Austria - Czech
"The Hugo Bergmann Family Papers"
…assembled and presented by Adolf Dasha Bergmann, Copenhagen, Denmark, March 1994:

  Born in Prague, capital of then Czechoslovakia, my mother tongue is Czech; German I learned early in my life; later on I learned Danish since I came to Denmark in 1939 at the age of 15. English I had to learn in my forties because of a new employment. Being retired now, I try to make some of the most interesting papers, which I have collected during many years, comprehensible for readers who don't originate from the cultural circle of Central Europe. I do it thinking back to honour the memory of my grandfather Adolf, my father Quido and of Uncle Hugo and also forward, as I suppose that future readers may appreciate that these writings have been typed and translated from German to English and Danish. This is the English copy.   Uncle Hugo B., cousin of my father, professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and its first president, corresponded with me from 1945 to the end of his life in 1975. Thanks to his foresight and fond interest, I have received from him numerous papers valuable for the Bergmann family.

- Before the documents [1] - [5]  I am placing:  an article written by Hugo in 1969.
[1]  letter of Jan. 20, 1913, and 
[2]  letter of September 24, 1920, from my grandfather Adolf to Hugo,
[3]  a copy of part of Hugo's mother's memoirs
[4]  of an obituary for his brother Artur, and
[5]  of a speech given by Leo Herrmann at the occasion of Hugo's 60th birthday

(Ed. note - the author uses "t.a." (translator's annotation) for footnote references)

Autobiographical note by professor dr. Hugo Bergmann, Jerusalem, published in HADOAR, New York, October 17, 1969.

    These reflections were published as the introduction to the collection of articles "Thousand Years of Czech Jewry" edited by "GESHER", organ of the Jewish World Congress.

    ...We are celebrating the thousand years' jubilee of the remains of a Jewish community, just at the moment of its disintegration and scattering in the whole world. It is a peculiar jubilee, according to my opinion just because the Czech Jewry had such a paradoxical existence and we, the last generation which remembers this existence, are obliged to tell about it to the coming generations…

    When I was young - I was born in 1883 - the Czech Jewry had a spiritual structure that today seems very curious to me when I, in retrospect, compare it with Jewish communities in other countries. We knew Jewishness without orthodoxy in today's sense. The only family in Prague who was really faithful to the law seemed to us like a relic from the museum. It is remarkable that this family was not militant and made no efforts to promote their kind of Jewishness. The community had no religious fights at all. Only with the rise of Zionism did this change. Consequently, ideological discussions did not take place at the time. And yet we had a pronounced Jewish consciousness even though the Jewish part of the population in Bohemia was small.

   I myself came to a positive Jewish attitude, in fact to a real love for Judaism, in a small Czech village in which only two Jewish families lived. Indeed, this is entirely my own personal experience and still it seems me to be typical for the conditions in our area. For this reason I would like to tell about it here.

    My parents lived in Prague at that time in what from the outside appeared as a stately Jewish community. My late mother was born in 1855 in Príbram, my late father in 1854 in the village Chraštice, about three hours on foot from Príbram.

    The religious life in Prague was miserable, as is known from Kafka's writings. My father had, in any case, still brought with him some Jewish knowledge from the village. The little he knew about Judaism he cared for and loved, and he knew also to hand over this knowledge to both of his sons. Yet, he had no pedagogical method, it was simply like the air we breathed.

    My mother, Johanna née Fischer, learned when she was young to read only in the prayer book. In addition, she knew how to write the Hebrew letters and knew the customary minhagim.
    We especially felt to be Jews on the High holidays when Papa, wearing a festive silk hat, went with us to the Pinkas synagogue - also on Erev Pesach, when Mama took out the special Pesach dishes and Papa went to shul to participate in a "seudat mitzva" by which he freed himself from the obligation of fasting which lay on him until his first-born son was bar-mitzvah. We didn't have a sukka, but on Simchat Torah we went to the synagogue with small flags. On weekdays we occasionally had even ham for dinner. When we children were small, at Christmas we even had a Christmas tree and on December 6th we hung leather top boots in the window so that Santa Claus could reward us with nuts and raisins; indeed he regularly fulfilled our desire. We knew nothing about Purim, and the Chanukka festival was, if I am not mistaken, first celebrated with the rise of Zionism that brought an altogether great change. In spite of this mess, Papa sent us in the afternoon after school to the religion class of the community where we learned Chumash and Haftarah.

    From what I already told, it becomes clear how weak the Jewish life was in Prague. The real source of Judaism was revealed to us in the summertime in the village. Usually we spent the first part of our vacation in Príbram with our grandparents. It was a medium-sized community that even had a temple. According to my memory the life of the Jews there was hardly different from that of the Jews in Prague, although my grandfather Abraham Fischer (born 1811) would certainly not allow pork to be eaten in his house. 

   An essential difference was the language. In Prague people talked German. In smaller places like Príbram, where the Jews were more in contact with Czech neighbours, the everyday language was Czech.

