When the name of a public space in a municipality changes, it is usually associated with a political change. Perhaps the most striking example of this was when, after the fall of communism, the names of public spaces given during the communist period were changed en masse for ideological reasons. In the western Hungarian city of Kőszeg, the former Zrínyi Miklós Street was renamed Schey Fülöp Street on Tuesday, but the reason for the name change is different.
Fülöp Schey, the former patron of the town, the builder of the synagogue and a prominent figure of the local bourgeoisie, was commemorated in Kőszeg yesterday. Fülöp Schey’s descendants living abroad, members of the Schey-Ephrussi-de Waal family, also took part in the commemoration day organized jointly by the Kőszeg Municipality and the Institute of Advanced Studies Kőszeg (iASK; Felsőbbfokú Tanulmányok Intézete).
Photo: Facebook/Kőszeg város
Fülöp Schey was born in Kőszeg in 1798. His family once came to western Hungary from Moravia and lived in Lakompak (now Lackenbach, Austria) on the Esterházy estate. He married at the age of 18, his wife was Franciska, but they had no children. From 1823 he ran his own business and in 1831 paid taxes to the town of Kőszeg as a 1st class merchant. He had good business relations with the Esterházy, Batthyány and Erdődy families.
In the beginning, Fülöp Schey worked for the Wertheimstein banking house in Vienna, later he made a considerable fortune as an independent wholesaler. In 1844 he was one of the founding members of the Kőszeg Savings Bank, of which he was vice president and later director.
His loyalty to the Habsburg court increased his fortune considerably. During the revolution of 1848 he stopped his business activities in the city but his fortune was further increased by the military transports of 1848-49. During the revolt and the struggle for freedom, he remained loyal to the imperial court but also bore a considerable part of the enormous war burdens imposed on Kőszeg.
His personal fortune enabled him to allocate considerable sums to charitable causes: He financed, among other things, the construction of the Kőszeg Municipal Supply House and the synagogue. In 1854, the Kőszeg House of Representatives presented him with a certificate of thanks for his help to the local poor. In 1868 he contributed to the establishment of a kindergarten, the first in Hungary, named Elisabethinum in honor of Queen Elisabeth, where children were admitted regardless of their denomination.
In 1859, Schey was elevated to the Austrian nobility by Emperor Franz Joseph – he was the first Jew to receive this honor, bearing the title Philipp Schey von Koromla.
Kathy Henderson (center) at the book launch (Photo: Attila Horváth/iASK)
From London came Kathy Henderson, a member of the Shey family, whose book, My Disappearing Uncle, Europe, War and the Stories of a Scattered Family, was launched at iASK on Tuesday morning as a prelude to Memorial Day. With the book, a mixture of memoir, detective work and political history, the author wanted to use her family history to show “how the culture of competitive victimhood in family stories is disappearing and being replaced by adventure.”
(Photo: Attila Horváth/iASK)
In the afternoon, the program continued with the street naming ceremony. “The street, formerly called Tyúk Street, was named after Fülöp Schey in 1896 on the occasion of the Millennium celebrations, whose memory remained alive among the population long after his death (…) Between 1945 and 1948 the street was renamed Rákóczi Ferenc Street, and since 1956 it has been called Zrínyi Miklós Street,” the Kőszeg Municipal Archives wrote in an earlier statement.
Béla Básthy, the mayor of Kőszeg, delivers his speech (Photo: Attila Horváth/iASK).
In his speech at the inauguration of the street sign, Mayor Béla Básthy said, “Kőszeg has returned to the main street of its history.” He recalled that the ghetto was established in this street at number 8, from where one of the smallest Jewish communities in the country with its own synagogue, a little more than 100 people, were deported, and only 16 of them survived the Holocaust.
We are taking a significant, atoning step: we are reaching out to all those who were excluded from building the city by the city or by the history that passed over them for decades in the 20th century.
said the mayor.
“As a member of the Schey family – and I am sure I speak on behalf of the others present – it is an honor and a pleasure to be a part of this, and I would like to express my gratitude and admiration to all those who made this possible, as well as to the city of Kőszeg,” Kathy Henderson said at the ceremony. She recalled that Fülöp Schey had no children, but four of his five brothers and sisters had families whose lines continue to this day. “The closest connection was with his nephew Frederick, who was his colleague, fellow banker and businessman, and whom he made his heir. And this Friedrich was my great-great-grandfather, she added. “Today, the present and the past are facing each other because of the name of a street. So here’s to the future and the hope that she understood and maybe even learned,” Kathy Henderson concluded.
Today we are here to remember, to recover a piece of the past that was thought lost, to recover the time that was thought lost and those with whom we share a common history,
Ferenc Miszlivetz, General Director of iASK began his speech. By becoming the property of the citizens of Kőszeg and beyond, the synagogue can rekindle the currents of reconciliation as a new center of shared memory and culture, he added. “We are here to bow down, bear witness and start rebuilding the bridges that were destroyed,” the director stressed.
Ferenc Miszlivetz, General Director of iASK speaks at the ceremony (Photo: Attila Horváth/iASK)
The day ended with a concert by the Chamber Ensemble of the Budapest Festival Orchestra in the renovated synagogue in Kőszeg. The orchestra has been organizing concerts in abandoned or disused synagogues in the countryside together with the United Jewish Community of Hungary and the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary since the summer of 2014 in order to create new connections and meet the audience in unity, said Ákos Ács, the orchestra’s clarinetist, at the beginning of the concert. Between the musical blocks, Rabbi Jonathan Megyeri spoke about what it was like here at that time and how living together with the Jewish community worked.
Concert of the Chamber Ensemble of the Budapest Festival Orchestra in the renovated synagogue in Kőszeg (Photo: Attila Horváth/iASK)
The Institute for Advanced Studies (iASK) has obtained a two-year license to use the renovated synagogue in Kőszeg, which will serve as a cultural community space and, thanks to its special acoustics, will also be used for other concerts.
Featured image: Attila Horváth/iASK