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[Pages 447-451]

The History of the Jews in Neuhaus

(Jindřichŭv Hradec, Czech Republic – 49°09' 15°00')

Compiled by Rabbi Dr. Michael Rachmuth, Neuhaus

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

Edited in English by Dan & Rob Pearman/UK

In a document dated 1294 we learn that Ulrich of Neuhaus[1] received from King Václav II[2] the right to settle eight Jewish families in the town of Neuhaus. It is certain that Ulrich had already settled some Jews there before that year and therefore that Jews were already living in Neuhaus in the last decades of the 13th century. A further mention of Jews comes in the oldest privilege granted by Heinrich III of Neuhaus[3] to the citizens of Neuhaus in 1389. It states that Jews have to continue to pay taxes based on their profit and their houses and that they are not included within this privilege.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Neuhaus developed into a prosperous trading center. The Jewish community of eight families would surely have developed further if the master of Neuhaus had not granted the town citizens a decree at the end of the 16th century stating that no more than four Jewish families are allowed in the town.

However, the trade of the four Jewish families was limited by this decree to lead, pewter, iron, wire and glass. Only the trade of glazing was permitted. This numerus clausus[4] was not always kept; the masters of Neuhaus often took in more Jews. The same happened with regard to trade and, often against the wishes of gentiles, the Jews traded in all of the goods allowed to them in Bohemia.

Adam II of Neuhaus(3) was especially lenient towards the Jews. For the reconstruction of the castles of Neuhaus and Frauenberg (Hluboká nad Vltavou) the Jew Adam Glass, a Jewish master glazier from Neuhaus, delivered all the glass panes. For Neuhaus Castle he received 200 threescore and for Frauenberg Castle 181 threescore and 18 pennies.[5] It can be seen from the castle archive that, together with the Jews Lazar and Salomon from Neuhaus, Adam delivered to the castle various utensils such as spices, textiles etc. and also bought at the castle skins, smoked meats etc.

A special privilege was granted by Adam of Neuhaus to the Jewish glazier, when he allowed him to buy the house of the Kneysl brothers which neighbored the Jewish Street for 335 Rhenish threescore[5] in spite of the fact that he already possessed a house. The citizens were not happy to see a gentile house pass into Jewish possession, but had to follow the order and record the purchase. Adam, who was a Jewish judge for 40 years, died in 1607. Of his five sons, two served as Jewish judge, first Lazar and then his brother Markus.

After the death of the last male heir of the Master of Neuhaus in 1604, the considerable property of this family was inherited by Wilhelm Slawata of Chlum and Koschumberg (Košumberk). Although this brought no improvement for the Jews, they could not complain about any persecution even during the Thirty Years War. Just like the other citizens of Neuhaus, they became poor as a result of the war taxes and the requisitions by passing imperial armies. In 1623, the–then Count Wilhelm Slawata confirmed to the merchants and tradespeople of Neuhaus the above–mentioned limitations on Jewish trade. He closed down the shop that had been opened by the Jew Isak in a gentile house and by his brother Aaron in his own house with the agreement of the authorities after the Battle of White Mountain[6]. Nevertheless, in spite of such limitations and the anger of local citizens, the Jews traded in all of the forbidden goods over the next centuries. Also, the numerus clausus was not always maintained by Wilhelm Slawata and his descendants. For example, in 1682 six Jewish families lived in Neuhaus, totaling 31 souls. However, on 8 November 1682, following the supplication of the municipal council of Neuhaus, the Jewish numerus clausus was revised by Count Johann Joachim Slawata and as a result one ‘surplus’ family was expelled.

In 1689, the Neuhaus cloth–cutters and other tradespeople complained to the authorities about the Jews Josef Winternitz and his son Wolf because they were harming them with their keen competition. At the hearing for the complaint on 20 April 1689, Count Johann Joachim Slawata proclaimed: “He has given the Jews some rights, but not so that they drive any business and reduce the gentile citizens to beggary. Their mischiefs shall be stopped, as even a single gentile is more important to him than all the Jewry of Neuhaus. He has already ordered his steward Ruth from Ruthenstein to investigate all the complaints against the Jews, especially those stating that the Jews openly sell cloth and other goods on Sundays and holydays”.

