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Debrecen, Hungary

DEBRECEN, city in E. Hungary; following the Reformation it was a bastion of Calvinism (known as "Calvinist Rome"). Jews began to settle there from the beginning of the 19th century but without the agreement of the city council; official permission was eventually received in 1840. There are records of an organized community from 1851; synagogues were built in 1851 and 1865; a third – a monumental construction – was erected in 1895–97; the building was destroyed by fire in 1948. In 1870 the Debrecen community declared itself a *status-quo community ; in 1886 a separate Orthodox community was formed. The Orthodox synagogue, still in use in 1970, was built in 1893. A Jewish secondary school, established in 1921, existed until 1944. The Jewish population numbered 118 in 1848; 544 in 1856; 6,200 in 1900; 8,400 in 1910; 10,170 in 1920; and 12,000 in 1940. Under the Nazi regime, the young men were sent to forced labor camps. Of these several hundred were burnt to death in the Dorosics hospital. About 7,500 persons were deported up to June 26–28, 1944: some to Auschwitz, and the rest – because the railway lines had been destroyed by bombing – to Austria.

Those who returned formed the largest community in the area, consisting of 4,640 members in 1946. In 1970 there were 1,200 Jews with rabbis and two synagogues. The status-quo community used a synagogue built in 1909–10. A small community remained at the outset of the 21st century, mostly aged and unaffiliated with Jewish organizations.

Sources:Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929), 188–91; L. Zoltai, in: Magyar Zsidó Szemle, 51 (1934), 18–32; Schlesinger Sámuel emlékezete (Debrecen, 1938); UJE, 3 (1941), 505–6; E. Sós, in: Magyar Zsidó Szemle, 59–62 (1942–45), 61–80, includes bibliography in Hung.; I. Végházi, Adatok a debreceni zsidóság történetéhez (Buenos Aires, 1967).

[Alexander Scheiber]

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