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Tracing the Lost Jews - Exhibition in Gallery FiguratiF

written by Ágnes Kovács
translated by Zoltán Bartko 2018-01-15


Tracing the Lost Jews - Exhibition in Gallery FiguratiF


A photographic exhibition by Libor Cabák (CZ).

11 January 2018 -- 6 February 2018.

MaJel Rovás Centrum, Alžbetina 42, Košice, Slovakia


The lost Jewish memorials, photographed by photographer Libor Cabák from Valašské Meziříčí, Czech Republic. The pictures depict once existed synagogues and cemeteries from Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia; however, also local documents from Košice, Slovakia have been added to the exhibition. Below you may find the words of the opening speech of the exhibition:


Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends!


I am very glad to welcome you here at the first exhibition opening at the Rovás Academy this year. 


Please, let me introduce Libor Cabák, a photographer from Valašské Meziříčí, Czech Republic. The works exhibited at this exhibition are mostly his works. The photographs exhibited here show once existed Jewish memorials from Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. In addition to this, Libor researched also photographs from Slovakia and - specifically - Košice. In this, he was assisted by Pál Salamon, the Košice Jewish Congregation and Zoltán Balassa. 


Please, let me mention only a few things related to Slovakia and Košice, respectively. There are still approx. 700 Jewish cemeteries and 105 synagogues in Slovakia, though one may only seldom find temples used for devotional purposes. During WWII, many synagogues were destroyed and further ones perished during the socialist era.


Nevertheless, the surviving ones serve other purposes or are no longer owned by the Jewish congregation (such as the former Neolog synagogue in Košice, which is now a concert hall. The star of David, once residing on the top of its dome, is now placed in the Neolog part of the Jewish cemetery in Rastislavova street. The Czech link: its original windows are exhibited in the Jewish Museum in Prague, Czech Republic). 

There are plenty of places with no Jewish community to serve with the synagogues, or where the community does not practice its religion any more. Here, in Košice, a traditional Jewish wedding was performed in 2001 in the synagogue in Zvonárska street, after decades.  


Cemeteries share the fate of synagogues. The old Jewish cemetery, closed in 1904, was in the south part of the city, in Tatranská street. Only some of the old tombstones remained at their original places; the area is now almost fully surrounded by the new quarter. However, vandalism is a significant problem, evident all over the city. 


The building, where we installed the exhibition, stands on the corner of Alžbetina and Tajovského Streets. In Tajovského Street, this building no. 4 was built for the purposes of a freemason lodge, with the stylized stone tables of Moses depicted in the upper part of the facade. 


Numerous Jewish personalities lived in Alžbetina Street, such as the photographer Simon Lázár Letzter. When Emperor Francis Joseph visited Košice, he prepared the portrait of the ruler. This served then later as a draft of the official portrait of the emperor.


Moreover, Leopold Horovitz used to live in Alžbetina street, too. In addition to Benczúr, he was the most important Hungarian portraitists - he received assignments from the royal court and aristocracy in Vienna. He depicted emperor Francis Joseph I three times. 


At the beginning of the street lived Margit Schlachta, a nun and the first female member of the Hungarian parliament; however, she became known for her humanitarian work and activities at the Free Europe Radio, where she worked under the name Borbála Nemes. 


Let me also mention another building, since I knew its "owner" personally. At the end of Mlynská Street stands the building known as the Jakab (Jacob) palace. This was owned by the Jakabs until the 1910′s, then bought by architect Hugo Bárkány who exchanged it before the end of WWII. He died in Auschwitz. I came to know his daughter, Katalin Pós, in Prague, during my university studies. Every week, she assisted the Czech viewers as a simultaneous interpreter of Hungarian films at the Hungarian Culture Institute in Prague, Czechoslovakia. She tried to recover the building in court after the switch of the political regimes, but she did not succeed, so now, the city is the owner. 


We could go on discussing the past and still existing Jewish memorials and people, which and who enriched the city and other cities of our country and Europe. Much of this wealth is now nothing but history, either in written or photographic form, or even remained undocumented.  The photographs of Libor Cabák enabled us to get a glimpse of a part of this wealth, for which we are very grateful to him.


Ladies and gentlemen! Thank you for your attention.

Hereby I declare this exhibition opened.

Ágnes Kovács


Photos by Dóra Gráf

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