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GemeindeView: Volyně




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       Towards the end of the 12th Century (1190) the town of Volyně already had the appearance of one endowed with municipal privileges. Though we find no records of the residence of Jews there in the earliest period of its history, it is historically demonstrable that following 1520 were Jews settled in that part of the town now known as Hradčany. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the Jewish cemetery was established in Hradčany.

       We read of the settlement of the first Jew in Volyně in ”History of the Town of Volyně1”:

               ”The Jews here are known as Jordanians or Zabulonians. The earliest Jew to settle in the town around 1521, according to the local records, was a man named Jakub. We come across him in connection with the mustering of arms. Another Jew, Lazar, bought a house in 1565 from Matouš Fanta for 70 Groschen in 11 instalments and another Jew, Simon, bought a residence from a coachman, Martin, for 100 Groschen. In 1570 on the Feast of St. Lucas, Vaclav Dubský of Třebomyslice and Římovnice in the place of his uncles, the brothers Jáchym and Jindřich Dubský, sons of the late Jan, through the mediation of Vílem Sádla of Kladrubce and Jindřich Chřepický of Modliškovice, gave over a rear building to a Jew, Beneš. In 1579 on the Feast of St. George, Vít Charvát occupied a building between the houses of Pikhartovna and Lapka, bought at some time from Jews. In 1584 Beneš Ryšlavý found himself in difficulties with the knight Sir Jiřík Klenovský of Klenova and Janovice, by all accounts Ryslavý’s unwilling debtor. The knight took him before the Municipal Court for defamation of character. What the Jew did not suspect was that he had solicited and brought before the court on the Feast of St. Killian, probably at great expense, esteemed witnesses: Adam Boubinský of Oujezd in Třebomyslice, Jetřich Boubinský, counsellor, Petr Dubský the Elder of Třebomyslice, Arnošt Vitanovský of Vlčkovice, Václav Koc of Dobrš, Adam Chřepický of Modliškovice; he lamented that by his foolish speech and misunderstanding he might have offended the Lord of Kraselov, though unintentionally. The council and hereditary protectors agreed a reconciliation. The Jew apologised before all present, saying that he held the gentleman to be a good man and that he would henceforth not speak of him other than well and honourably. By this agreement, Sir Jiřík, on his honour before the same Beneš and all persons deigned to accept satisfaction. Over and above this, the 'Jordanian' volunteered to be at the disposal of Klenovský in all matters, freely, willingly and readily. For these reasons the gentleman spared the foul Jew a whipping, though he deserved it. There exists an unusual oath on the feast of the Holy Trinity from 1630 given by the Jew Solomon for 5 Ducats, for which he brought a suit against the late Mikuláš Hutar, Volyně administrator. Standing facing the setting sun in his Jewish habit in the Jewish manner2, without the presence of other Jews who waited outside the doors of the council hall, as Jews were not permitted further, he swore word for word in thus manner:
       'I, Solomon, do swear to Almighty God, who created Heaven and Earth and all things thereon, on all His holy names that were written down by Moses, His servant, in the Fifth Book of Moses, in which are written His Ten Commandments, which the Lord God wrote with His own right hand, and who forbids me to swear falsely, I do swear that the five Ducats that the late Mr. Hutar, under obligation to me, I did give (lend) to him in his lifetime, and if I swear falsely, may God smite me and may the might of Naaman fall upon me, and that my children and all my friends and my family should not come amongst the children of Abraham and that Moses in the next life should not give me Sserebera and Lerjacham. In this may God help me, who is the Beginning and the End, whose name is Adonai3.'”
       The Jewish quarter in Volyně had already existed in the 16th Century. Jews at this time lived in Hradčany outside the limits of the town, because they were not allowed within the town at night.

       According to old municipal laws, the Jews were forced to live on the outskirts of the town together; the part of the town given to the Jews was a ghetto. The Volyně Jews therefore bought from Jan of Přehovice a site for a ghetto for 400 Groschen, in the middle of which they erected a temple. 

Statute of the Community

       No document on municipal administration exists from the earliest period; from the 19th Century a statute has been preserved for the period 1870-1880. Renewed statutes exist from August 6th, 1896 are valid up to today. From them we deduce:

Section I
       The extent of the religious community, the seat of the elders.
Article 1
       The Jewish religious community in Volyně takes in the area of the whole judicial region of Volyně and Prachatice3. The seat of the elders of the community is Volyně.

