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[Pages 437-446]

The History of the Jews in Kdyně and the Surroundings

(Kdyně, Czech Republic – 49°23' 13°02')

Written by Director František Houra, Kdyně

Translated from the original Czech by Jan O. Hellmann/DK

Edited by Rob Pearman/UK

Introduction

In his “Viennese Profiles”, J. S. Machar[1] recalls the emigration of Jews from Bohemia to Vienna and other places in connection with a sketch about the life of cavalry captain Taussig, Governor of the Bank Bodencredit: “How many able Jews left the Czech environment to contribute to their new homeland!”

In reality, the Jews from Czech Šumava[2] were a major export article, and it was not the worst Jews who left for better bread. They left in the first half of the previous century[3], mainly heading to what is today known as Hungary. It is not well known that our grandparents had brothers and sisters in Hungary. Before the war[4], assimilation in Hungary was very rapid, and even by this time the second generation was unable to communicate with the families in the old homeland. They had also Hungarianised their names and their minds.

By the middle of the previous century, the flow of emigrants was directed towards America. The son of Rabbi Bloch from Kdyně (German: Neugedein) was a kind of ‘quartermaster’. He was followed by many young daredevils, and in the 1860s there was not a single family that did not have a relative in America. Poor families sent all of their children to America except the one that was to inherit the family business.

In 1880, the brother of my father wrote to their father that “all of Boston speaks about your fortune of 10,000 guilders.” It sounds strange today when Boston is a city with millions of inhabitants and nobody there has ever heard about Kdyně and Šumava. The financial conditions have also changed; even if multiplied by 20, such a sum would today be worth nothing for an American.

The emigrants had a hard start in America. They toiled as laborers, railway workers, inspectors of black workers, and stokers on trains in order to get a free ticket to the west. With this ability to adapt under stress that they learned in the old homeland, they quickly raised themselves to a better life, especially in business and the world of banking. If you read today the names of American magnates in film, banking and business, you have no idea how many of them originate from Czech Šumava.

The geographic position of west Šumava and the mentality of its people were the main reasons that people did not move to Vienna, even though the largest company in the area was directed from Vienna and there were close links with that city. The Jews from Kdyně liked to go to Prague where many had already found great success before the war, mainly in business.

Emigration and the declining birth rate reduced the number of Jews even before the war. After the war, the number of Jews in the small towns declined greatly. They vanished almost entirely from the villages, with only a few exceptions. The synagogues were deserted and only the Jewish cemetery in the forest of Loučinsky bears witness to the large number of co-religionists in former times.

There sleep the unlucky investor in the Bohemia-Moravia cross-border railway, doctors from Kdyně, the founders of the Augstein family, together with the last chairman of the Jewish community in Kdyně, as well as ancestors of families now strewn right across the USA. Some families remained. Assimilated over generations, they grew up with love for their native area, their nation and their people with whom their ancestors often shared poor bread earned by hard work from the stony soil. Just as Šumava gave the Czechs the tough and honest Chods[5], so Šumava taught the Jews honesty, assiduity and great knowledge. It created, more than other places, a love of the fatherland in both the broad and narrow sense, even for those whom fate scattered to every corner of the world.

When they return home after months or years of absence, and the silhouette of Rymberg of an evening appears as their first greeting, the factory windows light the train on the bend before Stařec[6], when they feel the sharp air and scent of the Šumava Forest, then they know that here they will always be at home.

 

F.W.

It is not known precisely when Kdyně was founded, as the town hall burnt down in the great fire of 1781 and with it went all the archives, which could have told us a lot about the town history.

The original town of Kdyně was to be found below the hill on which the church stood. The first fire to hit the settlement destroyed all the wooden buildings and left behind only the church, the rectory and the manor house. Where the church stood, there was a larger settlement.

The parish record of 1384 noted the presence of a church.

A later settlement in Kdyně stood along the creek, which is still today within the town.

At that time, Kdyně was a lively place because it was on a very busy trade route through the VŠerubský Pass[7] and was the first Czech settlement on this road. In 1520, the Šumava towns had to join forces against marauding knights, conquer their castles and punish the robbers. These robbers were particularly annoying to the Jews because they transported goods through the VŠerubský Pass.

Around 1535, we hear that the square in Kdyně was given today's rectangular form and that there were stone-built houses.

There was a frontier toll to be paid in Kdyně at this time, so the conveyors of goods avoided passing through the town. There was increasing competition in the neighborhood from the newly built stronghold of Kout, where the lords of Rýmberk settled. At that time, Rýmberk was in the possession of Jan Filip Kratz from Scharfenstein, who accorded Kdyně privileges in 1624 and made it equal to other towns. These privileges, inter alia, made it easier to build a business in Kdyně.

The Castle at Rýmberk was damaged during the Thirty Years War[8], and was finally destroyed completely by the Swedes in 1648. Thereafter, Kdyně was affected by the Reformation[9], and some houses there became empty when people emigrated because of their religion.

This was particularly the case of the house that was next to the municipal hall - where today the joint stock company spinning mill stands. This was bought by the manor of Kout and was where the first mill for making socks and other goods was established.

The manors of Kout and Trhanov were at that time in the possession of the famous enemy of the Chods, Wolf Maximilián Laminger[10]. His widow, Polyxena from Lobkovice, sold the manor on16 November 1697 to a new owner, Earl Jindřich Stadion from Würzburg. In this period, we find the first references to Jews within the manor of Kout. The Stadion family governed Kout and Trhanov until 1909, in which year the family died out.

In the time of the Stadions, the factory grew and with it the welfare of the inhabitants. The town of Kdyně also grew, and so new houses were built. However, the town was attacked by armies involved in the wars of Charles VI (Karel VI) and Marie Theresa (Marie Teresie)[11]. Grain was often requisitioned from Kdyně, and when it was not available the Jews were called upon to help[12].

Finally, great freedom arrives! In 1848, a National Guard was established, with 255 members. As elsewhere, its end was inglorious, but that did not mean that the life of the town ended. A post office was established in Kdyně; a new municipal hall was built in 1850; the railway arrived in 1889; new schools were founded; the civil college was established in 1896; the factory was prospering; the inhabitants had enough jobs; and at the time of the putsch[13], Kdyně was in the best of health.

