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[Pages 575-576]

The History of the Jews in Ronsperg (Poběžovice)

(Poběžovice, Czech Republic – 49°31' N 12°48')

by Jar.[1] Polák-Rokycana, Prague

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

Edited in English by Rob Pearman/UK

On the western border of Bohemia, in a beautiful valley beneath the mountains of Lyssa (Lysá) and Hirschstein (Jelení Hora), stands the small town of Ronsperg (Poběžovice)[2]. The Jewish presence in Ronsperg can be traced back to the 16th century.

The first synagogue was apparently located in what had been a gentile part of the town. The second prayer house was in an attic room within the house of the shoe manufacturer, Otto Mandler. A building similar to the Alt-Neu (Old-New) synagogue in Prague was first constructed in 1816. In the same building, there were also rooms for the Jewish school and an apartment for the rabbi.

In the early times, there was a large yeshiva in Ronsperg. A few years ago, on the site of today's synagogue, a mikvah was discovered, together with a large stone bearing a Hebrew inscription. According to this inscription, the famous scholar Baal Schem bathed in this mikvah from the year 1744. In its heyday, the Jewish community of Ronsperg counted some 240 souls. Already by 1893, that number had come down to 130. Today there are just some 50 Jews in this small town.

Today's community is extremely well led by Siegmund Mandler, whose humanity and compassion were clearly shown in the care of refugees[3]. His deputy is Heinrich Lampl, and the committee consists of Richard Österreicher, Siegfried Mandler, Michael Eisner, Rudolf Lederer and Herman Klauber. The treasurer is Adalbert Weil, Chief Inspector of Taxes (retired)[4].

An indication of the popularity of the Jews in Ronsperg is that three Jews are represented on the town council, namely Siegmund Mandler, Michael Eisner and Ing. Moritz Klauber[5]. The chairman of the synagogue is Heinrich Lampl. Among the previous chairmen, the following names can be seen in the records: Bruml, Stern, Spatz and Rabbi Bernhard Glaser (now living in Mies/Měchov).

The Jewish community covers the communities of Ronsperg (Poběžovice), Metzling (Meclov), Wassersuppen (Nemanice) and Hasselbach (Lísková). These also have a combined Chewra Kadisha, the chairmen of which have been Hermann Weisshut, Gustav and Abraham Langschur. It is the last named of these that we have to thank for the restoration and cataloguing of the cemetery.

The following outstanding Jewish community members should be mentioned: the philanthropist, Abraham Langschur; the scientist, Professor Dr. Starkenstein of Prague University (one of whose ancestors was Schemen Rokeach)[6]; also two industrialists: the late Heinrich Österreicher of Wassersuppen (Nemanice) and Bernhard Wetzler - a leading industrialist in Vienna from Metzling (Meclov). The old community in Metzling also had a prayer room and cemetery, but neither has been in use for the past 50 years. What is today the very poor community of Ronsperg does not have an archive. However, many Jewish documents are to be found in the archives of Count Coudenhove–Kalergi[7].

 

Abraham Langschur

Abraham Langschur was born in Ronsperg on 22 June 1841 in house no. 45. He had a twin sister (Rosa)[8]. After attending the local Jewish and public school, he moved on to the bilingual secondary school[9] in Taus (Domažlice). He undertook an apprenticeship with the company of Michael Teller, a sugar factory in Prague. He later had a good job as factory clerk at the company of Jacob Fürth in Schüttenhofen (Sušice). Returning to his home town, he married Phillipine, the daughter of Moses Grün[10] from Tauchar on 16 June 1869 with whom he was happily married for 54 years until his death on 3 September 1923. He was for many years the leaseholder of the Ronsperg brewery, which was owned by Count Coudenhove.

He dedicated himself to the Ronsperg Kehilah and to the synagogue, which was close to the brewery. He was the chairman of the community many times and for more than 40 years the leader of the Chewra, and as such was very much concerned with the old Jewish cemetery. He produced many books containing descriptions of the graves and collected a great deal of money for this purpose, especially from America. Although he was not a rich man, he donated many pieces of jewellery to the synagogue.

His marriage produced no fewer than 12 children, of which nine survived into adulthood, including six daughters, for all of whom he was able to find a husband. Of the three sons, the middle one unfortunately died in the war[11], to Abraham's great sorrow.

Abraham was a punctual participant in all services in the synagogue and, when he was not present, then everyone knew that he was unwell.

He gave his children a good religious education and for many years served as Baal Tekia at Rosh Hashanah. He was also well respected by citizens of other faiths and for many years a member of the town council and member of the board of the savings bank. He brought honour to the name of Langschur beyond the borders of the town. He was, of course, an active member of many Jewish humanitarian associations, and also a member of the Bohemian Jewish Organization[12]. His name will be immortal in the chronicles of this small Ronsperg community.

After his death at the age of 83, his wife continued the charitable work: no poor person ever left her house without a gift. After being a widow for five years, she followed him into her grave on 28 April 1928, having during her life been an 'Esches chajil' ('woman of virtue').

Many historical stories about Ronsperg are to be found in the work of Schön: 'Die Tachauer Judengeimeinde' ('The Jewish Community of Tachau/Tachov'[13]), an interesting historical treatise.


