Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Eppler, Sándor

(1890–1942), Hungarian community leader. Sándor Eppler was born in Pest into a family affiliated with the Neolog movement. His father served as chief secretary of the Shas Ḥevrah (Talmud Study Society), and his uncle Viktor Sussmann was an Orthodox rabbi in Budapest. Eppler remained stringently observant his entire life. After completing elementary school, he spent three years at a commercial academy, where he gained financial and business training. The many statistical tables accompanying Eppler’s writings testify that his early training was valuable. At age 18, he became an employee of the Neolog Pest Israelite Community (PIH), thanks in large part to his personal contacts.

To reduce the Jewish community’s financial deficit, its president, Samu Stern, wished to close several schools and to combine the Neolog and Orthodox kosher meat-selling facilities (even though this meant that certain communal workers would lose their jobs). When the community’s chief secretary, Gyula Gábor, resigned, Eppler assumed this post. Even with a growing need for welfare institutions and communal buildings, Eppler managed to balance the budget. The worsening economic situation of Budapest Jewry led him to create a registry of welfare cases to facilitate their assistance. He also rebuilt the communal workers’ pension fund, which had been emptied during World War I. Though he too was employed by the community, he did not hesitate to reject demands from communal leaders when he considered their requests unreasonable. He was on excellent terms with both Orthodox and Zionist Jews.

Eppler convinced Stern to cooperate with Zionists. He and Stern also radically changed the community’s policy about its relations with world Jewry. In earlier days, Hungary’s Jewish leaders had acted out of patriotic pride and had argued against receiving outside support to deal with persecution and discrimination. In 1938, however, Eppler and Stern broke with that tradition when, as observers, they attended the Evian conference on refugees. After conference leaders refused to discuss the situation of Hungarian Jews, Eppler and Stern traveled to Paris and London to meet with Jewish leaders. The two obtained limited agreements that would allow hundreds of trained craft workers and laborers to emigrate if economic conditions were favorable.

When Eppler and Stern returned to Hungary, they reported to Ferenc Keresztes-Fisher, the minister of the interior, and received official permission to establish a Jewish aid organization, the Magyar Izraelitàk Pàrtfogò Irodàja (Bureau for the Protection of the Rights of the Jews of Hungary; MIPI), in which Eppler represented the PIH. The MIPI was permitted to negotiate with Western Jewish organizations, the most important of which was the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC); the JDC then agreed to match every dollar raised by Hungarian Jewish groups. In addition, and as a result of Eppler and Stern’s second trip to the West, ORT agreed to sponsor a Jewish vocational secondary school. The Hungarian Ministry of Religious Affairs later authorized the establishment of such a school. Eppler and the PIH assisted Jewish refugees who had found their way to Hungary from areas under Nazi control. Although these refugees were supposed to be supervised by a government office, it is likely that officials were paid off so that the Jewish community could take control of their welfare.

In 1940, Eppler was conscripted for forced labor; he was released only after he became ill. The harsh conditions to which he was exposed affected his heart, and he died on 17 May 1942.

Suggested Reading

Karsai Elek, “Evian után tizenegy hónappal,” in Magyar Izraeliták Országos Képviselete: Évkönyv, pp. 162–180 (Budapest, 1971–1972); Avigdor Löwenheim, “Stern Samu naplója elé,” Múlt és Jövő 3 (1994): 96–106.



Translated from Hebrew by Anna Barber