When looking at the history of the Jews in Kdyně, it is necessary to look also at surrounding villages such as Kout na Šumavě, Všeruby (Neumark), Dlažov, Loučím, Koloveč, Pocínovice, Prapořiště and others.

In this section of the story of Kdyně, we will include the history of the Jews in Kout, Prapořiště, Loučim, Dlažov and Pocínovice.

Emil Třída[14] wrote about the Jews living within the Manor of Stadion: “The new owner did not like Jews for the simple reason that they had not paid the full tax set by the manor[15]. The owner lived abroad and his clerks, mainly the trustee Seyfried, did not ‘lock their pockets’[16]. The amount of profit from the manor was small and the running of the manor was based on an economic plan that included loans from the Jews. The situation was not good.”

The first time the Jews are mentioned in the Kout archives is in the so-called ‘Official Notes’, where it is written that the highest trustee of the manor of Kout, Jindřich Dalken, is following the order of Stadion in 1720 by expelling all Jews from the manor.

This order was handed over to the Jew Abraham Markus in Kout, who is described in the archive as “The Patriarch”. The family of Abraham Markus lived in Všeruby for around 100 years and then, for the last few years, in Kout. He was a problem for the manor, and the clerks complained about him to the trustee. Stadion ordered that they should watch him carefully and, if they catch him engaging in anything unlawful, they should immediately evict him from the town. Abraham probably caught the scent of what was going on and became very careful, so they could not catch him out. He lived in Kout until his death in 1725. The trustee was very angry and writes that, if it were not for Abraham, he would soon be finished with the other Jews. From this, we can see that Abraham was the leader of the Jews and spoke out about their rights.

The Jews did not accept expulsion from the manor, and they responded that they would not leave but would take the matter to court, and that they counted on the support of all Bohemian Jews.

On 7 November 1720, they decided to take more significant action by sending to the trustee a humble request not to persecute them so harshly, and they reminded him that they had been paying rent and tax on their houses since the time of Wolf Vilém Lamingen in 1654[17]. This request was brought to the castle by a deputation led by Abraham Markus.

The trustee stopped persecuting the Jews and informed Stadion that he would wait and see whether the Jews behaved as they promised. If not, he would treat them harshly.

In a further letter, we are informed that there was a distillery within the manor which was leased. In 1720, Abraham Markus applied to lease it and proposed a rent of 1,200 guilders. From the letter of the trustee to Stadion and from his answer, we can see that Stadion did not wish to lease it to Abraham, even though he had offered 200 guilders more than others. This shows how much Stadion disliked the Jews.

In a letter dated 17 February 1721, the trustee advises that, when Stadion next visits the manor, the Jews wish to send a deputation and ask for protection. Stadion answers that they are wrong to think that he will protect them or even that he will allow more Jews within the manor. He would only do so under a direct imperial order.

On 2 March 1721, the Jew Jakub from Kout sends a supplication asking for a discount on the protection money as he cannot pay so much. The trustee informs Stadion of this and makes him so angry that he issues a strict payment order that will surely make Jakub pay.

The greatest difficulty for the trustee was to prove whether Jews did or did not have the right to live within the manor according to the decision of parliament in 1650[18]. He said ‘no’, and the Jews claimed ‘yes’ but, because the archives of Kout were destroyed in the fire, the trustee had no relevant documentation.

According to the book Urbario[19], Jewish families were living in the manor of Kout in 1721, and they paid 168 guilders annually in fees[20].

In 1725, the imperial order was issued stating that any community that allowed Jews to settle in places where Jews had not previously settled should pay a penalty of 1,000 guilders.

On 9 October 1725, Abraham Markus - the leader so hated by the trustee - died in Kout. The trustee wrote to Stadion, proposing to expel the Jews from Kout and send them to their relatives in Kdyně. This is the first comment about Jews being in Kdyně. It means that Jews were there prior to 1725.

The trustee negotiated with Abraham's widow for the purchase of her house, but the widow demanded in exchange a house in Všeruby. The trustee demanded this sale as, otherwise, he would not be able to expel the Jews. However, as the widow was pregnant and the winter was approaching, she would be allowed to stay in Kout temporarily. She left Kout in 1727 and moved to Všeruby. From that time, there were no Jews in Kout. Abraham Markus had been the only Jew in Kout with his own home, as all the other Jews lived in rented houses.

In 1727, there was a meeting of Jews from the Klatovy and Pilsen region at which they claimed certain privileges from the regional headmen.

We can read about a similar event in Kdyně on 11 January 1728. Two engineers arrived in Kdyně and established a spinning mill in a small house on the square near the manor house. At that time, the Chapel of St. Jan stood on the square in Kdyně just about on the spot where the water fountain is today. This chapel was taken down and re-erected next to the factory of Mr. Keil in Komenský Street, where it stands to this day. Services were held in this chapel on the square, and so the Jews had to move further away. The collectors of toll and road tax then moved into the former Jewish house. The trustee demanded that the Jews pay for the costs of refurbishing the house, but was ordered to pay for it himself from the manor treasury.

When Jindřich Stadion died in 1741, he was succeeded by Jan Fillip Stadion. From his correspondence we see that he did not like Jews either. He praises the trustee for persecuting the Jews and allowing them nothing.

On 5 January 1760, an order reached Kdyně that each inhabitant must deliver four Bohemian bushels and 26 pounds of flour[21]. Of course, the citizens did not have this much and so they turned to a Jew from Všeruby, who promised to provide the necessary goods within three weeks and to add 1,000 q[22] of straw. Part of the required amount was brought to the army at Lovosice and part to HorŠovský Týn.

We read in the Office Bulletin dated 23 October 1764, that there are two Jews within the manor - Hönig Löbl and Efraim Popr - who are lending money at high interest rates, as high as 15 %. The manor asks the government to order banks to lend money at a lower rate.

In a note dated 1 December 1764, the trustee mentions that the cottage of Salomon Hahn in Kdyně is in a very poor condition. Hahn is paying 25 guilders a year for the lease and asks that the manor build him a new cottage. The trustee proposes to sell the cottage for 300 - 400 guilders exclusive of laudemia[23] after which a rent would be obtained and the repairs would be paid for by the new owner. Stadion did not accept the proposal of the trustee and required Hahn to repair the cottage at his own cost if he wished to avoid the cottage falling in on his head. In the event that the cottage is to be sold, then - according to Stadion - it is to be sold only to a gentile.