Footnotes

  1. 'Jar.' is the abbreviation of a Czech name, either Jaromir (meaning 'the man who loves peace') or Jaroslav. It has also been suggested that it corresponds to the German 'Friedrich', but this is unlikely as there is already a standard Czech equivalent ('Bedřich' – also shortened to 'Fritz'). Return
  2. The town of Ronsperg is close to the German border to the south-west of Pilzen (Plzeň). Here and throughout this translation, the modern-day Czech name of the town is provided (in italics) following the German version. Return
  3. Presumably these were refugees who had fled or escaped from their homes during the First World War. There is a similar reference in the chapter on the nearby small town of Kollautschen (Kolovec) where refugees from Galicia 'were lodged in the match factory of the Hutter Company' – see Yizkor Books Project, Bohemia, Kolovec. Return
  4. The German text states: 'Oberinspektor der St.-B i.R', which is an abbreviation of 'Oberinspektor der Steuerbehörde in Ruhestand'. Return
  5. Ing. (= Engineer) is an academic title for advanced studies in engineering. Return
  6. Dr. Emil Starkenstein was Professor of Pharmacology at the German Medical Faculty of Charles University, Prague. He was an experimental pharmacologist and pioneer of clinical pharmacology, including groundbreaking approaches during the First World War to the treatment of bacillary dysentery, cholera and typhus fever. Born in Ronsperg in 1884 into a family with a tradition as local physicians, he perished in 1942. Despite having sought safety in The Netherlands in 1939, he was arrested and deported in 1941 via Prague and Terezin to Mauthausen concentration camp. His wife and daughter survived in hiding in The Netherlands, and after the war his wife Marie (née Weil) donated his extensive collection of papers (more than 20,000 items) to the Czechoslovak state. In 2002, these papers were finally deposited in the archives of Charles University in Prague. Prof. Starkenstein also researched and published a family tree in 1926 which traced his family roots as far back as 1350 and included such figures as R. Benjamin Wolf (1777-1851), R.Eleasar Löw, R. Moses Isserles (1520-72), and several in the Katzenelbogen line, including R.Saul Wahl Katzenelbogen who, according to the glossary of the family tree, 'became king of Poland for one night after the death of Stephen Bathory' (Ed: it is said that, after King Stephen died in 1586, the nobles needed one further day in which to agree on Stephen's successor, so they had this wise man 'hold the throne' for one day. See also: 'The Unbroken Chain' by Neil Rosenstein). The original text on the Ronsperg community also states that R. Benjamin Wolf was called or known as 'Schemen Rokeach'. Return
  7. The noble Bohemian family of Coudenhove-Kalergi was formed when Frantz Karl Coudenhove (1823-93) married Maria Kalergi (1840-77) in Paris in 1857. The Coudenhove family dates back to the nobleman and crusader Gerolf I de Coudenhove (died 1259). Originally located in the Brabant (Low Countries), the Codenhoves relocated to Austria at the turn of the 17th century. The Coudenhove family were 'Reichsgrafe' ('counts of the (Holy Roman) Empire') since 1790. The Kalergis were descended from Nikephoros Phokas, a 9th century general serving the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Emperor. At one stage, the Kalergis were rulers of the Mediterranean island of Crete. The family name derives from kalon (beautiful) and ergon (action). The lands combined by the marriage of the Coudenhove and Kalergi families in 1857 included an estate in the Carinthian mountains (on the borders of Austria and Slovenia), the castle of Ottensheim (Upper Austria) and the estate and castle of Ronsperg (Poběžovice). Heinrich, one of six children from this marriage, was the first Count to use the double-barreled family name. Return
  8. Abraham's parents were Seligman Langschur and Barbara (née Steinhart); in addition to his twin sister Rosa, there was a further sister Resi (born in Ronsperg on 15 July 1850). Return
  9. The German text refers to an 'utraquist' school (Latin: uterque, utraque, "both or each of two") where lessons were taught in German and Czech. Such bilingual schools also existed, for example, in areas in Poland dominated by Ukrainians and Belarusians, and in Austria-Hungary in the 19th and early 20th centuries, in areas where there were various ethnic minorities. These bilingual schools were considered to be an instrument of ethnic assimilation. In Poland, some 'utraquist' schools taught in both Polish and Yiddish languages. Return
  10. J. Schoen, Geschichte der Juden in Tachau (1927) lists the name as Moses Grüner. The book contains a genealogy of the Grüner family among others. Return
  11. The war referred to here is the First World War or 'Great War', in which citizens of Bohemia, which was then within Austria-Hungary, fought alongside Germany against armies from France, Russia, UK and (later) Italy and USA. Return
  12. Although, by the time of Abraham's death in 1924, the nation of Czechoslovakia had been created (in 1918) as part of the redrawing of European boundaries after the war, it is believed that 'Landesjudenschaft' refers to a Bohemian or regional organisation. Return
  13. Tachau (Tachov) is a town lying to the west of the Bohemian regional capital Pilsen. Return
Glossary
Yeshiva = religious Talmudist school
Mikvah (Mikveh) = ritual bath
Chewra Kadisha = burial brotherhood/association
Killah (Kehilah) = community
Baal Tekia = shofar blower
Rosh Hashanah = Jewish New Year
Links
http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pob%C4%9B%C5%BEovice - History of the town (in Czech).
http://www.pobezovice.cz/?module=dokument&action=display_dokument&id=6060 - Pictures of the town.
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2992-benjamin-wolf-eleazar,
http://www.articlesbase.com/judaism-articles/who-can-blow-the-shofar-on-the-high-holidays-5218966.html/

 

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