(Kolín, Czech Republic 50°02' 15°12')
Compiled by Dr. Richard Feder, rabbi and professor from Kolín
Translated and edited by Vojtěch Cuřín
Donated by Vera Finberg
|The History of the Royal Town Kolín nad Labem, Volume I||279|
|The History of the Royal Town Kolín nad Labem, Volume II||288|
|Chevra Kadisha and the Cemeteries||295|
|The Professions of Kolín Jews||297|
|The Kolín Jews in the World||298|
|The Kolín Community Today||298|
|Appendix and footnotes||299|
On the subject of the town's layout: To provide additional insight into the life of the Jewish community in ‘Jerusalem upon Labe’ I have included an old map of Kolín from 1841 showing the places where the stories compiled by Dr. Feder took place. It can be found in the Appendix of this document.
On the subject of currency: Among various challenges faced when translating over half a millennium of history from texts often more than a century old, one stands out the monetary system. The names and values of different coins used through time in the Kingdom of Bohemia evolved quite rapidly throughout history, especially between the 16th and 18th century. The original text overlooks this complexity and mostly mentions ‘zl.’, an abbreviation of Czech word zlatý or zlatník (lit. gold coin, guldiner). However, since it wasn't gold but silver, which was plentiful in Bohemian mines, a silver coin named Tolar (thaler) was minted and used from the beginning of the 16th century. The word thaler is also used throughout the translation in the place of ‘zl.’
The thaler divided into 70 kreuzers (smaller silver coins), but this ratio was constantly changing, and eventually, the value of the thaler doubled (1:140) at the beginning of the 17th century. Physical thalers were renamed to wide thalers, while the word thaler was reserved for the unit of measurement i.e. 70 kreuzers. Later, in the second half of the 18th century, the AustroHungarian gulden became the main reference currency in the country. It had half the value of a thaler and was divided into 60 (or a threescore) kreuzers.
The ratio between thalers and older Prague groschen (minted until 1547) was 1:24 at the turn of the 15th century, but eventually the value of groschen dropped to a third of its original value at the beginning of the 16th century.
Compiled by Dr. Richard Feder, rabbi and professor from Kolín
Professor Josef Vávra issued Dějiny královského města Kolína nad Labem (The History of the Royal Town Kolín nad Labem) in 1886 in two volumes. In these books, he focused, among other subjects, on the lives of the Kolín Jews. Professor Vávra was unbiased and based his book on many sources. Following excerpts from his conscientious essays include everything he wrote about the Kolín Jews:
Many Jews lived in Kolín in the 14th century. They occupied most of the Židovská (Jewish) Street. There, they had their own butcher and surely also a shtiebel. In the period 13761401, the following Jews are mentioned in the town records: brothers Nachman and Herac, brothers Izák and David, brothers Pakuš and Dušme who shared a house in 1378, Ruben, Eliáš, Lazar Šeybl, Mojžíšek (Muschlín), son of Lazar, Šalomoun (Šlome), Lew Tendl, Jerš, Babka, wife of Izák, sisters Duchyně and Esthera, butchers Jakub and Málek. The Jews made their living as business owners and usurers. Nachman alone gave out small loans totaling 90 threescore Prague groschen in 1396. Among his debtors were Štěpán Eylauer (8 ½ threescore), tailor Staněk (5 threescore), coachman Malý (4 threescore), brewer Vavřinec (2 threescore), baker Hájek from Mnichovice (1 threescore and 30 groschen), smith Kuneš (10 threescore and 5 groschen), widow Heřmanová from Hora (4 threescore), tanner Jakub (41 groschen), Haman Buzický (7 threescore), brewer Enderlin from Týnec (3 threescore), butcher Jakub (50 groschen), Václav from Jelenec's house (80 groschen), Václav Třídvorský (5 threescore), Franc of Mnichovice (2 threescore), coachmen Malý and Finder (2 threescore), school director Jan (8 threescore), Ulman from Zálabí (5 threescore), potter Václav (6 threescore), butcher Prokop (2 threescore), coachman Schwarznikl (2 threescore) and Nikúš Buzický (4 threescore).
The Jewish Street
This street was not exclusively Jewish. The houses between the corner of Kouřimská Street and the corner of the little street leading up to the square were owned by the gentiles. However, the original layout of the street cannot be compared to today's layout, as the Jews who bought the gentile houses between 15881623 divided them into smaller parcels. E.g. they built eight smaller houses in place of three large ones. The following burghers from the Jewish Street are known: Next to the house of clothier Jakeš lived butcher Martin who sold his house in 1516 for 22 threescore to hazzan Vavřinec. In 1511, his neighbor was butcher Křivohlávek and the next house was as of 1494 owned by councillor Jan Škorně, whose widow sold the house in 1511 to butcher Říha. On the other side of the street next to the metal sink was as of 1520 shoemaker Samík's house and on the corner of the street, butcher Tomášek's.
The name Pinkas is often mentioned among the settled Jews. Pinkas had a large house at the corner of the Jewish Street and the main square. He was a goldsmith and a usurer. In 1495 he was the chairman of the Jewish community and he promised on the behalf of the Jewish community that he wouldn't lend money against stolen goods and that stolen clothes pawned at Jewish businesses would be returned to their owners free of charge and without usury. Large loans that he gave out, e.g. a loan to a burgher from Ĉáslav who borrowed 272 Hungarian guilders, testified to his wealth. In 1507 his business was managed by his sons Jakub, Jéce, and Šaja Pinkas. Pinkas's son in law Libtmann and his wife Bejle are also mentioned, as well as Libtmann's sons Lazar, David and Jakub, and Izák in 1520. The rich Jews, Muňka and bladesmith Markvart and his wife Golda are also often mentioned, as well as Yosef Jew, who lived next to the prison in 1495. His neighbor was Izák. Majer Hořovský, a Jew from the house beside Kolářovský by the New gate, sold his house in 1522 to Jakub, the great Jew, for 70 threescore and moved to Prague. The bladesmith Jakub lived at the corner across the street from the town prison. In 1495, Mirtl, Kvíšek, Matras, and Marek borrowed together 33 threescore of Meißner groschen at 10 groschen of weekly interest (26 out of a hundred, 26% yearly). Šalamoun (Zalman) from Evančice, who sold half of his house to Jecl the Jew in 1495, is also mentioned as well as Šilhavý Jew, who also sold half of his house to Jecl the Jew in 1495. Finally, Šilhavý Jew, Jelen, and Král nearthewell Jew.
Besides the names listed above, the following Jews are mentioned in the period 15111528: Michal from Rakovník, Šimon, Zalman with his wife Libuše, Holler Majer and his wife Pufl, who in 1519 got married for the second time to Izák the hazzan. Beneš Holý, butcher Majer, Sadoch and his wife Plumele and daughter Lia, tutor Daniel, orphan Fegal, glaziers Eliáš and Fajše, Feitl and his wife Líba, Josef and his son Lev from Frankfurt, Lazar with his sons Samuel and Šeftl with his wife Gitl, widow Růže, Maje and his wife Rhíle, Zalman Ochs with his wife Rifke, Jonáš and his son Samuel, Šimon Malostranský, Majer Ryšavý, Eliáš from Náchod and his son Mojžíš.
In 1512, the Jewish school is mentioned for the first time, although it undoubtedly existed long before this date. Caretaker Schulklopper lived at the school. The following Kolín rabbis are mentioned in the period 15001513: Master (rabbi) Majer and after him Master Samuel. They both lived in their own houses. During this period, the Jews also had their own singers and ceremonial masters (hazzans). As of 1513, Judl and Izák held these positions.
The reign of Ferdinand I influenced the internal affairs of Kolín in many ways. After the large fire of 1541 which destroyed the Lesser Town of Prague, the Prague Castle and also old Bohemian law manuscripts, all the Jews in the kingdom were ordered to move out of the country, being suspected that in collaboration with the Turks, the enemies of Christianity, they had not only started the fire in Prague but in other towns in the country as well. On their way to Poland, they were robbed near Broumov by unknown highwaymen and suffered a loss of 20.000 threescore of Prague groschen. Among the expelled were also Kolín Jews. Namely: rabbi Mojžíš Malostranský, Béle Jelenová with her sons Jakub and Šťastný, Jakub Máje with his sons Izrael and Abraham, Šťastný Šilhavý, Šeftl
with his sons Samuel, Eliáš, David, and Lazar, Izáček, Beneš Pinkas Holý, Jéce Pinkas and his sons Josef, Šáje and Levi, Jakub Pelhřimovský, Marek with his mother Pufl, Šalamoun Žatecký and Lazar Žatecký, Izák Roudnický, Josef Nosek, Manasse (aka Maňásek), Sadoch, Josef Kadeřavý, Mojžíš Šilhavý, Viktorin, Jakub Omšl Benátský, Eliáš Fríz, Šmerl, Mojžíš Muňka, and Eliáš Houser. They all moved to Poland and lived partly in Lviv and partly in Krakow's Kazimierz. Their houses in Kolín stayed empty and the Jewish Street was quiet as after the Black Death for eight years. In 1549, they returned and claimed their houses again as they succeeded in convincing King Ferdinand that they were innocent. In 1551 they were officially allowed to live in Bohemia again and to carry on with their businesses.
However, this was not the end of the struggle of the Kolín Jews. In 1557, for unknown reasons, they received a safe conduct from King Ferdinand, permitting them to stay in the kingdom for one more year to collect their debts, after which they were to move out of the country. The king himself wrote to the Kolín city council from Vienna on the 23rd of July 1558, that they shall oversee the expulsion of the Jews, and on the 5th of December, he gave the gentiles permission to buy vacant Jewish houses. It stands to reason that the Jews were not in a hurry to leave the town, but on the other hand, the city council was pressing them to leave. On the 23rd of April 1559, Archduke Ferdinand, who ruled the Bohemian Kingdom in the absence of his father Emperor Ferdinand, exhorted the Kolín councilors not to press the Kolín Jews and not to interfere with their businesses as they were under imperial safe conduct. In 1559, some of the Jews sold their houses to the gentiles under the condition, that they would be able to buy them back for the same price in the case that their permission to stay in the country was prolonged. It wasn't until the spring of 1561 when all the Jews moved out of Kolín. Some of them sold their houses to the gentiles; some of them left them abandoned. On the 20rd of November 1561, the Emperor ordered the town councilors to sell the abandoned Jewish houses at a fair price and keep the money at the city hall until the Jews claimed it. Some Jews sold their houses to their business partners. The Jew Victorin sold his house for 106 threescore to Pavel Haymann from Kutná Hora. Jakub Omšl Benátský sold his house to the commercial company Šabinger from Munich. The impoverished nobleman Ondřej Jaroslav Zub from Landstein (Landštejn) was also among the buyers. He sold his farmstead in Zápy near Brandýs and bought two Jewish houses near the corner of Prague (Pražská) Street for 100 threescore. When he died in 1564, the houses were inherited by his widow Eliška from Holohlavy.
Emperor Ferdinand I died in 1564 and his heir, the good and tolerant Emperor Maxmilian II, granted the Kolín Jews a permit to return from the exile. However, their homecoming met with difficulties. Those, whose houses had not yet been sold had no issues settling back in, but those who did sell them didn't have it easy. The gentiles who bought the Jewish houses did not want to sell them back without a profit and found support from the city council. This led to several complaints addressed to the Bohemian Landtag which revealed that more Jews returned to Kolín than were previously expelled. The counselors complained mainly in the autumn of 1564, that many unknown and neverseenbefore Jews were moving into the town and taking over businesses at the expense of their poor neighbors which was causing the common folk to grumble. The Landtag, however, took the side of the Jews and in 1572, it ordered the municipality to help the Jews buy their houses back at the same price as they had had to give them up for. This growth of the Jewish population in the town led to the division of Jewish houses to multiple (three to six) smaller lots. It is interesting to note that the richest Jewish families such as Pinkas, Jelen, Muňk and rabbi Mojžíš Malostranský never returned to Kolín.
The councilors allowed the gentile houses in the Jewish Street to be sold to the Jews as long as they committed to the duties of burghers. In the period 1588 1608, five gentile houses that had no gentile buyers were eventually sold to the Jews.
