Slovakia has always been a diverse country of many languages, nationalities, and faiths. The reason behind that is because the Slovak Republic was established only in 1993. Before that, it was under the influence of different countries, depending on who was in power back then. Whether it was Habsburg Monarchy or the communists, there were always waves of migration, when the population of Jews increased or decreased. Right now, there are few Jewish people in Slovakia, but it was not always like that. Let's see and learn about the Jewish heritage in Slovakia.
Like in the rest of Central Europe, Slovakia has a rich Jewish history. Jews have settled in Slovakia since the 11th century, and back then, the majority lived in Bratislava, today's capital. When Slovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Jews were fully emancipated; in the 19th century, Judaism was put on an equal level with Christianity. However, in the 1930s, right before the outbreak of World War II, there were antisemitic riots all over the country. Many Jews emigrated to different countries such as Britain, or later even Palestine, but the majority were killed in the Holocaust. In 1939, the same laws (Nuremberg Laws) as in Nazi Germany were applied also to the Slovak Republic, so during the German occupation, up to 13 500 Slovak Jews were deported to concentration camps. The estimated number of the Jewish population in Slovakia after World War II was only 25 000.
The Museum of Jewish Culture is part of the Slovak National Museum, and it is located in the city center of Bratislava. The mission of the museum is to preserve and promote Jewish culture and art in Slovakia. The museum's activities are focused on the development of spiritual and material Jewish culture and the documentation of the Holocaust in Slovakia. The results are remarkable and speak for themselves. When the museum was opened, only 5% of the museum's own objects were purchased, up to 95% of the objects were borrowed from various Jewish religious communities. The exhibitions show the subjects of everyday life, documents, artifacts, as well as fine art.
The Museum of the Holocaust is located in Sereď and was established on the premises of the former concentration camp, which is an authentic site linked to the tragic period of the Jewish history in Slovakia during World War II. The museum exhibits documents, photographs, and objects related to the persecution of Jews in Slovakia. One of the exhibited artifacts is a cattle wagon in which Jews were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The museum also serves as a memorial to all the murdered Jews from Slovakia, with 16,000 Jews passing through the Sereď concentration camp alone between 1941 and 1945, most of whom were murdered during the Holocaust.
Many synagogues in Slovakia were demolished during World War II or the communist regime. Currently, there are about 500 synagogues all over the country; few of them restored and are now used for cultural or educational purposes. Numerous synagogues are worth visiting. For example, a synagogue in Prešov is part of a complex of Jewish communal institutions, and there is a Jewish art exhibition inside. Richly decorated interiors with fully preserved inventory are among the most attractive Jewish monuments in Slovakia. If you want to have a really unique experience, you can visit a former synagogue in Trnava, which serves as an excellent cafe with a gallery.
History might not always be pleasant towards Jews in Slovakia, as many of them emigrated to different countries, but they left behind a rich Jewish heritage. There are numerous well-preserved synagogues, museums, and exhibitions focusing on preserving Jewish traditions and culture, as well as Holocaust memorial to remember the sad part of the history.
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