Moderator VK: The following message is somewhat off-topic but I'm posting it because it may be of interest to H-SIG subscribers researching this area. Lucenec (formerly Losonc, Nograd megye) is about 20 km west of Rimavska Sobota and very close to the Hungarian border. Please limit postings to subjects related to genealogical research.
The following wire service article was recently published. Note headline is
wrong; it should say "Slovakian." Interesting mention of Mr. Turcan's
organization taking care of 620 cemeteries, but no contact information for
him is provided.
"Historic Slovenian synagogue needs more funding to survive
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
PRAGUE -- In the central Slovak town of Lucenec, a rare synagogue is
crumbling apart, its walls destroyed after decades of use as a storage house
Town officials want to save the monument as a testament to its thriving
Jewish past, while ensuring it has a viable future by turning the synagogue
into a center for higher education.
The building numbers among just four synagogues built by Hungarian architect
Lipot Baumhorn (1860-1932), whose other structures grace Amsterdam, Brussels
and Tel Aviv.
The mayor of Lucenec, Jozef Murgas, who is spearheading the fund-raising
drive, estimates the cost of the synagogue's reconstruction at between $1.3
million and $2.1 million.
Other than its foundations and a recently added roof, the synagogue is in
poor condition. To make matters worse, local children have taken to stealing
the new roof's copper tiles for scrap.
None of this deters Murgas.
"The city wants to conserve the synagogue as a remembrance of the Jewish
community that contributed to the city's development during the 19th and
20th centuries. It's the last of five synagogues we used to have in
Lucenec," the mayor says.
Built in 1924-1925, Baumhorn's synagogue housed religious services until
1944, when the Jews of Lucenec were transported to Nazi concentration camps
in Poland and Germany.
Only 80 to 100 of the town's 2,200 Jews survived World War II.
"Today, there are only 14 of us left," says Gertruda Sternlichtova, head of
the Lucenec Jewish community.
Sternlichtova is sad because her tiny community simply does not have the
money to reconstruct the decrepit synagogue, whose main hall can hold more
than 1,000 people.
In 1948, the synagogue's fate was sealed when Czechoslovakia's communist
authorities took the synagogue into state hands and used it to store
artificial fertilizers, whose corrosive chemicals destroyed the walls.
"It just makes me want to cry when I think about it," Sternlichtova says.
In 1980, the authorities removed the fertilizers, but they let the synagogue
crumble with disuse.
In a further blow, some squatters inadvertently set fire to the building in
the late 1990s, Sternlichtova says.
"But the synagogue was in such a bad state that even the fire could not do
much more damage to it," she adds.
Many plans have been put forward to save the synagogue.
Originally, the city had wanted to reconstruct the synagogue to be used for
religious purposes alone, but because the local Jewish community is so
small, the plan foundered.
The renovation of the Lucenec synagogue would cost as much as the
maintenance of all of Slovakia's other synagogues all together, Alexander
Juraj Turcan, the head of the Jewish community in nearby Banska Bystrica,
estimates the current cost needed for Lucenec's reconstruction at $3.2
million. The mayor's lower cost estimate is eight years old, Turcan points
"We can help with our organizational skills, but money-wise we cannot afford
it," Turcan says.
His organization is currently taking care of about 10 synagogues and 620
cemeteries -- and 95 percent of the latter are in very bad condition, he