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The Memorial of Chatam Sófer

Date of Submission: 12/06/2002
Criteria: (iv)(v)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Institut of Monuments Preservation, Bratislava e-mail: supsop1@pamiatky.sk
Coordinates: 17°10' E / 48°10' N
Ref.: 1731

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The history of Bratislava Judaism is very long, but mentions of the old Jewish cemetery we can date from 1640 only. In this year the Pálffy family rented this ground to the Jewish religious community. When the Chevra kadish was formed, the ground came into possession of the community (1694), the oldest tombstone is connected with the year 1670. The cemetery served until 1847. Because of the small extent was twice covered over with soil@ that is in the year 1810 and 1825, so that the graves were piled in two, in some places even in three layers. The whole amount of the graves was about 6000. In the year 1845 Chevra kadiš bought e ground on the Karlovesk@ cesta in the vicinity of the cemetery of St. Nicolaus and here the new cemetery arose, which serves until now. In 1942 the construction of the tunnel under the castle hill began. The construction required the elevation of the road, so the 300-year old cemetery had to recede. During the WWII, with the spreading anti-Semitism it was a pure miracle that the then Jewish religious community succeeded in enforcing the government to rescue the part of the cemetery with the grave of Chatám Sófer and the graves of other important rabbis and the representatives of the Jewish religious community, that had been left on their place. Other graves were exhumed and put into the mass grave at the orthodox cemetery together with the tombstones. But the rabbinical Graves were rescued and they had been preserved without any damage. From the remaining part a crypt was formed that got under the level of the road and the so-called Mausoleum of Chatam Sófer came to existence. In the year 1950 its surface was adjusted and covered with a strong reinforced concrete cover. There are 23 graves with the tombstones on their original place in the mausoleum, together with 41 later added tombstones, arranged into the reverent form among which there are for example: Moše Schreiber /Chatám Sófer/, rabbi Morldechaj Mochiach, rabbi Moše Lewow Lemberger /Moše Charif/, rabbi Akiba lger older, rabbi Isak Halevi Landau-Dukla, rabbi Meir Barby, rabbi Mešulam Eger and others. This way a unique memorial came to existence that is visited in great numbers by the Jewish believers from all around the world who come here to pray and honour the greatest Jewish scholar of the 19th century, the Bratislava rabbi, the teacher, the thinker and the writer Chatám Sófer. Mose Schreiber, a native of Frankfurt, called Chatam Sofer 1762-1832, a rabbi, orthodox, morally uncompromising, educated in a talmudic way, the author of the philosophical, ethnical and exegetical works was the most famous Jewish spiritual leader of his time. As a rabbi of the Bratislava town, from 13th October 1806, besides carrying out the religious services dedicated his time also to a judicial activity because according to the orthodox religious ideas, he as a rabbi was i baal din - the lord of the judgement, whose decisions were accepted definitely, without any doubts. These wise decisions which were the object of interest for the Jewish scholars also from the geographically quite remote corners of Europe, brought him not only a big fame, but also an admiration. He became known in the Jewish and even in the nonjewish community in the whole Europe through his strict religiousness wise judicial sentences, profound explanations of some parts of the Scripture, through his knowledge of Talmud and the way of his exegesis. For his advice and decisions the Jewish rabbis from all of that time Europe were coming. He was considered by them as a follower of the rabbi Jochan ben Zakkaia who after the destruction of Jerusalem retired to Jabne and from there he tried to unite the Jews throughout the world. Chatam Sófer influenced religious activities of Jews in the whole Europe, thanks to him Bratislava jeshiva became the most important rabbinical educational establishment in the world. His theological knowledge and opinions were published also in a book type in print 7 volumes of Responsa Chatam Sofer, according which his cognomen was created, Seel6t u te§uvot / Questions and answers/, Super-comments to comments on Taimund /Talmudic tractates/ and Chidušej Thorath Mose / Amendment Moses's teaching or, better said, exegesis to 5 books of Moses/. He is also the author of a cycle of religious tractates, that were published as books under title Memoirs from the time of the siege of Pressburg. The majority of his works was published in Hebrew, but they still are translated into many world languages. Chatam Sófer was buried on the old Bratislava cemetery, today his grave is on its original place in the Memeorial of Chatam Sófer.