adopts a Constitutional law legalizing the mass deportation of Jews. On May 15–16, 2,401 Jews from Bardejov and vicinity are loaded unto trains and transported to transit ghettos in Konskowola, Rejowiec, and Opole Lubelskie in Poland. Many die in these ghettos, or in the Sobibor or Majdanek extermination camps, or in camps such as Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, Buchenwald, Dachau, Gross-Rosen, and Mauthausen.
Hundreds of Jews from Bardejov are rounded up and deported to the concentration center in Zilina, Slovakia. The first wave of mass deportations ends on October 8.
Only 386 Jews remain in the Bardejov district.
The Slovak National Uprising triggers harsh reprisals by German troops, which occupy Bardejov.
German troops direct a second wave of deportations. Approximately 12,000 Jews are gathered in labor camps at Sered and deported to concentration camps in Auschwitz and Theresienstadt. Soviet troops reach the Slovak border. Jews still in Bardejov hide or flee to western Slovakia.
Soviet troops liberate Bardejov the night of January 19–20. Seven Jews emerge from hiding places in cellars beneath Bardejov’s main town square. Jews gradually return to Bardejov from concentration camps, hiding places, and the resistance movement. Bardejov becomes a center for immigration to Israel.
384 Jews, including 79 children, live in Bardejov. Local Jews are attacked. The police does little to protect them.
Communists take power in “victorious February” and declare Czechoslovakia a “people’s democracy.” Israel’s establishment as an independent state is celebrated at the Chevra Bikur Cholim Synagogue. Approximately 250 Jews live in Bardejov.
The Communist government bars emigration from Czechoslovakia. Jews desiring to emigrate are stuck.
Chevra Mishnayot Synagogue on Stocklova Street is converted into a business school.
“The Prague Spring,” shortly crushed by Soviet troops, introduces short-lived political reforms. During the brief thaw, many Jews leave the country or reestablish contact with Jewish relatives around the world.
A hardware and plumbing supply business is established in the Jewish Suburbia. The Old Synagogue is used to warehouse supplies, the Beit HaMidrash operates as a store, and pipes, metal, and large tools are stored on the Suburbia’s grounds.
The “Velvet Revolution” leads to the establishment of a free, democratic Czechoslovakia, with the first free elections since 1946.
Czechoslovak President Václav Havel visits the Jewish Suburbia and declares it a national monument and memorial to Bardejov’s slain Jews.
The neo-classical portico entrance of the Old Synagogue collapses.
Czechoslovakia splits into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic (Slovakia). The new Slovak government transfers Jewish communal property ownership and control to a restructured UZZNO, the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities of the Slovak Republic.
Jewish owners of private properties confiscated under the anti-Semitic laws of 1939-45 are given a ten-year window to apply for restitution.
Bardejov is named a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the city’s historical core and the Jewish Suburbia both officially designated as world cultural treasures deserving preservation and free access.
The Slovak and United States governments agree to protect and preserve cultural properties in Slovakia, including many formerly owned by Jewish communities.
The last Jew to live in Bardejov, Mayer Spira, dies. Emil A. Fish, a child survivor born in Bardejov, returns to Bardejov after 56 years. He brings his family. He subsequently establishes the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee (BJPC) as a non-profit organization and begins restoration of Bardejov’s Jewish cemetery. The newly preserved headstones are catalogued and published on BJPC’s website.
The BJPC sponsors a reunion trip to Bardejov. Survivors and their families meet with Bardejov’s mayor, tour the Jewish Suburbia, the restored cemetery, and the Bikur Cholim Synagogue. The effort raises awareness and promotes the restoration of the Jewish Suburbia.
Against the objections of the BJPC, the hardware business transforms the Suburbia’s Mikvah into a hardware store and office building by providing it with a new roof, windows and doors and painting over the original patina and Hebrew lettering.
2009MARCH & APRIL
Local activists and historians Peter and Pavol Hudák arrange a commemoration of the 130th anniversary of Refuel Rudolf Löwy’s birth in front of his former house on the Town Square and mark the 67th anniversary of the first deportations of Jewish girls from Bardejov with a candlelight ceremony in front of the Jewish Suburbia’s Mikvah building.
Bardejov joins the annual European Day of Jewish Culture. The Bikur Cholim Synagogue is opened to the public.
The hardware store tenant vacates the Old Synagogue and restoration work begins on the building. The hardware store’s operations are moved to the Mikvah and Beit HaMidrash buildings.
A second European Day of Jewish Culture is celebrated in the Bikur Cholim Synagogue with presentations on local Jewish artists and Bardejov’s Jewish cemetery.
Representing the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, Emil Fish leads a BJPC delegation to a meeting with Bardejov’s mayor, representatives from UZZNO, and representatives of Slovakia’s Monument Board, to discuss the future of the Jewish Suburbia and plans for a Holocaust memorial in Bardejov. The city allots municipal land next to the Jewish Suburbia for a proposed Holocaust memorial to victims from the Bardejov area.
On May 15, the BJPC organizes a major commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the mass deportation of Bardejov’s Jews. The commemoration is highlighted by a 400–600 people strong Solidarity March from Bardejov’s train station to the historical town center. Among the participants are 131 Bardejovers, including ten Holocaust survivors, and their descendants. Local government officials, clergy, residents, and student groups welcome the guests and join them in public activities.
On March 25, construction begins of the Holocaust Memorial, including exterior walls evoking Jews’ former residences and decorative fencing around the site.
On June 24, Bardejov’s Holocaust Memorial is dedicated, accompanied by the publication of this book. The Memorial includes a Memorial Wall inscribed with all individual Jews from Bardejov and vicinity who perished in the Holocaust, five history tablets, a donor tablet, a central monument, and interior landscaping.