In 1691, the Neuhaus manor was inherited by Count Jakob Czernin of Chudenice. During his reign the Neuhaus Jews enjoyed an improvement in their conditions. In spite of the imperial decree of 31 July 1725 which legalized the numerus clausus of four familiant numbers[7], the number of Jews in Neuhaus increased. In 1735, Count Czernin leased to the Jews the manorial distillery, the keeping of livestock and the potash mill. Also, in 1704, a Jewish company leased all the tobacco business in Austria and in the countries of the Bohemian crown, and the Neuhaus tobacco distribution was put in the hands of a Jew. Such Jews were permitted to live in the town outside the limitations imposed by the familiant number. The welfare of the four Jewish families improved too, mainly as a result of trade in groceries[8], sheep's wool and other products. Because unmarried employees were also allowed, there were, by 1779, nine Jewish families totaling 67 souls living in Neuhaus. In 1795, there were 11 Jewish families totaling 76 souls.

The municipality of Neuhaus – mainly the trade and business people – complained repeatedly to the manorial authority, to the regional court in Tábor and even to His Imperial Majesty about the increasing number of Jews in the town and their freedom to trade, insisting on their ancient privileges as confirmed on 13 January 1739 by Emperor Charles VI[9]. This caused difficulties for the Jews, but the citizens were unable to reinforce their privileges.

The wealthiest Jews in Neuhaus in the 18th century were:

Abraham Schwab Bobele, who died around 1769;
Jakob Kahn or Kohn, who died around 1770;
The brothers Isaac (died 1795) and Samuel Bobele (died 1802);
Jakob Viener, tobacco trader, who died in 1803.

In 1800, the Jews of Neuhaus paid the following taxes: 2,726 florins in asset tax, 710 florins in war tax, 20 florins in protection tax – a total of 3,456 florins. In addition, they paid 595 florins in consumption tax (this was from 9 families with 73 persons). To these were added additional taxes paid to the town and to the manorial authority.

On 19 May 1801, Neuhaus was hit by a devastating fire, which also destroyed the Jewish houses, goods stores and synagogue. The Jews lost everything they had. The widow of Isaac Bobele, now remarried as Anna Lewi, had outstanding debts of 40,000 florins to the ‘breadless̵ cloth makers[10]. It took the Jews a long time to recover from this catastrophe.

*

In spite of the small number of Jewish families, the Neuhaus Jews had become a community headed by a Jewish judge who was appointed by the manorial authority. Until the 18th century the Jews had a prayer room in the Kneysl house that had been purchased earlier by Adam Glass. However, by the 2nd half of the 18th century, a synagogue in a separate building is mentioned, which was rebuilt and extended in 1770. After the fire in 1801, this building was rebuilt again and stood unchanged until 1867.

In 1668, Samuel Aron, the great–grandchild of the glazier Adam, was appointed as rabbi in Neuhaus. In 1775, there is mention of a rabbi living in a gentile house segregated from the gentile inhabitants. From the end of the 18th century, Neuhaus was the seat of the regional rabbinate of the Bechyň area. Until 1817, Abraham Fischmann–Liebschitz was the regional rabbi, followed by Samuel Löb Kauders until the rabbinate was moved to Koloděje. After that Samuel Flussmann worked in Neuhaus as rabbinic administrator.

As in other small communities, the Neuhaus Jews had their own butcher and prayer leader. He also worked as teacher of the children. From 1782, Jewish children attended the public school, but the Jewish school continued to provide religious schooling.

The Jewish cemetery in Neuhaus was founded in approximately 1400. It was enlarged in 1576, and then in 1773 Count Czernin paid for the construction of a wall around the cemetery. The cost of 1,100 florins was repaid by the Jewish community in installments.

