Uzhhorod was part of the Kingdom of Hungary (11th century – 1920 and 1938-1944) with the name of Ungvár in the Ungvári járás (district) and Ung megye (county), next part of Czechoslovakia (1920-1938) with the name of Užhorod in Podkarpatská Rus (Sub-Carpathia), then part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (1945-1991) with the name of Uzhgorod in the Uzhhorod (district) and, since 1991, known as Uzhhorod in the Uzhhorodskyi rayon (district) and the Zakarpats’ka oblast (county) of Ukraine.
Other spellings/names for Uzhhorod are Ungwar, Użhorod, Ungvir, Uschurod, Ingver and Yngvyr.
Uzhhorod is located 22 miles WNW of Mukacheve (Munkács), 47 miles NNW of Berehove (Beregszász) and is a border crossing point to nearby Slovakia.
1910 Map: Ung megye/Ungvár
1910 Map (Topographical): Ung megye/Ungvár
Austro-Hungary Military Map: Ung megye/Ungvár
1928 Map (front): Podkarpatská Rus/Užhorod
Courtesy of Old Ungvár
1928 Map (reverse): Podkarpatská Rus/Užhorod
Courtesy of Old Ungvár
1930 Map: Ung megye/Užhorod
Courtesy of Old Ungvár
Like the seven hills of Rome, Uzhhorod also has seven hills (Castle, Calvary, University, Chervenytsa, Mining, Onokivtsy and Horiany) and is situated at the foothills of the Carpathian mountains, located on both banks of the Uzh river which is part of the north-eastern Danube valley. The city is an administrative, educational, commercial and scientific center of the Transcarpatian region. Uzhhgorod derives its name from the Uzh river. It is a rail and highway junction and the economic and cultural heart of Transcarpathian Ukraine. There is trade in lumber and cattle. Industries include meat packing, wine production, brandy distilling and the manufacture of plywood, furniture and machine tools. Also economically significant is Tourism.
The city has long been important militarily because of its position guarding the southern approach to the Uzhok Pass, over the Carpathians. Uzhhorod was founded in the 8th or 9th century and belonged to Kievan Rus in the 10th and 11th century. It was conquered by the Magyars, at the end of the 11th century, and the city remained under Hungarian rule until it passed to Austria-Hungary in 1867. Uzhhorod is multi-ethnic town—with many ethnic groups—such as Ukrainians, Russians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Romas, Gipsies, Jews, Germans, Poles, Armenians and others.
On 10 September 1919, after WWI, Uzhhorod was annexed to the Republic of Czechoslovakia and became an administrative center. During these years, Uzhhorod developed into an architecturally modern city. After the Munich Treaty, Uzhhorod became part of the Slovak half of the new Czecho-Slovak state.
Prior to WWII, Uzhhorod was busy trading center with shops, workshops, restaurants and banks—primarily operated by Jews. The vast majority of the Jewish population of Uzhhgorod were occupied in small trades: repair and making footwear, tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters, jewelers, haters, bakers and cabbies. About 25 – 30% of the Jewish population was engaged in major and minor commerce. The Jewish community was very important to the Uzhhorod economy and community. A few Jews worked in government offices, court houses, some in health organizations, schools, banks and cultural institutions. A few more served on the municipal and district councils. The more affluent Jews owned brick factories (one owned by MOSKOVITS), large stores (one owned by BATA), rental housing, bakeries, different medium and small factories and workshops. Today, some factories, such as the flour mills on Mukacsevskaja Street, are producing products as it was when it was owned by brothers Michael and Izidor WEISER. This factory is still the industrial complex of bread baking and flour products. Also, many Jews belonged to the professional class, for example, there were 24 doctors, 19 lawyers and a number of Jewish senior officials in public and business administration positions.
The earliest record in the archive of a Jew in Uzhhorod, is Shalomon, a Jew, who in 1493 claimed that a gentile nobleman, Thibay, one of the wealthiest and most powerful magnates in Hungary, owed him money. There are a number of other early documents in the volumes for the years 1515 to 1599, one of which is a complaint filed by Moises, a Jew, against a Clorck-Doreczkoy, for confiscating a horse from Moises’ serf. What is clear from this and other documents available for the years 1493 through 1599, is that Jews were definitely living in the Ung district, and some of them seem to have lived quite well enough to be owed money, to be in debt for money borrowed and to own a horse and/or a serf who owned a horse. The written record of the first Jewish family in Uzhhorod was dated 1575.