   However, when we came from Príbram to Chraštice where our father was born, suddenly the whole Jewish atmosphere was different. And when I look back, it was the most peculiar phenomenon, as there were only two Jewish families in this Czech village. On top of this the two families were business competitors and therefore always "broges". (Ed. Note – this most likely means “angry; non-talkative.”) Yet it was just here in my uncle's house where I could directly grasp the tight Jewish atmosphere with my hands. However this couldn't be defined as piety in present terms. The best way it can be shown is by giving examples of what made such a big impression on us.

    The Jewish population of the villages was extremely small. Sometimes only a single family lived in a village. Chraštice had a church and market place and had two Jewish families: My uncle Karl Bergmann (born abt. 1850) and the Platovský family, who were somehow relatives of Franz Kafka. And, like the farmers of the surroundings who flocked in great numbers to the Catholic church, likewise the Jews from the neighbouring villages went to their shul on Shabbat and holidays. This was indeed not a magnificent temple, but a two-room-farmhouse without furniture and treasures. It was situated in the neighbouring (t.a. to Chraštice) village of Zbenice).

   There the minyan assembled on Shabbat, perhaps twelve or thirteen men. And prior to praying, before the number of ten was reached, they had a chat in German, with a sprinkling of interwoven Jewish idioms, about family affairs, illnesses and everyday worries. Sometimes one who had just returned from Prague reported about events in the big world, but first and foremost about the grain prices on the exchange,  as all these Jews were half-farmers, half-tradesmen. When the minyan was assembled they began to pray. There was no official chasan and indeed no rabbi.

    The walk from Chraštice to the shul took one hour. The nights before Rosh Hashanah made a great impression upon us when we, each one of us equipped with a lantern, hurried through the fields in order to be in time for the "selichot".

    My uncle had a big family - 12 children. They didn't go to the Czech school in the village. Rather, they wandered every day one hour to Zaluzany where the Jews maintained their own school. The educational language was German and the children received a certain degree of Jewish knowledge as a reward for the daily long walk.

    This way of living and the strong Jewish awareness made an extremely great impression on us Praguers, especially the Shabbats. I see the Friday afternoons quite clearly before me, when the whole crowd of children prepared themselves for the Shabbat. The shoes were waxed and everyone washed with warm water in the yard, as the establishment of bathrooms at that time was still unknown. Then they dressed in their Shabbat clothes and assembled in the house at Auntie's table. Kiddush was observed, but it seems to me that there was no Havdalah on Mozeh Shabbat. On the mornings of Shabbat we walked the described way to shul. Uncle gathered the whole crowd of children in the afternoon and read Pirke Avot with them - without translation, without comments, just the Hebrew text.

    I must add that Uncle was also a shochet. When a cow had to be shaechted, he was called by the Christian butcher, because the village Jews observed strictly the kashrut. Usually the slaughtering took place on Thursday so as to have the meat which the Jews could buy for Shabbat. My uncle received as a reward the liver from the shaechted cow, and still the delicious odour of the fried liver is in my nose, when I think back on those Friday nights. However, "gefilte fish" was unknown there.

    This Shabbat in the village had considerably more Jewish content than a Shabbat in the modern Jerusalem. And I would like to emphasize that these villages and these Jews were not exceptions. 
    There was not a single strong personality that guided the life of the Jews. Unfortunately I don't know the stories of the Czech writer Rakous, though I suppose that his Jewish types of people are of the same kind as those whom I tried to describe here.

  HADOAR, New York, Oct. 17, 1969.

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[1] Letter from Dr. Adolf B. to Hugo B.:
Pardubice  20/1 1913 [Jan. 20, 1913]
Dear Hugo! 

     Your congratulation on fulfilling my 60th year of life, thereby 61st anniversary came indeed postfestum, but it made me very pleased as I know that you have classified your time quite precisely. I have not arrived to Buber, because I can't bear difficult things. Otherwise I am fit spiritually and physically, but I can't contemplate anymore. I am a reader of newspapers and would like to read your newspaper articles as well as Böhm's work. Perhaps you can send it to me by printed-matter mail. I notice in me, that the more intensive spiritual work strains me very much and therefore I read only easy things. The head and the stomach want good food.

     With regard to the Zionism I have written years ago to Dr. Farbstein in Zürich, that Z. can only be Palestinism and whoever is supporting our goal and with which motives he feels called upon, national, religious or human, is unimportant to us. Therefore we see a banalising in the Z. We just forget Herzl's correct expression that we will be healthy as soon as the plough will be in our hands. Instead of high-schools, colleges etc. we need farmers and I am more fond of one Yemenite than of 10 high-school boys.

    Also the struggle between the national and religious movements is healthy and it will last until the religious-national is unified in one entity. You can imagine that I am sorry for having neglected Hebrew and
so that I cannot read your work in Hashiloah. I congratulate you on your promotion and send my regards to you

Your faithful uncle

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[2]  Letter from Dr. Adolf B. to Hugo B. 
Winehills (t.a. quarter of Prague) 24/9 1920  [Sept. 24, 1920]
   Dear Hugo  (ayin-mem-shin1)!

    Answering your card I inform you that I wouldn't dream of getting reports from you as I know that you have enough to do.

