Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Jewish Face of Cluj-Napoca

Jewry appeared in the history of Cluj-Napoca by the beginning of the 16th century, nevertheless for a few centuries the community had no direct interference with the life of the town, because due to restrictive regulations no permanent Jewish population could develop. The first law to make their settlement in  towns possible, was passed in 1840, consequently the Israelite population in Cluj started to increase such as in 1846 the number of Jewish families was 58. A synagogue was built of stone, in the classical style, in today's Paris Street, in 1851.

The schism of the Israelite denomination in Hungary came by with the Budapest 1868 Hebrew congress, this is when the community separated into orthodox and congressional groups. The congressional congregation built a synagogue in 1887 on Horea Street. The great moor style church was constructed by the Horvath brothers and Remenyik Karoly, according to the design made by the local railway engineer Izidor Hegner.

The old Jewish synagogue, "Poale Tzedek" (from the Nameless street) is now serving as a cultural center in the community of Cluj.

The 1941 census reported 16 763 persons of Israelite religion in Cluj, thus, the Jewish community gave around 13-15% of the town population between the two world wars. The mother tongue and culture of their majority was Hungarian.

The social structure of the Jewish society in Cluj reveals a middle-class community actively engaged in the economic and cultural life of the town. For example, in 1930, form among the 435 companies registered at the Trade Registry, 246 were owned by Hebrews and the central stored were almost without exception owned by them. Writers, poets, journalists of Jewish origin emerged in the cultural life of Transylvania and Cluj mainly after the Treaty of Trianon. Cluj was the home of lawyer Karacsony Beno. Janovics Jeno had a significant impact on the history of Hungarian drama in Transylvania and Cluj; by founding a company of film in 1910, Janovics was the pioneer of silent cinema in Transylvania and he also took an active part in the theatrical life of Cluj. The painter Lazar Eva belonged to the Baia Mare group. The Goldmark Philharmonic Association was founded in 1936; consisting of physicians, engineers and teachers gave symphonic concerts of resounding success.

The census in 2002 recorded 223 Jews in Cluj. The 6163/1944 decree issued on the 7th of April 1944 by the Ministry of Interior decided that Jews had to be sent in ghettos. As a consequence of the decree the administration obligated 16.750 Jews to wear the yellow star and sent them away to the brick factory. The built up area of the brick factory amounted to 19.600 m2, allocating 1,17 m2 to a person. The first train departed from the brick factory on the 25th of May deporting 3130 persons to the death camps. The second one left Cluj on 29th of May with 3417 persons, the third one deported 3270 Jews on 31st of May, the forth one 3100 on the 2nd of June, the fifth one 1784 on the 8th of June and the sixth one 1447 on the 9th of June. Thus a total number of 16 148 persons were packed in trains and transported to Birkenau just a few months before the end of the war.

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