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[Pages 522-528]

The History of the Jews in
Roudnice nad Labem (Raudnitz an der Elbe)

(Czech Republic – 50°25' 14°15')

Compiled by E. F. Löwy, Rabbi in Roudnice nad Labem

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

Edited in English by Rob Pearman/UK

Jews have been settled in Roudnice from ancient times. In a decree dated 1595 that is preserved in the ducal archive in Roudnice, we read that they received various privileges. Despite this, they were expelled by the Duchess Polyxena Rožemberg (née von Pernštýn)[1]. However, following their humble plea, they were permitted to stay.

At that time Jews occupied 16 houses close to the castle on what was then the horse market. They also had their own school and cemetery. In 1613, the Duchess Polyxena built a Capuchin convent[2] on this spot and the Jews had to move to the place which is known today as Havlíčkova Street. And they founded a new cemetery. For this they bought a garden for 40 Meissen threescore[3] from Jiří Lev and they carried there the remains and head stones of the most esteemed co-religionists. The oldest known head stone dates from 1611. During the reconstruction of the convent, some Jewish head stones were found, and these are now in the town museum. Jewish headstones were also found in several town houses. Bones found during the building of the convent were buried at the new cemetery. In 1615, the Jewish community employed three teachers of religion and also built a hospital.

The Thirty Years War[4] was difficult for Roudnice. The attack by the Saxon electoral prince and his commander Löser in 1631 was particularly hard on the Jews of Roudnice. Many of them fled to Prague and the Jewish houses were burned down. The Jews saved Roudnice from total disaster by paying large amounts of protection money to the enemy so that he might go after others elsewhere. After the Peace Treaty of Westphalia[5], the town and the Jewish communities could relax and the Jews who fled were able to return home. However, they found their houses in ruins.

In 1650, the Jews asked the authority for permission to employ a rabbi. They chose the learned and revered Rabbi Bernard Lewit. This choice was not so straightforward because the chief rabbi of Prague intervened. He objected that the rabbi was too young. However, Lewit did take up his office, though not for long. After two years, he was followed by Rabbi Šimon Jeiteles, Rabbi Aron Neustadl and others. The last named was called to Prague in 1669 to take over the position of senior preacher. In 1704, Rabbi Jakub Wedeles was confirmed for one year. His many discussions[6] with the Jewish community are described in detail by Professor Tobiáš Jakobowitz[7].

It is interesting to note that, during the Thirty Years War, correspondence between the noblemen and the Jewish community was only in Czech. After 1670, Jewish supplications in Czech are rare[8].

 

Roudnice Jews during the Thirty Years War

A large part of the Czech lands were a stage for the terrible Thirty Years War. The welfare of the country was destroyed, many towns were burned down and many villages simply disappeared. Who can imagine today the hardship of the poor inhabitants of this beautiful country, troubled by foreign and domestic armies, by their own government which imposed large taxes upon them, and finally by widespread poverty.

The people therefore hungered for peace, and the pleasure of burgesses[9], villagers and merchants was enormous when the Peace of Westphalia was concluded and people could think again about a better future.

The consequences of the war were immense especially for the Jews who lived from business, which was brought to a complete halt during the war because of the uncertainty and after the war because of the lack of means. The citizens saw the even poorer Jews as competitors who made their lives difficult and constantly complained about them. I am only writing about Roudnice, but the situation was the same everywhere.

The following is a list of recorded cases where the Jews in Roudnice were claimed to be damaging their neighbors:

  1. In the grain trades, which is the town’s primary business and where Jews have the right to deal, they are openly buying grain. They also swap it for debts and then they sell it here in the town or in other towns or villages.
  2. They buy wine and they also swap it for debts and then openly sell it or serve it.
  3. Transporting goods in large amounts was the primary business of the municipality, but the Jews now do this openly.
  4. They are only permitted to sell their goods in the town at the Thursday markets and otherwise only in their Jewish Street, but they are now selling openly in the town every day.
  5. They have no right to own cattle and must buy milk from his Highness the Count, but they now keep cattle in their houses and send them out for pasture in the surrounding fields and open land, thereby damaging the business of their gentile neighbors.
  6. They are competing with butchers, tailors and craftsmen, and this is not just the local Jews but also Jews from other places that are living here.
These are just some examples of the complaints against the Jews. Beside such complaints from the butchers, tailors and couriers, I also want to describe the case of the doctor, barber-surgeon and part-apothecary Marek Mšenský. He was a man of worth and many citizens could thank him for their health; he took care of injured soldiers and was called for when no doctor could help. He was able to cure many old sicknesses, and he very quickly cured the wife of the mayor when she burned herself. The town barber pursued him and insulted him. He put obstacles in his way, so Mšenský was finally afraid for his life and complained to the mayor. The barber was punished, but that displeased him even more and Marek Mšenský had to ask the Count for protection.