    I will be looking for Grünwald's paper, but I know that I will not find anything. Zbenice belonged namely to the district of Kourím, Písek to that of Prachatice. The district rabbi of the district of Kourím was in Breznice. The late father sent me to that place with 1 sheile2. The late father was very intelligent. He mastered perfectly both of the country's languages (t.a. Czech and German) & was good in Hebrew. At Ledecký he often read out of the Beseda Lidu (t.a. a Czech paper) and for us from Sipurim in German. As he noticed a nail in the stomach of a cow, he looked into the Talmud for Hilchi's Shechita3, & I had to walk to Breznice to the rabbi with 1 letter from father & the stomach.

    As regards the family, so Adam B. was a randar4 in Zbenice, a hereditary tenant of the slaughterhouse & fields near Cunák5. The rent he paid to the Baron of Zbenice, whose successor has got the Placka6 on the cemetery in Chraštice. Adam Zbenice received the name B, his brother in Prague the name Schalek & is the progenitor of the booksellers Schalek. His son Alexander is my grandfather. A sister of him was married to the 1.Kacif (butcher) in Zocolovo near Milevsko. My father was with her as a journeyman, as the traveling was prescribed because of the certificate of capability.

     Alex B was married 2 times. From the first marriage originated Salomon B in Karlín-Hrdlorezy & his sister in Kovárov. From the 2nd marriage came Adam, Moses (Kovárov) & Franziska Freund (Karlín).

    Adam received the house in Zbenice. He had 8 children Anna, Karl, Anastasie, Alex, Adolf, Sigmund, Wilhelm, Karolin.

    Moses B is the father of Dr. Adam B., who is now first army medical officer in Mies (Stríbro).

    Franziska is the mother of Olgr7Alex Freund in Budejovice, whose children are Zionists. I don't know anymore.

    My nephew Viktor Epstein from Vienna travels to Palestine as a chalutz. His mother is a sister of my wife. He is going on 3/10. I have advised him not to travel now. We are in good health.

   With greetings and kiss to all
                                                Uncle Adolf
t.a. (translator's annotations)

1 - Hebrew letters:   ayin, mem, shin   "ad mea shana"  = until 100 years        (return)
2. Sheile                  = Hebrew: She'elah, religious question actually: Is the cow kosher?   (return)
3. Hilchi's shechitah  = the laws concerning ritual slaughter   (return)
4. Randar                  = Arendar, an authorized tenant of a distillery   (return)
5. Cunák                    = a large pond near Chraštice   (return)
6. Placka                   = a weeping statue   (return)
7. Olgr                      = High Court judge   (return)

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[3]  Part of Johanna Bergmann's (mother of Artur and Hugo) memoirs: 
From mother's diary - January 4, 1930
    My dear little Hugo, I will comply with your wish to write down something from my early years, it is difficult for me, but you will forgive me, if the style will not be all right. 

    My good, unforgettable father was born in Obcov1, one hour from Príbram. His parents, whom I didn't know, were very decent people, they made a living like all Jews. Grandfather went with the merchandise from house to house, grandmother was born Guttmann of a good family, a very clever woman, who was sought after by the richest families as a nurse, not for profit making, but because of love of mankind. She had 3 sons and 3 daughters. One son was a teacher; he is buried in Príbram. Later he also became a tradesman; his wife, Aunt Baby2, is still alive, 95 years old. The second son Gottlieb was father of Semi Fischer, who taught you maftir3. A grandchild is Ernst Lustig, whom you also know, and he became a German. Further are the Klausner, Erwin and Artur, from a sister of our good father. Two sisters died childless. 

    My dear mother, born Bloch, originates from Zdár near Blovice4, and in this birthplace we twice spent lovely holidays! Grandmother originated from a family Janowitz, who were very noble people. They made a foundation and every year at Pesach a distribution was made and our good mother also got a part of it, which Rosa later received. One of her brothers was uncle Bernhard, whom you remember; a sister was married to Behal. Her grandchildren were Ju.Dr. Richard and Karl Behal, whom you remember and a daughter who was very small (za groš pes)5.

    Father's family tree you have from uncle Adolf6 , but I have to write down what I know. Grandfather was the son of a randar7, which means that he had free admittance to the landowners. They consulted him in all business affairs. He had a distillery, which was a distinction for Jews.
Grandmother, born Freimuth was only from narrow circumstances, from that originates the saying: "Geive from Zbenitz, dalles from Petschitz"8Pappi9 always said this because grandfather was from Zbenice (randar) and grandmother only was a daughter of a trade-Jew. I shall also write to you the names of their children: Anna, married Fleischmann - Kozárovice10; Alex, who lived in America and also died there; Karl; Adolf; Stasa Klümpl, (t.a. Klimpl!), also buried in America; Siegmund, our dear Pappi; Karoline Fuhrer, the only one who is still alive; Wilhelm who lived in Vienna and is buried there. 