On 23 January 1765, we read the following in the Upper Office Bulletin: “A Jew from Pocínovice asked that two Jews from Běhařov in the Bystřice manor be arrested for peddling. The trustee from Kout punished them with two days in prison. The two Jews applied for the right to peddle in the Kout manor for a fee of 6 guilders or for the right to settle in Pocínovice.” The trustee considers the application and notes that the Jew from Pocínovice is quiet and pays honestly and therefore decides to increase the fee. In this connection it is mentioned that an empty house remained in Kdyně that had been occupied by Sabl, and that a gentile wants it. This house will therefore be offered to the two Jews and, if they decline, then they will be expelled from the manor.

Stadion answers the trustee's proposal by urging that peddling by foreign Jews shall be forbidden within the manor and that the trustee shall persecute the Jews with a hard hand. The same should be done by the village mayors, hunters and the trustee's officials.

The trustee defends his officials and himself, claiming that they carry out their duties, but that the government gives too much freedom to the Jews (for example by giving them the right to stock tobacco in each region and not to be expelled, and that it is also forbidden to seize their goods). He is obliged to follow the orders of the country government.

The oldest parish registers in Kdyně are from 1635 and they continue up to 1678. However, they only record the details of Catholics. In the register for 1769, in which non-Catholics and Jews are also registered, I have found the following names: Karel Bohumil Blumenstengel, Kristián Bedřich Mackrot, Jan Vilém Buchheim, Bedřich Bohumil Kurtz, Miller and others. From the names, these can be assumed to be of Jewish origin.

The register for 1769 shows the Jewish child, Amélia daughter of Mayer Epstein from Kout in Šumava, born in house no. 5. Other registrations appear later and will be shown at the appropriate place.

In 1768, the manor of Kout sells to a banker and merchant from Vienna, Jakub Matyáš Schmidt, a factory that stands next to the Kdyně municipal hall on the square. He was Catholic, but he had as associates Bernard Dalkén and Karel Bedřich Baurreise and also the merchant Weitehiller from Lublin; some of these were Jewish. They modernized and reorganised the factory. Kdyně was bustling, industry was growing and the number of workers increased.

On 12 May 1771, the trustee writes that foremen from the factory are interested in the house of the Jew Abraham and offer a higher rent. The trustee is delighted to get rid of the Jew. A letter from Stadion dated 1773 and recorded in the manor bulletin convinces us that the situation has changed. Stadion writes that Jews already settled within the manor shall not be endangered in their business by allowing foreign Jews to peddle in the manor, and that they shall be protected.

On 16 December 1778, the trustee writes that Jews are not receiving orders for supplies to the army, but are entrusted with their transportation.

In 1783, the production of potassium in Kdyně was leased to Salomon Hahn a man previously mentioned in connection with the cottage that was in a bad condition. However, after five years the trustee complains that Hahn is not paying the lease and that it would be better if the manor took over the production of potassium.

According to the town's record of litigations, on 15 February 1784 the gentile merchants of Kdyně complained that the Jews Mojžíš Hahn and Macherl Hahn, who were protected by the trustee in Kdyně, are peddling with grocery goods without respecting Sundays and holydays, that they peddle from house to house and thereby damage their business. They have already been arrested twice. The trustee's office mentioned the complaint to the Jews, threatening them with seizure of the goods and with punishment in line with the law. According to information from the museum in Klatovy, peddling was at that time forbidden by the regional office and was punishable by law.

In 1785, there was some relaxation in the restrictions facing the Jews and they received some privileges. However, even in 1800 a permit was required from the magistrate if a Jew was found to be leasing a room from a neighbor. So citizen Jan Hostaš of Kdyně applies for a permit to accommodate a Jew in his house. The aldermen decide to refuse the permit.

From the beginning of the 19th century, the following Jews are inscribed in the parish registers:

In this period, no Jewish wedding was registered.

In the record of deaths, the following are registered:

As there was not yet a cemetery in Loučím, the dead were buried in Poběžovice (Ronsberg), Nýrsko or Janovice.

Most Jewish families were at that time living in nearby Prapořiště. They are the following:

According to the register of deaths, the following died in Prapořiště: In the register of weddings, the following are listed: Despite persecution, the following Jewish families remained in Kout: In that period, there were no weddings in Kout.

In the register of deaths, the following are mentioned:

According to a court order in 1837, new registers were introduced and the registers are no longer to be completed by the parish churches but are to be made out by the Jews themselves, normally by the rabbi who is to receive a separate salary for this work.

I have found registers from the year 1839 and onwards in the possession of Mr. Mořic Augstein in Kdyně, and they are very well executed.

After 1840, the following Jewish families are also mentioned: Adolf Augstein, with his wife žofie neé Fleischer Jakub Klauber, with his wife Karla Hahn, merchant in cereals and owner of a distillery Mořic Steiner, with Klara Resch, merchant Vilem Sonnenschein, with Aloisie Kohn.

At that time, the spinning mill is flourishing. The Viennese owners have invested in this business. Not only are people from Kdyně and the surroundings working for the factory, but also home spun goods are brought here, even from remote areas, mainly by Jewish merchants.

In the factory, between 4,000 and 5,000 spinners, as well as 400 weavers and 400 combers work on manual looms[26]. These total numbers also include the workers from the Cheb area. The Kdyně factory concluded a contract with the creative dye-house of Martin Schmidt & Vilém Lautersack from Vienna to supply 4,000 rolls of textile for dying. After the death of Schmidt, the factory changed into a joint stock company, and in 1845 an eight-year contract was concluded with 29 shareholders, with a capital of 626,093 guilders. Among the shareholders there are many Jews.

In 1859, a fire destroyed the factory, but thanks to good leadership it was soon working again. In 1870, the factory was bought by the well-known factory owner J. Bondy. The new owner changed the company to a shareholder company with a capital of 750,000 guilders. The factory survived the state bankruptcy of 1872[27] in good condition, and its director is now Counsel Augustin Dehne. Manual work is ended, and production is now done by mechanical looms.