 


Rb. Albert Kohn
 

Veit Schiff


Cemetery (old section)


Ritual building


Synagogue, interior
 

The oldest tombstone

 

Jewish street

 

Former Jewish gateway

 

This case also illustrates the living conditions of the Jews. Anyone who thought that the Jews were making his life more difficult could complain, persecute them and, if they did not have the protection from the authorities, they would have nowhere to seek justice. However, the authority was not a ‘loving mother’ but rather an untamed and cold-hearted ‘stepmother’. The Jews felt her strong hand constantly; they needed her, and yet they feared her.

Let me give an example by describing a small episode from that time. On 25 May 1651, one of the Count's officials, a knight from Truklov[10] by the name of Arnošt Mergers, together with the bookkeeper Tomáš Fiola and the secretary Jan Karvinský, summoned the Jewish elders to the castle and demanded answers to the following questions:

  1. How many houses did the Jews have in Roudnice in 1618?
  2. How many Jews were living in the town at that time?
  3. How many Jews live in the town today?
  4. How many Jewish houses are there in the town today?
  5. How, from whom and when did they receive permission to settle in the town?
  6. What is their trade and in which goods are they dealing?
  7. How much are they paying to the authority and which obligations are they fulfilling?
  8. Provide a register of all the Jewish people of both genders from oldest to youngest that are currently living in Roudnice.
The answers were required as quickly as possible and so they were summoned to the castle again the next day. The elders gave the following answers:
  1. : Until 1618, our community lived in the place where the Capuchin convent stands today, and they had 24 houses.
  2. : There were 24 heads of household[11] and 26 farm hands.
  3. : Today there are 20 heads of household and 24 farm hands. We own 22 houses, one of which is a school and another is an orphanage. In addition, two Polish Jews live here, although they were born here after their parents fled from the enemy.
  4. : When His Mercy the Count thought fit to build the Capuchin convent, he deigned to order us to live on this street where we live today and to buy our houses from the neighbors.
  5. : We note that among us lives a farm hand who is more than 80 years old; he was born here and is the oldest member of the community. He says that Jews have been settled here for several hundred years. However he is not able to report completely by whom and when permission was given.
  6. : There are many empty villages around Roudnice, which is why we gather together in groups of three or four people and wander for many miles, dealing in cattle, meat and other products that are not available. However, we do not deal in the transport of wine or grain.
  7. : Seven years ago we paid the Count 150 Meissen threescore for our housing, water and tallow[12]. Today, in accordance with the newest agreement, we pay to His Mercy the Count for all our dealings and obligations 400 threescore per annum.
A detailed register was added to these replies that provided a “true description of the entire Jewish community from the oldest to the youngest, both male and female now living in the town of Roudnice”. According to the register, a total of 168 people were living in 23 houses. In addition, the community house was home to the Jewish cantor, together with his wife and children (four people), a teacher with his wife and child (three people), a school janitor with his wife (two people), a gravedigger with his family (four people). In addition, two Polish Jews were born here who fled from the enemy, with two wives and seven children.

As we can see, the report was made very quickly and the elders certainly did not wish to deceive. And yet it was found erroneous, as is shown in the Count’s response:

“A note of errors found in the Jewish report of 26 May Anno Domini 1651:

  1. In the first and following items they claim that in 1618[13] they had 24 houses where today the Capuchin convent stands but, as the convent was built in the years 1613 to 1614, the information provided is at least four-to-five years out of date.
  2. In the 2nd item, they indicate the number of persons living here in 1613, but this information is also out of date.
  3. In the 3rd item they say, that they have 22 houses, but they are not including the seven houses that have been built but are not occupied. The total number is therefore 29.
  4. In the 4th item, they answer extra questions. They were not asked what happened in 1612 or 1613 before the building of the Capuchin convent, but what happened since 1618. They do not document the decree of His Mercy the Count, nor do they specify when and from whom they bought their houses.
  5. In the 5th item, they even deviate from the question and claim to have lived here for centuries, when they were asked who has lived here since 1618 and who arrived when.
  6. In the 6th item, they do not list the craftsmen among them by craft and they do not list who is dealing with what – except as regards wine and grains.
  7. In the 7th item, they say they have an agreement with His Mercy the Count, but do not provide proof of any such agreement.
  8. In the 8th item, they do not list in order all persons from oldest to youngest, and the total number in each group is missing.
Furthermore, they have not signed in their own hand.”

