BOHemia - MORavia


OTHER NAMES/SPELLINGS:  Prestitz, Przestitz, Pschestitz

LOCATION: Prestice (in German, Prestitz) is a town of a couple thousand inhabitants in south-west Bohemia, just 20 km south of Plzen. It is situated about 100 km south-west of Prague.  Before 1918 the area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and from 1918 until 1993 it belonged to the Czechoslovak Republic. 

HISTORY:  In the 1862 census, for the whole Prestice district there were 751 Jews. The Jewish community received recognition by the authorities in 1890.  At this time the Jews gradually were leaving the villages and small towns, with the majority of them moving to Plzen and Prestice.  In 1900 there were 431 Jews in that area, and by 1930 their number had decreased to 300. 

       The Prestice community developed at the beginning of the 20th century, after the Jews from the neighbourhood had settled in the town. The cemetery was consecrated and, in 1910, the synagogue was built. The Prestice community was the center of Jewish life for seven smaller communities. The rabbinate and the Jewish school in Prestice served the whole area. The school, which also had gentile pupils,  was taught in the German language.  After several years, the school closed and the pupils moved to the public school. 

       In 1921, 185 Jews lived in the united community.  Josef Hartman was the head of the community and Leopold Singer served as rabbi. The economic condition of the Jews was strong, as they actively participated in the development of commerce and industry in the town. Many Jews earned their living in textile commerce. 

       In the nearby villages, the Jews were farmers,  and some traded in cattle. Only a few Jews had an academic education. 

       In 1930,  99 Jews lived in Prestice proper,  with 126 living in the surrounding region.

The Shoah period:

       As a result of the Munich agreement in September 1938, the Czechoslovak Republic was liquidated. In March, 1939 Czechia (Bohemia and Moravia) was proclamed as a Protektorate of the Third Reich. The Jews were gradually pushed out of the public and economic life. Their businesses were confiscated and their rights were denied. 

       The concentration of the Czech Jews in the ghetto of Terezin began in November, 1941.  From there they were deported to extermination camps.  Before the deportation of the Jewish community from Prestice to Terezin, 152 documents and 212 religious items of the community were transferred to the Central Jewish Museum in Prague. 

       After the war, the Jewish community was renewed neither in Prestice nor in the surrounding region.

GENEALOGICAL RESOURCES: Record books for Prestice are located at the Czech State Archives in Prague, Statni istredni archiv, tr. Milady Horokove 133, CZ-166 21 Praha 6, Czech Republic, tel/fax: +42 (2) 333-20274. 
       Leopold Weisel, collector and editor of Jewish legends, lived in Prestice (1804 - 1873). Other Jewish names associated with Prestice were Lewith, Braun, Hanak, Singer, Eisenschiml, Hartman, Eckstein, Schlesinger, Tanzer, Bloch, Weisel, Feigl, Kraus, Porges, Lederer, Glaser and Rederer. Eugen Singer, submittter of these pages, is the grandson of Leopold Singer, the last Rabbi of Prestice.
   Figures from Prestice (from the book of Hugo Gold)

A postcard from the collection of Frantisek Banyai.

SYNAGOGUE: The synagogue, built in 1910, was destroyed by the Czech authorities in 1974. The congregation in Honolulu received a Torah  which, before WWII, had belonged  to the Prestice congregation. 

The entry of the cemetery.

CEMETERIES: The Jewish cemetery, founded after 1900, still exists although it has not been designated a landmark.  There has been some restoration consisting of re-erection and cleaning of stones, clearing of  vegetation and repair of the continuous masonry wall.   There are between 20-100 gravestones on the site. 

The tombstone of Leopold Singer, last rabbi of Prestice.

CONTACTS: Town officials: Obecni urad Prestice, 334 01 Prestice.

SOURCES: Die Juden und Judengemeinden Bohmens, Hugo Gold Ed (1934), pp 515-516; Jewish sights of Bohemia and Moravia, Jiri Fiedler, Ed. Sefer, Prague 1991. 

- Text: Eugen Singer, 1520 - 43 Thorncliffe Pk. Dr., Toronto, ON., Canada M4H 1J4 
- Illustrations: Claude Wachtel, 71 rue Didot 75014 Paris, France 


     Translation by Eugen Singer of the entry on Prestice [written by Vaclav Sedlacek - director  (probably a school principal) in Prestice] in the 1934 book by Hugo Gold: "Die Juden und Judengemeinden Bohmens in Vergangheit und Gegenwart"

