View of High Street and the theater, Košice, Austro-Hungary (today in Slovakia), ca. 1890. (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Photochrome Collection, ppmsc-09491)

Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the


City in the center of eastern Slovakia. Košice (Hun., Kassa; Ger., Kaschau) belonged to Greater Hungary until World War I and was the seat of Abaúj-Torna county. Jews first settled in Kassa only after the Diet of 1839–1840 passed legislation permitting them to live in royal free towns. Until that time, Jews lived in nearby Rozgony and would come to the Kassa fairs. Town officials tried to impede Jewish settlement even after 1840, in an attempt to protect Christian trade guilds. Nonetheless, the Jewish community started to grow significantly after the 1850s: Kassa had 2,178 Jews in 1869 and 6,723 in 1910 (10% and 15.2% of the total population respectively), making it one of the larger Jewish communities in Hungary.

A shoe store owned by Samuel Kertész, Košice, Czechoslovakia (now in Slovakia), ca. 1920s. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Eva Halmos Kuhn)

The Jewish community of Kassa was diverse with respect to its origins, economic situation, and culture. In addition to Jewish immigrants from Galicia, growing numbers of Jews came from the more developed western parts of the country. Eighty percent of Jews in the city claimed Hungarian as their mother tongue in the 1910 census, and the number of mixed marriages between 1901 and 1910 represented 6.7 percent of all marriages involving a Jewish partner.

Due to the traditional handicraft trade in Kassa, the role of Jewish entrepreneurs in advancing industry at the time of the Dual Monarchy (1867–1918) was less significant than in cities such as Miskolc or Nagyvárad (Oradea). Many Jews worked at modernizing the food industry. In addition, Jews gained a leading role in the hotel and coffee industry as well as in commerce. They revitalized the grain and crop trade, developed the wine trade, and founded the textile and clothing industries. Jewish commercial leaders included Fülöp Bródy, silk and fabric merchant; Manó Pollacsek, distiller; Adolf Adler, liqueur (refined brandy) manufacturer; and the Horovitz family, wine merchants, one of whose members, Lipót, was a famous portrait painter of the monarchy.

The Jewish Community of Kassa became Neolog after the 1868–1869 Congress. In response, the Orthodox minority broke away and founded its own community in 1871. The first Orthodox rabbi of the city was Mór Jungreisz, a leading proponent of Hungarian Orthodoxy. One of its Neolog rabbis, Manó Enten, who had been active in Kassa starting in 1914, distinguished himself with his studies of cultural history.

Both communities had a very active communal life. The Orthodox ḥevrah kadisha’ (burial society) was founded in 1872 (although another burial society had been functioning since the 1840s), followed by the town’s gemilut ḥasidim in 1890, ḥevrah Shas in 1894, bikur ḥolim in 1916 and, ultimately, a Po‘el Tsedek Society. The elementary school of the Neolog community was founded in 1868, the women’s society in 1870, and the Israelite Parents Alliance for aiding poverty-stricken students in 1928.

Interior of Pushkinova Street synagogue, Košice, Slovakia. The Hebrew inscription above the ark reads: “Know before whom you stand” (Berakhot 28b). Photograph by Guy Shachar. (© Guy Shachar)

Boundary shifts following World War I created a new situation for the Jews of Košice, now under the rule of the newly created Czechoslovakia. Immigrants from Poland and Soviet Russia further increased the size of the Jewish population—in 1941 the 10,079 Jews of Košice constituted 15.1 percent of the town’s total population. In the early 1920s, some 35–40 percent (about 1,600 people) of Košice’s Jews voted for the Jewish Party and the Jewish Economic Party in parliamentary elections. Jewish social institutions grew (among them were a Jewish casino, and the Concordia Lodge of B’nai B’rith), and Yiddish-, German- and Hungarian-language periodicals were launched, including Zsidó Szó (Jewish Word).

After Hungary annexed Košice on 2 November 1938, laws drastically restricting the rights of Jews were implemented. A ghetto was established on 16 April 1944 around Zrínyi, Lubzsenszky, and Pogány streets, where Jews had formerly lived in high concentrations. From there they were taken to a brick factory on the outskirts of the town. Trains deporting Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz went through Kassa. Deportation started on 15 May 1944. Seventy percent of Kassa’s Jewry was murdered.

After the war, Jewish groups reorganized, as did Zionist organizations that facilitated immigration to Israel. With emigration and the resurgence of antisemitism, the number of Jews in Košice fell to 1,300 by the 1960s. By 2001 there were only 406 Jews left in the town.

Suggested Reading

Emanuel Enten, “Zur Geschichte der Juden in Kosice,” Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden in der Tschechoslowakei, 2 (1931/32): 279–291, 3 (1932/33): 47–60; Artúr Görög, A kassai zsidóság története és galériája (Bene Berak, 1991); Lányi Menyhért és Propperné and Békefi Hermin, A szlovenszkói zsidó hitközségek története (Kassa, 1933).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 1097, Benjamin Eichler, Collection, 1839-1972; RG 116, Territorial Collection: Hungary, , 1900s-1930s; RG 790, Kosice and Vicinity Chapter 59, Bnai Zion, Records, 1966-1978.



Translated from Hungarian by Veronika Szabó