The Jewish report was therefore found to be inadequate, even though it was written down by the clerks of the manor in the manor office. The Jews were forced to apologize and to produce a more detailed report:

“In this our humble answer to the errors mentioned in our report of 25 May 1651 as proven by His Mercy the Count’s office, we withdraw our report and note as follows in this our report submitted on 27 May 1651:

  1. With regard to the first item, it is true that our report of 25 May 1651 which mentions houses on the place where the Capuchin convent stands today is counting houses prior to the year 1618. We therefore ask for pardon, and in our report of 27 May we delete what was in place before 1618.
  2. In this item we indicate which Jew came here when or on what date he was born here.
  3. In this report, we list those houses that are inhabited and also those that are empty, and at the end we provide a total.
  4. We have no proof that His Mercy the Count allocated us our street. Earlier generations probably had this proof, but it was lost in the war. Our report shows when and from whom each house was bought.
  5. This error is also corrected and our report indicates when each single person came to the town or if he was born here.
  6. In this latest report, who carries out which craft is also indicated.
  7. With regard to trade, we work in groups of three-to-four companions over a radius of three-to-four miles, trading and buying whatever there is to buy; we also buy and slaughter cattle, and also trade in similar goods from our small shops.
  8. In this report, all our people are detailed and a total of the number of Jews is provided.
We humbly apologize that we did not sign our first report in our own hand. We withdraw our report of 25 May as it was not signed, and we sign this report in own hand.”

 

 
 
 

Dr. Adolf Eisler
 
Fillip Neuman
 
Gotleib Brode
 
Lazar Reich
 
 
 
 

Adolf Braun
 
S. Sabbat
 
Gust. Stadler
 
Rudolf Bächer
 
 
 
 

Phillip Seidler
 
David Fleischer
 
Max Epstein
 
Rosl Bächer
 
 
 
 

Jul. Stadler
 
Freidrich Lewi
 
Rb. E. W. Löwy
 
Gustav Stern

 

In the detailed listing of Jews that is attached to the report, there are columns showing the names of men, women and children, their age, how long they have lived in Roudnice, from whom they bought their houses, and their occupations. According to the list, there were 218 Jews in Roudnice. These included 20 heads of household, 24 farm hands, and six widows. There were eight empty houses (ie more than one third of the total).

As for their occupations, there were: one physician, two glaziers, one tanner and two tailors. The Jews had a rabbi, a cantor, a teacher, a janitor and a gravedigger. The Jews originated from Budyně, Libochovice, Prague, Kolín, Boleslav, Kostelec, Teplice, Eidlice, Hradiště, Halberstadt, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Magdeburg, and Krakow; the cantor was from Prostějov. Many of the Jews moved or married into the town.

However, errors were found even in this detailed list, especially in item 5, where the Jews refer to privileges in a way that was then used against them. This is because these privileges only promised protection to those Jews who were already settled in Roudnice. The matter was presented to the Count and, after consideration, he issued this fateful decree on 11 July:

“I, His Luminous Mercy and Master Václav, Prince of Sagan, Prince and Ruler of the House of Lobkovice, Princely Count of Pernštýn, Master of Chlumec and Roudnice-on-the-Elbe, Knight of the Golden Fleece[14], Confidential Counselor, Chamberlain, Field Marshal of his Imperial Mercy, and President of the Imperial War Committee, have learned from our own experience and from the report of the Jews of Roudnice that:

These Jews have constantly acquired houses from citizens of Roudnice without our permission. They have run businesses to the damage of their gentile neighbors, taken in foreign Jews and not respected our princely interest…[15]. Such wrongdoing cannot be excused and is to be punished.

Therefore I, His Princely Mercy, am directing Tomáš Krajský, tax official in the manor of Roudnice, to require from the Roudnice Jews a penalty of 2,000 threescore because of their wrongdoing. The first 1,000 threescore are to be paid within 14 days, and the second 1,000 threescore are to be paid before the Day of St. Havel[16] next year.

