This paper uses archival and ethnological research to analyze the fates of former synagogues during two totalitarian regimes in present-day Slovakia. The processes described here were catalyzed by the Holocaust. Between 1938 and 1945, over 100,000 Jews from Slovakia were murdered. Out of the 228 Jewish religious communities (JRCs) active before the war, only 79 were reconstituted after liberation. Most were later disbanded because of aliyah to Palestine/Israel. Their abandoned synagogues passed into the administration of the newly founded Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities (CUJRC). During the Communist era (1948-1989), the majority of these synagogues were sold because the CUJRC did not have sufficient resources for their maintenance.

The second section of this paper discusses synagogues in different parts of Slovakia to show how representatives of the CUJRC tried to ensure the temples’ new owners did not violate their religious dignity. Purchase and sale agreements generally prohibited using the synagogues for entertainment purposes, instead preferring their conversion into warehouses, silos, workshops, etc. Although, as soon as the 1940s, part of the community requested that the synagogues be used as cultural centers, this did not happen on a large scale until after the revolution of 1989. A synagogue is not defined by its four walls but rather by the activities that take place inside it. The repurposed buildings are frequently located in regions with no active Jewish organizations. They are mere relics of the past and, bar a few exceptions, do not contribute to the renewal of traditional Jewish life. Believers nevertheless tend to have a negative view of the events that are held in the former synagogues, with some going as far as to consider them disrespectful. Even many secular Jews feel that the former synagogues do not fulfil their original purpose and have definitively transformed into non-synagogues.



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