Debrecen Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish cemetery of Debrecen was allegedly established in the 1840s and is still in use today. It has been fenced and is maintained by the local Jewish community. The cemetery includes about 9,000 tombstones and several Holocaust memorials. In 1842, the Jewish community of Debrecen applied to the city authorities for permission to designate a cemetery. The Jewish community encountered difficulties gaining permission for the construction of the cemetery and a stone fence to enclose it. The primary reason for the authorities’ resistance was that—as was customary in the era—Christian cemeteries were not fenced. The Jewish cemetery was eventually established on Monostorpályi Road, in an area outside the city deemed unsuitable for construction and farming.
According to written records, the first Jewish merchants arrived in the city of Debrecen in the 1780s. However, it was illegal for Jews to settle in Debrecen until 1840, or to even stay for a single night. They could trade inside the city during the day, but they had to find accommodation outside the city gates. Most of the first Jewish settlers lived the area around Hatvan Street and the Chevra Kadisha (burial society) was founded in 1844. The Jewish community in Debrecen was founded in 1852. The community had several synagogues, a Jewish school, a grammar school, a mikveh, a hospital, and various social services institutions. During the Golden Age, which lasted until the end of World War I, three large synagogues were built to serve the various religious denominations of the community, two of which can still be visited today.
Of the 9,142 Jews recorded in the city in 1941, by April 1944, only 3,306 remained in Debrecen (598 of whom were taxpayers). The community had 25 employees. More than 6,000 Jews from Debrecen and the surrounding area died during World War II. Some of the returning survivors emigrated to Israel or the United States, and many moved to Budapest shortly after. Today’s Jewish community in Debrecen is less than a tenth of its pre-war size. However, members of the community do everything to preserve their traditions.