In the event that they do not comply with this demand, Tomáš Krajský shall lock their synagogue so that it is impossible to enter. He shall also lock them in their houses and not allow any gentile to contact them. He shall forbid all Jewish trade at markets, fairs and everywhere else, and if there is any breach of such prohibition all their possessions shall be taken from them.

Tomáš Krajský shall ensure that a list of Jews that have settled in Roudnice legally is held in the Prince’s office, with a copy also in his own office. All those Jews that are not legally entitled to be in Roudnice shall be expelled. Furthermore, any birth - whether male or female - shall be recorded in this list. In addition, the Jews shall pay to our treasurer each year 400 threescore, and for the right of protection and free trade they shall pay 200 threescore quarterly. It is the duty of Tomáš Kosojský to ensure that these obligations are duly fulfilled.

By Decree at Prague Castle in our house of Pernštýn[17], 11 June 1651”.

This was a catastrophe for the Roudnice Jews. The large penalty was equal to the value of nine or ten of their houses. They begged for pardon, mercy and a reduction in the amounts, but without success. As they did not pay on time, they were imprisoned and not released until all the conditions were fulfilled. They only secured a reduction in the annual tax from 800 threescore to 500 threescore. However, the Count did not have the right even to that amount of tax as, according to a decree of the Royal Assembly, the Jews were declared to be an imperial possession and only had to pay an imperial tax. This was also a very high tax.

Strangely, the same eight questions were put to the Jews three years later. Their answer was very penitential.

In 1656, the Jews were forced to pay the Count 30 threescore each year as a tax on kosher wine. The authority found many ways in which to exploit the Jews. For example, in 1661 they had to buy eight horses from the authority at a very high price and in this way they lost 400 threescore. They also had to buy each year a large number of sheep at an equally high price even though they knew that they would lose money. If they failed to do so, the elders of the community were sent to prison. To be the elder or mayor of the Jewish community was not a pleasant job as they were held responsible for all members of the community. Nonetheless, the Jews were keen to obtain this position not just because of the honor but because the elders knew how to divide the taxes among the members so that they and their relatives would pay the minimum. Therefore new elections were often stormy affairs. And so the Count’s office issued a tax decree in 1663 and again in 1667, which was later amended a few times. This decree was written in German because by that time German had become the official language at the castle.

As early as 1671 the Roudnice Jews failed to fulfill this decree in its entirety, and the three main culprits - Rabbi Efraim Redisch, Mayor Abraham Salus and David Mšenský, received a penalty of 600 guilders.

On 23 May 1673, the Jews proposed a new tax decree to the authority in order to ensure the just division of taxes among the members of the community. We learn that today’s community tax was called the ‘Tonz’ (or ‘Perdon’)[18]. According to this proposal, all the Roudnice and visiting Jews were to pay a tax on food and drink. The only exceptions were the rabbi, the temple singer, shames[19] and the grave digger. Tax was also to be also paid on any earnings. This was to be done in the following way:

  1. Each member of the community shall declare his possessions (cash, silver, gold, cattle etc.) and they will be noted in a special community register. For each 100 guilders of value, one guilder is to be paid each year.
  2. If someone is financing his trade with borrowed money, then he is to pay 100 crowns for each 100 guilders borrowed.
  3. Orphans who have any assets are to pay 30 crowns each quarter for every 100 guilders.
  4. Anyone who lives here permanently or is just passing through - whether male or female, servant, virgin or widow – shall pay two Viennese pfennig for each guilder’s value of each object bought for further sale. In the case of a barter deal, the same amount is to be paid according to the value of the bartered object.
  5. Craftsmen shall pay four pfennigs per guilder for materials purchased.
  6. Whoever is working for wages shall pay three crowns for each guilder earned.
  7. Middlemen shall pay six crowns for each guilder of profit.
  8. Lawyers shall pay six crowns for each guilder earned in fees.
  9. Anyone keeping sheep jointly with peasants shall give three crowns plus one crown per sheep for each guilder received for wool.
  10. The bridegroom is to pay two pfennigs for each guilder received as dowry.
  11. Consumer tax: one pound of meat – one pfennig; one turkey, goose, duck, hen or two young pigeons – two pfennigs; one pound of curd– one pfennig; one bushel of nuts, apples or dried fruits – three pfennigs; one tun[20] of butter or honey – two pfennigs; one fish – one pfennig; one tun of rough spirit – one pfennig; one tun of mead – two pfennigs.
  12. These taxes will always be collected on Friday and Monday by four elected members of the community, and all members are obliged to come and pay what is due. Those who do not come voluntarily will be punished
  13. The penalty is 10 times the due tax, half of which will go to the Count. If the person who fails to pay the tax is one of the collectors, then he will have to give up his position and may not be elected in the future. The collectors do not have the right to give discounts or offer any delay in making payments.
  14. Bohemian Jews will pay the same rate as local Jews. Jews from abroad will pay double the rate of tax.
  15. In the event that a local Jew is trading with a Jew from abroad, then the domestic Jew is obliged to report the business to the tax collector and must guarantee payment of the tax.
  16. The collector must ensure that taxes are paid correctly.
  17. The taxes that are collected must be placed in a cash box with three locks. The three keys are to be held by three Jews – the mayor, the largest taxpayer among the elders, and the largest taxpayer within the community.
  18. The cash box may be opened only in the presence of the elders of the community. From the contents, the imperial tax is to be paid first, then the manorial tax, and the remainder is to cover the needs of the community itself.
  19. The ‘tonz’ tax on grains bought for trading will be paid in the following way: on each bushel of wheat, peas, buckwheat, millet and lentils, the tax shall be six pfennigs; on one bushel of rye, the tax to be paid is four pfennigs; and on each bushel of oats, it is two pfennigs. If a Jew buys grains for his own use, then he does not have to pay any tax.
  20. If someone buys a horse or large cattle, then he shall pay two pfennigs for each guilder of value. If he barters one cattle for another, then he must pay three pfennigs for each additional guilder paid. If he barters cattle for other goods, then he shall pay two pfennigs for each guilder of the cost of the goods.
All Jews have to swear strictly to follow these 20 points.

The proposal was worked out by the Jews and presented for approval, which was duly secured. This tax system was harsh and petty. They had to report week-by-week what they bought for eating and what they spent in business. Each pound of curd had to be reported. The collectors were not bound by secrecy, so the whole community knew everything and business secrets disappeared. This was very difficult for individuals and they often complained. However, the system was kept in place as it was supposed to be just. The community needed money - a lot of money - so even the assets of orphans were taxed.

In 1680, the Count’s Steward Schadner from Greifenfels issued a new policy decree that was valid for the Roudnice Jews and which aimed at bringing order into these matters. It contains the following items:

  1. Anyone who does not contribute a minimum of 22 ½ crowns per month to the community trust may not be elected.
  2. As the young people seek to occupy all the official jobs, it is decreed that, for the first six years after marriage, only a passive election right[21] may be obtained, as is the case in Mladá Boleslav and česká Lípa. However, they may be employed as scribes.
  3. 3. People not owning their house may not be elected as elders.
  4. Those who did not serve in a lower function may not serve in a higher function in the community.
  5. Anyone not paying a minimum of 45 crowns per month in community tax may not borrow money against his house, as he would thereby not have capital for his trade and would not be profitable for the Count and for the Emperor.
  6. Each tax collector must have been married for a minimum of three years.
  7. If a Jew from Roudnice marries a local Jewess, then both may stay here. If a local Jew has daughters and marries them to foreign Jews, then only two husbands may stay here, except if the third one is a student or an important scholar. A student who is married into Roudnice is free of taxes in the first year provided he sits at home and studies. He may sell goods at the yearly market, but he must not peddle. If he does so, then he must pay the same taxes as everybody else.
  8. Anyone not paying a minimum of one guilder per month in community tax must not have an assistant who is trading for him in the surrounding villages.
  9. In one year, only four weddings are allowed where the bridal couple wishes to stay in Roudnice. If they wish to move elsewhere, there is no limit. Also, a widow from Roudnice may marry without being included within the limit of four weddings.
This decree was intended to bring order into these communal matters, but actually it limited personal freedom and was to the benefit of the rich and not the poor. It is interesting that a Talmud scholar enjoyed special rights. At that time, the same conditions probably already pertained in Bohemia which we see today in Poland, namely that families looked for learned husbands and, after the wedding, they supported the young family so that the husband could study (source: Dr. Richard Feder, česko-židovský kalendář).