    My father very often walked to Príbram with his merchandise. He carried on his back a so-called "Almarka"11, in which the merchandise was arranged. He always had to take out a bulete (leave certificate) in order to be allowed to sell from door to door. The citizens liked him and in the year 1849 he got permission to move to Príbram. With reference to this, the customs for vehicles was arranged by leasing it to him. He was the first Jew to be a duty collector. He lived three years alone with his brother Josef and his mother. When she died, he married in the year 1854. I came as the first child 1855. Thereafter every second year afterwards came, namely Sofie, who died in the year 1878, Pepie Schwarzbarth, Rosa, Siegmund, Julius, who died as the 5th youngest child, David, Simon, Marie, and the youngest who is Rudolf. When I was 5 years old, there were already some families settled. They also had children at school age, so they looked for a teacher and found one. They didn't ask whether he knew something if only he was a bocherle12. A room was found and the school was opened. The good father often carried me there on his back, it was in the Long street "U koníckù13". Urbach, the teacher, nevertheless brought us so far that we could read. We were then admitted to the third class of the Bohemian (t.a.: Czech) school. We went to Urbach to learn religion, chumish14.  I have learned to write Hebrew, but not for long, Hebrew is not modern people said, so Urbach stopped teaching it.

    Two hours a week we also learned Hebrew and German. It was customary to go to school until age 13. I then went to a sewing school and also took German lessons with a professor who taught me in the Czech school. Naturally I was taken right away to the housekeeping, since we - as I already mentioned - got a child every second year, so that it brought the number up to 9. I was the eldest and I helped the good parents as much as I could.

    In the year 186615 the war broke out, and it was bad times. Business-wise we had enough to do, as my father supplied the  army. Lots of oats, straw and hay were supplied, so benefits were also there, but the worries were indescribable. A cholera epidemic broke out and in every house many people died every day. The dear God protected us, the good mother sacrificed day and night in order to do everything what the doctor had instructed, so that everything went well. 

   The same year a terrible thing also happened to the Jews. In Príbram there were silver works, and many hundred miners worked there. In the melting house in which the silver was melted out, the workers stole it, Jews bought it, and allegedly Christians bought it too. These were allowed to run away but the Jews were persecuted terribly. A very distinguished man by the name of Feigel was caught in Prague as he was selling and he drowned himself right away in the Berounka when he was driving home. He wanted to escape the shame and left his wife and 3 small children here. A few Jews were imprisoned for 3 to 6 years.
This created a revolution in Príbram,  people smashed in the windows of all Jews and demolished everything they could, dirtied the houses, etc. Nothing happened to my good parents at all. The people knew that my father was a honest man. 

   Despite all of that the temple was in our house; father rented a two-story house and we lived on the ground floor. Father gave the first floor the first year free of charge. (Ed. Note – many Europeans refer to the bottom floor as the “ground” floor, thus the top floor of a two-story house is referred to as the “first” floor.) Four rooms were made to two, men to one side, women to the other. It became a very cozy shul16. And the people were so nice towards us. 

   For remembrance father entered it in his ledger and warned his children and grandchildren against buying dishonest things, to make honest living, because the honest Kreuzer17 is bitter to earn, but sweet to enjoy. This proverb I have taken to heart and also stamped it upon my dear children.

   So my childhood years went in fear and anxiety. I got so serious, and helped the parents where I was able. I took care of all these many children; when my youngest brother was born I was 19 years old. I already then knew my good Siegmund, he was in Pereles' shop. Neither my parents nor his were very happy about it. 

   I longed to leave home, to make an end to everything and also to learn to know the world. I discovered that a friend of my parents lived in Vienna and I went there. I wrote to her whether she would receive me and procure a job for me as a nurse. She answered me to come right away. So, after the barmitzvah of my eldest brother on the 20.July 1875, I departed to Vienna. Rudolf was 10 weeks old. My dear father accompanied me on the stagecoach. At that time the railway to Prague didn't yet exist. From Prague I went over Brno to Vienna where the friend expected me. It was in the evening when I saw Vienna and I was so surprised that I felt fear and anxiety. 

   Soon, on the 4.August I got a job with very good, nice Jews. The people were very rich. They had a house in the Rotensterngasse and a villa in Ober St. Veith, where I went right away together with the lady and stayed there until September. I had to look after two girls; one who was 17 and the other 15 years old, and two small boys. Besides these there were another 6 sons, most of them were already employed. One of them was studying. That was Dr. Heinrich Stöger who recently died. I have often examined him and he was a nice man. 

   Altogether, everybody was so good to me and I was like their own child in the house. I was with them for 14 months. Then I went to the sister of the lady and was there for some time also with children. I very much longed for my dear parents, brothers and sisters and went home on a leave. 

   During all that time I have corresponded with my dear Siegmund. Then his father died and he was taken home to help his mother. He had to obligate himself to take care of his sister Karolin, so there was no hope that we could marry each other. When I came home - it was in 1878 - he visited me and then it became serious with us and love gained victory. 

    The good man promised me and my parents to marry me. In the beginning we thought that he would establish himself in Príbram, since he was very popular with the people. The main thing, the money, was not there and he decided to stay in his job and in the year 1880, on August 4, we married each other. He found a little flat, two rooms and kitchen in the Heinrichgasse18, where we moved in on August 6. Nobody was happier than the two of us that we had a home. We lived simple and cosy. In the first year of our marriage I often went to my dear parents when my dear Mundícek19 was traveling. Hereby we could save his wages, which was 80 guilders a month.