The Jews who returned to the town after 1564 were under imperial protection. By 1588, 27 Jews (with their families) were settled in Kolín in their own houses. By 1608, with the permission of the city council, the Jews bought five additional houses in the Jewish Street for which there were no gentile buyers and so the number of settled Jews rose to 32; many other Jewish families rented rooms in those houses. Considering that by 1618, 382 Jews were living in the kingdom, the Kolín community was the second largest Jewish community after Prague. The Jewish community did not pay any taxes to the town except for those who bought the gentile houses mentioned above. They were also not required to billet soldiers as they paid heavy taxes to the royal treasury. The yearly Jewish tax in Bohemia in 1618 amounted to 18000 thalers or 47 thalers for each settled Jew.
The Jews had their own religious community. Every year, they elected three elders, who settled disputes among the Jews themselves. At their school, they had a rabbi (in the period 15411549 rabbi Mojžíš Malostranský, in 1588 rabbi Kalman ben Victorin, in 1591 rabbi Izák, between 16031608 rabbi Michael, in 1620 rabbi Pinkas), a hazzan, and a caretaker. They had their own butchers for the ritual cattle slaughtering. According to the agreement with the city council, the number of butchers was not to exceed four. The Jews had to follow the town's legislature enforced by the police and the court. Newly elected elders had to be approved by the city council and were often rebuked e.g. in 1603. They also received many admonitions so that they were just to all, forbid their people from hanging about the town on Sundays and holidays, made sure that the Jewish butchers would neither sell their meat to gentiles, walk around in aprons, nor breed dogs without a reason. In 1611, a separate Jewish prison was built at their own expense as the elders complained that when a Jew was put into the municipal roundhouse, he indulged in gluttony, learned strange behavior, and in general worsened rather than rehabilitated.
The Kolín Jews had many customs similar to the Polish Jews; this is obvious from the GermanJewish names they gave to their daughters e.g. Hyndl (little chicken), Vögele (little bird), Pufl (marionette), Golde (golden), Gytl (good), Plumel (flower) as well as their family names such as Šefl, Šmerl, Kakrle, Süsskind, Mandl, Šloml, Kašmaul, etc. as it was normal among the Polish Jews. They spoke German among themselves and the documents that are preserved in the town archive are written in German in the Chaldean script.
The Jews were very limited in their choice of profession. They were not allowed to own land (except for their houses) nor cattle other than draft horses. (They kept goats who grazed between the town walls around their houses, but those would often wander upon the town walls to graze on abundant sweet clover. Because of this, Kolín was laughed at by local nobles, who joked that the town was guarded by goats. Hence, goat grazing at the town fortifications was forbidden in 1603.) The councilors also forbid the Jews to take up crafts and businesses carried out by the gentile burghers. It was therefore up to the Jews to find other ways to make a living besides usury. The richer Jews had extensive business connections abroad and traded with foreign cloth,
weapons, salted fish, southern fruits, sweet wines; others sold glass, metal and leather goods, musical instruments, and various junk. There are many records of large sums of money that the Kolín Jews owed to foreign companies. Sebald Airar and Baltazar König came from Nürnberg in 1572 to collect a debt of 1000 thalers from Šťastný the Jew's inheritance. In 1583, Mojžíš Benátský owed 400 thalers to Martin Seling from Lukov (Dolní Lužice/Niederlausitz), Josef the Jew owed 422 thalers to Krištof Weiss of Solnohrad (Salzburg) and that same year 204 thalers were paid to Jan Braun from Solnohrad and 253 thalers to Donat Götz from Kleve in Rheinland from Victorin Jew's inheritance. In 1611, Israel Moravec paid 389 thalers to Bartoloměj Podesta of Modena. In 1614, Šimon Isakov owed 727 thalers to Bavarian clothiers from Landshut and his debt increased to 1009 thalers one year later. The Kolín Jews also had connections with Jihlava (Iglau), Vienna, Linz, and Steyer, which speaks to their wholesale expertise. They sold the goods either from their houses or they went to annual markets as almost every Jewish house had a stable with a team of horses.
At the end of the 16th century, the town started feeling sour towards the Jews, because they began to illegally sell meat. According to an agreement from 1572, the Jews had the right to keep four butchers to slaughter cattle for their own consumption. If a Jewish butcher sold meat outside of the city limits, his meat was confiscated and he was fined one threescore of Prague groschen. The first violation of the mentioned agreement was made by the Kolín castle administration which ordered beef legs and offal for the castle servants and Dutch hunting dogs. The administration of the imperial castle at Poděbrady did the same soon after. The Jews exploited it and bought cattle on credit from the local nobility (i.a. Hrabáň family from Pečky, Siegund of Freudenbach at Konárovice, Václav Vchynský of Vchynice and others. The contracts of sale always included a reminder that the Jews had to pay off the debt by a specific date and without any Jewish ruses), slaughtered it and under the pretext of trips to Poděbrady, they distributed beef and mutton shanks to surrounding villages and at night, even to inns in Kolín. Hereby the Kolín butchers lost most of their business and many of them had to close down and sell their shops. Therefore, in the period 15951615, the town councilors filed many complaints to the imperial authority, complaining even to Emperor Mathias, and on the 23rd of October 1615, they sent him a letter asking him to renew the old butchers' guild privileges and to extend the protection against the cunning Jews. The councilors also oversaw that the gentiles avoided contact with the Jews, except at their businesses. Councillors prohibited the gentiles from working for the Jews, staying overnight under Jewish roofs, and forbade gentile washerwomen from handling Jewish clothes. During the plague, the Jews were blamed for bringing and spreading the disease because of their numerous business trips. In such times, they weren't allowed to leave the Jewish Street nor get water from public fountains. During the plague of 16131614, the councilors had the two entrances into the Jewish Street walled off.
During the reign of Friedrich of the Palatinate, Kolín was subject to heavy taxes. As the communal taxation sources were exhausted, the councilors introduced neighbors' registers on the 4th of September. According to these, each farmer was to pay 5 groschen, a tenant farmer or innkeeper two groschen, and each farmhand half a groschen weekly. One of nine neighbors was always responsible for collecting the tax. The Jews were to pay two groschen per house weekly.
The tax was not popular among the poorer burghers and tenant farmers, especially when it began to show that such sacrifices for King Friedrich were futile and that suffering had been cast upon the whole country as the imperial army entered the Bohemian lands on the 24th of September and advanced with great force. The Kolín Jews asked for a tax reduction as early as the 15th of September, reasoning that they had 15 orphan houses in their street. The applications for tax reductions were far more frequently filed by poor burghers and tenant farmers.
In December of 1620, the army occupied the town for 17 days. Because of the army's presence, it became harder for the municipal council to keep order and discipline in the town. For instance, the soldiers plundered surrounding villages and manors, stealing cattle, clothes, and jewelry and then sold the takings to burghers, farmhands, and mainly Jews back in Kolín. Once the army left, the farmers rushed back to Kolín to look for their stolen possessions. They were about to attack the Jewish Street, but the councilors took the matter into their own hands and ousted the farmers from the town. Then, they confiscated all the horses and cattle that the farmhands had bought from the soldiers and began to return them to their original owners. Immediately after these events, on the 17th of December, the Jews sent a letter to Prague, addressed to Count Lichtenstein. They wrote as follows: Your Grace, we cannot hide from you how we poor Jews innocently suffer. The 4000 soldiers who, until now, have stayed here in Kolín have plundered the surrounding villages. Then, they brought the loot back to town and offered it for sale to the gentiles and what they could not sell to them, they forced us to buy, whether we liked it or not. That is also why the farmers later wanted to plunder our houses in spite that we are innocent in addition to having suffered large losses because of the soldiers. Many of us have lost everything we had. We do not doubt that the burgermeister and the councilors have the good will to protect us, nevertheless, we ask Your Grace to order them directly to do so.
The burghers were trying to relieve the burdens brought upon them by the war by selling their houses. 10 sales were noted in the town records in 1621. However, as there were not enough gentile buyers, some tried selling their houses to the Jews. On the 8th of September, the elder of the Jewish community David entered a city council meeting. He announced that innkeeper Karel Oves and saddler Jiřík Duka had offered their houses to the Jews and he asked the council to permit them to go through with the sale. The council, however, did not give him the permission, called in Oves and Duka and reproached them both for not respecting their gentile neighbors even though they were both born in Kolín and had families there and for failing to realize that the war wouldn't last forever so they were not supposed to sell their houses to the Jews for little money. Despite this, Duka secretly sold his house to Lev Izák the Jew for 180 threescore thalers, and then joined the army. The councilors, however, declared this purchase invalid and when Lev Izák complained to Count Lichtenstein, they defended themselves, writing that the Jew was not suffering with the rest of the townsfolk, did not accommodate soldiers which was greatly needed during this sad time of war and that there were too many Jews in the town, which was hurting other citizens' businesses. As the poverty worsened the following year, the councilors couldn't defend their stance anymore and thus 7 gentile houses were officially sold to Jews. Four houses were sold in the street by the Kouřim Gate: the house of Mikuláš Stehlík cooper, of Martin Frank shoemaker, of Jan Krumpolec and a deserted soap maker's house (no. 10). Three houses were sold by the Prague Gate: of Jiří Duka, of Peter
Rzounek shoemaker and of Ondřej Kyšpera. They have been sold for 6001200 Meißner groschen threescore in cash, which devaluated to the rate of 5 threescore to one imperial thaler.
As the Jewish community in the town grew, it also started taking over many gentile crafts and trades. On the 3rd of September 1621, the town councilors handled the case of Jew Šalomoun Šlómele, who opened an inn in his house on the corner of the Jewish Street and the square. There he served beer and wine and welcomed not only foreign Jews but also gentile coachmen. The council also discussed the increase of Jewish involvement in the grain trade. On the 3rd of November, they drafted a complaint about Jew Šáje, who started a tailoring business and grabbed part of the market share from the gentile tailors of whom there were 30 in the town. The gentile tailors thus didn't have enough work, lived in poverty, and couldn't even afford to pay taxes. The councilors asked Count Lichtenstein to ignore the Jewish complaints because they were always full of Jewish trickery.
However, the count did not pay much attention to the councilors' claims against the Jews: the Kolín citizens had not yet been pardoned for their resistance and their town privileges were not confirmed, while the Bohemian Jews were very much favored by Emperor Ferdinand I, as they lent him large sums of money to wage the war. It is wellknown that the Prague Jew Jakub BasŠevi was appointed court Jew, ennobled and given the title von Treuenberg.
Mr. Gryzl, the regent of the manor and the town governor, was causing harm to burghers' businesses by various means. At the time when the town privileges had not yet been confirmed by Emperor Ferdinand I, he allowed castle beer to be served in and around the town and allowed cotters and other peasants to carry out various businesses. He let the Jews take over the salt trade which had been a town monopoly until then. He particularly sympathized with the Jews and always bought the castle's meat supply from them100 pounds weekly at 4 groschen per pound. The municipal government lost much of its authority during his reign, which is obvious from the argument between Adam Zubec the Jew and the town mayor, Pavel Vrchlabský, over some suspicious hemp business deal in the autumn of 1624. Adam Zubec yelled: You are lying like a beast! I am not a cheater! You have no right to question me and I wouldn't care about what you're saying even if six lords did! You are not my master and I am not your serf! I can easily complain about you at the royal chancery! When the municipal servant Jiřík Šebastian warned Adam Zubec to honor the court, he shouted in response What! Justice or not!. He was imprisoned for dishonoring the court, but later when the mayor came into the roundhouse (town lockup) to check on him, Zubec shoved him to the ground and went home.