In 1650, the Bohemian Royal Assembly decided to expel all Jews from the kingdom. Some masters, however, tolerated the Jews within their manors in exchange for additional payment. The Roudnice Jews also had to pay double tax for protection.

The Jewish archive in Roudnice Castle ends in 1728, so we do not know whether Jews were expelled from Roudnice and where they moved to. A very important collection of material from the castle archive was published by Dr. Richard Feder in various issues of česko židovský kalendář (Czech Jewish Calendar) to which we refer the readers[22].

On the initiative of Rabbi Abraham Kohn, a public Jewish religious school was founded in Roudnice in 1841. Before that date, there were only private cheders[23] in Roudnice. The school became public in 1846 and had two classes.

At the school, there were the following teachers:

By the law of 1869, the school changed its status to a private school but, thanks to the efforts of the mayor of the Jewish community, Vilém Pollak, it received public status again. In 1871 it changed from a school with three classes to a school with just two classes, and the language of tuition was German. The teacher Filip Neumann was employed in 1872 and in 1892 promoted to head teacher. The school had many pupils who became famous later, e.g. the poet Seligmann Heller (born in 1833 and author of ‘Ahasver’ and other works)[24].

There were many philanthropic associations in Roudnice. One record book is preserved that is more than 100 years old and from which we can learn about the good heart of our ancestors. This is the record book of Chevra Kadisha, where at the top can be seen the following names:

One of the oldest members was Veit Schiff, the son of Lipman Schiff (born in 1819). He was highly educated, a Talmudist and had many achievements among the philanthropic associations in Roudnice.

There is also in Roudnice the ‘Bikur Cholim’ Association[25] under its chairman, Gustav Stern. There is also an ‘Association for the Preservation of the Jewish Cemetery’, the chairman of which is Gustav Stadler.

The ‘Association of Jewish Women’ is led by Anna Stein, the wife of the lawyer, and by Růžena Bächer. The Bächer family is proud of the Jewish community in Roudnice as it is a wholehearted supporter of all the good that is to be found in the Roudnice Jewish community[26].

According to what we know today, the following mayors were active in the community;

There were also the following rabbis: It is a tradition in Roudnice to hold a service once a year at the grave of the man of letters, Josef Deutsch. He died in 5587 (=1826), and was very popular in the community.

I also quote the census results: in the year 1910 there were 9,249 persons in Roudnice, of which 320 were Jews. In 1921, this number had fallen to 194 Jews within a total of 8,905 people, with just 22 announcing themselves as Jewish nationals. Co-existence for Jewish Czechs was always very important, and the Roudnice Jews always participated in national institutions.


 