Article 2
       Every Jew, who has his usual residence in the region described in Article 1 is a member of the religious community.

Article 6
      The council of elders of the religious community is formed of 5 members, of which four must have their residence in Volyně.

In Section VI we read: 
       The position of Rabbi shall be filled by means of a competition.

Signed by:
        David Fantl, representing the synagogue, Filip Kohn, Treasurer, Hynek Adler, Secretary.

       The council of elders appointed on the basis of these statutes consisted of: 
Alexander Lederer, Mazor, Vílem Lewitoch, committee member, Hynek Flusser, committee member, Marek Holub, secretary.
        According to a record of 1929 the number of souls in the Volyně community was 70, of which there were 21 fee-payers.  The preliminary budget was for 15,000 Crowns, issued for 14,000 Crowns.


      Charitable foundations were set up in past times by various persons. One of the chief altruists was Löwy Amsterdamer, a merchant in Volyně. He died in 1805, leaving what was at that time a considerable fortune of 12,000 Imperial Florins to the community for its needs and for altruistic purposes.

       Part of his capital, deposited as a trust, yields the community 350 Crowns in interest per annum, which is paid out each July 1st from the regional political administration of the community. Apart from this, two children of the Volyně Jewish community receive twice annually (in January and in July) part of the interest from the trust. A condition, however, is that only children of parents who are excused payment of school fees may receive this sum.

       There were a total of 180 foundations. However, not all survived and from the remaining foundations the community is paid annual interest of 1,900 Crowns.

The World War

       The World War struck disturbingly even into our family relations, though we were far from the battlefields.
 The following died as soldiers: First Lieutenant Eng. Gustav Fantl, Emanuel Popper, Arnošt Stern of Vlachovo Březí, Beno Beck, a native of Volyně living in Vienna. 

       Under assault from the Russian forces in 1914, Haliče was evacuated and the refugees transported to the Western parts of Austria not directly touched by the war. Thus, on November 17th, 1914, 342 Jewish and 8 Catholic refugees from Bukovina and Eastern Haliče (from Tarnobrzeg, Tarnov, Černovice and vicinity) were located in Volyně and its vicinity (the majority in Volyně).

       Following quarantine, accommodations were in the workroom of the Volyně premises of the firm Joss & Löwenstein, in part of the former Jewish school and in private homes.

       The local community did everything possible to ease their straitened circumstances, acquiring for them the most essential food and clothing, most of which was provided by D. Fantl.

      Their spiritual well-being was also taken care of with the establishment of a school in the spaces of the former Jewish school. Rabbi Mořic Šimko taught together with a lady teacher, who was delegated to Volyně by the local authority. On an inspection carried out by Professor Engel, Rabbi Šimko was issued a decree of approval.

       The communities where Jews were settled, and where they do not live today, are these:

Černetice, where Adam Kohn lived.

Češtice, where the following families lived: Samuel Stein, teacher in Češtice, Ignác Adler, Ledererů David Lederer, the last Jew in Češtice, who moved to Plzen.

In Češtice a prayer hall was set up in which Jews from the neighbouring villages prayed. Some Češtice Jews were buried in Volyně, some in Čkyně.

Dřešínko, birthplace of David Frantl, wholesale merchant of Volyně.

Kraselov, where the Weiss family, Matthias Pereles, Jakub Pick, Josef Pereles, baker and Leopold Drucker lived.

Nihošovice, the residence of Leop. Pichler.

Přečín, where Mr. Klein, whose wife died there in 1927, lived.

Přechovice was the home of a Mr.Kohn.

From the data given, we can notice that Jews from the Volyně region moved to abolished towns. Reminders of former Jewish communities, such as cemeteries and temples and archives were transferred to the care of the Volyně Jewish community (in Hostice a cemetery, in Dub u Vodňan a cemetery, in Vlachovo Březí an archive).
Everything testifies to the fact that the numbers of the Volyně Jewish community falls year by year and that it will eventually suffer the same fate as that of communities in Čkyně.

       To the history of the Volyně Jews we also connect the history of the Jews in Hostice, Dub u Vodňan and Vlachovo Březí, but only in part, according to the reports of the living persons still in these communities to this day.  By this means we intend only to complete the picture of Jewish life in the past and present in this area. (Click on the names of those towns with links to see the corresponding GemeindeView articles)


Fragments of registries are preserved from 1740. Properly maintained and completely preserved registries date from 1839.