Shortly after, Kolín witnessed the execution of a knight. It was Jan Lipanský of Lipany from an old Czech noble family. His father was a lieutenant colonel during Archduke Maxmilián's campaign to Poland in 1588, where he fell into Polish captivity and then stayed there. Jan Lipanský signed up to join a Spanish regimen which was somewhere in Bohemia at the time (1625) but was in no hurry to actually join it and wandered around Bohemia and Moravia. On the 15th of April, he met some of the Kolín Jews on the road from Ronov to Kolín and demanded to see their papers. Then, he asked for their money and threatened them with a weapon at the ready. The Jews were not afraid of him. They knocked his epee out of his hand and took him by the throat. Then the bandit suddenly whipped out a short rifle and shot one of them, Šimon Semech, son of Izák, father of nine children, and shed innocent blood. The Jews held him tight, tied his hands, and brought him to court in Kolín. When the councilors found out that the murderer was a knight they sent an inquiry to the royal chancery in Prague and on the 5th of May, they received the answer instructing them to cut his head off with a sword. On the same day, three Croatian riders came to the town council. They were from the regiment of Don Martin Huerta, who was staying at Hora and Ĉáslav at the time. The riders asked in the name of the regiment for Lipanský to be spared and released from the roundhouse. The councilors told them that they had to ask at the royal chancery. The Croatians threatened them by saying that they would come back to Kolín with the regiment and liberate Lipanský by force. For this reason, the councilors proceeded with extreme caution and when the Kouřim executioner arrived in Kolín on the 8th of May and the murderer was brought to the scaffold on the outskirts, the councilors ordered all innkeepers to arm themselves and stand guard at the execution. Mayor Herzán, as well as councilors Martin Frank, Václav Bystrský, Šimon Večán, Jan Krška, and Pavel Horyna, also came fully armed and the execution was carried out without any difficulties.
Shortly after, the smith Václav Strnad got drunk and was running around the town and through the Jewish Street, waving an axe and screaming at the Jews: With this axe, all Catholics shall be beheaded once come the peasants who are holding the Emperor captive. He surely meant the peasants from Upper Austria as false news about their victory had earlier arrived. Three Jews who heard his screaming, namely Ĉížek Hromováček, Jakub Ančrlík, and Jakub Nosek went to the castle and denounced Strnad to the regent. Strnad was sentenced to 14 days in the stock in the roundhouse.
The Kolín citizens were angry with regent Gryzl, because he allowed the Jews to take over trades and businesses that were traditionally reserved for gentile citizens and because he always took the side of the Jews when the councilors wanted to do something about it. In April of 1626, the smiths sued Josef Jew for iron trading and thus hurting their business. The council ordered Jew's cellar, which served as his iron storage, to be sealed. However, as soon as the next day, master Gryzl ordered them to remove the seal and told Josef to deal with the iron as he pleased.
A part of the communal income came from salt trade, which yearly brought in 180 threescore. When master Gryzl handed this business over to the Jews in 1622, the town tolerated it, but only until 1626, when burghers borrowed some money from mayor Jaklina, bought nine bečkas of salt, resumed the salt trade and prohibited it to the Jews. Then on the 24th of July, master Gryzl sent his scribe to the town hall with a message that they shall not hinder the Jews' trade with salt, grains, iron, and other goods as he, the regent, had an order from the royal chancery to not obstruct their business. The councilors immediately sent two of their men to Prague to find out the specifics of these Jewish privileges. The council's envoys met with Pavel Michna of Vacínovec, the righthand man of Count Lichtenstein who listened to their complaints and couldn't believe that the Kolín Jews dared to do what they were not even allowed in Prague. He ordered (orally) the Jewish salt, iron, grains, and wine to be confiscated and said: Your interests, not the Jewish, will be protected by the royal chancery and the imperial office! With this encouragement, the councilors acted more vigorously. Jews from Bydžov were carrying five zentners of spices from Prague on the 31st of July, but they hesitated to pay the municipal import tax at the gate. It turned out that they cheated in Prague as well, where they only paid taxes from 3 zenters of spices, and so their goods were confiscated at the council's command. When regent Gryzl heard about it, he summoned the town mayor, Jan Herzáň to the castle and told him: I order you to return the spices to the Bydžov Jews under my own responsibility!
Another incident happened on the 8th of August. The Jew Izák Hauser was herding newly purchased oxen to the town and caused substantial damage to an oat field. Because of this, he was arrested and imprisoned by the mayor. When regent Gryzl heard about it, he summoned the mayor again and snapped at him: You shall release Hauser immediately and I forbid you to command the Jews. They are in my jurisdiction! Immediately return the fines they paid for trading with salt because they have the right to trade salt and grain! The Jews have their privileges, you can go look for yours in a deep well. The Kolín councilors were not going to tolerate this and sent messengers Jan Kršek and Šimon Večán to the underchamberlain Přibík Jeníšek from Újezd who had been residing at his castle Březnice. They did not achieve anything as he referred them to Count Lichtenstein, to whom regent Gryzl owed his allegiance. Hence the councilors ordered the town scribe Jiřík Šebastián to write a supplication to the underchamberlain as well as to count Lichtenstein. This angered regent Gryzl, who said on the scribe's account: The beast Jiřík really gets my goat! I have to take revenge on him for his supplication against me.
Kolín was burdened with its debts to the Jews that had accumulated since 1620. The municipality owed 400 thalers to the local Jewish community, 2333 thalers to Šimon Ruben, 600 thalers to Šlómeles (Yiddish for little Shlomo), 527 thalers to Machl Pacovský, 700 thalers to Josef Tlustý and 2333 thalers to Enoch Pražský. The town had to pay 2 white pennies of interest from each threescore groschen weekly, i.e. 25 % interest. Hence it was in a hurry to collect the money and to repay the debts. After 1631, only the debts to Šimon ben Ruben and Enoch Pražský remained unpaid. Thus, the councilors freed their hands to remind the Jews about their duties to the town community. When the Jews bought 11 gentile houses at the intersection of Jewish, Kouřimská, and Prague Streets in 15881623 they were been ordered to wall up the windows facing the street and to make new windows to the yards of the houses. Further, they had to pay a weekly tax (sabbatele). However, the Jews did not pay sabbatele and as long as Mr. Gryzl was the regent the council couldn't force them to do so. In 1628, when Kolín obtained all of its city privileges, there were new negotiations between the councilors and the Jews concerning the bricking in of the windows. These resulted in an agreement from the 15th of July 1629 between the Jewish community and the city council, which stated that the Jews didn't have to wall up the windows, except for the Jew Josef Poláček, because litter was frequently being poured from his windows down onto the street right next to the Prague Gate. He was allowed to use the windows only to let the light in and had to provide them with a wire mesh. The Jews have committed to keep their street clean and to pay 40 groschen a year to the municipal treasury for each house they bought from the gentiles.
However, not long after that, a new dispute arose between the Jews and the city council. When the Emperor issued a new tax on the 31st of August 1629, the councilors expected not only the burghers and other residents but also the Jews to contribute two thalers weekly. The Jews were against this new tax and complained to the royal chancery on the 30th of October 1629. They accused the councilors of laying large tax burdens on them and hindering their ability to carry out their businesses on Sundays and holidays which made it difficult for them to earn enough for bread for their wives and children while at the same time having to tolerate being put into prison and having their schools closed. Concurrently, the councilors complained to the royal chancery that the number of Jews had grown from 32 to 40, that they were involved in all Christian trades, had more butchers than was permitted, traded with iron and grains, baked bread for sale, sold wine, did not follow the mayor's orders, did not pay taxes, did not contribute to the feeding and billeting of the troops and that they did not follow the city laws and instead had their own rules enforced by elders of whom nobody knew how they got elected. While these complaints were being considered by the royal chancery, the number of disputes in Kolín grew. The citizens complained that the Jews were scooping water from the public fountain with dirty jugs and thus were increasing the risk of a plague outbreak. The mayor confiscated all Jewish jugs and barrels and a separate fountain was built in the Jewish Street. The Jewish community was to pay a water tax of 38 thalers and 33 kreuzers per year, as the gentiles were paying 3 thalers and 10 kreuzers yearly for each house. The Jews, however, dug a new well in front of their school in the Jewish Street and took their water from there. Another disagreement sprouted when the Jews opened more shops in the archways on the main square and sold their goods there outside of market days and on Sundays and holidays. When the councilors put a tax on each shop of 5 thalers a year same as for the gentile shops the Jews refused to pay it. To avoid paying fees for the usage of the municipal weighing scale, they built themselves their own steelyard. They also refused to pay municipal import tax at the city gates, claiming that those were only valid for outoftown folks, while they were from Kolín. Because the Jews had lots of wagons and brought over 100 cattle per year into the town for slaughter, their evasion of the import tax caused great losses for the municipal treasury.
Recognizing the problematic situation in Kolín, the royal chancery appointed Jan Václav Gryzl of Gryzlov to hold a meeting with representatives of the Jewish community and the city council to settle the disputes between both sides. It was scheduled for the 31st of January 1637 and took place at the Konárovice stronghold. The following was decided:
Priest Hoffman cared greatly for the dean's church of St. Bartholomew. The beautiful building was dilapidating due to a lack of repairs and so he asked the city council to at least fund a wooden shingle roof to stop the rainwater from damaging the arches. He repaired broken windows at his own expense. He cared for the dignity of the church so much that when in May of 1633 a Jewish youngster Mach Pacovský fired a rifle at the church from his father's house, the dean Hoffman imprisoned him and kept him in the roundhouse.
During wartime, the situation in the Bohemian lands eased in the period 16281631, because the battles moved to northern Germany, where the armies of Count Tilly and the fürst of Friedland (Albrecht von Wallenstein) were chasing the rebelling protestants. However, the Bohemian lands were plagued by brigand gangs. The Kolín citizens sent a message to Prague already at the beginning of 1630, writing that their town and its surroundings
were not safe because of robber gangs which wandered around, took money from farmers, and robbed travelers and that therefore neither gentiles nor Jews could practice their trades.
On the 21st of February, Colonel Jan from Hasenburg sent a message to the city council asking for 120 portions of meals per day for his troops, and on top of that, 150 thalers weekly for himself and his staff. The council denied this request and sent a complaint to the count from Vrtba asking for help. But despite the good will of the count, they didn't achieve anything because the lord from Hasenburg, despite being reprimanded from Prague, had asked on the 28th of February 1633, for 120 thalers, 2 barrels of beer, 12 chickens, and 2 lambs weekly and already one week later he asked for 60 thalers extra. Because of these expenses, the city treasury had soon become empty and the council imposed the following taxes: 8 thalers from each bečka of wine sold at an inn, 8 thalers from each batch of bitter lager, 1 thaler from each bečka of beer sold at an inn, 10 kreuzers from each pint of liquor, 3 kreuzers from each pair of boots and 2 kreuzers from each pair of shoes, 20 kreuzers from a zenter of soap or candles, 20 kreuzers from each slaughtered ox, 10 kreuzers from each cow and 5 kreuzers from small cattle (goats, sheep, etc.). Similar taxes were imposed on the sale of bread, flour, millet, semolina, grains, fish, wood, and milling. These taxes caused great frustration and grumbling among the residents. The Jews did not want to suffer with the rest of the town and refused to pay the taxes from wine and slaughtered cattle and complained at the royal chancery in Prague, that the taxes were against the Konárovice agreement. The councilors argued that the Konárovice agreement was still valid and since the gentiles were paying for stationing the army in Kolín, the Jews should contribute as well.
At the beginning of August 1633, plague broke out in the Jewish Street. When the councilors learned about it, they tried to hide it and after they heard that Kutná Hora council forbid their craftsmen to visit the St. Bartholomew annual market in Kolín, they wrote them a message, stating that the air in Kolín was clean and that two old people and four children had died in the Jewish Street before the 12th of August because of the disease, but that nothing had happened since then. That was not true, for already on the 19th of August, the council agreed that since the plague was spreading among the Jews, they shouldn't be allowed into the rest of the town. The gentile residents were forbidden from making any sort of contact with the Jews and the village mayor, shoemaker Martin Frank, enforced the council's recommendation to set up a regiment that would go around the inns and escort the Jews back to the Jewish Street. It seemed that the small, overpopulated, and dirty houses in Jewish Street were worsening the epidemic and so the Jews, facing a dire situation, asked the councilors to let them use some of the abandoned houses in the city's outskirts, where they would stay during the plague. The councilors, however, denied their request. By the end of August, the plague was raging in the town as well as in the outskirts. On the 2nd of September, dean and priest Jindřich Hoffman an experienced man sent a list of recommendations on how people should protect themselves to the city council. On the same day, everybody was summoned to the square in front of the city hall and mayor Jaklin informed them that there was no medicine against the plague and that it would be stupid not to protect oneself against the infection. The advice written by the dean was read loudly to the gathered people by the town master scribe Viktorin Morávek Pekelský:
At the end of the miserable year of 1634, the citizens were struck with yet another hardship. At the beginning of December, two imperial regiments of lords Kosecký and Zahrádecký were resting in the town. Careless soldiers started a fire, which burned down some houses in the Prague Street, Zámecká Street, Na Příkopech Street and part of the Jewish Street with the roundhouse. The fire was so powerful that parts of the town fortification walls also fell to the ground. Then, the fire spread to the Prague outskirts, where the new hospital burned down. Altogether, 40 gentile houses burned down and only 21 houses were left intact.
