Friday, October 18, 2013

The Original Architectural Map of the Bratislava Jewish Cemetery where the Chatam Sofer is Buried

As part of a large collection of Ktav Sofer family letters I recently acquired, came what appears to be the original Architectural map of the Old Bratislava Jewish Cemetery, made in preparation for the cemetery's destruction by the Anti-Semitic Jozef Tiso in 1943.

The Destruction of the cemetery in 1943, is one of the most telling incidents of the life of the Jews living in Bratislava moments before their deaths. In 1942-1943, the cemetery was confiscated by the Slovak State and its anti-Semitic clero-fascist leader catholic priest Jozef Tiso in 1943 to build a roadway and the cemetery was largely demolished. Most of the graves were exhumed and reburied at the Orthodox cemetery in a communal grave behind the beit tahara. Only the most precious section, where famous Bratislava rabbis were buried – 23 graves surrounding the Chatam Sofer’s tomb – was preserved on the original site. Negotiations with the regime enabled the community to preserve this section of the cemetery including the Chasam Sofer's grave, enclosed in concrete, below the surface of the new road. The regime complied either as a consequence of a large bribe (according to one story), foreign pressure (according to another story), or for fear of a curse if the graves were destroyed (according to yet another story). It is fascinating to me, that the Jewish Community in such critical times, did all in their ability to save what they could of the cemetery.

The Map in my possession, was printed in November 1943, moments before the cemetery was grazed over. Between September 1944 and the end of the year, German units deported approximately 12,600 Slovak Jews, most of them to Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, and other camps in Germany. German and Hlinka Guard units killed a few thousand Jews caught in hiding or fighting with the partisans in Slovakia.

Below is the text in Slovak which appears on the map:
which translates roughly as Topographic plans for the Old Bratislava Jewish Cemetery that will be transferred to the New cemetery.

This map allows us to determine the accurate position of each of the graves, including the Chatam Sofer's plot, it would be interesting to see how it corresponds to the tombstones position today in the cemetery. I could find no record of another such map in existence, though it can be often very hard to locate other copies of such things.

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