*

After the abolition of noble privileges that followed the revolution of 1848[11], the by–now out–of–date Neuhaus town privileges also lost their validity. As a result, the numerus clausus was also abolished. The Jewish community grew year–by–year, and at the end of the century it numbered some 40 families. It was a thorn in the flesh of many prejudiced towns people who hated the Jews. This led to anti–Jewish riots in 1859, allegedly because of non–patriotic statements made by the Jewish Dr. Hamburger and the merchant Morawetz. Three years later, gentile house owners in Neuhaus received threatening anonymous letters saying that their houses would be burned down if they did not give notice by the end of March 1863 to their Jewish tenants who were renting apartments and shops. Then came the Jewish emancipation in 1867[12], and the Neuhaus citizens slowly got used to considering Jews as equal. They could see that the growth of the Jewish population contributed to the town's prosperity. With their activity and business acumen, the Jews helped trade and business to flourish. They founded businesses in the town and its surroundings where men and women found jobs and bread. Also their behavior as citizens and people was well respected. The leaseholder of the manorial distillery and brewery, Josef Kaufried, was a very popular person in the town and its surroundings because of his charity. The lawyer Dr. Eduard Lederer, known as a Czech writer under the name Leda, lived in Neuhaus[13]. He was very much esteemed because of his awareness of Czech nationality, and his activity was respected by all citizens.

It is thanks to these and other Neuhaus Jews that since the last decades of the 19th century there has been amity between gentile and Jewish citizens. This amity was, however, reduced after the beginning of the war in 1914, as the Czech citizens held the Jews' Austrian patriotism against them. The Czech patriots could not understand that the Jews could not wish for victory by the autocratic tsarist Russia with its government–supported pogroms and “Jewish settlement areas”. They could not understand that Jews, whether in the Entente countries or the Central countries[14], where they lived as free people and in whose armies they fought, wished victory for their countries. They would surely act in the same way today in the new independent states if the same situation should occur. This was beyond the comprehension of the Czech mentality during the war[15]. It might be that in some Czech towns a Jew showed his Austrian patriotism too openly, but there were also many Jews who thought and felt like Czechs and who felt solidarity with their Czech fellow citizens. One of these in Neuhaus was Dr. Edvard Lederer – Leda – who was considered politically suspicious by the local police station. He was kept under observation, his correspondence was opened and he could thank the intercession of the chief of the political authority, Councillor Cíška, that he was not arrested and accused of high treason. The Jews were considered to be “Austrians” and were not popular among the population.

Then came the glorious bloodless revolution of 28 October 1918[16], which shall be eternally remembered by the Czech nation. In Neuhaus too the birth of the Czechoslovak Republic was celebrated in harmony. The peaceful citizens had no vengeful feelings towards the Jews.

On 15 January 1919 – it was Wednesday and the day of the weekly market – that a crowd of suspicious–looking foreign people were seen in the town at 10.30am, clad in military shirts and armed with wire–cutters. They stopped at Wilson Square in front of the shop of Eduard Lampel who quickly closed the shop's roller–shutter. They cut the shutter and looted the cloth and fashion accessories. From there they went systematically looting from Jewish shop to Jewish shop. As well as Lampel's shop, the following were also looted: Alois Guth, Rudolf Reich, Emanuel Brabec, Samuel Kohn, Lederer & Beneš, Moritz Freund, Gustav Reiner, Bedřich Weil and Leopold Fleischner. The only ones spared were some small shops and Josef Löwy's tie and textile shop on Wilson Square where the house owner, the pharmacist Rösch, courageously stood up to the looters who then decided to move on to some other place. A strict search for the looters was carried out and some people found in possession of looted goods were imprisoned. However the unknown organizers were never found. It was almost half a year before the looted shops could open again. 15 January 1919 is noted in the chronicle of the Jewish community of Neuhaus as a bleak day.

