In memory of the Holocaust
Fragments from Béla Majdán ’s book: „A balassagyarmati zsidó közösség emlékezete”(The memory of the jewish community of Balassagyarmat):
"... The fact that the Austro-Hungary Monarchy lost the first World War, and the so called first „hungarian kommün”, which was followed by the truce at Trianon, was really hard on Balassagyarmat. Mostly because it lost its economical dominance in this region, and ceased to be the capitol of the county anymore, it also transformed from being a central part of the country, to be a peripheral town at the newly drawn border, beside the newly found and hostile Czechoslovakia. It also lost the 1/5 of its original territory, plus the whole part of the county which is over the river Ipoly. This was a devostating blow on the towns commercial and economical life, and also had a really demoralising effect on its citizens, which served as a great substratum for the anti-semite ideas. The whole situation was very complicated in Balassagyarmat.
The county’s political, economical, magisterial duties, including the matters involving the nearby villages and their mostly landholder state officials, were always in the jurisdiction of Balassagyarmat. Balassagyarmat was pretty much bourgeois by that time. And its safe to say, that the citizens of the town had nothing against living with jews, they already did that since centuries without any incident or any real trouble, tolerance and peaceful symbiosis characterized their relationship
Before the ghettos began to function it was natural, if the christian citizens wanted a nice pair of shoes, they went to the shoe shop of Ungár Béla. If they wanted a nice and elegant dress they went to Gansel Móritz’s shop. If they wanted porcelain or any other kind of glassware they bought it at Benedek Pinkász, they bought the dye at Szántó’s place, the stationery at Székely Samu, the bread at the Heksch bakery. And when chanucca or Christmas came, the believers got their fish on their table from Ilovszky Ármin’s fishpond’s at his farm at Nyírjes. It was a pretty common thing in Balassagyarmat that the shops on the main street were closed on Saturdays...
The Balassi Bálint High School never discriminated any jewish kids, who had the right to learn there even until the march of 1944, the occupation of the city.
And it was a natural thing to, that –among the last ones in the whole country- the jesíva of Balassagyarmat was able to function. So did the matzah bakery. the koser butcher and the mikve. It was so until the soldiers began to move the jews into ghettos...
In 1849 the 39% of the town called themselves jewish. Their ratio later dropped down thanks to the expanding of the city, but it always remained significant, and there were more then 2000 people dragged away from this town in the second World War.
In 1944. June the 10th the Deathmarch started along the Csesztvei street, from the tobaccosheds on the farm of Ilovszky in Nyírjes, and they went to the train station, where they were entreined. The home owners were hiding behind their curtains and watched the horrible events terrified. They saw the familiar faces, and how painful they looked, but they didnt know most of them are marching toward his/her doom, and will never come back. Among the lines of the marching there were former classmates, playmates, the well-known and respected merchants and shop owners, doctors and lawyers, children and adults. Only 136 of them returned, and only two of those, who were sent to deathcamps...
One of the survivors, György Czilczer said the followings about the life in Balassagyarmat in 1945: "... the christians and the jewish people lived together peacefully. The nazis havent had a strong base in the city, except a few hooligans, the middle-class and the citizens never wanted to have anything to do with the nazi party. the burocrats were the same as they are everywhere. There was no hint of real anti-semitism, the authorities were always willing to help jewish and non-jewish people alike.”
Nowadays only a handful of the witnesses are still alive, but some of the heartbreaking stories published in the near past show us something about the horrors. Gyula Majtényi , who was a latinteacher, tried to bring milk to his former students in the ghetto. But the guards didn’t want to allow this to him, so they ended up having a scrimmage, and the brave teacher threw the can over the fence into the ghetto. József Kamarás had written down his last meeting with Dezső Magos (born Munk) , who could only say this: „My dear friend Józsi, you know how much I did for this city.” The building contrator was taken away despite the fact that he abandoned his religion, and thought he can live peacefully from that time on.
After the second World War Balassagyarmat slowly began to remember its past, its roots, and its jewish heritage. The Csesztvei street was renamed to the street of the Martyrs, but the ruins of the blown-up synagogue was cleared only in the 1950’s.
In 1974 a monument was made in the cemetery to remember the victims. But only about the ¼ of the names of the victims can be readed on it ever since, because it is too small to held all the names. Kertész István was looking after the graveyard for 20 years and in 1992 the Foundation was born to guard and protect this heritage.
In 1993 the Jewish Cemetery of Balassagyarmat was named to be a national art-relic. This was the first such thing in Hungary.
In 1994 they began to renew the Chevra Kadisa in Hunyadi street. Now it serves as a Museum.
On the 50th anniversary of the Holocaust Memorial Day the delegate of the President of Hungary came to Balassagyarmat and inaugurated a memorial tablet on the wall of the catafalque. Ever since there is an annual commemoration.
In 2000 the Jewish Museum opened at 24. Hunyadi st.
Majdán Béla published a book in 2004, entitled: „A balassagyarmati zsidó közösség emlékezete” (the memory of the jewish community of Balassagyarmat). He and the members of the Kertész István Foundation’s advisory board are working tirelessly ever since, in case to search the town’s jewish past, to maintain the cemetery and expand the Museum.
A monography was published by the County Archives in 2006 about the history of the jewry of Nógrád County by Cecilia Szederjesi and Árpád Tyekvicska (authors): (Title in Hungarian:) "Senkiföldjén. Adatok, források, dokumentumok a Nógrád megyei zsidóság holocaustjához" (On no-one's land. Details, sources, documents to the history ot the holocaust of the Jews of Nógrád County ).
You can find its database here (in Hungarian) which contains the details of all settlements in alphabetic order.
On the homepage of the Nógrád County Archives there is a section where you can find a collection of the documents about the holocaust in Nógrád County.
You can find a short history of the Holocaust in Balassagyarmat also here (in English).
A link with the confessions of survivors: DEGOB number 3550 (survivor: dr. György Czilczer ); Number 3552, 3549, 3580 (in English). Number 3551 (survivor: dr. Erzsébet Schenk ), 742, 2090, 2514 (in Hungarian) also about Balassagyarmat.
Published by: Angela Nagy
Translated by Béla Majdán Jr.
© 2010-12. Kertész István Alapítvány