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Bonyhád, Hungary

BONYHÁD, town in Tolna County, in southwestern Hungary. The national census of 1746 listed 13 Jewish heads of families with 30 dependents. The Jewish community grew from 382 in 1781 to a peak of 2,351 in 1852. Many of the wealthier Jews moved to larger neighboring towns, including Pécs. By 1910, the number of Jews had declined to 1,153 (16.4% of the total), by 1920 to 1,058 (15.2%), and by 1930 to 1,022 (14.6%). According to the census of 1941, the last before the Holocaust, Bonyhád had a Jewish population of 1,159, representing 13.9% of the total of 8,333. The original Jewish section of the town, including the synagogue and the communal buildings, was destroyed in a fire in 1794. To commemorate the disaster Abraham Leib Freistadt, who was appointed Rabbi of Bonyhád in 1780, composed an elegy, which was recited annually on the first Sabbath after Passover. A new synagogue was built, reportedly by voluntary Jewish labor, in 1796. A bet ha-midrash was established in 1802, and the community's first yeshivah shortly thereafter. Bonyhád had a number of distinguished spiritual leaders, including Isaac Seckel Spitz of Nikolsburg (d. 1768), author of Be'ur Yitzhak (Pressburg, 1790), a commentary on the Haggadah; Judah Aryeh Bisenc (d. 1781); Benjamin Ze'ev b. Samuel *Boskowitz ; Tzvi Hirsch *Heller ; Isaac Moses *Perles , who, after a long struggle with the pro-Reformists, had to leave Bonyhad; Moses *Pollak (1846–1889), whose yeshivah became famous; Judah Gruenwald (d. 1920), author of Zikhron Yehudah (1923); and Eliezer Ḥayyim *Deutsch . In 1868 the community split, forming separate Orthodox and Neolog (Conservative) congregations. In the early 1940s, the Orthodox community had 750 members led by Rabbis Áron Pressburger and Abraham Pollák. The Neolog congregation had 376 members, led by Rabbi Lajos Schwarz. Both congregations had their separate communal, social, and educational institutions.

During World War II the Jews were subjected to severe discriminatory measures. Many among the Jewish males were mobilized for forced labor. After the German occupation in March 1944, the Jews were first isolated and their property expropriated. According to a May 5 report by the deputy prefect of Tolna county, Bonyhád then had a Jewish population of 1,268. On May 15, the Jews were ordered into two local ghettos; The "upper ghetto" was set up in the communal buildings of the Neolog congregation; the "lower ghetto" in and around the Orthodox synagogue. The two ghettos had 1,344 Jews, including those brought in from Bátaszék and from the neighboring villages in the district of Völgység. Among these were the Jews of Aparhant, Kakasd, Kéty, Kisvejke, Szálka, Tevel, and Zomba. On June 28, approximately 60 Jewish patients from a mental institution in Szekszárd were transferred to the Bonyhád ghetto. The ghetto population was first transferred to the local sports arena from where two days later they were taken to the Lakics army barracks in Pécs – the concentration and deportation center for the Jews in Baranya and Tolna counties. The Jews concentrated in Bonyhád were deported to Auschwitz on July 4, 1944. Among them was Rabbi Áron Pressburger, who perished there. On October 17, approximately 1,200 Jewish labor servicemen stationed in and around Bonyhád were massacred by the SS.

During the immediate postwar period, the community consisted of 352 Jews, mostly labor servicemen and camp survivors. By 1949, the Orthodox and Neolog congregations were reestablished. The former had 172 members led by Rabbi David Moskovits with Manó Galandauer serving as president. The Neolog congregation had 108 members led by János Eisner. Both congregations disappeared soon after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. By 1963, Bonyhád had only four Jewish families left.


MHJ, 8 (1963), 35 (introd. by A. Scheiber), 802; J.J. Greenwald, Ha-Yehudim be-Ungarya (1917); J. Eisner, A bonyhádi zsidók története (1965). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Braham, Politics; L. Blau, Bonyhad: A Destroyed Community (1994); PK Hungaria, 224–26.

[Abraham Schischa /

Randolph Braham (2nd ed.)]

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