Kolozsvár / Klausenburg / Cluj

The major city in Transylvania and an important industrial, cultural and educational center in Romania. The city hovered between Austro-Hungary, Romania and Hungary, assuming its various names. Originally settled by Saxons who came to Siebenbűrgen by invitation of the ruler, later known as Transylvania. Today it is part of Romania again with its Latin-Roman origin name, hyphenated as Cluj-Napoca. Between the wars it became Hungarian, named Kolozsvár .

Major industries, such as the Dermata leather processing plants and shoe factory belonged to local Jews. Laci Devecseri another son of Kolozsvár and his father were the premier engineering and construction company responsible for all the major government and business buildings in the city. In 1941, Devecseri built two identical residential apartment houses, which included the latest technologies of the day. When the Germans entered Kolozsvár, they immediately confiscated the houses, evicted the mostly Jewish residents and turned the buildings into SS headquarters.

The local brick factory on the other side of town was turned into the Kolozsvár ghetto.  The factory’s railroad siding enabled the swift expedition of the imprisoned directly to Auschwitz.  Eighteen thousand people were kept out in the open, forced through a gauntlet of Hungarian gendarmes who tried to extract, through torture any hidden valuables the Jews may have on their persons, ‘So that the Hungarian property should not fall into the hands of the Germans.’ Wisliceny visited Kolozsvár numerous times during the height of the deportations from the provinces.

In the Chassidic ‘Ungarn’ rabbinical tradition, Klausenburg-Sanz was an important Chassidic court headed by the Klausenburger Rabbi Halberstam. His court was rabidly anti-Zionist, objecting to settling Palestine. Despite warnings by the Zionists to hide or escape towards the east, as some have done, the warning was ignored because it came from the Zionists resulting in the annihilation of the entire court and followers. Against ransom payment, the rabbi was spared and ended up in a DP camp in Germany, having lost his entire family. He transferred to New York’s Borough Park, where he reunited with some of his followers, reestablished his court and started a new family. Upon the Rabbi’s death in 1994, two of his sons inherited the mantle of Grand Rabbis, one heading the court in Borough-Park, the other in Kiryat-Sanz, near Netanya, Israel.

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