From 1599 through 1683, documentation indicating the presence of Jews in the area is sparse, but definitive, for example: a document dated 28 June 1677 mentions a quarrel which took place among some citizens near A zsidok hazy (the house of the Jews) which might mean the private home of a Jew or a communal establishment of one kind or another (a synagogue or perhaps a cheder); another document, this one dated 14 January 1683, mentions the Jews explicitly in the plural; a document dated 1688 mentions a zsidok patikaja (a Jewish pharmacy), which at the time was probably a shop where sundry items were sold in addition to some medicines. Among other things, these documents indicate that the Jewish Community in Uzhhorod and its surroundings was growing.
A letter, dated 14 January 1683, is evidence that while the Jewish community was in a state of suspended animation, it was also keenly vigilant, watching closely to see which side—the rebellious nobles or the Hapsburgs—would emerge as the ultimate victors of the bloody conflict. In this document, it appears that a local nobleman, Johan Ilosvay, who was a representative of the Treasury Chamber of Szepes (Szepesl-Kamara), located in Kassau (Kosice or Kassa), was replying to an official letter from Uzhhorod requesting that he look into a tax matter which involved the Jews of the area.
In a 1725 register, Jewish residents are listed not only for the city of Uzhhorod, but also for the surrounding towns and villages, including Sobrance and Nagy Kapos, as well as the free farmers’ villages. Most unusual of all, Jews were living on approximately fourteen estates—which had been confiscated from Graf Berczenyi—at a time in other parts of Hungary, Jews were forbidden to live in towns and cities owned or governed by the Royal treasury. Throughout the first hall of the 1700s, the Hapsburgs, whose anti-Semitism was undisguised and unbounded in almost all parts of the territories over which they reigned, apparently exercised only a kind of watered-down version of their virulent bigotry over the Jewish population of the Ung region.
In 1727, the authorities of the Ung district were the last ones to turn over the results of their census. The entire document consisted of one page, in which were mentioned the names of the heads of twenty-four families, some of them lease-holders, dispersed throughout seventeen towns and villages, including six which had been confiscated and belonged to the Royal Treasury. A family or unit was described as a group of people who shared the same budget and included the head of the household, married children and servants, it they lived together and ate at the same table. Among the names included were the following Jews:
In Minaj: Eliyahu MOSCOVITS, father of a three-year-old; owner of a horse, a wine boiler, a small house which he leased for his family to live in, for which he paid eight Hungarian forints and where he manufactured brandy. He paid an additional eighteen kreuzers monthly to the local treasury
In Dubrinics: Yosef HERSKOVITS, father of three sons (approximately eight-years old, a second worked for a leaser in Horlyo, and the third, worked for a Jew in the town of Kerestvar); owned a cow, a horse, and a wine boiler. Paid Gabriel Grosz twelve Hungarian forints for the house where he manufactured brandy and fourteen kreuzers monthly to the local treasury.
In Daroc: Yehuda ISRAELOWITS, father of a sixteen year-old son; owner of a horse, a cow, and a wine boiler. Lived in the house of Johanes Kauai, where he manufactured wine and brandy. Paid a lease of twenty Hungarian forints and twenty-four kreuzers to the district treasury each month.
In Lehoc: Israel AMOVITS, father of four sons (five, three, two, and one); owned a horse, a cow, and a wine boiler, as well as a house where he manufactured brandy and sometimes wine. Paid Ladislaus Keresti a lease of sixteen Hungarian forints and twenty-four kreuzers to the district treasury each month.
In Szerednye: Leizer LEIBOVITS, father of three sons (ten, eight, and four); owned a wine boiler, a horse, a cow. Lived as a guest in the house where he paid for the use of the boiler and sometimes made wine. Paid sixteen Hungarian forints in leasing fees and thirty-six kreuzers to the local treasury.
In Horlyo: Yehuda LEIBE, father of two sons (three and one younger); owned a horse and leased a house from Franciscus Pongraf, where he sometimes made brandy and wine. Paid twenty forints for the lease and twelve kreuzers to the local treasury every month.
In Paszika: Moshe LUPENSKY, father of two sons (four and two); owned a cow, a horse, a wine boiler, and lived in the house of a farmer. For the place where he manufactured liquor, he paid Admus Horvat ten Hungarian forints and twelve kreuzers monthly to the local treasury.
An additional entry on this list, for Hersko SMITKE, deviates only slightly from the above format, to the extent that it indicates that goods were often an acceptable alternative to cash. This father of a year-old child who owned a horse and a boiler, and lived with a farmer, paid the Baron Johanes St. Ivani twelve Hungarian forints and/or the equivalent amount in “tissue” instead of money, as well as nine kreuzers to the local treasury monthly.