   On June 13, 1881, our dear Ata20 was born, an upright healthy boy and the whole family was very pleased. Then we had to take a larger flat. First then we could make both ends meet and things went quite well for us. In order to contribute something to the household I took my brother Siegmund and also my brother-in-law Adolf21 into the flat. The latter got later a job as a draftsman in Votice22. So it all went quite well. The little child thrived and was spoiled by Pappi, since he permitted him to do everything. After 2½ year our dear little Hugo came to the world, a Christmas child, on December 25, 1884 (t.a. 1883!), a modest little boy from the moment he was born. So we lived happily, content, we had no abundance, but it was enough for us. In this way the years passed until the dear children went to school. They did well in school, especially dear Hugo was always a top-grade boy and so it went with God's help until a doctor's degree was conferred on them - Hugo in philosophy, Ata in law. Both served as one-year-volunteers23

   Dear Hugo married when he was 24 years old, shortly thereafter the hardest fate hit us. Our dear, unforgettable Pappi was suddenly carried off, through a railway disaster. Our pain was indescribable. I became alone, my dear children were very nice to me, I had to pull all my force together in order to help them to bear the great pain. 

   Soon thereafter Ata also married. My first grandchild was Lotte24, she was born on Nov. 17, 1912; the second grandchild, little Martin, now called Shlomo, on Feb. 15, 1913. As both developed very well, I was delighted and then I gave in to the fate. 

   Many years passed by. In the year 1914 came the war where both my darlings had to go to the army, and to describe that I lack the strength. The 5 years were the most horrible25 one can think of. The dear God held his hand over my dear children and they came back, to my greatest luck and joy. Ata got wounded on the right hand, dear Hugo so far in good health.
1. Obcov: NE of Príbram.   (return)
2. Baby: related to Czech: old woman, grandmother.   (return)
3. Maftir: Prophet's passage red by bar-mitzvah boys in Bohemia.   (return)
4. Zdár: SE of Blovice, which is SE of Plzen (Pilsen).   (return)
5. Za groš pes (Czech): "Dog for a dime."   (return)
6. Uncle Adolf: My grandfather Adolf B. wrote in 1920 what he knew about the family [2].   (return)
7. Randar: Abbreviation of ARENDAR, authorized tenant of a distillery.   (return)
8. Geive from Zbenitz, dalles from Petschitz: Pride from Zbenice (the village of Bergmanns), poverty from Pecice (Freimuths).  Zbenice and Pecice, neighbouring villages SE of Príbram.   (return)
9. Pappi: Sigmund B., father of Arthur and Hugo.   (return)
10. Kozárovice: SE of Zbenice.   (return)
11. Almarka (Czech): A small cupboard (closet).   (return)
12. Bocherle: From Hebrew: Bachur, a young man - a  scholar.   (return)
13. U koníckù (Czech): "At the small horses" (the houses had no numbers but signs).   (return)
14. Chumisch: From chamesh (Hebrew): Five. The Pentateuch   (return)
15. The war between Austria and Prussia.-    (return)
16. shul: Synagogue.   (return)
17. Kreuzer: A small Austrian coin.   (return)
18. Jindrišská Street in Prague, across Václavské Square in the centre of the town.    (return)
19. Mundícek: Pet name for Sigmund: Little S.   (return)
20. Ata: Pet name for Arthur B.   (return)
21. Brother-in-law Adolf: My grandfather from Chraštice lived there while he studied law. Later also my father Quido from Pardubice during his apprenticeship and study at a trade school.    (return)
22. Votice, a town between Benešov and Tábor. In the middle of the eighties, my grandfather got married and established himself as a lawyer in Pardubice.   (return)
23. In Austria academics could do their military service in one year if they reported voluntarily for duty.   (return)
24. Lotte lives now in Hamilton, Canada, over 81 years old.   (return)
25. Johanna was lucky not to have to experience W.W. II.   (return)

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[4]  Of an obituary for Arthur Bergmann at the occasion of "Shloshim" (30 days after his death) edited by the Old gentlemen-Union of the Students Union Bar Kochba.

   A.B. was born on June 13, 1881, in Prague. The parents originated from Bohemian villages and small towns, his father from Chraštice.

   It was the first generation that settled in a large city. The root of the family was still the village and the Jewish life there, and this fact was of great significance for the formation of character of the children born and brought up in Prague. For instance Franz Kafka saw almost nothing more of the living Judaism in his parent's home and first learned Judaism to know as a grown man through an Eastern-Jewish group of actors, which the fate had brought to Prague. On the contrary to this, A.B. belonged to a family that still lived with much of the Jewish tradition through its intimate relation to the village.

   The grandfather of A.B., on his mother's side, Abraham Fischer, was the first Jew who received the permission to settle in the small mining town Príbram, and he was very proud of it. In the house in which he lived in Príbram, he at the same time established a synagogue for the few Jews, who after him got the permission to live there. 
The grandfather on his father's side lived as a butcher in the village. He died before Arthur was born. He was a rare phenomenon among the Czech Jews of his time, since he knew Hebrew well and gave a good Jewish education to his 8 children. Jewish life was still very intensive in the village, in spite of that in one single village lived not more than 1-2 Jewish families1.

