Before the holocaust, the city of Košice was one of the biggest and most prominent Jewish congregations in present-day Slovakia. In 1930 it was home to over 11,500 Jews, who made up 16.4% of the total population of the city, even though Jews were not allowed to settle in the city until after 1840. Yet it took just under a month in 1944 for almost the whole Jewish community to be shipped off to Auschwitz-Birkenau. They left their monuments as a legacy, though, enhancing the city and telling their own sombre stories. By their beauty, atmosphere and uniqueness, the Jewish monuments make this tour a truly unique experience. Duration of the tour is 1.5 hours.
Week days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday
House of Art – formerly the neological synagogue
We set off on this thematic Jewish tour in front of the House of Art, which from 1867 was the site of the beautiful building of the first synagogue in Košice, which was eventually razed to the ground at the beginning of the 1960s. Between 1926 and 1927 a neological synagogue was erected next to it with a capacity for 1100 people and a huge elliptical dome with diameters of 21m and 24m, reminiscent of the Roman Pantheon, which has been preserved unchanged to the present day. Since being converted, it has served as the home of the State Philharmonic in Košice. An interesting feature is that the top of the dome was once home to a six-pointed star of David, which is now to be found on the holocaust memorial in the Jewish cemetery. The star was replaced by a lute.
2 School building on Tajovského street
The school building was functionally linked to the synagogue on the first floor. It has a very impressive facade and its restored appearance can be enjoyed directly from the street. It was once an educational centre for part of the Košice Jewish congregation.
3 The old puppet theatre – Jewish casino
Close to the Jewish congregation there is a building that is long past its heyday. In 1893 the Jews in Košice set up the Košice social circle, so-called Jewish casino and in 1910 they had a separate Art Nouveau palace built. It housed social rooms and a cafe. After the war and a conversion, from 1962 until the beginning of the 1990s it was used as a puppet theatre. At present the building is awaiting further conversion.
Synagogue and school on Puškinova street
The whole tour culminates with the reconstructed orthodox synagogue and adjacent Jewish school. The buildings are the work of well-known Košice architect Ľudovít Oelschläger and the builder Hugo Kaboš from the end of the 1930s. The orthodox synagogue is a specific combination of historic elements and touches of oriental architecture together with modern elements, most notably cubism. The interior walls of the synagogue are inscribed in pencil with the comments of Jews who were gathered there before being transported to the concentration camps. It is the only synagogue to have served its religious purpose perpetually. In the basement of the adjacent school Talmud Tóry there used to be a well-known matzo bakery, and it was also used as a hideaway for the refugees from Czechoslovakia from the north through Košice to the south or overseas.
If you are interested, the tour can also take you to the following three places:
Old and new Jewish cemetery
Every Jewish religious congregation had its own cemetery quite a distance away from the synagogue. The Košice one had its on Tatranska street, with it serving from 1844 to 1889. This is the burial place of the best-known Košice Jew, Herman Holowitz, whose son Leopold was a famous painter. Today the cemetery covers an area of just 50 x 70 m and is not so well tended. After 1890 a new Jewish cemetery was established next to the public cemetery on Rastislavova street. In the middle of it stands a monument to the victims of the holocaust, which contains also a six-pointed star from the neological synagogue, now home to the House of Art.
Wartime Jewish ghetto
On what today is Bajzova street close to the bus station there was a Jewish ghetto during the war, where the Jews from the surrounding villages were congregated. The street was closed off and life was concentrated only on the space between the walls of the two square buildings with courtyards.
Entrances: Synagogue on Puškinova street
For information about price, please contact:
Košice Visitor Centre, Hlavná st. 59, Košice 040 01, T: +421 55 625 88 88, E: email@example.com
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