In July 1640 word came from Prague ordering all Bohemian cities, including Kolín, to confiscate all brass and copper from the merchants and send it to the Prague castle in order to restock and upgrade the imperial artillery. The Kolín councilors followed the order and on the 8th of July, obediently confiscated the metals in the Jewish Street 150 pounds of copper and 100 pounds of brass, together worth 27 thalers and 50 kreuzers and sent the goods to Prague.
In 1644, the Swedes invaded Bohemia, won the battle at Jankov, and marched to Moravia. Their leader Jošt Sigmund Trausch of Guttentag sent a word from Německý Brod (Havlíčkův Brod) to the Ĉáslav and Kouřim regions extorting payment of 100.000 thalers. The citizens of Kolín went to bargain and Jošt sent a word to the councilors to bring 300 thalers in cash on the 24th of March and that the Kolín Jews should send 300 ducats to Lipnice on the same day.
The garrison was soon joined by the regiment of Don Felix
under the command of colonel Don Julio Manini. Throughout all of the spring, the soldiers improved the town fortifications with the (necessary) help of farm tenants, farmhands, and even the Jews.
1645 A.D.; At that time, Archbishop Cardinal Harrach forbade the Bohemian Jews to sell meat to the gentiles. The Kolín Jews, therefore, lost a large part of their income and turned to selling the meat illicitly. However, because they were afraid of the dean Pater Galli, they sent the school caretaker Schulklepper to bribe him with money or new clothes to keep him silent about the illegal trade. However, the dean got angry, threw the tempter out, and accused him of bribery in a letter to the archbishop on the 18th of June 1646. Soon after that, Schulklepper was arrested, shackled, and sent to Prague to be punished there. The Kolín city council interceded on his behalf but received a sharp warning from the Bohemian Landtag on the 4th of July, that they were tolerating illegal activities in the city and enforcing the law only after coercion. You shall fight all the evil, follow the Catholic catechism, and lead your souls to salvation. You shall respect your dean, go to church and the holy confession more often, and keep the Jews in such order, that they do not bother the dean. We do not know how Schulkloppfer was punished, but a few years later, he became the chairman of the Kolín Jewish community and his appointment was approved by the Landtag.
After the Thirty Years' War: Based on market and contract records. we have determined that in the year 1649, 38% of the houses (which equaled to 38 houses) inside the city walls had either burned down, collapsed or had been abandoned. 6 houses on the main square, 10 houses in the two streets leading to the castle, 3 houses in Prague Street, 3 houses in Kouřimská Street, 1 house in Kostelní Street, 1 house in U Masných Krámů Street, 4 houses in Nad Horskou Branou Street leading to the church, 1 house in Horská Street and 9 houses in both Labe Streets. The remaining 62 residential and communityowned houses were all in a very poor condition, their roofs were damaged by the fire and a lot of them could collapse at any time. In the Jewish quarter, 37 houses were inhabited, 5 burned down and abandoned. The situation was even worse on the outskirts. The city walls were partially collapsed, especially behind the Jewish Street. The gate towers were dilapidated, the street paving was partly torn out and churches and municipal buildings were also in very bad condition.
In 1650, Kolín had 923 gentile inhabitants. A report from 1653 states that there were 107 Jewish men (above 20 years old) residing in Kolín. Extrapolating from the number of gentile residents, we can assume that there were around 390 Jews in Kolín as of 1653.
In a letter sent to the royal chancery on the 31st of March 1653, the city council points out the misery of the citizens, stating that there was just a little more than 50 inhabited gentile houses and out of these, one third was collapsing after having been damaged by fire. The burghers living in those houses could not get out of poverty and together with their wives and children were struggling to get by and were getting into debt. The trades were going poorly, and businesses were controlled by the Jews. They did not have fields to sow and those who did, only farmed on a small fraction of them, as they didn't own enough cattle and their more remote meadows and fields were desolate and slowly overgrowing with forest and thorn.
Immediately after the war, when the city was still licking its wounds, the councilors started a new dispute with the Jews. They complained that the Jews took over all kinds of businesses, served beer and wine, and had gotten into many trades and hired gentile workers. From UnderChamberlain Oldřich Sezima Skuhrovský's letter dated 14th of September 1647, we deduced that the Kolín citizens had already bitterly complained about the Jews at the royal chancery for having taken over all the trades and therefore taking the last bread out of the mouths of their poor neighbors. The underchamberlain advised them to complain directly to the Emperor. They did so and in 1648, a decision came from the imperial chancery that even though the Jews had been right to carry out trades since 1628, they were not allowed to employ gentile journeymen and socalled fušers. Because this decree did not take into account serving beverages and due to the Jews continuing to employ Christians, the councilors complained again at the Bohemian royal chancery. A decree was issued in 1650, stating that the Jews should not hire gentile workers except for laborers, who were not allowed to stay in Jewish houses overnight. Nobody should hinder the Jews in their businesses, or in serving beer and wine, as long as they served local beer. Selling outoftown beer or homebrewed beer was not to be tolerated. The decree, however, did not bring an end to this dispute. Already in 1652, the city council complained directly to the emperor Ferdinand III that the Jews were oppressing the gentiles by controlling the businesses and trades and ignoring the laws and asked the Emperor to relocate the Jews. It seems that the Jews also wrote to the royal chancery to supplicate for protection against the city council, because on the 3rd of February 1655, a decree came from the chancery excluding the Jews from the council's authority and putting them directly under the jurisdiction of His Majesty's town mayor. The councilors were not pleased with this decision and so they immediately sent the following memorandum to the royal chancery: We are not asking for any hereditary authority over the Jews, but we request that the Jews, whose houses fall under the jurisdiction of Kolín, where since the old times the city rights have been established and confirmed by His Majesty the Emperor, follow the city laws and respect the authorities just like the other residents. Right now, the Jews are not following the rules, are accepting new Jews into their community, and defying His Majesty's city council. Whenever the councilors visit them with official matters or the town mayor comes to arrest an offender, the Jews resist and even oppose the arrests and free the offenders by force. This sets a bad example for other residents to whom such behavior would never be tolerated!.
A sort of an end to these disputes was an agreement between mayor Lukáš Cikán and the elders of the Jewish community Bernard Schulklepper, Nathan Jíkrnatý and Ruben Němec, which was signed on the 22nd of March 1657. According to this agreement, the Jews got the right to serve kosher wine and had to pay a tax of 2 thalers from each tenpail barrel sold.
A very important negotiation began, related to the repayment of the municipal debt. Not only Kolín but also other Bohemian towns had accumulated large debts during the long war, which were growing immensely due to the interest rates. The matter was therefore taken up by the Bohemian Landtag, which looked for ways to ease the repayment by law. The proceedings started in 1650 and a decree was issued by the Bohemian royal chancery on the 22nd of October 1654 in Prague.
The Kolín council acted upon the decree in autumn of 1657 and asked all creditors to declare their claims. Their goal was to get discounts on the interest and if possible, reduce the debts themselves. Among the 19 creditors with total claims worth 23028 thalers and 39 kreuzers were also the following Jewish creditors:
Enoch Jew from Prague with 2333 thalers and 20 kreuzers
Heirs of Nathan Jew with 2333 thalers and 20 kreuzers
Jewish community from 1622 with 400 thalers
Abraham Pacovský Jew with 527 thalers
In 1660, a dysentery epidemic ravaged the town. 38 children and 26 adults died between June and Christmas (the town had just little over 1000 gentile inhabitants at the time). As always, the source of the disease was sought in the Jewish Street. On the 25th of June 1660, rabbi Abraham Borjes and his son Šaje were accused of slaughtering a swine who ran away from the house of widow Šperling into the Jewish Street and throwing its body into the public well, thereby intoxicating the water. They both fled the town in time and hence escaped their trial.
On the 16th of October 1674, an agreement resolved a dispute between the dean and the city council. According to the agreement, the dean would receive 200 thalers in cash, 3 korec of wheat, 10 korec of rye, 2 korec each of barley, millet and peas, 1 bečka of salt and 4 barrels of bitter beer from the municipality and 2 stones of tallow from the Jews per year.
In 1693, UnderChamberlain Ferdinand from Šeidlern appointed František Bohuslav Šperling as mayor, replacing Valentín Kokovský. The underchamberlain was kept busy by the Kolíners in 1695. Residents of the outskirts complained about unfair tax levels as they had been asked to pay the same amount as rich beer brewers and farmers. Poor burghers complained about being allowed to brew fewer batches of beer than the rich. The city council complained about the Jews because their numbers were increasing, they sold goods on the square on holidays and during the Holy Services, their butchers slaughtered sick animals and sold spoiled meat to Christians and that some Jews had taken up the bakery craft and the flour and barley trade. The underchamberlain responded to the last claim evasively, saying that he would prefer to receive Jewish complaints about the Christians. Nothing else happened and so the Jews continued in their trades and business and even took up the barber trade. In 1703, Kolín barber Josef Šuch sent a complaint to Prague representing all the barbers, complaining that the messy Jewish barbers lure their customers in with liquor especially on Sundays and on holidays. UnderChamberlain Václav Obytecký from Obytec replied to the council the following: Your barbers are complaining that the majority of gentiles gather at the Jewish shops for food and drink on Sundays and holidays. It is rude and improper to go among the heretics on the days established as holy by the church. The Jews are a good example to the Christians as they keep their holidays and Sabbath better than the Christians. It would be more polite if Christians spent their money at their neighbors'. I, therefore, order you to bring up this matter to the public at the earliest opportunity. For the matter of interest, we are reminding of a decree issued by the royal chancery in 1701 which forbade the Jews from wearing clothes with golden or silver needlework or galoons and gold or pearl necklaces.
Prussians in Bohemia. The Prussian king imposed heavy taxes on money, food, and cattle which impoverished Bohemia greatly. On the 6th of September 1744, he ordered Kolín to send four bakers to the Prussian bakery in Brandýs under the threat of a 500 thaler fine. On the 11th of September, he asked the Kouřim region to supply 400 black or red horses aged 48 years to the Kyau regiment in Brandýs. The king promised payment in cash but threatened with physical and financial punishment for not obeying the order. The Kolín municipality was in distress and on the 14th of September, the council negotiated with the Jews to increase their protection tax (Schutzgeld) for the time of war from 81 thalers and 30 kreuzers to 300 thalers.
The year 1745 brought difficulties to the Jewish community in Kolín. The Bohemian Jews were suspected of collaborating with the Prussians during their occupation, dealing with the enemy, and altogether supporting the Prussians. For that reason, the empress Maria Theresa conceived hatred towards the Jews and on the 18th of December 1744, she issued a decree by which all the Jews had to leave Bohemia by January of 1745 and never return. The deadline was prolonged to the end of June for the Jews living in the countryside. At that time, 20650 Jews were living in Prague and 30000 in the countryside. The Kolín Jews also had to prepare to move, which was very difficult not only for them but also for the gentiles, who owed them money, but also anonymously participated in Jewish usury and had large sums of money ‘invested’ in their loans. Antonín Šperlink, the mayor himself, made an ‘investment’ of 2900 thalers in cash.