As early as 1840 the local merchants tried to start up again the world-renowned grain markets in Kdyně, mainly through the efforts of Isák Augstein and Jakub Klauber. The regional administration's decree of 24 July 1846 gives permission to hold grain markets in Kdyně every Wednesday.

These markets did not continue for very long because the area around Kdyně is not good for the cultivation of grain, and they were soon replaced by cattle markets which are now known throughout the world. This is again thanks to Jewish merchants, about which we will tell more later.

In this period, around 1848, the barber-surgeon and obstetrician Jiří Weisel was active in nearby Všeruby.

In the 1860s and ‘70s, the following Jewish families live in Kdyně;

After 1880, the following arrive in Kdyně: In 1890 the following are in Kdyně: By the decree of the Ministry of Religion and Education # 25,211 that came into force on 1 July 1895, though issued in 1894, on the basis of the so-called Jewish Law of 21 March 1890, # 57, it was resolved to set up new Jewish regions Therefore the Jewish community in Kdyně was to be reorganized. According to the decree, two additional members had to be included on the board. These were to be chosen from among the Jewish members of the community by the administration of the Headman. The rabbi was also to participate in all board meetings.

According to the election list of 15 August 1894, the following were elected as members of the new board:

The new region of the Jewish community in Kdyně comprised the following places: Kdyně, Kout, Prapořiště, Starec, Dlažov, Pocínovice, Všeruby, Koloveč, Loučím, Hluboká and Lhota. The rabbinate was located in Kdyně.

After the 1890s, the following new families appear in Kdyně:

According to the record of the elections, the following were elected to the board of the Jewish community in 1897: The following were elected to the wider board: Temple inspectors were: The six members elected to the Steering Committee were: In 1901, the Jewish community in Kdyně had 55 members, of whom 52 were contributors to the community[28]. On 3 December 1900, Josef Augstein from Kdyně was again elected as Mayor.

The Chevra Kadisha was already founded in Kdyně in 1889. Its statutes were approved by the administration of the Headman in Domažlice on 16 July 1889 # 8,469. The first chairman was Josef Augstein from Kdyně who took care of the property of the fellowship, which comprised the Jewish cemetery in Loučím. In 1902, the fellowship had 29 members. The cemetery was frequently maintained, e.g. in 1904, the outer wall was repaired and new columns for the main iron gate were constructed by the builder Tomáš Babka from Dlažov, who also planted trees and repaired the paths. Today the cemetery is surrounded by a beautiful coniferous forest and demarcated by a nice outer wall. The entrance is closed by a beautiful iron gate. Paths are spread with sand, and the graves are tastefully arranged and well kept. This is all to the credit of the brothers Josef and Mořic Augstein from Kdyně.

On 22 September 1904, the Kdyně community issued a tender for the position of rabbi. The annual salary offered was 1,000 crowns. For the second round, this offer was increased to 1,200 crowns, together with free accommodation, an income of 300 crowns from the ritual slaughtering (schechita), payment for keeping the registers and carrying out the religious ceremonies and for religious classes at the school. At that time there were 12-15 Jewish children in Kdyně who frequented the local school.

The first rabbi in Kdyně was Sigmund Fischel - from 1 May 1895 to 10 May 1902. From 17 August 1902 to 4 September 1904, Josef Kraus was rabbi in Kdyně. He left without notice on 20 September 1904.

On the basis of a tender on 1 April 1905, Adolf Urbach became rabbi, serving the community until 12 July 1908. After him, Ezechiel Nussbaum was elected rabbi. However, he could not speak Czech and so he left early on 1 April 1910. Then Sigmund Beinkeles served the community as rabbi for the period from 11 July 1910 to 11 March 1911. After him came the last rabbi in Kdyně, Rabbi Alois Schirenz from Prague-Libeň, who presided for the period from 15 July 1911 to 15 August 1914.

From the outbreak of the war, no meetings of the community board were held and there are no records except that, on 9 February 1916, it is reported from a meeting in Domažlice that it is impossible to find a teacher of Jewish religion. The community is unable to find a teacher or even a suitably qualified person[29], as nobody responded to the tenders. Weddings, burials and such like were perhaps managed by the rabbi from Klatovy.

According to a note of 1 November 1906, there were 51 paying members in the Kdyně community 15 from Kdyně itself, 10 from Dlažov, 14 from Koloveč, eight from Všeruby and four from Pocínovice.

The Kdyně community was no longer able to maintain the synagogue, and consideration was given to merging the community with a neighboring community.

It was decided on religious grounds not to merge with the community in Domažlice. It is forbidden to Jews to travel on holydays for more than one hour[30].

Many members of the community protested about the high fees and threatened to leave the church[31]. The Jewish population of Kdyně and its surroundings decreased because people were moving away to larger towns.

On 26 June 1914, elections were held to the board of the Jewish community for the period up to 1917. The following were elected:

Six members of the board:

The following were elected as substitute-members: Also elected were six members of the executive committee: The following were elected as auditors: And the following were elected onto the tax commission: During the four years of the war, the community was managed by Josef Augstein. He took care of all contacts with the authorities, as well as looking after the synagogue and the cemetery, the refugees from Galicia (Halič), the school and the religious education of the children.

The Jewish refugees from Galicia were first accommodated in the Sokol[32] gymnasium in Kdyně and later in other parts of the town. They arrived on 20 November 1914 and were in total some 140 persons. A kitchen was installed in the Sokol gymnasium, where meals were cooked for them using money received from the government. The Jewish community - and mainly Josef Augstein - was diligent in taking care of these refugees.

The following from Kdyně participated in the World War:

Out of interest, I quote the result of the last elections in the Jewish community of Kdyně: As members of the board: As substitute members of the board: As members of the executive committee: As members of the wages committee: As local supervisors: As members of the tax commission: As a result of the relocation of Jews from Kdyně and the surrounding area to the larger towns, the number of members of the community is reducing. There is no rabbi and therefore the regional authority formally decrees on 15 November 1922 by decree # 54,670/3 that the Jewish community in Kdyně shall be disbanded and merged with the Jewish community in Domažlice.

