Austria - Czech

The History of Jewish Settlement in Janovice
by Karel Polak, Bezdekov

As a result of the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.), Jews were dispelled to all parts of the world. Since they were usually businessmen, they also came to the Bohemian and Moravian lands. Only a few of them were allowed to own property - this was a great privilege granted by the monarchs. Historical sources mention a Prague Jew, Jon, who lived in the 14th century and owned Puschperk Castle near Chudenice town in the district of Klatovy. After his death in 1380 the castle was taken over by the power of King Wenceslas IV. Jews were "put under protection " by feudal masters and they were required to pay for this protection. The first jew mentioned in books as living in Janovice was a Baroch who came there in 1466. Baroch and his family members were protected by Oldrzich from Janovice, a nobleman, who set conditions for the settlement (with the previous monarch´s permission ) including the amount of money paid annually for the protection (Schutzgeld).

Years passed and Jews moved away from Janovice. No Jews are mentioned in Janovice books again until the end of the 17 th century. Those newly arrived Jews were protected by a feudal nobleman, Vilem Albrecht Krakovsky, from Kolovraty. A Jew called Abraham Loebl was frequently recorded in Janovice town documents (Council records now kept in Klatovy museum) as a creditor. He seemed to be the most wealthy man in the Jewish community.

The following Jewish houses are listed in the Book of Realities (Janowitz Grundbuch Nr. 17, now kept in the Klatovy Court library):

  1. House occupied by a Jew Hiczik and his son as early as 1721. He paid 18 gold coins of contribution.
  2. House occupied  in 1722 by a Riemer who paid a rent of 3 gold coins a year. On May 4, 1722 this cottage was bought by a Jew called Loebl Ezechiel , who had to pay his feudal master 12 gold coins a year for protection (Schutzgeld ) . Since 1724 this house was owned by Riemer again.
  3. The so called " Severin Repa’s " house bought in 1722 by a Jew Abraham who paid 30 gold coins a year.
  4. House where a Jewish butcher worked slaughtered. A fee of 19 gold coins  a year was paid to the feudal master ( Fleischbank ) . This house was later occupied by a Salomon Herschl.
  5. House where brandy was distilled by a Jew. As the record from 1722 was erased , we may assume it was only a short-term rental.
  6. The so called "Hanoushek´s" house was bought on October 8, 1723 by Abraham Loebl, a Jew, for 160 gold coins.

A special census was conducted by the government in 1723. In the census a Salomon Herrschl is noted, 30 years old, ( "von Geschlecht Israel"), who bought a cottage from feudal masters and paid 8 gold coins of contribution, 16 gold pieces for renting and 50 gold coins for slaughtering. On July 24, Vaclav Sinterhof sold - with previous permission of feudal masters - a cottage to Moises Ezechiel, a Jew from Janovice, for 90 gold coins. In 1742 Abraham Loebl from Janovice, a salesman, bought a house in Nyrsko (Neuern) in the so called "Judenwinkel". In 1756 he left this house (numbered in 1771 with VII and later with VIII) to his sons: Schmule (Samuel) Abraham Janowitz and Meier Abraham Janowitz. The brothers established a trade company  "Meier und Samuel Janowitzer" called, "Samuel und Meier Janowitzer s. Erben" after Meier's death. The company ceased to exist a short time after its establishment. In 1790 Samuel Abraham Janowitz and his two sons, Volf and Abraham, signed a trading contract for wool and feather. In the Realty Tax Book of Janovice from 1790 (now kept in the Janovice Archive) Samuel Abraham is mentioned from house nr. II, Rubin Nathan from house nr. II, Isak Joachim from house nr. III, Jakob Nathan from house nr.VI, and David Volf from house nr. VII.

In the town of Janovice Jews didn't have anything to complain about. The Christian neighbors earned their living in agriculture and didn’t mind the Jews. The situation was different in the nearby towns of Kdyne and Planice, where Jews meant competition in trade and crafts. In 1720 Count Filip Stadion expelled the Jews from Kouty. The Jews refused to move and complained to the regional authorities. In 1784 the Kdyne shopkeepers and dealers complained that two "protected" Jews (Schutzjuden), Mosaj Isak and Machrl Hahn from Kdyne, didn't stop house-to-house sales on Sundays and holidays. Both of them were threatened with punishment according to the king's order and with having their goods taken away.

The war was an opportunity for lucrative business for the Jews. During the "Thirty Years War" (1618 - 1648) they helped both sides -  the Czech estates on one side and the Habsburg troops on the other side. They were protected by the emperor. In this war a great numbers of Jews grew rich by supplying food to the troops. Their service was paid back with privileges (in 1628 and 1648) that opened all markets to them and made extensive business possible.

The Janovice synagogue was built in baroque style in 1723. This number can be seen above the entrance. The designer is unknown. Comparing the balcony balustrades we can deduce that the same architect was the designer of the Janovice Catholic rectory and the synagogue. The building is not large in size. It is situated very close to the Jewish school and has brick gables without decoration. The original baroque gables seem to have been destroyed, maybe by fire. The Jewish cemetery originates from the same time as the synagogue but it is possible that it was a burial place even earlier.

Between 1807 and 1860 the Janovice Jewish Community included Janovice, Bezdekov, Tynec, Klenova, Pocinovice, Loucim, Lipkov, Dlazov, Beharzov, Miletice, Soustov, Spule, Slavikovice, Mlynec (1860), Maloveska (1844), Zdaslav (1842), Smrzovice and Modlin. It is worth noting that in the period of 10 years (1840-1850) there were 32 illegitimate children recorded in the register of births in Janovice. Only 15 of them had at least their father's name recorded. This situation was analogous within the Christian population and gives us evidence of what happened in that society.

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