The history of the Charity Hospital
The hospital was founded in 1914 and was established by Chevre Kadisha. At first it was a place of refuge for Jewish refugees and soon it was expanded to a hospital that included a number of buildings. Towards the end of World War I, the hospital was nationalized for the first time and Chevre Kadisha was outlawed. After the war the boycott was lifted and by the end of the 1930’s the hospital was known in Hungary as one of the best medical centers.
In the 30’s, when the persecution began, there were all together four Jewish hospitals in Budapest that were filled almost at once with masses of Jewish refugees fleeing away the pogroms.
With the entry of the Germans into Budapest the hospital instantly became a German headquarter.
The Jewish workers who were left without a hospital set up two clinics in the Jewish school building and the next building on the border of the ghetto area -in District VII- under the auspices of the Red Cross and the building next to it in vicinity to the border of the Ghetto. The hospital personnel managed to smuggle out medical equipment, and operating rooms were transferred into this central, temporary medical location. Other hospitals were founded, some inside the ghetto, others outside. The Judenrat supplied these hospitals with medical equipment obtained through contributions from Jews. The temporary hospitals admitted sick patients and a great number of those injured as a result of the war in Budapest. These hospitals operated with poor equipment. Surgeries were sometimes performed on kitchen tables, and medical equipment was sterilized by burning the synagogue’s benches and library books. As of December 1944, there was no electricity in the hospitals. Thus, doctors were forced to operate by the light of candles and flashlights. Nevertheless, they managed to save numerous lives. In spite of the terrible conditions under which the medical staff worked, they were committed to their mission, and their courage deserves appreciation. Ghetto Budapest was liberated by the Red army on 18th January, 1945. Many Jews were released from the temporary hospitals
In the end of the war:
Reconstruction of the hospital began- done with overseas donations but in the mid 50’ the hospital was nationalized by the communist government and its biggest part became the national institute of neurology and neural surgery. The hospital which consisted of three complexes, was decreased to one complex made out of three buildings in which the religious activity was allowed under the communism as well. In the end of the communist area the hospital was handed to the MAZSIHISZ – Magyarországi Zsidó Hitközségek Szövetsége – The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities.
Its name „Szeretetkórház” means a hospital of affection / fondness.
The Hospital today:
Our hospital has 240 beds, it’s a national institute, taking care of all people with a priority to our community members. A special priority is given to holocaust survivors and second generation of survivors. We are spreading our activities for younger generation doing society health and prevention activities.
The Jewish Charity Hospital is the only hospital in Europe that is Jewish. The food is kosher with a kosher supervisor. There is an active synagogue with worshipers- most of whom are hospitalized in the various wards. The rabbi not only runs the synagogue but gives holistic-mental support to the sick. The hospital keeps the Shabbat and holidays as much as possible in an active hospital.