    The mother of A.B. spent her holidays every year in the small village Chraštice near Príbram and it was here where her children got their Jewish impulses. Jews from the neighbouring villages came every Shabbat together for a service in a farmhouse in Zbenice. Just because the Jewish tradition was concentrated on this single Shabbat, it was very intensive and left deep marks in the mind of the boys. Still in the last days of his life A.B. liked often to speak of what he learned of Jewish consciousness and knowledge from his uncle Karl in the village, where he spent his holidays every year.

    Another uncle on his father's side was Dr. Adolf B., lawyer in the Bohemian town Pardubice. He already belonged to the Zionist movement under Herzl. Herzl's paper "Welt" contains in the volumes 1900 and 1902 papers of Dr. Adolf Bergmann. Notable is the paper from the year 1902, in which Adolf B. gives advice to the Zionist members of the communities, how they can carry out Zionist activities in the communities, within the scope of the law. Adolf B. gives under the title "The Austrian religious community and Zionism" these advices as a lawyer by means of the official statutes for the religious communities in Austria.

    In the spring 1899 Zionism entered Prague, often fought against by both the German and the Czech assimilants. In the large assembly, which was broken up by the Socialists, the entire Bergmann family took part, and this assembly decided its Zionist future. The parents of Arthur vividly took part in both of the Zionist Organizations that were founded, the "Jewish Popular Association" and the "Jewish Women's Association". In the Zionist archive in Jerusalem are documents, according to which both father and mother of Arthur B. were in March 1901 nominated by both associations as delegates for the first Austrian meeting of delegates in Olomouc.

    Since that assembly in April 1899, A.B. was a Zionist. He was then still a middle school pupil; he finished his gymnasium (high-school) study in the summer of 1900. And it was obvious that he became a member of the student's association "Bar Kochba", in the fall 1900 when he became a student of the faculty of law in Prague. At that time Bar Kochba was just about to come into being. Before that existed the "Association of Jewish University Students", which was not yet called Bar Kochba and which was a socializing-and-amusement association. It had a rather modest existence in the shadow of the German unions, to which the Jewish students of the German University to a large part still belonged. At the general assembly of this association on June 9, 1899, 8 members were present in total. It was decided to dissolve the association at the start of the winter term. All this changed under the influence of Zionism, which penetrated from Vienna to Prague. 

    On the November 18, 1899 the motion was accepted to convert the association into a Jewish-national and on December 5, 1899, the name "Bar Kochba" was given to the association. It had now to admit also students of the Czech university.

    Arthur's importance for the young Bar Kochba lay above all in the field of fellowship. Through his good knowledge of Czech he made up a bridge to the Czech - Jewish students, who now joined Bar Kochba. Arthur was the organizer of the different parties of the association, the purpose of which was both to bring the national Jewish idea among the Jews, and to give the young association a social and financial basis.

    After finishing his law study Arthur became a railway official in different places in Bohemia. He actively took part in the Zionist life of the province. After the outbreak of war 1914 he went in the field as a reserve officer and was soon heavily wounded. He received 1916 for brave conduct in the face of the enemy the "signum laudis". The honour made him very happy because the Zionist students endeavoured to glorify the name of Jewry through brave conduct in the face of the enemy, and in this way to make up for the manifold shame brought to the name of Jewry by Jewish black-marketeers in the country.

    After his wounds have healed Arthur was assigned the task to work in the field railway service. In this position he founded in Undine in North Italy a Zionist center for Zionist soldiers, who passed through there. After a short transitional period in Vienna on behalf of the new Czechoslovak railway, Arthur went back to his family in Prague and placed himself fully and entirely to the disposal of Zionist work. In the year 1921, shortly after the foundation of Keren Hayessod, he took charge over the csl. K.H., and continued until his aliyah in August 1939. First as spare-time occupation in the afternoon and evening hours on the side of his work in Government service. In 1933 he retired as a higher Government official and devoted himself wholly to the K.H. work. Until his aliyah he took most vividly part in all Zionist tasks.

    The spirit and atmosphere in the house of the parents, the hospitality of which many people knew and enjoyed, and the spiritual environment of the city Prague with its manifold of national cultures, this old cradle of Jewish knowledge and Jewish science, led Arthur already in his earliest youth to Zionism, towards which he stayed faithful until the end of his life. He served with faithfulness his people and his country. The csl. K.H. was indebted for its advance in the years between the two World Wars to his many-sided knowledge, his clear judgment, his special intuition in the not so easy activity, his thorough knowledge of people and substance, and last but not least his talent and charm in intercourse with people. A.B. granted the best years of his life to this institution as well as the rich gifts of his clear intellect.

    But his heart, his love, Arthur gave to the Bar Kochba. He was one of the founders of this fellowship, the endeavours and goals of which he identified himself fully and wholly through his entire lifetime.