This decree was discussed at a community meeting in Kdyně as early as 7 December 1922. The regional decree was rejected following a proposal by Josef Augstein. The following agreed with this proposal to reject: Jindřich Lederer from Všeruby, Gustav Hoistasch from Všeruby, Heřman Klein from Pocínovice and Rudolf Schwartz from Koloveč. There was also a rejection of a proposal to hire a religious teacher for the children.

Then came a new letter from the regional authority dated 23 May 1923. This was discussed on 22 June 1923 at the meeting of the executive committee. In the letter, the regional authority required the community to provide evidence of its financial status and to merge with the community of Domažlice. This was also refused, and the Kdyně community asked for a one year delay in which to consider the request.

From the financial status, it is obvious that the Jewish community in Kdyně had a synagogue and its inventory, as well as a house nearby, but no cash. In Všeruby, they had a synagogue, and the same in Dlažov. In Koloveč, they had just a prayer room in a rented house. In addition, Všeruby had 1,000 crowns in trust. The cemetery in Loučím was owned by the Chevra Kadisha.

On 14 January 1925, a new letter arrives from the regional authority requiring the Kdyně community to merge with Domažlice or any other community, according to their own choice.

This was discussed at a meeting in Kdyně on 20 March 1925. Once again, there was a request that they be granted a year in which to reach a decision.

The regional office in Domažlice was not prepared to accept this proposal and, on 2 May 1925, it issued decree # 20,615/3 ordering the disbanding of the Jewish community in Kdyně and that it merge with some other Jewish community.

On the proposal of the last chairman Josef Augstein, negotiations were begun with the lawyer Evžen Löwy from Klatovy concerning a merger with the Jewish community of Klatovy. It was agreed that such a merger would be on the same conditions as for other communities in the same situation. The Kdyně community would not request special religious acts. The rabbi would receive an income from weddings, banns, funerals etc. The negotiations with Klatovy were handled by Mořic Augstein and Artur Klein from Pocínovice. The Klatovy community wanted to sell the synagogue in Kdyně, but this was not accepted by the Jews of Kdyně.

On 16 April 1926, at the meeting of the executive committee in Kdyně, after a vote of members, the following declaration was signed by both parties:

 

Declaration

We, the undersigned members of the Jewish community in Kdyně, Dlažov, Všeruby and Koloveč commit ourselves at our cost and without right to any remittance from anybody to keep the Israelite churches in our villages.

However, if we, our heirs or other Jews living in the villages cease to maintain these churches, then the Jewish community of Klatovy has the right to decide whether to keep the churches or to sell them according to its statute.

In the event that the Jewish community of Klatovy sells these churches, then it is obliged to maintain the Israelite cemetery in Loučím from the interest on this capital.

We confirm the binding nature of this declaration by our signatures.

The declaration was signed in Kdyně and in Klatovy

For Kdyně , the declaration was signed by: Dr. Arnošt Pollatschek, Mořic Augstein, Josef Augstein, Viktor Kohn, Arnošt Neumann, Josef Schwarzkopf, Jindřich Salz, Rudolf Schwarz, Mořic Klein and Sigmund Wachtel.

With this last record of 17 May 1929, the records of the Jewish community in Kdyně come to an end. On that day, there was a meeting of the Jewish community of Kdyně, where Mořic Augstein read a letter from the regional office in Domažlice dated 11 December 1928, # 711/3 declaring the official merger of the Jewish communities of Kdyně and Klatovy.

The synagogue in Kdyně remained open, and there were services on Jewish High Holydays.

In 1930, we find the following Jewish families in Kdyně:

Among the distinguished persons, I mentioned earlier Mojžíš Reach, barber-surgeon and obstetrician.

 

 

Dr. Josef Weisl
 
Jakub Weisl

 

MUDr. Josef Weisl of Kdyně

MUDr. Josef Weisl was born on 21 November 1847 in Bezděkov near Klatovy, and died in Kdyně on 9 October 1918.

There was probably nobody in Kdyně and the surrounding area who would not know his tall, distinguished and rather bent stature, as he wandered for 40 years through Kdyně and its surroundings. Stories are still told about his Inverness cloak and stick, which shows just how popular the gnarled and distinctive doctor was.

It is difficult to imagine today the comfortless situation of a country doctor in a poor mountainous country. We must admire the endurance and patience which he gave to this country from the first to the last day of his active life without any break or respite.

He was the son of a poor merchant and small-holder[34] in Bezděkov. His father died very early and his mother then moved to Klatovy with their children.

He completed by his own means the grammar school in Klatovy. In May 1872, he graduated as doctor of medicine and was declared ‘magister obstetrician’.

By decree of the magistrate in Kdyně, he was appointed on 22 July 1872 as city doctor in Kdyně with an annual salary of 200 guilders, half to be paid by the magistrate and half by the factory.

His financial situation was first improved in 1874 when he was appointed as doctor at the factory with an annual salary of 300 guilders. However, this was reduced by 100 guilders during the lifetime of the barber-surgeon Mojžíš Reach, as this amount was paid to Reach as his pension.

The good doctor's arrival meant great progress for Kdyně as he was the first qualified doctor in the town.

He did not flaunt his Jewishness. Any bigotry was foreign to him; he was progressive long before his time. He loved his region and its people, he empathized with the country folk and, when national consciousness reached Šumava, he participated in the foundation of many Czech associations, mainly of Měšťanská Beseda[35], even though it cost him his job as doctor at the factory.

The lonely spiritual life of Dr. Weisl, who collected a large library of literary and professional books, shows how a magnificent result can come from the compromise of a Czech Jewish individuality. His library contained 1,000 books.

He was married to Cecilie Klauber from Prapořiště, and led an archetypal family life with her and their two sons.

In 1886, he became the railway doctor and, in 1890, the regional doctor. He remained in both functions until his death.

The flu epidemic at the end of the war meant a lot of work for him. In spite of his own illness, he walked through villages, railway guard houses, remote and solitary dwellings.

On 9 November 1918, he worked as usual until late at night and, when the carts with villagers looking for help arrived the next morning, there was no more Dr. Weisl. He died, as he lived, in the middle of quiet and hard work.

Every section of society across the region participated in his burial at the cemetery in Loučím, close to all the villages and rough dwellings that he loved so much.

Dr. Weisl had three sons. The first, Kamil, was born in 1874 but died very early; the second, Richard, was born in 1876 and is now a lawyer in Moravská Ostrava. And the third, František, born in 1897, is a head clerk in Prague.

