I was in Kolozsvár/Cluj-Napoca last week, so it was quite unlikely that I would post about the synagogue in Szilágysomlyó/Șimleu Silvaniei in Romania. But that’s what happened.


This is the Northern Transylvania Holocaust Memorial Museum in the secluded little village in Szilágy/Sălaj county, founded in 2005 (photos taken in 2016).


The synagogue was built in 1876, and, no longer used by a congregation, serves today as a museum and educational site about the Holocaust.


Huge numbers of Jews were transported from the local Cehei ghetto to Auschwitz/Birkenau, and the synagogue was left abandoned from the 1960s until its reopening as a museum in 2006. The renovation was organised by two figures from New York: the architect Adam Aaron Wapniak, and Dr. Alex Hecht, a dentist who was the son of Holocaust survivors from the nearby village of Nușfalău. Sounds like a chapter from one of the many fascinating and tragic family sagas in Hungarian literature.


In the middle of the peaceful region of Sălaj/Szilágy county, the museum not only reminds one of the everlasting struggle between darkness and light, but also testifies to the troubled history of Central-Europe. For in that time, the region attached to Romania with the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 was temporarily re-attached to Hungary with the Second Vienna Award, meaning that the area was under Hungarian supervision during the transports.

Interestingly, if you want to check wikipedia (this post is largely based on that and the museum’s informational material, they being reassuringly consistent), you’ll see that there are altogether three short sentences about the museum on the Hungarian site. The English and Romanian versions are much more extensive.  Also, the museum’s website contains the icons for Hungarian and English versions. But you cannot click on them.