*

As the Jewish community grew it became necessary to increase the size of the synagogue. On 16 May 1867 it was decided to enlarge it by adding an annex. In the same year, services were introduced together with a choir of boys and organ music, and a qualified cantor was hired. Some years earlier the cemetery had been extended. This can be credited to the energetic and modern manufacturer Ignatz Bobele, who was at that time chairman of the Jewish community. As already mentioned, the Jewish children attended the regular German school, while the religious school provided religious education only. From 1848, schooling was provided by Rabbi Marcus Freund. The religious school was later changed to a private German school and received public authorization in 1875. In that year Leopold Thorsch, a qualified teacher and rabbi, was employed as leading teacher and preacher, also with rabbinical duties, for a salary of 750 florins.

Thorsch was the publisher of the Neuhausen bi–weekly magazine “Israelitische Gemeindezeitung” (Israelitische Lehrerbote) (The Magazine of the Jewish Community), fighting for improvements in what were at that time the poor conditions of employees in the Jewish communities in Bohemia. He left Neuhaus in 1886 to act as teacher and rabbi in Schlan (Slaný), where he died in 1911. He was followed in Neuhaus by the qualified teacher Karl Horner, while the position of rabbi remained unoccupied. The number of pupils ranged between 35 and 50. On 3 December 1893, Horner was appointed as rabbi in Neuhaus; his salary was increased by 100 florins and on 1 January 1896 by 200 florins. In 1905 Rabbi Horner became very ill, thanks in no small way to his hard work as teacher, rabbi, preacher and religious teacher in the public schools and the state college. As his condition was not improving, he had to give up many of his jobs and be satisfied with the function of rabbi with a salary of 100 florins per month. Finally, on 7 February 1907, it was decided to give him notice from the rabbinical apartment and to send him into retirement from 1 July with a pension of 800 crowns per annum. This small sum was supposed to be enough for the very ill rabbi to feed his wife and child and to pay for doctors and medicine. He died on 28 September 1909 at the age of 63, leaving his wife and child without any means of support. The Jewish community granted them a pension of 400 crowns. This tale of woe was typical for most employees of the Jewish communities in Bohemia at that time: the story of a man whose life was worth more, as he was not only a good man but loved by his pupils as if he were their father and very popular among the Jews and gentiles because of his good heart.

On 1 August 1907, Dr. Heinrich Schwenker (ref. Geschichte der Juden in Saaz) (‘The History of the Jews in Žatec’) took office as rabbi and primary teacher at the Jewish private schools in Neuhaus. However, the end was already approaching for the school. For many years the Czech Jewish members of the Neuhaus community had agitated against the existence of a German school in the Czech town. In addition, the number of pupils had slowly decreased so that in the school years 1907/1908 and 1908/1909 there were only 20 pupils and of them just 10 were Jewish, while 29 Jewish children attended the Czech public schools. The Jewish private school was therefore closed down at the end of the school year 1908/1909.

In 1911 Dr. Schwenger left Neuhaus and Jakob Utitz, the former rabbi of Brandeis a/E (Brandýs nad Labem), was elected as rabbi in Neuhaus. He died on 14 June 1915 and his successor was the preacher, rabbi and religious teacher Dr. Michael Rachmuth. He served as rabbi, preacher and religious teacher in the Jewish community in Waidhofen in 1899–1902 , in Schüttenhofen (Sušice) in 1902–1915, and from 1915 in Neuhaus and in Teltsch (Telč, in Moravia). He wrote: “Die Juden in Nordafrika von den ältesten Zeiten bis zur Invasion der Araber” (‘The Jews in North Africa from the ancient times until the Arab invasion’) – (year 644 in our calendar) issued in Breslau in 1906; reprinted in Frankel Grätsche's monthly magazine of History and Jewish Science – issue 50 in 1906, booklets 1 and 2. He also wrote in German and was translated into Czech by Prof. Dr. G. Weiner and Prof. Dr. O. Kraus in the textbook “Rachmuth–Weiner: Učebnice židovských dějin a literatury pro vyšší třídy středních škol. Díl I. Ve státním knihoskladě v Praze 1919” (‘The Textbook of Jewish History and Literature for Higher Classes of Middle Schools, part 1. Published by the State Publishing House in Prague 1919’) and “Rachmuth–Weiner–Kraus: Učebnice židovských dějin a literatury pro vyšší třídy středních škol. Díl II. Státní nakladatelstvi v Praze 1922” (‘The Textbook of Jewish History and Literature for Higher Classes of Middle Schools, part 2. Published by the State Publishing House in Prague 1922’). The first part of this textbook was published in Slovakian in 1927 by the S. Machold publishing house in Banská Bystrice, translated by Eugen Rosenak.

