(Luže, Czech Republic 49°53' 16°2')
Compiled by Václav Svátek, specialist teacher in Košumberk at Luže
Translated from the original Czech by Jan O. Hellmann/DK
Edited in English by Dan & Rob Pearman/UK
Luže, once a fiefdom within the manor of Košumberk, was inhabited from ancient times by many Jews. They lived in an area called ‘židovská’, which was separated from the rest of the town at night by chains. The name židovská remains to the present day.
The first evidence of Jews in this place dates from 1620 and is found in a note written in Czech in the book that records births and deaths. It describes the fees paid by the Jews to the local parish priest. There were seven who had settled in the town and four who lived outside the town. The Jews committed themselves and their offspring to pay to the parish priest on St. George's Day (24 April) three times threescore Meisen.
It is certain that Jews were already in Luže prior to the year 1620. When the Jesuits arrived in 1669, they were opposed to the Jews. In 1684 they took over the manor of Luže and then, in 1689, they expelled two Jews and continued to attempt to expel them even after 1709.
Later they tried to convince them to convert to Christianity. In 1722, a catechism was distributed to all the Jews in Luže. It had been written by the Jesuits especially for the Jews and they were forced to read it. In 1756, six Jews were baptized and two more the following year. However, in the years after this the Jesuits began for financial reasons to protect the Jews, as is witnessed in the following case of the baptized Jew Streit.
In 1749, the inhabitants of Luže complained that the manorial authority was taking away from them the right to serve beer, and that it had built four houses for the Jews on a communal plot which it rented to them. They also complained that the manorial authority was using the communal plot called ‘Kotlina’ without any right, and that it allowed the baptized Jew Streit to build an extension to his house near the municipal hall and permitted him to trade in goods which the tradesmen were otherwise producing at home, thereby taking away their bread and butter.
Long before 1858, the Jews in the town of Luže had their own private German school, at house no. 182 on židovská Street. It was also attended by gentile children who wanted to learn German. In 1875, the Jews from Luže and the surrounding area applied to transfer the school from private to public status. Even though this application was turned down by the local school council, it was in fact converted into a public school. Later in the same year, following objections by the majority of the inhabitants of Luže, the right to make it a public school was withdrawn and it was once again privatized.
Education in the Czech language was then introduced, with Czech being taught by a retired Catholic priest. The school was disbanded in 1898 and some of its teaching materials were gifted to the Luže school.
The Jews in Luže today have a very old synagogue and cemetery. The cemetery is located in a picturesque place on the road to Vysoké Mýto. This is where the Luže gallows used to be. As far as it is possible to decipher, the oldest inscriptions date from the 17th century.
The seal of the Jewish community in Luže consists of two triangles laid over each other with a Czech inscription around it which says ‘Rabbinate of Luže’. The record of births begins in 1794 and the first death records date from 1785.
According to the book by Sommer entitled ‘Das Königreich Böhmen’, among the 263 houses in Luže in 1837, there were 24 Jewish houses; among the total of 1,440 inhabitants, there were 53 Jewish families. The inn was also run by Jews. At that time, the rabbi of the Chrudim region was responsible for the community of Luže. In 1856, there were 301 Jews in the town. From that time onwards, the number of Jews decreased. Not only were the children moving out, but also the parents.
In the 1880s, there were only 142 Jews; in 1890 five more; in 1895 just 153; and in 1902 only 85. The most recent census (1930) counted just 32 Jews.
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Updated 24 Apr 2014 by JH