The time of the departure approached and on the 29th of April 1745, the Jews asked the municipality for a price estimate on their houses. This was permitted and the following men made the estimates: councilors Karel Dittmann and Peter Pokorný, tanner Josef Wildt and Jiří Formandl. The following owners of Jewish houses in Kolín are mentioned in these estimates:
Mojžíš Graf (house in the Kouřimská Street, 200 thalers)
Ančl Mandl (400 thalers)
Enoch Soudek (corner house, 300 thalers)
Elbogen (400 thalers)
Josef Suhnl Soudek, David Felix and Marek Löbl (900 thalers)
Zubatý (500 thalers)
Hošek (650 thalers)
Barke (300 thalers
Abraham Šochel and Brosam (500 thalers)
Heršl Bérl (700 thalers)
Löbl Šindelka (300 thalers)
David Chlumec (600 thalers)
Manel Jáchym (400 thalers)
Mandl Rubin (700 thalers)
Pentlář and Rifke (600 thalers)
Jewish communal house (100 thalers)
Šesták (300 thalers)
Samuel Poláček (200 thalers)
Jakub Poláček (400 thalers)
Jáchym Soudek (1200 thalers)
Abraham Zásmuk (1000 thalers)
Vlčes (400 thalers)
Rubin's heirs (house by the Prague gate, 800 thalers)
On the other side of the street:
Šalamoun Chajle (opposite of meat shops at the corner, 350 thalers)
Samuel Lipme (60 thalers)
Würzburger (250 thalers)
Susme Leipen, Beneš Hořický and widow hazzan (600 thalers)
Mendl Rubín (1000 thalers)
Izák Lederer, Feišl Bunzlau and Šalmoun Houser (650 thalers)
David Pacovský and Tupadler (500 thalers)
Mojžíš Zbraslavic and Samuel Abraham (250 thalers)
Nathan and Netvořic (400 thalers)
Sisters Anča nad Vokatá (250 thalers)
Lazar Kounický, Šimon Popper Katz and Abraham Poděbrad (450 thalers)
Anna Soudková (350 thalers)
Efrajim Glaser, Eliáš Kavkes with Abraham Kounický (350 thalers)
Filip Soudek (house at the corner to Prague Street 400 thalers)
Abraham Jonas (100 thalers)
Altogether 57 settled families and their tenants were to move out of 42 houses (with the estimated total value of 19210 thalers). On the 12th of May 1745, an agreement was signed between the Jewish community and the gentile creditors: the Jews were to sell their houses to the creditors, however, should they return within two years, they could buy the houses back for the same price in addition to a reasonable maintenance and repair fee. The Jews also agreed to pay 20 thalers yearly for the abandoned houses to be looked after. On behalf of the Jewish community, the agreement was signed by chairman Josef Suhul Löwe,
elders Berl Herš Clumec, Enoch Soudek, Mendl Rubín, Heršl Houser, David Pacovský and Josef Modrian and witnesses Ančl Mandl and Susme Leipen. Nonetheless, the expulsion of the Jews did not go through as the English and the Dutch interceded on their behalf and so the Empress withdrew the decree from the 18th of December 1744 and permitted the Jews to remain in the country and carry on with their businesses. The Kolín city council was on good terms with the Jews as immediately after these events, they gave tobacco concessions to three Jews: Šalamoun Chajle, Enoch Soudek, and Rafael Platten. Burgher and merchant Václav Häusler was the first one to apply for one but he wasn't successful. Thus, he asked again at the underchamberlain's office and eventually obtained it. On that account, the three Jews had to negotiate with Häusler and on the 1st of August 1750, they agreed that Häusler would own the main stock of good quality tobacco in his house in the main square (no. 20) and pay a yearly tax of 16 thalers and 42 kreuzers to the municipality. The Jews would then buy tobacco from him at 7 thalers and 30 kreuzers per zenter and run three tobacco shops two in the Jewish street and one in the town.
Prussians in Kolín in 1757: On the 17th of May at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the army came to Kolín and camped outside of the town, near Nová Ves. Commander Count August Vilím of Bever, stayed in the town in the house U zlatého lva (At the Golden Lion) on the main square… His staff stayed in the town with him: Colonel Finke stayed in the house U bílého beránka (At the White Lamb) and Commander Lieutenant Colonel Tetteborn stayed in the house U zlaté štiky (At the Golden Pike). Three majors and two grenadier battalions of 938 men were accommodated in the new barracks and the burghers' houses. And so Kolín was suffering once again. When the enemies started fortifying the town to defend it against the imperial forces, they confiscated all construction timber in the town and forced the municipality to pay them 150 thalers on top of it. Then, they forced the residents to work for them on the fortifications. When the burghers freed themselves from this labor by bribing the captain of the sappers with 30 thalers and Commander Tetteborn with 100 thalers, the Jews were forced to the work on the fortifications instead from the 22nd of May.
Since 1724, the municipality owned a tannery by the bridge across the river Labe (Elbe). The council sold it to the Jewish community on the 3rd of March 1780, under an emphyteutic lease. The Jewish community was represented by its chairman Löbl Heršl, elders Israel Guttmann, Eršl Ellbogen, David ben Izák and Heršl David, scribe Mojžíš Lébl Würburzger and Mojžíš Flammerstein Schulklöpper. The cost was 200 thalers in cash and 66 thalers yearly. The Jews could tan hides and produce potash there. They were forbidden to distill liquor, run a bakery or a general store, or to slaughter cattle there.
A great misfortune befell Kolín. On the 24th of July 1796, it was a hot day and dry southern winds were blowing. The whole town was enjoying lunch when a 13yearold boy, Jan Zima, guarding the garden of former mayor Pabíček at the Kutnohorské outskirts, fired a shotgun at a flock of sparrows. The smoldering patron fell onto the thatched roof of a nearby barn, which immediately ignited into flame. Due to the drought and strong wind, five nearby farms with cattle sheds, barns and full granaries caught on fire, and in a flash, 15 tenant farms were burning in Císařoves. Soon, the hot embers exceeded the city walls and ignited the house of Marek Souček in the Jewish Street, which burned down to the ground, and the whole town immediately was shrouded with smoke and flames, buildings were collapsing into rubble and ash and the inhabitants were fleeing in terrible screams. Nobody was thinking about quenching the fire. When the dean's building caught on fire, Mayor Eckel hurried there and carried the registries and deans' archives into the cellar. In the meantime, the dean's church with both its towers started burning, and its rare bells melted. The school burned down, all the houses in the Kouřimská, Řeznická and Děkanská Street, the southern and eastern side of the square, and both Labské Streets were on fire and the roofs of gate towers Kouřimská, Horská and Labská were burning like torches. Soon, the fire spread to the monastery of The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and the military hospital. Within an hour, 6 houses on the Kouřimské outskirts, 15 houses in Císařoves, 43 houses in the Jewish Street, 54 houses in the city center and 29 houses on the Horské outskirts burned down and 255 gentile and 205 Jewish families were without a roof over their heads. It was a miracle that there was only one victim: the 80yearold barber Jiří Barvonič from the house no. 28 in Řeznická Street. There are no records of how many cattle were lost. The ruins smoldered for another two weeks. To appease the raging crowd, poor Jan Zima was arrested and whipped 15 times a day for three days in front of the municipal hall. He then grew up in poverty and died as a beggar in 1857.
After such a terrible accident, grief spread across the whole town. Most of the harvest burned down in barns and granaries, there was little money, and tradesmen and businessmen had no income. The citizens meagerly repaired their scorched houses, covering the roofs with shingles and the roofs of barns with thatch. As they did not have enough money for construction, they sold their farm lots to richer farmers and got into large debts.
Not long after that, the new emperor, Ferdinand I (V), celebrated his first birthday. On the evening of the 18th of April, the church bells rang, a large banner hanging from the barracks was illuminated, a band in front of the city hall played the imperial anthem and the crowds shouted vivat!. A big celebration followed on the 19th in the church, where 77 poor people received alms of 3 groschen. The Jews prayed in their school and gave 25 thalers to the poor.
A series of events in the 1840s brought tough times upon Kolín once again. A long and cold winter, which lasted from the beginning of December 1844 to the 25th of March 1845, brought much adversity to the laborers. Then, a damaging flood came on the 22nd of January 1846, after an unexpected thaw. The Labe (Elbe) rose so high between the 2528th January that the water was flowing over the Kolín bridge and took down three of its piers. The river looked like a large lake and the villages in the lowlands Bašta, Tři Dvory, Ohrada, Hradisko, and Veltruby were in grave danger.
Due to a bad harvest of potatoes, the prices were rising so much that until the rich harvest of 1847, a korec of wheat cost 48 thalers, rye 30 thalers, and barley 20 thalers. In this time of hunger and misery, the poor received large amounts of aid. Chaplain and Pater Jan Lidner, Councillor Antonín Hlávka, and the town's physician, Med. Dr. František Biemann, started a charity fund and collected donations in the form of food and money. These came from the burgers in such large amounts that in the winter of 1846/1847, 60 families were given peas, semolina, groats, and other household necessities every week. The local Jews gave two rich alms to 100 gentile families.
The year 1848: Many tried to convince the countryside to join the resistance. On the 12th of June, a few students from Prague arrived in Kolín and tried to arouse the crowd to come and defend Mother Prague. The burghers were having none of it, but the common folk started rioting and preparing an attack on the Jewish Street, which was eventually brought to an end by armed burghers.
The beginning of the industrial development in Kolín
lead to greater use of the railroad that went through the town and new factories were quickly sprouting. In 1857, Ignác Selinovský founded a canola oil pressing factory and refinery in an otherwise quiet place behind the Capuchin monastery, formerly called na Pršíně. The factory was soon taken over by Jakub Fišer. This led to extensive cultivation of canola and agricultural advancement in Kolín's surroundings. Another smaller oil refinery was founded in Valy by the Prague gate by Rudolf's company. Entrepreneur Josef Weissberger founded a large alcohol refinery under the rock of the Church of All Saints in Hroby and had a nice house built there by builder Jan Klecanda.
On the morning of the 15th of August 1866, the largest regiment that the city ever saw, marched through. It was the royal Prussian infantry and cavalry with their loud trumpeters, canons, and copper pontoons on carriages. They were young, cleanlimbed, and in a good mood. As they walked through Prague Street, they insulted the Jewish spectators shouting Hep, hep! Hier ist die Jüdenjasse! (Hip, hip! Here is the Jewish Street). Such marches continued until the 16th of September when the last Prussians left the town.
As soon as peace returned, the Emperor decided to visit the regions affected by the war and to cheer up his vassals. On his trip, he made a stop at the Kolín railway station, where he was welcomed by the city council and officials, priests, teachers with pupils, and representatives of the Jewish community, carrying a Torah clad in a goldembroidered velvet.
In September 1867, municipal elections were held and the Progressive Party won the majority. Among the elected representatives were the following Jews: Josef Weissberger, factory owner; Izrael Eisler, farmer; Eliáš Fischer, house owner; and Šalamoun Schön, surgeon. Josef Weissberger and Eliáš Fischer were reelected in the next elections in September 1870.
And already on the 1st of July 1872, sadness returned to the city. Josef Weissberger, a member of the city council, died of a stroke at the age of 48 years. He had worked his way up from a poor merchant to a very rich businessman. He had always been very generous to the poor, both gentiles and Jews, and founded a trust of 2000 thalers for poor school pupils. He also supported the Czech national revival movement and so when his body was carried to the Jewish cemetery, it was escorted by the councilors, priests, school children, and members of the Sokol movement with a band and their flag. His brother and farm owner Jindřich Weissberger died soon after him.
In 1857: Catholics 6112, protestants 268, Jews 1347
In 1879: Catholics 7878, protestants 386, Jews 1209
In 1881: Catholics 10050, protestants 425, Jews 1148
The mood in the city changed for the better, mainly since 1867, when the feelings of the Czech national revival governed the town. The Jews, too, were a part of this, and because of German antiSemitism, they declared almost without an exception Czech nationality in 1881.