       The Jews were and are distributed throughout the whole district of Prestice. In the district  there lived up to 800 souls. During the enumeration of 1862 there lived in the district 751 souls, in the year 1900 only 431 and at the last enumeration of 1930 only 300 souls, out of which were only 80 adults. The prevailing occupation of the Jews in the district was in  small business, mainly in grocery, dry goods and haberdashery and, in the villages surrounding Prestice, cattle  business.  After the year 1890, there were still counted in Prestice 303 and in Nepomuk 152 souls. They were already moving from the country to the towns and cities as small businessmen, mainly to Plzen (Pilzen) and to Prestice. The highest number of Jews was always in Prestice; up to 20 families then in Merklin, in Dnesice 80 souls, and in Malinec 146 souls.  This was in the years before they began moving to the towns and cities.  Relatively, most of the Jewish families lived in Malinec - 6 families owned their own  houses [see note A, below].  Most Jewish families in Malinec, Vlci, Luzany and Borovy were farmers; the next largest group were in the cattle business.  Although there were a fair number of Jews in the district, there were no exceptional individuals, as the families very rarely sent the young men away for studies.  Before 1848, some Jewish families were already protected under the law [see note B, below].  However, it was not until after 1848 that Jews in the district were allowed to buy real estate, which is the most likely reason for low immigration of Jews into the district previous to that time.  The ratio of Jews to the rest of the population consistently averaged about 1%.  Jewish communities were established by the March 21, 1890 law in the district of Prestice, and the division and borders were established on September 1, 1893.   Established at that time were:

1) a community in Prestice with a synagogue and Rabbi,
2) a community in Nepomuk with a synagogue and Rabbi,
3) in Dolni Luzice,  a synagogue and cemetery only,
4) in Luzany, a synagogue only,
5) in Merklin, a synagogue and religious teacher (cantor ?),
6) in Malinec, a synagogue and religious teacher (cantor ?),
7) in Dnesince, a shul.
       The oldest jewish graveyard dates from the 15th century, in Dolni Lukavice.  This cemetery  was used by the whole district and the neighboring areas. Later, in 1880, a cemetery was established in Merklin in the forest, on Barak hill,  and the last cemetery in Prestice was established in the year 1890.

       All seven independent communities in the district were united into a single one with the seat in Prestice and, today [1934],  the united communities have only 80 members, out of which only 30 are supporting members [see note C, below].  The total yearly budget of the jewish community of Prestic is approximately 4000 czech crowns [see note D, below]

       In the district town of Prestice, reminders of the old Jewish settlements are the street called the "Jewish Street" and Komensky St. [lower blue arrow], where there was a Jewish shul.  Today on the Husova St. [upper blue arrow] is a nice new synagogue [see note E below].  The Lewith family owned an old spirit distillery on the "Jewish island."

       In Prestice were settled the old Jewish families of Lewith, Braun, Hanak, later Eisenshiml and Hartman, and as many as 20 families temporarily. In the 20th century, the number of families decreased and today, in 1933, there only 13 families remain, mainly small businessmen plus one physician and one veterinarian.  Butchers comprised another especially Jewish profession.  There are no records listing, nor a contemporary individual who would remember, a local Jew who was an exceptional writer, artist, scientist, economist, etc.  As I already mentioned, there was in the district the rich family of Braun, mainly the very respected Markus Braun, a real patriarch.  Eisenshiml was another rich family.  In Merklin there was the highly esteemed family of Schulhof; in Dnesice, the Vogel and Shancr families; in Mecine and in Malinec,  the Hartman, Veis, Ledr and Rederer families.
From the booklet "Jahrbuch für die Israel. Cultusgemeinden Böhmens - Prag 1893 
- courtesy of Eytan Lederer.
      In the 1880s, the Jews of Prestice had a special, religious school conducted in the German language.  Later, they attempted to change this school into a public German-Jewish school.  These attempts were supported even by some Austrian Christian citizens, however the school inspector Arn. Kirschner was opposed to the idea and completely buried (dismissed) this idea.  He even dissolved the Jewish religious school.  Since 1894, Jewish religious teaching was conducted under the state supervision in the public school building. 

       As it was mentioned before, in the 19th century a significant number of Jews lived in Prestice and the district, and many of these Jews had influence in the town of Prestice and the district.  However, the only Czech family was the family Hanak. 

       Today [1934] in Prestice, theJewish family Freud operates a large malt house,  where they produce up to 1 million metric cents of malt a year ( 1 metric cent = 100 kg = 120 lb. ).  Otto Bloch owns a small plant for the production of liqueurs and soda water (club soda); R. Kraus has a small knitting factory;  and, Karel Hanak operates a paint factory. Today, the Jewish citizens are loyal to the state, the Czech language and other inhabitants. They all speak Czech,  and they send their children to Czech schools only, where they are educated in the Jewish religion at the state expense.  More mature children are sent to higher and professional schools in Plzen and Klatovy. Some Jews are active in many Czech associations and unions, and a few are even active members of "SOKOL" [see note F below].  The Jews have practically no political, community or economic influence in the town or the district of Prestice.


Eugen Singer comments:

       A.)  Before 1848 the Jews in many European countries (Bohemia included) were allowed to own real estate (incl. family homes) only on rare occasions with the special permission of the ruler ( called "privilege").
       B.)  Some Jews (or families) were under special protection of the ruler (again, "privilege")
       C.)  Not all adult members of the community were wealthy enough to support the community.  It was usually the head of the family who paid the religious tax.
       D.)  4000 crowns seems today like a pittance.  I think it was no fortune in 1934, but it might be an error and the author may have mixed Austrian-Hungarian crowns with Czech crowns., in which case it would be a substantial sum to support synagogue, rabbi, graveyard and the whole community.
       E.) The Prestice synagogue was wrecked by the communist regime in 1974.
       F.) "SOKOL" is a famous Czech patriotic sport association with branches all over the world, where there are Czech communities.

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