 

 

Josef Augstein
 
Adolf Augstein

 

The Augstein Family of Kdyně

The Augstein family contributed very much to the flowering of trade and industry in Kdyně. The great-grandfather Isak Augstein, founder of today's company ‘Isak Augstein & Son’ came from Prapořiště, where he was a merchant in wool and arable crops. He lived there with his wife Mina neé Vilmer from the beginning of the 19th century. They had seven children sons Šimon and Abraham, and five daughters.

Isak Augstein was very popular with the owner of the manor of Bystřice, Count Hohenzoller. Prapořiště was part of this manor.

In 1842, he obtained from Hohenzoller a plot in Loučím for the Jewish cemetery.

Isak Augstein founded two shops in his own houses. One was in Pilsen, opposite the barracks, where he traded wool and field crops. This was taken over by his son Šimon.

The second shop was in Kdyně at house no. 11, which still exists at the corner of today's Masaryk Street and the square. The house was rebuilt several times, mainly after the fire of 2 September 1911.

When he applied for citizenship in Kdyně, he received from the heirs of J.M Schmitt, the owner of the local spinning mill, a marvelous recommendation issued in Vienna on 10 December 1852. It said that Isak Augstein had many years of connection with the factory. He was a buyer of wool for it and had the so called “full right” (monopoly). That he always proved himself as a solid, honest and honorable person able to handle large and valuable purchases. The heirs stated that they would continue their cooperation with him and they recommended that Kdyně award him citizenship owing to his honesty, especially as Isak Augstein owned houses and fields in Kdyně and lived a life that was beyond reproach.

The shop in Kdyně was taken over by the second son Abraham, who was born on 13 February 1830. He increased the shop by adding an ironmongery. The shop was then named ‘Is. Augstein & Son’ and later ‘Isak Augstein & Sons’.

Abraham

Augstein married žofii neé Fleischer. They had 13 children. The oldest one was Josef.

Josef was born on 28 February 1858. He completed junior college and then business school. He took over the shop in Kdyně in 1878. From 1889, he was chairman of Chevra Kadisha, and from 1898 chairman of the Jewish community in Kdyně, where he worked meticulously until its merger with the community in Klatovy.

He took great care of the synagogue and of the cemetery in Loučím, where he is buried. His first wife was Matylda neé Raumann. Their children were Benno, who was in the war, and is now a partner in the Prague company ‘Kalcium’. The second son, Adolf, is a director of the Czech Bank Union in Karlovy Vary. Josef's daughter Markéta married the factory owner Engl in Zürich, later living in Berlin and now in London.

During the World War, Josef Augstein took care of refugees from Galicia, obtained housing for them, judged their disputes, collected clothing, food and money for them. He died on 22 September 1926. His first wife died in 1918, and his second wife is now living in Prague.

The second son of Abraham Augstein was Mořic. He was born in 1865 and still today runs the shop in Kdyně.

In 1891, together with Jakub Weisl, a merchant from Kdyně, he created a mill which is driven both by hand and by machines on the plot of land behind the Kdyně railway station. In 1896, this was sold to the local spinning mill operation which now uses it as a subsidiary production unit.

In 1902, he was elected to the local municipal council.

In the same year, he became a member of the Club of Czech Tourists, where he is still active. He has earned much acclaim for his work in the development of tourist resorts. He participates in all the tourist activities and has been treasurer of the club for many years - to the satisfaction of all members.

Mořic Augstein married Klara née Mendl. Their first son Alfred is a merchant in Prague and the other son, Jan, is a merchant in Leipzig.

 

MUDr. Arnošt Pollatschek of Kdyně

Arnošt Pollatschek was active in Kdyně for 38 years as doctor and philanthropist. He was born in 1870 in Zvůli-at-Zbraslav. He later moved with his parents to Dolní Březany by Jílový. He completed primary school in Březany and a college in Prague, from where he graduated in 1889. Then he entered the university and emerged in 1896 as doctor of medicine. Then he became visiting doctor at a clinic and later secondary doctor at the same place until September 1898. On 20 September 1890, he arrived in Kdyně as a doctor at the spinning mill and opened a practice. In the World War from 1914-1918, he was the commander of a military hospital in Kdyně, which was a branch of the hospital in Pilsen. Since 1918, he has been doctor in charge of regional health insurance.

 


Dr. Arnost Pollastchek

 

From his arrival in Kdyně until 1924, he took care of the medical practice in the factory. This means for a full 26 years. His memory is cherished by everybody. He died in Prague on 9 July 1933.

 

Synagogue and Jewish school in Kdyně

The synagogue in Kdyně is located on today's Masaryk Street on the road that leads towards Kout. It was founded in 1868 and its foundation is to the credit of the gentlemen mentioned on a memorial plate that has been in the synagogue since 1871. These are the following:


Synagogue

 

The synagogue was inaugurated on 21 January 1863. The inauguration was accompanied by a grand celebration with the participation of the inhabitants of Kdyně and the surrounding area. After the inauguration, there was a large dinner and ball.

The building is in the Renaissance style, with arched windows. The interior is nicely decorated .Over the altar, there is a painted canopy. The entire hall was elegantly decorated by the painter Amerling from Domažlice. On the first floor is a choir. There are services in the synagogue on High Holydays.

A single storey house belongs to the synagogue. The rabbi lived on the ground floor, and there too was his office. On the first floor was the Jewish school. It had up to 40 pupils from Kdyně, Kout, Prapořiště and Hluboká. It was not only for Jewish children, but also for others who wanted to learn German, because the teaching was in German.

 


Synagogue

 

The teacher-rabbis in Kdyně were: The records are uncertain as they were all burned by the refugees from Galicia who were housed in the synagogue during the war. All the teachers were qualified and licensed. Unfortunately, poor Löwenstein had an accident. He was travelling somewhere by train when he met some Catholic missionaries. They got into conversation, and they convinced him to sign some paper or other. By signing this paper, Löwenstein committed himself to enter their order and become a missionary. The paper was sent to the country rabbi in Prague and an order suddenly came to Kdyně forbidding Löwenstein to undertake any services or teaching. Only then did Löwenstein discover what he had signed. He cancelled his signature, and the matter was then in order.