In Neuhaus, the following served as chairman of the Jewish community:

Ignatz Bobele, approx. 1846–1869;
Gustav Bobele, 1869–1873;
Samuel Kaufried, 1873–??;
S. Dubsky until 1885;
Leopold Fleischer, 1885–1905;
Sigmund Singer, 1905–1908;
Salomon Kohn, 1908–1911.

Sigmund Singer has been the chairman of the Business Council[17] from 1911 until the present day. Born on 21 November 1858 in Piesling in Moravia (Písečné na Moravě), he founded a stocking factory in Neuhaus in 1888. Under the name “Böhmische–Mährische Strumpfwarenfabrik” (‘Bohemian–Moravian stocking factory’), this factory now employs 680 workers in Neuhaus and Doubrava. Singer is also a member of the National Board of the Jews in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, and also of the Board of the Highest Council of the Jewish religious communities and other humanitarian and cultural associations and corporations. His deputy in the Neuhaus Jewish community is Councilor Eduard Herrmann.

The Neuhaus Chevra Kadisha, founded on 17 April 1881, has been active for half a century. The following have been elected as its board:

Rabbi Leopold Thorsch;
M. Lieblich;
Emanuel Brabetz;
Samuel Kohn.
Leopold Fleischner is the current chairman.

The Neuhaus Jewish Women's Association, which is older than the Chevra Kadisha, has been led by the following in recent years:

Mrs. Mathilde Singer 1898–1918;
Mrs. Marie Fantl, 1919–1926;
Mrs. Hermine Herrmann since 1926.

*

The following register from 1930 shows how the Neuhaus Jews contributed to the development of industry in this otherwise non–industrial town[18]:

  1. “Böhmisch–Mährische Strickwarenfabrik” (‘The Bohemian and Moravian Knitwear Factory’) in Neuhaus and Doubrava, owned by commercial advisor Sigmund Singer and founded in 1888, employs 680 workers and clerks.
  2. Eduard Herrmann, potato starch and syrup factory; consumes an average of 400 wagons of potatoes per annum.
  3. Brill & Schwarz, silk textiles, founded in 1894, employs 250 workers.
  4. M. Stein, steam saw mill, founded 1865.
  5. M. Schultz, distillery, vine trade and fruit juice, founded in 1898, employs 30 workers.
  6. Julius Zimmer, underwear and apron factory, founded 1897, employs 100 workers.
  7. Freund Brothers, underwear, apron and blouse factory, founded 1890, employs 80 workers.
  8. “Trio”, textiles and ready to wear clothing, founded 1819, owned by Rudolf Reich, Arnold Fleischner and Pauline Flaschner.
  9. Lederer & Beneš, production of ladies underwear and trousseau, founded in 1893.
  10. “Siko” metal goods and foundry, founded 1924, owned by Ernst Singer and Eng. Viktor Kohner.
  11. ”Lunetta”, metal goods factory, owned by Eng. Walter Kohner.
  12. P. Stampf, steam–driven machine brick factory, employs 40 workers.