      The Mayors:  Vílem Winkler, Šalomon Lederer, Alexamder Lederer, Vílem Lewitoch since 1913.

      Rabbis:   Around 1800, Mořic Lewitoch served as Rabbi in Volyně. After him, the post was held by Izák Fischl (1840 - 1870), Šalomon Podwinetz (1870 - 1872), Dr. El. Wolf (1877 - 79), Dr. Em. Lamberg, Eduard Schulhof, Dr. Hirsch Brunner, Salomon Spitz (1904 - 1915), Mořic Šimko (1915).

      Teachers:   M. A. Brod, Leopold Altschul (1866).

       The present-day temple stands on the same sight as the original one in the centre of the ghetto. It originates in the 19th Century. Construction of it was begun in 1838 and completed in 1840. The budget for construction was 32,165 Imperial Florins, a large part of which was covered by a lottery win of 20,000 Florins donated to the community by Löwy Amsterdamer. The temple therefore cost the community a total of 12,165 Florins.
       The inside of the temple was renovated  about 1890.

       The cemetery in its current location certainly dates from the time of founding of the ghetto, which is demonstrated by the fact that there exist 300 year-old monuments here. There are also perhaps even older monuments among them, though, whose inscriptions are indecipherable. Many of the monuments are real works of art.
       During the earliest periods of settlement of Jews, the cemetery was probably below Hradčany: remains have been found during the construction of a highway.
In 1912 a fundamental restoration of the cemetery and also of the ancient monuments was carried out. At the same time a hut for watchmen was built, which ensured the survival of the cemetery for all time. That the hut was built was due in large part to the sons of Mr. Beck of Chicago.
       Concerning the restoration of the cemetery and the construction of the hut, we read in the record book of the Volyně Jewish Community the following:

       ”Bearing in mind the mistake of our (...?) , with which we are reproached from many sides, we have tried to repair it as far as is possible. It was first necessary to repair and raise deteriorated and partially fallen monuments and to stand them up and straighten them. In this matter we also sought to gain a footpath between the graves, that visitors might not be forced to step upon the graves, which would offend our sensibilities.
       "In order that an uncaring hand not damage the repairs carried out, it was necessary to build a hut for a watchman.
       "Wherefore the resources of our little community did not suffice for these costs, we took recourse to those who showed interest in the proper condition of the local cemetery, that is the relatives in Volyně of those interred and resting there. The bereaved truly responded to us with the greatest willingness, for which we hereby express our gratitude to them. In particular the gentlemen born in Volyně and now resident in America, that is Mr. Filíp Beck and his sons in Chicago. It is due greatly to them that our efforts bore fruit. Let their names be recorded for all time. We turn to God Almighty begging: 'Reward all those well-doers in the measure in which they contributed to us.'
      "The cemetery was repaired and the hut constructed in 1912 under the supervision of these gentlemen: Vílem Lewitoch, David Fantl, Vílem Lederer, Ludvík Weil.  The work was due in great part to Mořic Šimko, Rabbi of Volyně, who not only saw to the acquisition of the necessary money, but also took interest in the construction of the hut in an exemplary manner and established the record book, which is the work of his own hands.” 

SOURCES: A History of the Jews in Volyně and its Vicinity - Compiled by Jan Vavrů, history teacher in Volyně.
Translation facilitated by Jiri Chod - University of Rochester and his friends in the Czech Republic.
From Hugo Gold:  The Jews and Bohemian Jewish Communities Past and Present

SUBMITTER:  Phil Lederer

(WM,s note - the text is missing some fotnotes for #'s 4,5,6 - these will be inserted when I obtain additional information from the submitter)

  1. ”History of the Town of Volyně”, by Fr. Teplý (1903).
  2. i.e. in the prescribed position as for praying. When making an oath the hand was placed on the Old Testament.
  3. According to a testimony with the town seal to the Jew Israel of January 16th, 1637.
  4. He emigrated from Volyně to the United States in 1912.
  5. From 1924, when Vlachovo Březí was co-joined with Volyně.
  6. At the end of the 18th Century Moses Lowitoch served as Rabbi in Volyně, ancestor of the family of Vílem Löwitoch, current mayor.

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