The Jewish school had public authorization and issued testimonials. Control was executed by the inspector of state schools.

When national resurgence was roused and ‘Czechism’ went on its victorious way, the German school lost pupils and the school became obsolete. The greatest loss was the Association School that had been founded in Prapořiště and was where the managers at the spinning mill sent their children. The Czech Jews in Kdyně also tended now to send their children to the Czech school. And so the Jewish school in Kdyně was disbanded in 1890.

Today, the former schoolhouse has been converted into private apartments.

 

The Jews from the area around Kdyně

There were large Jewish populations in the villages of Dlažov, Pocínovice, Loučím, Běhařov, Miletice, Libkov and Strážov. Smaller populations were to be found in Hluboká, Lhota, Soustov, Spulí, Dobříkov, Nová Ves, Smržovice, Hradiště, Úbočí, Poleň, Slavíkovice, černíkov, Hiršov, Springberg and Zabořany.

Many Jews used to live in Dlažov. They built their synagogue close to the main road. From the outside it was a pleasant building; on the inside it was wonderful. The chandelier was given to the new synagogue in Pilsen when it was built. The records were kept from 1849 to 1895. According to these records, there were 145 births and 52 deaths in the villages of Dlažov, Loučím, Běhažov, Libkov, Miletice, Spule, Soustov, Nová Ves, Smržovice and Lhota.

In the period 1840 to the 1870s the following Jews lived in Dlažov:

In Libkov, the following Jews: In Modlín, the following Jews: In Lhota, the following Jews: In Smržovice, the following Jews: In Mezholesy, the following Jews: In Poleň, the following Jew: In Miletice, the following Jew: Today there are: In Běhařov, around 1850, there were the following Jews: In Loučím, in these years, the following Jews: In the period from 1869 to 1895, 69 Jews were buried at the cemetery in Loučím; in the period from 1843 to 1895, there were 23 weddings in Kdyně. In the period from 1839 to 1895, 186 Jewish children were born in Kdyně and the surrounding area.

In more recent times, the following Jews were also living in Dlažov:

Around 1860, the following Jews lived in Dobříkov, in the Kdyně area: In 1890 and in later years, the following Jews were in Běhařov: Around 1890, in Lhota: In Spůl at the same time: After 1850, the following Jews were in Hluboká: Today there are no Jews in Hluboká.

Around 1860, the following was in Nová Ves:

After 1880, in Miletice: In Úbočí: In Stanětice: The record of deaths archived in Kdyně is interesting: The oldest of the people to die was Rosa Schwarz from Koloveč aged 102 years. There were 13 people more than 50 years old, 18 more than 70 years old, 33 more than 80 years old, and five more than 90 years old.

Jews had already been in Pocínovice for 150 years when, around 1840, we find the following:

In 1890, the following families are in Pocínovice: In 1900, there were five families in Pocínovice. Each family owned a house.

The following were teachers of the Jewish religion in the period 1880-1900:

During the World War, there were also refugees from Galicia in Pocínovice. In total, there were 12 souls and they lived communally in a shepherd's hut.

Before this, there had also been a Jewish school. It had 15 pupils, but the school disappeared some 30 years ago. The school never had its own building. The teaching was provided in private houses. The following were the teachers:

Today there are two Jews in Pocínovice: The former prayer house no longer exists, and they frequent the church in Nýrsko. Today, there are just nine Jewish souls in Pocínovice.

 

Source material:

Prameny: Matriky z r. 1635 až 1678.
Matriky z r. 1769 z katolické fary ve K. židovské matriky od r. 1839.
Emil Tšída: židé v obvodu Koutského panství. Koutský arch.
Jaroslav Rokycana: židé v obvodu Koutského panství.
Ústní sdělení pp. MoHce Augsteina, MUDr. Arn. Poláčka, pí Cecilie Weislové, p. Sigmunda Wachtla z Pocínovic a j.
Fr. Hourá: Kronika města K. Archiv židovské obce ve K. Josef Blan: Jiří Leop. Weisel.

 


Kdyně synagogue as it is today after its renovation

 

Actual information:
Short history of town Kdyně in Czech: - http://www.kdyne.cz/zajimavosti/historie.htm
Photo gallery from synagogue in Kdyně - http://www.kdynsko.cz/d-synagoga-kdyne-fotogalerie.aspx
Short History of Dlažov and Milotice in Czech: - http://www.dlazov.cz/informace-o-obci/historie/
Short history of Prapořiště in Czech - http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prapo%C5%99i%C5%A1t%C4%9B
Short history of Dlažov in Czech - http://dlazovsko.blog.cz/0903/historie-dlazova
Short history of Koloveč in Czech - ttp://www.mestyskolovec.cz/cs/mestyskolovec-historie/
Jewish cemetery in Loučim in Czech - http://www.mistopisy.cz/pamatky_loucim_1489.html