Footnotes

  1. It is tempting to retain the German form ‘Ulrich von Nehaus’ but here and elsewhere the terms are anglicized. Return
  2. King Vaclav II = Wenceslaus II of Bohemia (1271–1305) Return
  3. Heinrich III and Adam II: these titles are mystifying in that the numeric suggests even a royal lineage, but they are presumably the lords of Neuhaus Return
  4. Numerus clausus: this Latin term for ‘a fixed number’ has been retained throughout. Return
  5. Threescore (ie 60) was a common form of counting. There is no indication of the coinage for the 200 threescore, but it may be assumed that these were pennies as were the subsequent number. The penny (German pfennig) was once a valuable coin made of silver but by the 13th century baser metals were used. At the introduction of the Mark (a gold coin) in the 19th century, there were 100 pfennigs in one Mark. There is no indication of the coinage described as Rhenish (maybe pennies as above? Return
  6. The Battle of White Mountain near Prague in 1620 was the final defeat for the Bohemians in the Thirty Years War (1618–48) between the Protestant and Catholic powers. Some 4,000 Protestants were killed or captured in a battle that lasted only an hour. This defeat had a decisive influence on the fate of the Czech lands for the next 300 years. Wilhelm Slavata, a convert to Catholicism, was attacked and seriously injured in 1618, then escaped to Saxony. After the Battle, he returned to Bohemia and was appointed Count of the Empire and Chancellor of Bohemia by King Ferdinand in recognition of his loyal support for the catholic cause. Return
  7. Familianten was the German term commonly used to refer to the laws and record books regulating the number of Jewish families in the Czech lands in the 18th and 19th centuries. Return
  8. The original German term is ‘Kolonialwahren’, a term which describes goods brought from the colonies (sugar, coffee, tobacco, rice, cocoa, spices and tea). Hence our translation as “groceries”. Return
  9. Charles VI (Karl VI), of the House of Habsburg, was Holy Roman Emperor and also King Charles II of Bohemia from 1711 until his death in 1740. Return
  10. This means that the cloth makers were so poor at this time that they could not even buy bread. Return
  11. 1848 was the Year of Revolution, beginning in France and taking in the Habsburg Empire as well as most of Europe and even parts of Latin America. Among the lasting gains was the abolition of serfdom in Austria and Hungary. Return
  12. Jewish emancipation was a gradual process across Europe. Legal equality, for example, was granted to Jews in France in 1791, in Austria–Hungary in 1867, in Russia in 1917, and finally in Romania in 1923. German Jews gained legal equality in 1871 only to have it reversed by the Nazis in 1933. Return
  13. See: http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Lederer_Eduard. Return
  14. ‘Entente’ and ‘Central’ refer to the two alliances at the outset of the First World War (Tsarist Russia, France and UK; versus Germany, Austria–Hungary and Italy). Return
  15. To grasp the meaning of this complicated paragraph, it is necessary to understand that some Czechs saw the Russians as natural allies because they shared their Slavic origins. Return
  16. Czechoslovakia (comprising Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia) was formed in October 1918 at the end of World War I and following the defeat of Austria–Hungary. 20 years later it was torn apart by the Nazi occupation; then reformed after World War II and then – in 1993 – became two separate countries following the amicable separation of the Czech and Slovak Republics. Return
  17. The Business Council is assumed to be the equivalent of today's Chamber of Commerce. Return
  18. The significance of the Jewish community to the industrial and commercial development of this significant town and region could not be more clearly spelled out. Tragically, of course, within just a few years of the publication of this text, these same business creators and leaders were to be forced into exile or transported to the camps. Those businesses that somehow survived the Nazi period were then presumably nationalized under communism. Return

 


Useful Links

Virtual tour in the town:
http://infocentrum.jh.cz/en/virtual–tours.html

History of town in English
http://infocentrum.jh.cz/en/history–and–monuments/jindrichuv–hradec–history.html

Description of fate of some Jewish families from the town from WWII time – school work in Czech
http://www.bambiriada.cz/ksp.php?goto=site37&lng=cz

web cameras from the town
http://www.jhcomp.cz/kamery/jindrichuvhradecpanska131


Photos

[Page 449]

 

Ignatz Bubele
 
Gustav Bubele

 

Rabbi Leopold Thorsch
 
Rabbi Karl Horner

[Page 450]


Leopold Fleischer



Eduard Herrmann
 

Luditz Temple (exterior)
 

Leopold Fleischer



Dr Eduard Lederer
(Leda)
 

K.R. Sigmund Singer
 

Mathilde Singer
 

Hermine Herrmann
 

Marie Fantl

[Page 451]

 

Rabbi Jakob Utitz
 
Rabbi Dr Michael Rachmuth

 

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