    Arthur was the Bar-Kochbaner par excellence. The B.K. was his extended family. He knew personally all members of the association and everybody saw in him the great senior, who assisted everybody by word and deed and who proved to everybody his faithfulness and brotherhood. He spared neither time nor energy in giving his advice or help, with understanding and goodness, but also with strictness, when it was necessary. His human sympathy, his kindness and cordiality, his charisma, his lively interest in the life of everyone of us, the faithfulness and love which he showed to everyone of us all his life, created in the Bar Kochba that friendship, that feeling of mutual connection, which is being kept until today in spite of the ill-fated course of time.
Humble and simple, natural and genuine, serious and dignified, amusing and charming, so we still today see him before us. We thank him for his active leadership, for his faithfulness and his love. We thank the Providence that allotted us the good fortune of having had Arthur as a friend.

    These most handsome and heartfelt words could only be written by somebody who knew Arthur very well and who loved him fervently, namely, his little brother Hugo. 

1. Uncle Hugo mentions several times that in the Bohemian villages lived only one or two Jewish families. This was because of the Austrian government's regulations (the Familianten Law). Jews had to obtain special permissions to settle and to make a living. In order to keep the number of Jews down, only the eldest son was allowed to marry. These regulations were in force from 1727 until 1859.   (Back to article)

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[5] Of a speech given at Hugo Bergmann's 60 years birthday:

   Of Leo Herrmann's speech held in the "Association of Immigrants from
ÈSR" in December 1943 at the occasion of the celebration of the 60 years birthday of Hugo Bergmann.

...We have today come together here, old Zionists and friends from the homeland. In other circles they approached him as the philosopher, the university man, the first director of the National library, the first president of the Hebrew university...

    What are we who came together here? We are "HOCZ" (t.a. Hit´achdut Olej Czechoslovakia), an association of people who followed him into the people and to the land. Into the people he went in front of us - from Prague towards the East, to Galizia, in the Russian, in the Jiddish, in the Hebrew and in the Hebrew literature and world.

    And on the way to the land he was after the war among the first ones who came to the land, the spiritual leader of the group on the way to Erez Israel...

   How was he as guide for all of us? Not through the pathetic demand of the word, not as the dramatic orator on the platform, although he is able to speak with a profound and lasting effect. He was the guide and the teacher. He demanded and urged, not by a loud call, but by a quiet word and an overwhelming example. In the Bar Kochba he belonged already to the "Old Gentlemen" of the association, was librarian on the university, belonged no more to the active student's association, but to the ranks from where the professors and teachers came. We knew that he already then could have been an associate professor and on his way to become a professor, if he had met the demand to shift religion and conceal his nationality. That he didn't do it was nothing special for us. We found it natural. But how he also in our circle acted only in the quiet and went his own way without claiming leadership, exactly that we didn't understand always and not easily, because we saw him as a leader in front of us. Perhaps we would have liked to have him different sometimes. We wished he possessed a greater aggressiveness, a more offensive spirit. But the leader himself was too strong in his nature to give in to the demands of the guided.
People with whom he had been together for years have, in his presence, not felt the experience of Zionism. They stayed indifferent, they needed a push from outside which they got from strangers. It is just this that always has distinguished Hugo. He had a respect for different meanings and views, which Zionism actually doesn't have. He had an extremely great shyness before breaking into the pattern of life and ideas of the fellow man. He spares the neighbour's soul and understands it often so well, that he seems to be its prisoner in his tolerance. We didn't want to understand that he didn't do greater conquests in his own circle, that he always went out again to learn instead to teach and to force all people around him into his way and his circle. He was and is not one of those people who rape and conquer easily. He was and is one of those who imperceptibly, and little by little, win and educate and fill one with his own views. In this sense he, however, was not the guide of single people - even though among the personalities with whom he made contact belonged such as Albert Einstein - but the guide and teacher of whole generations, whom he filled with his love and tolerance and his spirit. He went ahead, he showed how he means it. And he stayed to be like that. When he via London came to Jerusalem as librarian and the head of a very small crowd of officers and employees, he didn't give orders how to arrange and clean a library, he himself lent a hand, dusted the books, arranged them, established the scientific catalogue and acted so in his domain again as the teacher who shows the others what to do.

   As this he remained also in the Zionism: one who goes in front, without consideration to whether the others will follow him or not. Friends and strangers tell about the courage and the way in which he in the First World War got the distinction to be promoted extraordinarily to the rank of first lieutenant.

   We are not used to see Hugo Bergmann as a martial mind, but he led his company in attack and captured with his own hand an enemy machine gun, safely placed on a difficult accessible hill. The story tells that he hastened ahead, without looking back, without calling on his company to follow him and that they followed him because they saw him rushing forwards. This way he led his company, this way he leads one generation after the other, not only to attack, but the slow road of laborious removal of existing difficulties on the way to realization.

    In this going ahead, in this fulfillment of the recognized duty, he became an example by how he converts problems into the human and not makes people to problems. You can't evade his manner when you have learned to look through his eyes. He, the philosopher, who went into the philosophy from mathematics, has never lost the ability to see people as people, in their narrowness and vagueness.