The Jewish Street: By 1623, the Jewish Street grew, thanks to Jews purchasing gentile houses, until it reached from Kouřimská Street to Prague Street. Apart from the town's roundhouse (in the corner in the middle of the street), there were 37 Jewish houses as of 1623, and later in 1652, the number of houses had grown to 54, because some of them had been split into smaller residences. Because of the constant splitting and merging, the municipality did not have a proper registry of the house owners in 1652, and the following list is thus based on a registry that on the 23rd of March 1653, was provided by the Jews themselves:
We learn the names of Jewish citizens from later years from the contract registries: Josef Chajle lived in the house in Kouřimská Street next to house no. 11, Juda Felix lived there in 1736 and Josef Chajle in 1738. The house on the other corner of the street opposite the meat shops was owned by Josef Pacovský in 1676, by the tailor Hiršl in 1685, by Šalamoun Chajle in 1766 and by Samnel Schön in 1788. The following are mentioned in other houses:
1660 Šalomon Heršl Vlach, Jakub Lébl Turnovský, Bernart Hošek (aka Ĉížek), Marek Schulklepper
1664 Bernart Houser
1687 Machl Rubín, Abraham Kounický
1688 Izrael Marek Kašmaul
1690 Jonáš Kantor, Samuel Polášek, Jáchym Samek, Jáchym Beran, Izák Soudek
1693 Izál Chlumecký, chairman of Jewish community, and Vlček Rubín
1700 Heršl Sacerdot (i.e. Kohen), Heršl Lábl Koželuh, Heršl Jikrnatý, Lébl Schulklepper
1710 Majer Würzberger and Bérl Katz
1711 Lazar Poděbradský, Josef Gróf, Chajle Pacovský, Izák Kohen, Mandl Ries, Mojžíš Karpeles
1714 Izak Jelínek and Berl Soudek, who sold yuft and Dutch leather
1715 Machl Rubín, chairman of the Jewish community, Jáchym Efrójim, Lébl Pelhřimovský, Jakub Sadský with his wife Chave, Jonáš Katz with his wife Fromettl, Jakub Houser with his sister Vögele.
We have listed the registry of all Jews from 1745 elsewhere.
As was mentioned, the status of Jews in Bohemia significantly improved in 1620. By the grace of His Majesty, they were permitted to run businesses and work in trades as long as they didn't employ Christians. The Kolín Jews took advantage of these circumstances and took up various trades, gained control over many businesses including grain and flour trading, ran convenience stores and even sold wine and the city's beer in the Jewish Street. In 1703, some of them opened barbershops, luring the common folk into their shops with liquor. This contributed to the growth of their wealth and thus a decree was issued in 1701 forbidding the Jews from wearing clothing with braids, yellow and pearl necklaces, and ruffs. A royal decree issued by the Bohemian chancery on the 3rd of February 1655 was to their advantage. It took the Kolín Jews out of the city council's authority and ordered them to form an independent selfgoverning Jewish community that fell under the oversight of the imperial mayor of the royal Bohemian chancery. However, all cases of criminal offense remained under the jurisdiction of the local court. The head of the Jewish community was its chairman with two councilors and several elders. They also had a scribe, treasurer, and two servants at their disposal. This form of selfgovernment lasted until 1788.
We managed to identify the following chairmen of the Jewish community in Kolín:
1656 Bernard Schulklepper
1660 Rubín Deutsch (aka Němec) with councilors Izák Soudek and Mojžíš Mandl
1689 Jonáš Kantor (aka Singer)
1693 Izák Chlumecký
1714 Izák Jelínek
1715 Machl Rubín
1745 Josef Sundl Löwe
1780 Jakub Sundl Soudek
At first, the municipal administration disliked the Jewish autonomy, but the burghers got used to it and the rich entrusted their money to the Jewish bankers and thus secretly participated in their usury and took home large profits. There are many proofs that the Jews were on good terms with the city council. Three Jews were granted a concession to sell tobacco in Kolín in 1750. The council also leased the rights for liquor production and sale to Jews Josef Dub and Izrael Bachrachin in 1779, provided that they sell liquor of good quality which is not made from beer sludge. In 1780, the municipality sold the tannery by the bridge to the Jewish community, where a potash factory operated until 1785. That contract was signed by the following:
Lébl Heršl chairman
Izrael Guttmann councillor
Heršl Ellbogen councillor
David Izák elder
David Heršl elder
Josef Heršl elder
Josef Median treasurer
Šimon Levi treasurer
Izák Soudek treasurer
Josef Kovanic scribe
Mojžíš Lébl Würzburger scribe
Mojžíš Flammerschein school caretaker
Samuel Hillel Senior elder
The Jews were not allowed to buy gentile houses or land until an 1849 decree by which they gained equality. However, since the reign of Emperor Josef II, there was no more space in the Jewish Street and so they leased shops from gentiles. Merchant Veigert leased a shop, two rooms, and a cellar in his house no. 8 at the square to Schutzjude Mr. Marek Soudek for 12 years for the price of 200 thalers per year in 1749. Jonáš Schiff got a similar deal in the house of Josef Večerník behind the Kouřim gate in 1810, as well as Jakub Eisler and Samson Altschul in 1821,
in the house of František Vojtěchovský in Kouřimská Street no. 15. The first illegal purchase of a gentile house was made in 1810 by David Dub, who bought the inn U beránka (At the Lamb) under the name of Karel Legeli, a traveling clerk from Kostelec nad Lesy.
The Kolín Jews always had a secondary school near their elementary school, where Hebrew was taught among other subjects. In 1788, there were 41 students, in 1789, there were already 50 youths (although 80 were supposed to attend). In 1805, the Jews leased a room, a kitchen, and a pantry on the first floor of Ms. Martina Válková's house (no. 2 Prague Street) for 6 years to host the school. Similarly, they leased rooms for the school in Josef Paleček's house (no. 12 Kouřimská Street) in 1810.
The owners (both Jews and Christians) of the houses in the Jewish Street to date are the following:
No. 1: Josua Friedländer
No. 2: Marek Kohn and Marie Spirová
No. 3: Löw Kantor, Filip Schön, Amalie Reichmanová and Julius Vlašim
No. 4: Jewish community the house of the rabbi
No. 5: Eliáš Fišer, Šimon Sachsel, Josef Douša
No. 6: Jewish community the school
No. 7: Emanuel Gelber and Mojžíš Kovanic
No. 8: Jakub Fišer
No. 9: Jewish community Josef Beutler, Josef Weiss, Hoffmann, Josef Mašek, Jakub Fišer, Jacker, Isidor Stopper, Müller, Schickler, Teuerle and others (former roundhouse in the corner of the Jewish Street).
No. 10: Amalie Reichmannová, Leopold Feldmann, Norbert Hrdlička
No. 11: Samuel Tauber, Israel Plaček, Vilém Soudek
No. 12: Leopold Frim, Adamec, Sára Zemánková and others
No. 13: Marek Blattner, Němeček, Abraham Soudek and others
No. 14: Lazar Sachsel, Reich, Zemánek and Josef Kraus
No. 15: Jakub Löwinger shochet
No. 16: David Spindler and Feuerlöscher
No. 17, 18, 19: empty houses, Matěj Melichar
No. 20: Lazar Hammerschlag
No. 21: Marek Morgenster and Emanuel Weiss
No. 22: Samuel Peček
No. 23: Samuel Budie, Samuel Peček and Šimon Plaček
No. 24: Hrdlička, David, Nagel, Jacker, Poláček, Polák, Budie, Peček, Weiss
No. 25: David Nagel
No. 26: Eckstein, Izák Bergmann, Fleischl and widow Brüllová
No. 27: Isidor Poláček and the heirs of Goldšmidt
No. 28: Josef Weiss comb maker, David Nagel iron merchant
No. 29: Josef Holas barley merchant (at the corner of Kouřimská Street)
No. 30: Vincenc Jandovský
No. 31, 32: Max Skuč
No. 33: Filip Schiff
No. 34: Filip Fleischner and Bernard Mandelík
No. 35: Pinkas Eisler, Eliáš Fišer, David Nagel, Izrael Plaček
No. 36: Nathan Šidlof, Pinkas Gärtner, Ignác Stein
No. 37: Filip Schiff
No. 38: Lazar Fleischner
No. 39: Šamoun Fleischner
No. 40: empty house
No. 41: Amalie Soudková
No. 42: Nathan Šidlof, Isidor Stepper, Šalamoun Fleischner
No. 43: Eliáš Fischer, Eliáš Neurad, Segrová, Spindler, Kopecký, Stepper, Šalomoun Kohn, Šalomoun Fleischner
No. 44: Eliáš Fišer, Zemánek
No. 45: Izák Hauser and Josef Brüll
No. 46: Leopold Feldmann shoemaker
No. 48, 49: Eliáš Fišer chairman of Jewish community and farmer
No. 50: Ignác Mandelík
No. 51: Ignác Pachner
No. 52: Volf Hammerschlag
No. 53: school
No. 54: Ms. Terezie Palečková
No. 55: Mořic Poláček
This register (dated 1886) shows the large number of houses in the Jewish Street and the shortterm nature of the individual ownerships.
Although the Kolín Jewish community seized to be politically independent, it still had its own leadership as a religious community. It consisted of a sevenmember board. In 1866, its chairman was Eliáš Fišer with councilors Šimon Sachsel, Arnold Turnau, Jakub Goldschmied, Jachym Stepper, Jindřich Fleischner and Ignác Skuč. The board handled the religious expenditures (4000 thalers yearly), the school's expenditures (3600 thalers yearly), and the financial support of the poor (60 poor families received 3080 thalers in total in 1885).
The following rabbis are mentioned in the town manuals from 1653 and 1660:
Abraham Borges and his son Šaje (Izaiáš) and in 1670 rabbi Lieberman. The chronicles of the Jewish community (which date from in 1729) inform about following rabbis since the middle of the 18th century:
Eliáš Velý (Rabú)
Jakub Illoví from Uherský Brod in 1775 and 1778
Lazar Kallier (17801815)
Volf Löw Boskovic (18061812)
Volf Löw (18121826)
Jachym Deutschmann (18281836)
Daniel Frank (18391860)
Dr. Josef Gugenheimer from Frankfurt (since 1861)
All of the information above came from professor Vávra's book. These accounts can be extended into older periods (the 16th century) by the information from BondyDvorský, from whom we find out just how much attention the authorities of Kutná Hora (Kuttenberg) paid to the Kolín Jews.
On the same day (the 6th of July 1568), a similar report and suggestion came from the Bohemian Kammer and Hofkammer, in which they recommended the Emperor to reject their plea. As a result, all business activities in all Bohemian mining towns were forbidden to the Jews.
The Bohemian chancery's decree from the 21st of August 1568 had a significant impact on the Kolín Jews. It ordered the Kutná Hora councilors to summon all debtors, force them to pay their debts within four weeks, and then send the collected money to the Kolín Jews so they wouldn't wander around Kutná Hora anymore. Because of this scheme, the Kolín Jews lost a lot of their money due to the gentiles hiding their debts. The main motive was as always, the business rivalry.
The debtors from Kutná Hora were in no hurry to pay and so in 1571, the Kolín Jews had to ask the emperor Maxmilián II for permission to visit Kutná Hora to collect their debts. The Emperor asked the Bohemian Kammer for a testimonial, which advised him to reject the Jews' application. He did so on the 16th of August 1571, and thus the Jews remained forbidden from entering Kutná Hora.
During the period when the Kolín Jews weren't allowed to visit their customers in Kutná Hora, those customers came to them to Kolín. This shows the Jews' great business skills. Their competitors from Kutná Hora were disgruntled again, as we learned from a testimony of the Kutná Hora city council concerning the rights of mining towns from 1580 where we read: …The Kolín Jews invented practices to stay involved despite their banishment: since they cannot enter Kutná Hora, they lure their customers into Kolín and run their businesses there, causing many difficulties because of their loans and sales. It is costing the miners both time and money to go all the way to Kolín and such practices should, therefore, be stopped.
The Jews were forbidden from staying in mining towns until the establishment of constitutional monarchy.
What the Jews suffered through in the 2nd half of the 16th century is obvious from their plea to the Bohemian Kammer from July 1573, where they wrote: We are being tormented by the citizens of Kolín. They harm us without reason. Just a few days ago, some kettle smith hit one of us in the head with a hammer and the Jew bled so much you couldn't tell him from cattle. Another three Jews were recently beaten to blood, which the townsfolk found amusing. None of the attackers were punished and the court has been postponed until the St. Bartholomeus Day meaning that we poor, troubled Jews have nobody to speak for us.
BondyDvorský, no. 747.
