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CURRENT CZECH NAME: Humpolec
OTHER NAMES/SPELLINGS: Gumpolds, Humpoletz
LOCATION: (For the most likely location, see Map1 - by Mapquest, then click on your browser's "Back" button to return to this page. There is another "Humpolec" in the Czech Republic - for location, click on Map2.)
The following text was adapted from the History of the Jewish Community in Humpolec, by Professor Jiri Rychetsky.
NOTABLE RESIDENTS AND DESCENDANTS:
The synagogue's Holy Ark (“Aron hak-Kodesh” - the repository of the Torah scrolls covered with a curtain called “parocheth”) faced the east. The interior of the synagogue was entered by several descending steps to fulfill the words of the psalm 'Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD'. Its front facade was adorned by a stone image of the Ten Commandments. Only men were allowed to pray in the main synagogue hall (where each of them had his own prepaid seat). Before the building's conversion, the almemar (“bimah” – a platform from which the Torah is read) was in the middle of the prayer hall and the seats were arranged around it. Later, the Torah was read before the Holy Ark where the pulpit (“amud” - cantor's desk) was located, and the faithful sat in pews facing the Ark. The Torah was kept inside the Holy Ark. The Ark curtains used in the Humpolec synagogue were embroidered with silver. The Humpolec community owned three Torah scrolls and many ritual objects made of silver. During the Nazi occupation, these objects were taken to Prague. Today, they belong to the world famous collections of the Jewish Museum. During the latest conversion of the synagogue (which became a prayer hall of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church), remnants of wall paintings depicting plants and fruits mentioned in the Bible were uncovered. The restoration also revealed fragments of biblical inscriptions.
The synagogue is situated at the center of the former Jewish quarter which is still called The Jewish Town. The ghetto itself is located at the southern edge of the town core. The originally compact Jewish settlement comprised about thirty houses forming a small square and several narrow streets. The northwest part of the ghetto was later razed; most of the original houses survived, and they have been rebuilt and preserved.
The historic Jewish tombstones are remarkable for their symbols and ornaments (simplified floral motives, reduced scale architectural ornaments and other decorative elements) developed gradually from the Middle Ages, merging with elements from the successive artistic styles; their occurrence and character largely depends on the local customs. The sepulchral symbolism is represented above all by small reliefs sculptured in the upper portions of the tombstones. Most often these reliefs are the Star of David, a crown or symbols of the descendants of certain Jewish tribes (hands in blessing are found on the tombs of the Cohanites, a can and a basin on the gravestones of the Levites). Animal effigies symbolize the names of the deceased (lion, deer, fish, bear, wolf, fox). Frequent are vegetable motifs (grapes, palm trees, pine cones) or objects indicating the profession of the deceased (circumcision knife, physician's tweezers, book).
The last significant overhaul of the Jewish cemetery and heightening of its walls occurred in 1922; the last burial at this cemetery took place in 1942, three months before the deportation of the local Jews to Terezin (Theresienstadt). The deceased community member was accompanied on his last journey by his co-religionists who by then already had to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothes. After World War II, some tombstones were engraved with the names of Holocaust victims. Urns containing the ashes of those who had died abroad were installed in their resting places at the ancestral cemetery. The Jewish cemetery suffered its heaviest damage during World War II when the nearby school in Podhrad housed the Training Institute for Female German Teachers evacuated from the bombed German city of Hannover. The cemetery became the target of vandalistic attacks of the evacuees and trainees of a German air pilot school in Havlickuv Brod. After the war, many modern monuments made from valuable stone were stolen.
On the occasion of the international anthropology congresses named after
Dr. A. Hrdlicka, the Jewish cemetery and the funeral hall were restored
at the expense of the Municipality of Humpolec. Local school children cleared
the area of the underbrush developing from airborne seeds of various woody
plants. The Jewish cemetery is owned by the Jewish Community in Prague.
It is maintained on its behalf by the join-stock company Matanah. A paid
custodian takes good care of the cemetery.
Tombstones of important personalities
SUBMITTER: Vera Finberg, with written permission from Dr. Rychetsky to present on the Austria-Czech SIG web site.
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