    He approaches the problems like people themselves, with love, devotion and unremitting efforts to understand all aspects and to account for them. Perhaps it is therefore that those usually called The School of Prague have been enriched more by him than by any other one in our generation. And perhaps this makes us especially strong and tough. I believe that nobody who knows Hugo Bergmann will reproach him of lack of consequence and persistency, endurance and strength. Few people are more consequent than he, few who are harder and less indulgent in the demand to themselves and who therefore are far off every compromise. He makes no compromise with himself. This is well consistent with that he never rests in self-assurance. He always re-examines and for him applies what Robert Weltsch - on his 50.birthday - mentioned as the sign of our understanding of Zionism: cogito ergo sum. My existence is based on the incessant reasoning over my kind and myself. In this reasoning, self-testing, in being always on guard towards yourself, herein lies the justification of a consequent way which doesn't rest on dogmatic self-righteousness.

   I am afraid that I really have lost myself too far into analysis, not because I wanted to analyse Hugo Bergmann, but because I wanted to show why his leadership carried us away with him, why his leadership formed us and why we did follow him. 

   When I say this, I don't mean that we have done justice to his leadership. We have all failed. Nobody has really fulfilled the obligation we feel, in his presence nobody can beat his breast self-righteously and satisfied. He himself gives us the example in that he repeatedly, discontented with himself and us, shows how long and hard is the way that is still before us.

   So, it is for us a great pleasure to be together with him in this circle, that he still feels to belong to us, if not entirely, then still partially. He belongs to many circles of the jishuv, spiritually, socially, occupationally and human. But he belongs also to us, who are a kind of a large family whereof many have the pleasure to have known him when he was 25 and 40 years younger. A few of us are especially close to him of one reason. To mention this pleases us particularly, because we have known his mother and a few also his father. Because we have heard from these people of his family how he spent his youth in Chraštice near Príbram and in Zbenice, how he was brought closer to Jewish life by his uncle Karl and how he started for the first time in a systematic way to absorb Jewish knowledge from his chief rabbi Nathan Ehrenfeld, how he met there the Russian Zuckermann and Aharom, in short because we could walk a longer part and an earlier part of life together with him than many others, who now thank and congratulate him publicly and personally. Also we join them and hope that he will be able to do something very substantial for all of us in the difficult years that lay before us, before the jishuv and before our people. He is one of the few who have achieved esteem and respect of all, which is proven by the love he has spread among us. There will be no movement, however bold, that will become legitimate without gaining him as a follower. We will have to fight big conflicts, not only with the outside world, but also with ourselves and within ourselves. We need nothing more than men who have the courage to say the truth, indifferent to whether it is popular or not. 

   In this sense Hugo Bergmann can give us much, not only us, the little circle, but to the whole jishuv. Many trust him, many believe him, all love him and it is a delight for us to confess that also we are among them.


Quido (Aharon ben Ozer) Bergmann -

Quido was born in Pardubice (Bohemia) August 10, 1889.  He served as an  Austrian non-commissioned officer in WW I, was later a wholesale dealer, and was a  member of B'nai B'rith, Odd Fellows and Poale Zion. Quido and his family lived in Praha. 
     In October 1941, shortly before the town Terezín was converted to a ghetto, Quido was deported to Lodz, Poland, where the Germans already had established a ghetto. In September 1942 Quido was transferred to some concentration camp to be killed. 
     Besides being skilful, diligent and a successful businessman, Quido was a devoted son and a loving, careful and responsible husband and father. Even in the last hour before his deportation he cared for his children. Quido was a conscientous and religious Jew and Zionist. He passed on to his children the beautiful traditions he learned to love in his parental home. He also had much social understanding for human beings in need. 

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Hugo (Shmuel) Bergmann -

Hugo was born in Praha (Prague) December 25, 1883. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Praha, served as an Austrian officer in WW I, and later became a professor of philosophy and first rector of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 
Hugo was a Jewish spiritual leader in Praha and a Zionist leader in Bohemia before WW I. Hugo visited Turkish Palestine in 1910. Here Hugo conceived the idea of a library for the Jews and the potential university. After WW I the World Zionist movement sent him to London to head the "Culture Department." Hugo persuaded the movement to grant the necessary funds for the Hebrew National and University Library, whereupon he and his family moved to Jerusalem in 1920 to establish the institution. 
The creation of the library had quite an impact on both Moslem and Christian organizations, which led to the popularity Hugo enjoyed in Jerusalem. The University was finally established in 1927. Hugo directed the library for 15 years, until he was chosen to be rector of the University. 
Hugo died in Jerusalem June 18, 1975 and he is buried in the Sanhedrin burial ground. 
Hugo began collecting information about the Bergmann family, in 1920 from his uncle, Dr. Adolf Bergmann, then in 1930 from his mother Johanna.  After WWII he passed the material on to his younger cousin, Dasha Bergmann, who then developed the Bergmann family tree.

Article from The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 1973:

Hugo Bergman
honoured on
90th birthday

The doyen of Israeli philosophers, Prof. Hugo Shmuel Bergman, was last week honoured by friends and colleagues at the Hebrew University on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

Born in Czechoslovakia and educated in Prague and Berlin, Prof.  Bergman came to this country in 1920 and served as the first rector of the Hebrew University and the first director of the Jewish National and University Library.

Prof.  Bergman was the first Western Jew in this century to write books of a Jewish, Zionist and philosophical character in Hebrew.  He encouraged the publication in Hebrew of philosophical works in the original and in translation.  In this process he played an important part in creating a Hebrew terminology for modern philosophical concepts.

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