Parenthetically, though by no means insignificantly, it should be noted that often, the collector of the Tolerance Tax was a Jew. In Uzhhorod, in 1723, that unpleasant and evidently even dangerous job, was bestowed upon Michael SALOMONOVITS from Humenné, who himself held the lease for selling and manufacturing kosher wine in the entire northeastern sector of the region, including Uzhhorod. As the tax increased, the tax collector’s job became more hazardous. While no documentation exists regarding Michael’s troubles. there is a document dated 18 September 1779, which describes the wretched fate which befell the agents of another Jewish tax collector, Berko-Baruch DALOVITS, who regularly suffered beatings and kickings from their co-religionists. Some things never change—paying taxes.
Conditions being so advantageous, it is no surprise that within a decade, by the time of the second census in 1737, the number of Jewish settlements in the region had doubled—from eighteen to thirty-six—with a total of forty-three Jewish families or 165 individuals. Of course, this census was no more accurate than the first one since the same local officials were responsible for its preparation. Many names and even settlements that appeared on the second census were absent not only from the first one, but even from the third census in 1746. It appears, therefore, that any attempt to make an accurate accounting of the Jewish population figures for this period is hopeless. However, if history repeats itself, not only in time but in space, then the procedure used by researchers of 18th century Jewish settlements in Poland, in which at least 30% was added to official population figures, might also be applied to the case of the Ung district’s Jewish population, bringing the total closer to 200 Jewish individuals. In 1747, there was ten Jewish families in Uzhhorod.
Census figures for the half century between the mid-1800s to the end of the 19th century, though not altogether reliable, provide a reasonable barometer of the soaring numbers of Jews in the region. Within a period of approximately fifty years, the Jewish population in the city of Uzhhorod went from forty-six to over four thousand Jewish individuals. These numbers, significant by themselves, are even more interesting as they reveal the picture of which they are a part. That is, while Uzhhorod was home to the seventh largest Jewish community in Hungary, it was the second in the entire country in the percentage of its Jewish population, 36.3% of the entire population.
While a portion of this growth up to the middle of the 19th century can be attributed to immigration from Poland and Galicia, the rest appears to have been the result of the natural increase among the Jewish community that was already in-place. The Jewish population in the villages surrounding the city, which grew from 13% of the total population at the beginning of the 18th century to more than 30% by the 19th century, appears to parallel the increase in the city. In a sentence, the Jewish population of the entire district from 1739 to 1880, grew from 165 to 16,437 individuals. In 1769, the records show 93 Jews. The Jewish population of Uzhhorod then rose to 762 in 1830.
Indeed, actual population figures may even exceed these numbers, particularly after 1840, when the bans and limitations previously placed upon Jewish settlements were officially lifted. Until that time, Jews lived in 195 out of 221 villages and townships in the districts; by the end of the 19th century, there was virtually no town or village which was not inhabited by at least one Jewish family. As the 20th century dawned, Jewish families and communities were scattered, from villages to towns and from towns to the city throughout the region.
By 1891, the population of Uzhhorod grew to 3,735 (of the total population of 11,793 or 31%) and by 1910 the Jewish population was 5,305 (of the total population of 16,919 or 31%). In 1920, the census showed only 3,743 Jews indicating that WWI had a profound affect upon the Jewish population. After WWI through 1930, the Jewish population reached 7,534 (of a total population of 26,775 or 28%) and by 1941, reached 9,576.
After the Vienna Award, in November 1938, Uzhhorod was again annexed, this time by Hungary. Under the new regime, Jewish livelihoods were severely affected by anti-Jewish legislation. In the winter of 1939-40, all Jews of Polish citizenship or Czech citizens—originally from Poland—were expelled to Poland and many died under the severe conditions.
During the period 1940-41, hundreds of Jews were drafted into the Hungarian forced-labor battalions and others were sent to the eastern front, where most died. In late July and early August of 1941, dozens of Jewish families without Hungarian citizenship were expelled to Kamenets-Podolski and murdered there.
On 19 March 1944, three days after the Germans occupied Hungary, trucks loaded with troops entered Uzhhgorod. They established a Judenrat (Jewish council) and improvised ghetto was set up in Uzhhorod at the MOSKOVITS brickyard, located on Minai Street. At this same time, all of the Jews from the Ung district were forced to move to the ghetto. When the brickyard ghetto could hold no more, another ghetto was established at the GLUCK lumberyard.
During the period 17-31 May 1944, in five transports, they were all were deported to Auschwitz. It wasn’t until November of 1944, that the German-Soviet fights of WWII came close to Uzhhorod—too late to save the Jews.
A few hundred survivors returned to Uzhhorod after the war, most subsequently leaving. Few Jews live there today.