Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Jews of Poruba

Baba mentioned the large number of Jews she remembered living in her village circa 1910.  She thought as much as 1/3 of the village was Jewish, and they were prominment in running the various  businesses in the town.

The following paragraphs are courtesy of Marshall Katz and The Jewish Genealogical Society; view the website below for more information and photogaphs:

The first Jews probably settled in Poruba pod Vihorlátom early in the 19th century. In 1877, the population of Poruba pod Vihorlátom was 411, made up of Slavs, Hungarians, Rusyns, Germans, Gypsies and Jews and comprised the following religions: Roman Catholic (19), Greek Catholic (217), Reformed (48) and Jewish (127). At this time, the Jews of Poruba pod Vihorlátom attended the Szobráncz synagogue.

In 1940, Poruba pod Vihorlátom was still a small village of only a couple streets, 131 homes, a population of 634 and approximately 91 Jews.¹ This was a vibrant village with farmers, craftsmen, timberman, miners and businessmen. By this time, the village was home mainly to Hungarians, some Czech, Gypsies, a few Germans (Schwabs) and Jewish families. There was a synagogue in the village and a Jewish cemetery. Religion played an important part in the day-to-day lives of the Jews that lived there.

Charcol was sold to Jewish merchants in Michalovce who then exported the charcoal by train to Switzerland. There was a flour mill in Poruba where farmers took their grain for grinding. Jews were involved in many of the commercial enterprises in the village, for example, operating a tavern, a shoemaker, a joinery (carpenter) and operating general stores.

In 1942, tragically, 128 Jews were deported. However, this did not constitute the entire Jewish community in the village. Several Jews managed to escape into the woods and then hid among the gentile population, while others joined up with partisan groups. A few Jewish families were helped to cross over the border into Hungary and a few others were concealed in the village in potato storage cellars.

At this time, the first of partisan groups came into existence in Eastern Slovakia nearby Poruba pod Vihorlátom, in the forests between and surounding Michalovce, Humenné and centered in Vinné.²

In August of 1944, the German army occupied Poruba pod Vihorlátom. A short time later, two groups of partisans attacked the occupying Germans and in retaliation, on 3 November 1944, the village was burned to the ground, including the synagogue. The only building sparred was the [Greek Catholic] church, built c. 1837, which still stands today. Full reconstruction of the village did not begin until 1947-48.

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