Abony, Hungary

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For this year’s A to Z Challenge, my theme is geographical-historical. I’m spotlighting places I’ve written about or mentioned in my writing, and trying as best as possible to focus on lesser-known places. Why read yet another post about Paris, Budapest, or Toronto when you can learn about a place like Kutaisi, Surabaya, or Uelen?

The Kostyán István House of Abony, one of many cultural heritage houses.

The Roman Catholic church of Abony.

What remains of the Abony Synagogue.

The United Reform church of Abony.

Abony is a town of about 16,000 people, between the Danube and the Tisza River, and about 53 miles from Budapest. My hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, set in the early post-WWII years (with some unrealistically long, uninterrupted monologues to be turned into a Part II that’s a flashback to about June 1944 through the liberation), is partly set in Abony.

Abony contains some archaeological finds from the 7th and 8th centuries, and first appeared in the records as Aban in 1450. In 1552, like many other places in Europe, it fell under Ottoman rule. Over the next century, the town was almost completely destroyed. In 1748, it went from a village to a town. The town’s landmarks include the Harkányi Castle, the old synagogue and churches pictured above, a number of old family homes and mausolea, and the Lájos Abonyi Folk Museum and granary.

Abony never had a huge Jewish community, in comparison to a place like Budapest, Kisvárda, or Debrecen. No census ever recorded the population as even a thousand. At the outbreak of WWII, there were under 400 registered Abony residents. The town got a large increase in Jewish population in the early decades of the 19th century, but after 1840, most people left for larger centers of population. Prior to 1840, anti-Jewish legislation only allowed certain cities to be lived in. In addition to the synagogue, there were also a religious school, a women’s group, an almshouse, and a fund to help the needy.  Several important scholars and rabbis also came from Abony.

After the Nazi invasion of Hungary on 19 March 1944, and the ensuing ghettoisation, people from the nearby towns of Tószeg, Törtel, Zagyvarékas, Jászkarajenö, Kocsér, and Újszász were sent to the Abony ghetto. Several weeks later, everyone was sent to the Kecskemét ghetto, and in late June, three different transports sent the population to Oswiecim. Less than 100 people survived the Shoah and returned to Abony. Only 19 Jewish residents were there in 1959. Several years later, the community was gone. The synagogue remains as a monument.

Sources consulted:

http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/pinkas_hungary/hun127.html

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0001_0_00174.html

Bird’s-eye view of Abony, image copyright Civertan Grafikai Stúdió.

Abony’s coat of arms.