The internal situation in the Kolín Jewish community was described by Dr. Tobiáš Jakobovits in the 1st almanac of the Society for the History of Jews in Czechoslovakia in an essay called Jüdisches Gemeindeleben in Kolín 17631768 (The Jewish Community in Kolín. 17631768)
Now a few words about the institutions of the Jewish community in Kolín:
According to the legend, the first synagogue was a wooden shtiebel. It stood in the Jewish street, adjacent to the town walls. It is unknown what happened to it, whether it burned down or if it became unsuitable in some way, but we do know that many years of tough work later, a new stone synagogue was built in its place. According to the inscriptions on the temple's ceiling, the construction was finished in 456 meaning 1696 AD. However, it was originally not as large as it is today. The left wing of the synagogue (puliše) was built many years later. In the 18th century, the western part of the synagogue was in very poor condition. Then, the Kolín Jews bought two fathoms of the town wall from the town and extended the building westwards. This helped create more space in the temple for the women. The jewel of the synagogue is the ancient Torah closet (aron hakodesh), which was a gift from the influential Viennese Jew, Samuel Oppenheimer in the year 1696. According to Rudolf Illový in Kalendář českožidovský 1930/31 (CzechJewish Calendar, 1930/31), his wife Sandela Carcassonová came from Kolín.
The cryptograms on the ceiling include commodities like satin, velour, and damask, which represent parts of the Tanakh. For a long time, an almemor (bimah) stood in the middle of the Kolín synagogue, surrounded by benches for the visitors. A lot of the synagogue's furniture was owned by various Jewish families and was passed down through generations. Other pieces of furniture were given to the synagogue and administered by the synagogue administrator who leased them out and used the earnings to fulfill the obligations of the synagogue's fond.
There is a legend about the removal of the almemor. Christian workers were hired to remove it, but they refused, being afraid that the action of removing something holy for so many people was a sin. The Jew Pl. asked them several times to get to work. They told him to remove the first stone and that they would then continue, but that the sin would be of his doing. Pl. gladly picked up his hoe. As soon as he removed the first stone, the workers got to work. Legend has it that within a year, Pl.'s only adult daughter passed away.
The portable benches were removed along with the almemor and replaced with nicer benches, which are still in place today. The Kolín synagogue has been repaired a few times and even when electric lighting was installed, they were built into the old candelabras and so the original look was preserved.
In 1924, a granite plate was installed in the left wing with the names of community members who had fallen in the war. The plate was a gift from Pavel Poláček. The names are:
Freund Jindřich from Týnec nad Labem (Elbe)
JUDr, Goldsmid Alfred
JUC Sommer Rudolf from Nebovidy
Ing. C. Werner Antonín from Týnec nad Labem
As a symbol of respect to the family, the name of the legionnaire, Rudolf Adler, was left out. His memory was celebrated by Rudolf Vlasák in his book Židáček Leo (The Little Jew Leo), issued by Družina československých legionářů (Association of Czechoslovak Legionaries) as the XXXII. volume of their library.
The Kolín synagogue has many beautiful Torahs, curtains (peroches), veils (kapores), Torah covers, and silver holy vessels (kle kodesh). One of the most beautiful objects is a kapores presented by the influential mayor, Juda Lev Saudek in 1765.
Besides the synagogue, there were several communal prayer rooms in private houses: one belonged to Šaschevre, another to Rašichevre and one to Ševákeruim.
The Kolín synagogue was not only a center of heartfelt piety but also a center of wisdom. On Saturday after Mincha, the Talmudic readings of the rabbis were followed by discussions which continued until Maariv.
A local legend tells this story: At a lecture, the rabbi took out his silver snuffbox, took a sniff, and passed it on as was the custom to the next Talmudist, who then passed it to the third one and the snuffbox wandered from hand to hand. At the end of the lecture, the rabbi proclaimed that he hadn't gotten the snuffbox back. Who had kept it? Suspicion landed on the poorest Jew. Nobody uttered his name, but it was obvious from the looks of those in the room, that everyone considered him the key suspect. The snuff box and the wickedness of man was the topic of discussions all week. The following Saturday, everyone gathered again in the synagogue to hear the rabbi's lecture. The only one missing was the pauper, who had been suspected of the theft. During the lecture, the rabbi reached into his pocket and retrieved his snuff box. He was startled. He immediately looked around for the pauper. He wasn't in the temple. He, therefore, prompted the crowd to come with him. They set off to the house of the poor citizen and found him in tears. He wept that he could not go to the temple and listen to the beautiful and delicate lecture. The rabbi asked the pauper to come to the temple with him. The poor man listened. In the synagogue, the rabbi begged the man for his forgiveness and ended his speech with the words: muvtoch I am convinced that you will die a rich man. The words of the rabbi came true and the pauper became so wealthy, that his money had to be counted in věrtel.
There were many Hebrew scholars in Kolín. The last one was named Abraham Schiff, who died in 1919. He was immensely educated about Talmudic literature and was able to quote any part from memory. He often spoke about how he had become so educated. In his younger years, he and a couple of other pupils would visit his teacher at four o'clock in the morning, and he would stay there and study until late at night. His studying was only interrupted by his prayers, which he performed in the synagogue, and when he needed to eat. He never rested except for holidays and Saturdays.
Upon reading through old records, many names can be found with the comments Talmudist or teacher of Talmud. At the beginning of the 19th century, the following names are listed: Abraham Fröhlich, Jesajaš Pick, Azák Altschul, Jakub Zwicker, Izák Poláček, and the jurist Natan Šidlow, who is the subject of Dr. Bohumil Stein's printed manuscript called Familie Schidloff (The Schidloff Family).
Some of the Kolín's most renowned rabbis were also part of this scholarly community. Throughout history, their names were:
14411559 Mojžíš Malostranský
1588 Kalman ben Viktorin
16031608 rb. Michael
In 1614, Chajim ben Sinai died in Kolín. His tombstone reads rabbi in Kolín and Ivančice.
In 1626, Anšl ben Refoel died in Kolín. His successor was Izrael ben Mordechai Lipschitz.
1680 Abraham Hirš Porjes left Kolín to be a rabbi in Ivančice. His wife was the daughter of Mojžíš Lipschitz, who was probably the brother of Porjes's predecessor. He died in Prague in 1673.
In 1684, Uri Šrage Feibisch, son of rabbi Eleazer Meneles from Vienna was the rabbi. He left Kolín for Mladá Boleslav and from there, to Uherský Brod.
1697 Elias Wolf Wedeles, son of chief rabbi in Prague, ŠimonSpira Wedeles. He lived in Prague and Kolín Jews often visited him.
1718 Baruch Austerlitz
17391745 Michl Juda, or Jehuda ben Michael, son of Jechiel Michl Glogau, author of the book Nezer HaKodesh, who died in Vienna in 1730. He was also a rabbi in Kouřim. He died very young and was buried in Kolín.
17461781 Jakub Ilowy, son of Pinkas Ilovy. He came from Uherský Brod and as his predecessor was a rabbi in Kouřim. In Kolín, his salary was 4 thalers weekly or 200 coins in yearly. This salary was never raised. He was very respected. He was described in detail in an article by his descendant, writer Rudolf Ilovy in Kalendář českožidovský 1930/1931 (CzechJewish Calendar, 1930/1931).
17821802 the famous scholar Eleazar Kallir. He came from Železnice (Eisenstadt) in Hungary. We know from the monumental work of Wachstein Die Grabschriften des alten Judenfriedhofes in Eisenstadt (The Tomb Inscriptions on the Old Jewish Cemetery in Eisenstadt), that he was born approx. in 1739 after the death of his father at the age of approx. 20 years. Kallir was educated in his native town. He was an excellent Talmudist, speaker, and writer. He first worked as a rabbi in Zabłudów, Lithuania, and then in Rechnice in Hungary. In 1778, three communities competed for him. Wižnice in Poland, Boskovice, and Kolín. He chose Kolín and stayed there until he died in 1802. In 1788, Pest tried to hire him, but without success. He is the author of the Talmudic script Aur chodoš (New Light), which was reprinted several times. After his death, his son Alexander Süsskind, together with Kallir's greatgrandson Elezear Horowitz, published his work, Cheker Halochoch, including parts of his correspondence with important scholars of his time, Ezechiel Landau and Cvi Herš Zamosč. His only son, Mayer, came to Brody in Galicia to work as a merchant and settled down there. Mayer's son became the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Trade in Brody and was appointed the town's honorary citizen and ennobled for his good deeds. He was also a member of the parliament. He died in 1875 at the age of 86. From the Kolín record of gifts and sponsorships, we learn that shortly before his death, Eleazar Kallir donated a copy of Megillat Esther to the synagogue to be used during Purim. He wrote a letter to the regional commissioner of Kouřim. In the letter, he complained that the Jews of Brandýs owed the regional rabbi 50 thalers. He added that the regional commissioner could easily understand what that sum of money meant to him. The Prague scholars, Ezechiel Landau and Eleazar Flekeles often quote him in their responsive works. His Talmudic school, where he held lectures for selected pupils, was very famous. One of his pupils was the Mladá Boleslav rabbi Izák Spitz.
In 18021810, the famous Talmudist, Benjamin Wolf haLevi Boskovic was the rabbi in Kolín. He was the son of Samuel HaLevi, who left Kolín, his hometown, to settle in Boskovice, where he led the famous Talmudic school. Samuel haLevi was the author of the famous work, Machatzit HaShekel (comments to Mogen Abrohom). His pupils were so proud of him, that for the rest of their lives, they signed themselves as pupil of the author of Machatzit HaShekel. His son, Wolf, born approx. in the year 1740, acted as a rabbi in many places like Aszud, Prostějov, Pest, Balassagyarmat, Kolín, and Bonyhád. He died in Bonyhád in 1818. He is the author of the following books: Seder hamišna, Ma'amar Ester, Šušan Edut, and others. He, too, saw his Talmudic lectures as his highest mission. When he came to Prostějov, he brought ten pupils with him and requested the community to pay for their food. The same probably happened in Kolín. He was so committed to studies, that he did not care to be disturbed by weddings. While his predecessor wed all spouses by himself, Wolf did so
only in very exceptional cases and otherwise left the job to the Kolín scholars, among which were:
Natan Schidlow, Juda Löw Saudek, Pinkas Schindelka, Tobiáš Grünhut, Adam Friedländer, Samuel Petschek, Šalamoun Flammerschein, and others.
In the years 18121826, the Kolín rabbi was Wolf Löw, or Benjamin Wolf, son of Eleazar Löw (also called Šemen Rokeach, born in 1777 in Poland, died in Vrbové in Slovakia). Wolf Löw was employed previously in Rozprza near Piotrków and in Amszonov in Poland. After he left Kolín, he was the rabbi in Topolčany for ten years. From there he moved to Vrbové and became his father's successor. He wrote the threevolume work Ša'are tauro. He is buried in Vrbové.
In the years 18281837, the rabbi in Kolín was Joachim Deutschmann, born around 1759 in Rychnov nad Kněžnou. When he came to Kolín, he was already 69 years old. He had previously served as the rabbi in Hořice and Třebíč. He was one of the greatest scholars of his time. In Kolín, he dedicated his time to his studies as well as helping the poor, as his tombstone reads. He died at the age of 78.
18391860 rb. Daniel Frank, born in 1796 in Raděnín u Tábora, in a village with 50 Jewish families. He was called in from Votice. His work in Kolín was very fruitful and will be mentioned later on in connection with the Jewish school in Kolín. Despite his status, he was very humble. It shines through from the inscription on his tomb, which he wrote himself. He was in friendly contact with the local dean. The regional rabbi in Kouřim at that time was rabbi Jakub Haller from Karlín. He was paid 44 thalers yearly by the Kolín Jewish community. Daniel Frank was just a local rabbi, but he played an important role among the Bohemian rabbis. They were aware of the arrival of a new era and needed to find a good example of a man freed from the ghetto to pursue religion. They were not always understood, and the lives of many were embittered for it. Daniel Frank was a member of the Notabelnversammlung (Assembly of Notables) a group of consultants constituted by the viceregency and sent to Prague in 1850 to work out a new legal status for the Bohemian Jews. In his frankness, he informed the Kolín Jews that he was proposing the establishment of local rabbinates subordinate to the regional rabbinates which would in turn subordinate to the chief rabbinate. However, the Kolín Jews misunderstood the proposal and thought that each Jewish community, no matter how small, would have to sustain a rabbi, a religious teacher, a regular teacher, a hazzan, a shochet, a mohel, a scribe, a servant, and in addition to that, they would have to pay dues to the regional and the chief rabbinate. Therefore, they called for an urgent meeting in Kolín that would take place on the 9th of December 1850. And indeed, delegates from about 40 Jewish communities arrived at the meeting. The meeting was held in a building on the grounds of a cemetery. Aron Altschul from Ĉeská Lípa was elected chairman. He opened the meeting with the words: The ‘Flanďáci’ decided to introduce new taxes and to control us. We will do our best to prevent it.. Then, the resolution prepared in advance was to be read and discussed, but at that moment, a state official entered the room and disbanded the meeting. Nevertheless, the resolution was handed over to the office of the governor. It included a request to invite the following men to the meetings:
Hiller from Turnov
Perutz from Teplice
Bondi from Hroznětín (Lichtenstadt)
Bischitzky from Brandýs
Lederer from Plzeň
Pick from Náchod
Eisler from Kolín
Their objective was to strengthen the influence of Jews living in the rural area over the Prague community and the power of the laics over the theologians. The office of the governor complied with the request and the confidants of the rural Jews would soon enough see for themselves that the government didn't want to put new taxes on the Jews.