Footnotes

  1. Duchess Polyxena Rožemberg (née von Pernštýn) (1567-1642) was the fourth and final wife of Wilhelm von Rosenberg, whose residence was the castle at český Krumlov (see list of translations for the chapter on that town). They married in 1587 and when he died in 1592, she then married Zdenek Vojtěch, 1st Prince Lobkowicz (1568-1628). The Lobkowicz Palace is one of the most significant cultural sites in the Czech Republic and the only privately owned building in the Prague Castle complex (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Return
  2. Capuchin convent: The Order of Capuchin Friars Minor was formed by Matteo da Bascio, a Franciscan friar who sought to return to the primitive life of solitude and penance as practiced by the founder of his order, Francis of Assisi. Although today ‘convent’ is taken to mean a community of religious women or nuns, originally it meant a community of friars (ie men). Return
  3. 40 Meissen threescore: Meissen is the town in Saxony famous for its porcelain. In these days, some towns (eg Meissen) were given the right to mint their own coins – a right which was very important in an age when no-one could be sure what a coin was worth unless it had some official entity (such as a town) behind it. Although no coinage is indicated here (nor in several later instances), Wilhelm von Rosenberg (see footnote 1) is said to have left a debt of ‘one million threescore of Meissen groschen’ – a thick silver coin (English: groat). Threescore equals 60. Return
  4. The Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) was fought primarily in what is now Germany and Bohemia/Moravia, but at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. It lasted for 30 years, without a break, making it the longest continuous war in modern history. Its origins and the aims of the participants are complex. It began as a religious war between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire in Bohemia with the Battle of the White Mountain near Prague (1620), which the Protestants lost. Over time it became a more general conflict involving most European powers and was therefore a continuation of the long struggle for European pre-eminence between the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs. The Peace Treaty of Westphalia helped to redraw the boundaries between kingdoms and duchies – until the next time they took up arms again. Return
  5. The Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) was fought primarily in what is now Germany and Bohemia/Moravia, but at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. It lasted for 30 years, without a break, making it the longest continuous war in modern history. Its origins and the aims of the participants are complex. It began as a religious war between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire in Bohemia with the Battle of the White Mountain near Prague (1620), which the Protestants lost. Over time it became a more general conflict involving most European powers and was therefore a continuation of the long struggle for European pre-eminence between the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs. The Peace Treaty of Westphalia helped to redraw the boundaries between kingdoms and duchies – until the next time they took up arms again. Return
  6. discussions: the sense of the original term suggests these discussions were based on disagreement. Return
  7. Professor Tobiáš Jakobowitz: this is almost certainly the same Prof. Jakobowitz (born 1887 in Lackenbach, Austria – died 1944 in Auschwitz) who was forced by the Nazis to work in Prague with other academic leaders on the systematic documentation and cataloguing of items relating to the life of the Jews in pre-war Czechoslovakia that were brought to the capital from across the ‘Protectorate’. The material collected subsequently became part of the Jewish Museum of Prague. Return
  8. supplications in Czech are rare: German became the ‘official’ language. Return
  9. Burgesses: the Germanic term Burgher or Bürger (cf French Bourgeois) was a defined class in medieval cities. The English term Burgess originally meant a freeman of a borough (Scottish: burgh) and then came to mean an elected or unelected official of a municipality. It is not the same as citizen. Return
  10. head of household: the original word means ‘the person who is responsible for the economy and peace of the household’, or even ‘the person in charge of purchasing and storing food’. Return
  11. Truklov: this is probably the name of a stronghold close to the border between what is now Slovenia and Austrian Burgenland. Return
  12. tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat that has been processed from suet. Return
  13. 1618: the original text states ‘in the 18th year’ (and later: in year 13…etc). The larger context indicates that it means 1618 (and later 1613 etc). Return
  14. Knight of the Golden Fleece: the Order of the Golden Fleece was founded in 1430 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. Today there are two branches of the Order: the Spanish and the Austrian. Return
  15. our princely interest…: the space is in the original text, with no indication of what might be missing. Return
  16. the Day of St. Havel: each day of the year except national holidays had its own name. The original list was the Roman Catholic calendar of saints. In earlier times, a child could only be named after the day on which it was born. But today, if they keep any of this tradition at all, people tend to celebrate a name day (svátek) as a reason for a party or to give a present to a loved one. The day of Havel is 16 October. Return
  17. Prague Castle in our house of Pernštýn: this probably means that it was signed at the Lobkowicz Palace (see footnote 1). Return
  18. Tonz’ (or ‘ Perdon): this ‘Pardon’ tax is a religious tax. Return
  19. shames: synagogue servant. Return
  20. one tun: this is a wooden barrel or cask, often used for the storage of butter, pickled food etc and often with a lid. Return
  21. a passive election right: often used in Austria-Hungary, where there was no official age for the right to vote, this ‘passive right’ meant they could vote but had no right to be elected. Return
  22. Czech Jewish Calendar: some issues are available in the National Library in Prague and others at the Jewish Museum in Prague. Return
  23. cheder: a traditional elementary religious school teaching the basics of Judaism and the Hebrew language. Return
  24. Seligman Heller was an Austrian poet and journalist born at Roudnice on 8 July 1831 (died in Vienna 8 January 1890). His epic poem on the ‘Wandering Jew’ (‘Ahasverus’) was first published in 1866 in Leipzig. After his death, his translations of medieval Hebrew poems were edited and published as ‘Die Echten Hebräischen Melodien’. Return
  25. the ‘Bikur Cholim’ Association: Bikur cholim is a mitzvah. The term encompasses a wide range of activities briefly summarized as ‘visiting the sick’. Return
  26. The Bächer family: there is no explanation why the author refers to this family. Perhaps they were his patrons. Return
Links
History of Roudnice (in English): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roudnice_nad_Labem
Video of Jewish cemetery in Roudnice: http://www.virtualtravel.cz/roudnice-nad-labem/stary-zidovsky-hrbitov.html
To visit Roudnice (in Czech): http://www.roudnice-nl.wz.cz/pamatky_priroda.php

 

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