SOPRON


SOPRON (Ger. Oedenburg), city in W. Hungary on the Austrian border, within proximity of the "Seven Communities" of *Burgenland. Jews were living there during the 14th century, according to the prevailing custom in a "Jewish street." Their residence in Sopron was guaranteed by King Charles Robert in 1324. The land registry records of 1379 show that 27 houses were owned by Jews. After King Louis the Great expelled the Jews in 1360, those who lived in the town left for nearby *Wiener Neustadt in Austria, where some of them made their fortune and became well-known financiers. When Louis authorized their return in 1365, their houses were transferred to Christian ownership. During their absence the debts owed to them were canceled by Rudolf, prince of Austria, upon the request of the citizens of Sopron. Upon their return the Jews demanded that the validity of their promissory notes be recognized, but the townsmen succeeded in revoking them.

Their situation did not improve until the reign of Matthias Corvinus, when the office of *Praefectus Judaeorum was established. From 1495 a special tax was imposed on the Jews by the governor of the town until in 1523 the king took them under his protection. The Jews then numbered 400. Rabbis of Sopron at the close of the 14th century were R. Meir (mentioned in Sefer ha-Minhagim) and R. Judah (mentioned in the Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah as a distinguished scholar in the Germanic countries). Fifteen codices recently discovered attest the erudition of the Jewish scholars of Sopron.

When the whole of Hungary was conquered by the Turks in 1526, the Jews were expelled from the town "forever." They infiltrated back into Sopron in the 18th century but its gates remained closed to them until freedom of residence was authorized by law in 1840. In 1855, 180 Jews were living there. New settlers came mainly from the "Seven Communities" of Burgenland where they had lived under the protection of the Eszterházy family from the 16th century. The municipal council of Sopron again attempted to oppose them, and in 1858 anti-Jewish riots broke out in the town; these were suppressed by the central authorities. In 1857 the Jews were authorized to organize themselves as a community but they did not possess a cemetery or synagogue. In 1862 the municipal council prevented the community from purchasing land for a cemetery and the Jews were compelled to acquire an estate for this purpose (1869). A synagogue was erected in 1876, and in 1884 a school was built. The community remained *status quo ante after the schism in Hungarian Jewry of 1868–69 (see *Hungary). In 1868 L. Alt was appointed rabbi of Sopron but he was dismissed in 1872. It was only 20 years later that M. *Pollak was appointed as the first, and also the last, rabbi of the status quo ante community (1894–1944). An Orthodox community was organized in 1872; its rabbi was Menahem Gruenwald (1872–1930). A talmud torah was established in 1874, and a yeshivah was founded in 1917 by S. Posen, the rabbi of the town (1930–44), who later settled in the United States.

The Jewish population numbered 1,152 in 1881; 1,632 in 1891; 2,255 in 1910; 2,483 in 1920; and 1,885 in 1930. They were mainly occupied as merchants, and included industrialists and contractors, as well as a number of craftsmen and members of the liberal professions. The anti-Jewish tradition in the town continued and its German inhabitants rapidly adopted the theory of racism.

Holocaust and Contemporary Periods

During World War II, after the German occupation (March 19, 1944), the Jews, numbering 1,861 in 1941, were confined in a ghetto. On July 5, around 3,000, including Jews from the surrounding area, were deported to the death camp at Auschwitz. Only a few returned. Even after the deportation, the inhabitants of Sopron did not help to alleviate the suffering of the thousands of Jews from the forced labor camps who passed through the town on their last halt before being sent to the death camps in Germany.

After World War II, only 274 Jews remained in Sopron (1946), and only 47 in 1970.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

M. Pollák, A zsidók története Sopronban (1896) = Geschichte der Juden in Oedenburg (1929); S. Scheiber, Héber kódexmaradványok magyarországi kötéstáblákban (1969); idem, Magyaroszági zsidó feliratok (1960); Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929), 798–801; MHJ, 6 (1961), index; 11 (1968), index; F. Grünvald, in: MIOK évkönyv (1970), 52–64.

[Baruch Yaron]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.