Footnotes

  1. J.S. Machar was a Czech poet and essayist (1864-1942). A leader of the realist movement in Czech poetry and apparently a master of colloquial Czech, he was also active in anti-Austrian political circles in Vienna. Return
  2. ‘Czech Sumava’ is also known as the Bohemian Forest, which creates a natural border between the Czech Republic on one side and Germany and Austria on the other. Return
  3. The ‘previous century’ refers to the 19th century as this book was assembled in the 1930s. Return
  4. ‘the war’ refers to the First World War (1914-18). Return
  5. ‘tough and honest Chods’: these are the inhabitants of Chodsko, a region in south-east Bohemia. They spoke the Chod dialect of the Czech language. Return
  6. Stařec is the local name of a mountain, although it's actual location is not known. Return
  7. The Všerubský Pass (Czech: Všerubský průsmyk; German: Neumarker Pass) is between Všeruby (Neumark) and Kdyně (Neugedein). Return
  8. The ‘Thirty Years War’ (1618-48) was actually a series of wars fought mostly in Central Europe and involving most of the countries of Europe. It was one of the longest and most destructive of the many conflicts in European history as well as being one of the longest continuous wars in modern history. The first part of the war was set in train by the Bohemian Revolt which began on 23 May 1618 when a group of Protestants ‘defenestrated’ Catholic officials sent to Prague by Ferdinand II (later King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor). Although this event (known as ‘The Second Defenestration of Prague’) saw them fall 69 feet from the palace windows, they survived because they landed on a pile of manure. Return
  9. Reformation ie the 16th century schism within Western Christianity launched by Martin Luther's distribution of his ‘Ninety-Five Theses’ in 1517. Return
  10. Wolf Maximilian Laminger von Albenreuth was an aristocrat of German origin who is known for having withdrawn in 1693 certain 300-year old rights of local peasants. When these Chodové (see footnote 5 above) rebelled, he executed their leader Jan Sladký Kozina in 1695. Return
  11. Charles VI (1685-1740) - the Holy Roman Emperor - had a multitude of other titles, including King Charles II of Bohemia, King Charles III of Hungary and Croatia, and Archduke of Austria. He also claimed the throne of Spain (which would have made him King Charles II of Spain). He married Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, by whom he had his two children: Maria Theresa (1717-80) and Maria Anna. He issued and fought for an edict known as The Pragmatic Sanction (of 1713) to ensure that his hereditary possessions could be inherited by a daughter. His death sparked the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48) which plagued the early part of the reign of his daughter, Maria Theresa. Though she was the last of the Hapsburg dynasty, she reigned for 40 years, was married to Frances 1, Holy Roman Emperor, and had 16 children, one of whom was Marie Antoinette, who became Queen of France as husband of Louis XVI. Both Louis and his wife were guillotined in 1793 after The French Revolution. Return
  12. ‘called upon to help’: as the Jews were not allowed to be farmers (ie producers of grain), their ‘help’ was presumably in terms of cash with which to buy grain. How ‘voluntary’ this contribution was is not made clear. Return
  13. ‘putsch’: this is an interesting term to use when describing the creation of the new country of Czechoslovakia (československo) on 28 October 1918 as one of the successor states to the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire, as a result of the Treaty of St Germain that followed the end of the First World War. Return
  14. Emil Trida: it has not been possible to trace this person nor discover why he is quoted. Return
  15. ‘full tax set by the manor’: it is assumed that this was some sort of tax but it has not been possible to determine exactly what is meant. Return
  16. ‘lock their pockets’: this means that they did not hesitate to take bribes. Return
  17. Wolf Vilém Lamingen: the original text states “Lamingen“, but it is probable that this refers to Wolf Maximilian Laminger von Albenreuth (see footnote 10 above). Return
  18. ‘the decision of parliament’ is the law that decreed that Jews who did not live in certain towns before 1618 and in other towns by 1640 must return to their place of origin. Return
  19. ‘the book Urbario’: this is a record or register. Return
  20. ‘fees’: this means that they paid this sum for something specific (eg for the right to remain in a town or for a license to run a business) rather than as a general tax. Return
  21. ’bushels‘ and ‘pounds’: one bushel = 4 pecks, 1 peck = 2 gallons; 1 Bohemian pound = 0,56 kg. Return
  22. ‘add 1,000 q’: it has not been possible to find any evidence about this measurement shown as ‘q’. Return
  23. ‘laudemia’ is a fee for the sale of ‘unmovable property’ (i.e. real estate). Return
  24. Barber-surgeons were medical practitioners who, unlike many doctors of the time, performed surgery, often on the war wounded. The red and white pole which is still used to identify a barber's shop was originally intended to reflect the blood and napkins used to clean up during bloodletting. This treatment was one of the main tasks of the barber-surgeon, as well as extracting teeth, selling medicines, performing surgery and, of course, cutting hair. Return
  25. ‘hooch’: this is a distillation of the poorest quality and taste and that sells at the lowest price. Maybe the equivalent of the US ‘firewater’? Return
  26. ‘In the factory’: although the numbers of workers seems extraordinarily large, these are as written in the original. Return
  27. ‘the state bankruptcy of 1872’ ; the author is assumed to refer to the actual crisis of 1873 and the recession that afflicted both Europe and US (1873-79) and included the collapse of the Vienna Stock Exchange. In some countries, this recession lasted until 1896. Return
  28. ‘contributors to the community’: poor people were not required to pay. Return
  29. ‘a suitably qualified person’: this means someone who has passed an official examination and has received his license to teach. Return
  30. The distance from Kdyne to Domažlice is approximately 10km (6 miles). Return
  31. ‘the church‘: between the two World Wars, some Jews used the term ‘church’ to denote ‘synagogue’ in order not to make themselves different from the surrounding population. Return
  32. ‘Sokol’: the Sokol movement (from the Slavic word for falcon) was dedicated to youth sports and gymnastics. Primarily a fitness training center, the Sokol also provided what its founders believed was ‘physical, moral, and intellectual training’ for the nation. This training extended to members of all classes, and eventually to women (sic). The movement also spread across all the regions populated by the Slavic culture within the German Empire as well as to the rest of Austria-Hungary, including Slovenia and Croatia. For many of these nations, the organization also served as an early precursor to the Scouting movements. Though officially an institution ‘above politics’, the Sokol played an important part in the development of Czech nationalism, providing a forum for the spread of mass-based nationalist ideologies. The articles published in the Sokol journal, lectures held in the Sokol libraries, and theatrical performances at the huge gymnastic festivals called ‘Slets’ (Czech plural: slety - meaning "meetings of birds" from the verb ‘slétnout se’ ‘come together by flying’). These events helped to develop and spread the Czech nationalist version of history. Return
  33. ‘who has been missing since 1916’: this means that no-one has been able to discover what happened to him (i.e. ‘missing in action’ or ‘presumed killed’). Return
  34. ‘small-holder’: literally a ‘cottager’ someone with maybe two goats and one cow and a small field where he grew potatoes. Return
  35. ‘Měšťanská Beseda’ is ‘The Society for the National Enlightenment, Education and Entertainment of Town Citizens’. Return
  36. Several family names found in this chapter (eg Hutter, Hahn, Schwarzkopf, Glauber/Klauber, etc) can also be found in the translated chapters about the Jewish communities in nearby Kolovec, Susice, Ronsperg and Pilsen. A final note on names: the author uses different versions of what may be the same name (eg Klauber/Glauber, Glazar/Lazar, Fischl/Fischel. These have been left as they were written in the original Czech text. Return

 

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