KOSICE / KOSZYCE / KASHOI / KASSA
The presence of a Slavic community having settled here in VIII-IX century was confirmed by a study of the fortified settlement site at Breh in the area of Krasna and Hornadom. Another presumed settlement site of this type is at Hradova, where a castle was built later to control the important crossroads of the trade routes.
In 1307 the first guild regulations were established, the city of Kosice received its own coat of arm in 1369. The city has the oldest coat-of-arms out of all the cities in Europe. Since the beginning of the XV century the city had been in the leading post of Pentapolitana - which was an economic and political alliance of five cities in this region. Kosice in the medieval times was also developing due to its central location on the map of Europe. Few important merchandise tracks were going through the city and the proper taxation was imposed. This place of habitation expanded rapidly after the arrival of German colonists. Its layout followed the settlement pattern provided by other towns, which had already been settled by the native folk. The German immigrants appeared as new inhabitants shortly after the Tartar invasion and they founded their homes next to the existing castle and monasteries.
By the end of the XIII century, markets were held in the town, which emerged as an important center for the barter of imported goods from Prussia, the towns of the Hansa League in Germany, and Krakow in Poland.
At that time, a major part of forests in the vicinity were changed into vineyards, and grape growing became one of the main occupations of the local inhabitants. A mutual cooperation treaty with Krakow was signed in 1324; the first of its kind. It contributed largely to the steadily expanding volume of long-distance trade along the route from southeastern Hungary to the Scandinavian countries by way of Kosice.
In 1419 the town controlled a monopoly in producing a special cloth: fustian. Therefore, all manufacturers of this cloth in Hungary had to move to Kosice. Ten years later, Kosice also gained a monopoly of bleaching flax linen, which was shared with Bardejov.
In 1657, due to the economical, administrative and political importance of the city, the first university was established. In spite of many changes in its status, it was active until 1921.
At the turn of the XVIII/ XIX century, the economy revived. Manufacturers producing English porcelain, hats, cloth and more, appeared in the town. The population was constantly rising, especially owing to the influx of people from the villages.
At the beginning of the XIX century, a bishopric was established in Kosice; the parish church of St. Elizabeth became a cathedral church in 1804.
The arrival of the railway, which connected Kosice to Miskolcz and Budapest in 1860, and to Bohumin in 1870, provided a mighty new impulse for the economic boom of the town. Construction of a railway station east from the town center was also finished that year.
Jews were present in Kosice from the XV century. The fast development of the community was started in mid XIX century after the residence restrictions were lifted. A progressive synagogue was built in 1866 and the majority of the congregation joined the Nelogists after the 1869 split. Orthodox worshipers consecrated a new synagogue in 1882 and the new cemetery, consecrated in 1888, had separate sections for the two congregations.
The Orthodox community maintained its own yeshiva, Talmud torah, beit midrash, mikveh and poultry slaughter house. A Status Quo congregation, one of the first in Hungary, broke away from the orthodox one in 1871, calling itself Adath Shalom. Large number of the Jews identified with Hungarian culture and adopted the spoken language. In this period Jews were also active in development of trade and financial institutions. Around 1900 the Zionist organisations became very active, developing different units around the city. Soon Kosice became one of the key centres of Zionism in Hungary. Galician and other Hasidim including R. Shemuel Angel of Radomysl and R. Avraham Shalom Halberstam of Stropkov, also established their courts in the city. In this way Jewish life in Kosice had all possible political and religious flavours, presenting a great variety.
The Jewish population rose to 8,792 in 1921 and 11.504 in 1930. The Neologists built a new splendid and large synagogue in 1927. In the same year the Orthodox congregation consecrated its new synagogue as well.
Under the Hungarian rule from November 1938, hundreds of Jews were expelled to the Slovakian border or sent to the Garany concentration camp. Jewish population was abused by the Iron Guard units; more and more strict legal limitations were imposed. In July 1941, about 300 Jews lacking Hungarian citizenship were expelled to the German occupied Ukraine and murdered there in autumn this year. In April 1944, 7.883 Jews from Kosice and 4.006 from the surrounding villages were confined in the ghetto. Deportations were started on May 15th, when two transports with 6.680 Jews left for Auschwitz-Birkenau. On 19th May , another 6.524 Jews were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in two transports and followed by the fifth one and final transport with 2.439 Jews on June 3rd. The post - war community numbered about 4000 people in 1948, some of them were the survivors, coming back after the war. Majority of them left in the following few years for Israel or the United States.
Today, approximately 800 Jews live in Ko¹ice. Close to the city centre there is an interesting complex of Jewish district preserved with:
Orthodox prayer hall at Zvonarska street (presently used synagogue) premises of shochetim and sukkah attached to it.
Orthodox synagogue at Zvonarska street. Built in 1899 in Roundbogenstil. The interior still holds very rich Moorish like decorations.
Hassidic Prayer hall at Krmanova street built in 1920 - good example of rural architecture, incorporated in the city.
Orthodox synagogue at Puskinova street. Built in 1927 by Ludovit Oelschlager in historicist style merging some elements of Renaissance attic and Neo-Classical monumental elements.
Neolog synagogue at Moyzesova street built in 1927.