Unfortunately, in the end, only little from the agreement was truly upheld.
18601896 Dr. Josef Gugenheimer, born on the 29th of April 1831 in Kriegshaber near Augsburg, Bavaria. His father, Aron Gugenheimer, who was a rabbi there, then went to Úsov (Mährisch Aussee), and so his son Josef grew up in Moravia. He married Sara, the daughter of the famous Samson Rafael Hirsch, who voluntarily gave up his wellrespected position as the rabbi in Mikulov and head of the chief rabbinate on Moravia and moved to Frankfurt upon Mohan to establish a German Jewish orthodoxy there. Gugenheimer was presumably his pupil in Mikulov and went to Frankfurt with him. He had the same religious beliefs as his fatherinlaw and always stood firmly by his opinions. He came to Kolín from Székesfehérvár (Stuhlweißenburg) in Hungary. He contributed to magazines issued by his fatherinlaw, Ješurun and Ben Chananja. There, he published among others Die Stuhlweisenburger Wirren, Entgegnung auf ein Gutachten von Hirsch B. Fassel zu Gr. Kanischa (The Confusions from Stuhlweisenburg, A Reply to Opinions of Hirsch B. Fasse on Gr. Kanischa), Darf die Orgel in der Synagoge eingeführt werden (Should Organ be Introduced in the Synagogue?), Zur Falaschafrage (About the Falasha Question), R. David Neetos Begründung der Tradition (R. David Neetos Justification of the Tradition), Zum Kompertischen Pressprozess and others. A document is preserved, in which he had advised the Viennese Ministry of Religion and Education to abandon their plans of establishing an institution for rabbinical education because such education is possible in a yeshiva only. During a discussion about new school laws at the Viennese conference in 1883, he was referred to by the Galician parliament member Jellinek as Der heilige Mann von Kolín (The holy man from Kolín). He devoted all his attention to school matters, was the head of the school board, and attended all teacher meetings. He taught religion at the secondary school and required that his pupils sat with covered heads during his classes. He made sure that Jewish pupils did not carry books to school on Saturdays and did not write or paint. There was a box for Jewish pupil's books in every classroom, where they put them on Friday afternoon and fetched them again when Sabbath ended. If a Jewish student was called to the blackboard on a Saturday, he was accompanied by a gentile boy who wrote for him. This tradition was kept until 1877. That year, the imperial inspector, Weber, visited the school and abolished all the privileges of the Jewish pupils. In addition to that, the rabbi could no longer teach religion classes at the secondary school as it could not be tolerated to teach in German at a Czech school. Gugenheimer was of small stature, a hefty smoker, an honest and strict man, and always full of energy. He lived at the turn of the times, but despite his great efforts, he didn't manage to stop the development that changed the old Jewish ways. The Kolín Jews learned about his worldwide fame at his funeral on the 11th of February 1896, when mourners and friends from all over the world came to Kolín to speak about his merits.
18961916 Dr. Rafael Gugenheimer. In honor of the deceased, the Kolín Jews elected Dr. Rafael Gugenheimer as the rabbi after his father Josef. He served in the function for twenty years and worked in the spirit of his father. He studied wholeheartedly. He didn't participate in public or social life. He wrote the work Deutscher Kommentar zur Hagada (The German Commentary to Haggadah). During his time, the German school was closed and derashot were held in Czech. The organ was introduced to the temple against his will, along with the mixed choir, which replaced the allboys choir, whose little head caps had been a custom in the temple for many years. He made sure to preserve the kashrut and mikvah (the ritual bath). He died at the young age of 48 years and was buried alongside his father and predecessor.
Since the 1st of August 1917, Dr. Richard Feder is the rabbi in Kolín. Feder graduated from Akademické Gymnázium (Academic Highschool) in Prague, the University of Vienna, and the Viennese Theological Institute. He is also a professor at the Academy of Commerce in Kolín. He issued three books of Jewish stories, Hebrew textbooks, and others.
The Kolín Jews were adamant about nice singing in their temple and had very good cantors, which were then also called chazen or Schulsinger. The following cantors are mentioned:
1779 Feischl Sallomon was cantor there. In an old book of expenditures, we find the following note: On the 30th of April, I had sung Solario (solo) as cantor for 26 weeks, with double pay during the Easter holidays and I was paid 56 florins from the community's treasury. Therefore, he was paid 2 thalers per week. It seems that he was in office for a long time. According to Dr. Jakobovits, he later took the name Schön and his son was most likely his successor.
1816 Vít Schön, died in 1816.Since 1919 Richard Reichner. He was born in Lomnice na Moravě. During the time of the three previous cantors (since 1907), he sang as the second cantor, and from 1919 he sang as the first cantor. Due to his modesty and sedulity in the office, he was highly respected.
18161856 Joachim Pollak and his son Josef Pollak
18551865 Šalamoun Müller, already signing himself as cantor. He had to give up his position due to mental illness.
18651905 Mojžíš Kulka, a Moravian artist. His funeral melodies made spectacular and memorable impressions on their listeners.
19051909 Josef Mojžíš Lamberg. He was the first cantor when the organ and mixed choir were introduced to the temple.
19091911 Max Gross
19121919 Šalamoun Reicin
The temple organ was a gift from Bernard Mandelík, an industrialist and landlord from Ratboř u Kolína. Since the first cantor Reicin left, the organ had not been in use.
The temple administrator is Adolf Eisler.
In Kolín, like everywhere else, the Jewish fathers made sure that their children, especially their sons, received proper education, not only to be able to provide for their families but also to gain immortality for their souls. That was why they sent their children to school. For a long time, the schools were private and had all the advantages and disadvantages of private schools or, better said, illicit schools. Nobody cared about the teachers' education. It was common for people to rent a room and establish a school there, while simultaneously living there with their family. There, they would teach the Hebrew subjects, mainly the Talmud. The teaching process was mechanical without any pedagogical method of advancing from easy to difficult. As soon as the children learned to read, which they did in a few weeks, they would receive difficult texts, and nobody would care whether the children would understand them or have an interest in them. The schools were like torture chambers and without the pressure from parents and punishment by teachers, the children would gladly play truant. The teachers were very strict, and they dealt with every problem in the classroom by physical punishments with a wooden rod. However, thanks to that, even Kolín private schools were a source of many men with an extraordinary education. For a long time, the rabbis planned to merge all the schools into one Hebrew institution. However, neither the teachers nor the parents shared their opinion, because the fight against old, even if outdated traditions is always a difficult one and, in most cases, unsuccessful.
A serious attempt to centralize the schools in Kolín was made by rabbi Chajim Deutschmann, who was the rabbi in Kolín in the period 18281837. The attempt was again, unsuccessful, and led to turmoil and fuss in the community. Everything stayed as it was, which had the advantage that when one was not satisfied with a teacher, he went to another one. The private teachers were eager to bring the very best out of their pupils because the fathers examined their sons every Saturday and sometimes took them for examination to the rabbi. The teachers were therefore confronted every week with either parents' satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction meant the loss of the pupil followed by longterm financial damage, while satisfaction meant an extraordinary honorarium, which was greeted dearly by the teachers' wives.
A large shift took place at Kolín with the arrival of Rabbi Daniel Frank in 1839. Shortly after his arrival, he visited all the private Hebrew schools and the results of his inspection were of great dissatisfaction to him. He saw that there was neither a functioning system nor a plan, a lack of discipline, and even basic care for one's health. He explained the state of the matter from the pulpit and proclaimed energetically that he would give up his position if the community and the parents would not support him in the establishment of a proper school divided into classes, where good and proven teachers would teach and receive a fixed salary. The Kolín Jews recognized that the matter was urgent and necessary and therefore supported him.
It was Wolf Popper, Nathan Turnau, David Schlüssner, Nathan Schickler, and Tobiáš Porges who took initiative and rented four suitable rooms. After the Autumn holidays of 1839, the fourgrade Hebrew school was already up and running. It was supervised by the rabbi and everyone inside it worked with enthusiasm. The results of the new educational system were astonishing. During the first year, the Kolín Hebrew Institute (Bet Hamidrasch Anstalt) was visited by the famous Prague rabbi Šalamoun Rappaport who stated the following: On my journey to Prague, I was very pleasantly surprised in Kolín. The local rabbi presented to me the new Hebrew Institute and I examined the pupils in religion, Hebrew grammar, and the Talmud. The pupils answered very wittily, and it was obvious that they had not only been taught to memorize but that the teachers had been shaping their hearts and minds as well. The pupils also showed the ability to translate from German to Hebrew and vice versa, which was very impressive for their low age. As I see it, it is thanks to the work of the dignified rabbi. Praise the Almighty God that he bestows such wise leaders to his people! I wish there were more of such leaders in Israel.
In 1840, the Hebrew Institute was visited by the baron from Wetzler, the Kouřim region commissioner. He was accompanied by the mayor of Kolín, Jiří Schecher. The examination of the pupils was completely satisfactory to both of the guests and they gave the best report to the authorities. The baron took away such a good and longlasting impression that he went on to encourage every Jew he met to support the Kolín Hebrew Institute.
Shortly after the school was authorized in 1844, rabbi D. Frank came up with a plan for the construction of a new school building. It was to be built in the courtyard in front of the synagogue. It was the only free space left in the Jewish Street and was suitable in every aspect, except for one disadvantage: it would overshadow the synagogue. However, the Kolín Jews did not need to look at the synagogue, they went there daily and believed that it would be that way for eternal times.
But there was a more difficult question where would they get the money to build the twostory schoolhouse? The financial means of Kolín Jews were insufficient.
Many people made voluntary contributions, but it was nothing close to the sum of money that was required. Rabbi Daniel Frank had an idea. With the approval of the municipality, he had 20 thaler shares printed and the Kolín Jews offered them to their relatives and acquaintances. The rabbi sold them at weddings and offered them to anybody who came to him for whatever reason. However, the sale of shares did not bring enough. Then, the rabbi traveled to Vienna, where he offered the shares to rich coreligionists. The rabbi was very keen and had a talent for passing his enthusiasm onto others. The people admired him and bought shares from him according to their financial means, even though they knew well that they would never be listed on any stock exchange. He sold 70 shares in Vienna and 57 in Kolín.
After his return from Vienna, the construction began. The school was finished in 1846. Even the Kolín mayor contributed 20 thalers by purchasing one share.
The German Jewish School, which had been operating in rented rooms until then, was also moved into the new building.
In the Hebrew Institute, the following subjects were taught: elementary basics, the Hebrew Bible with emphasis on morals and ethics, religion, Hebrew grammar, an introduction to Aramaic, nonobligatory Talmud, German, history, and geography. As we can see, the emphasis was on Hebrew and religion. The school also accepted female pupils for whom an industrial female teacher was hired (who likely taught the girls activities like sowing). Entertainment was also provided; the Jews received the fortification (Zwinger) behind the synagogue from the municipality and built a gymnasium there (Turngarten).
Inspired by the Kolín Hebrew Institute, similar schools were founded in Mladá Boleslav, Ĉeská Lípa, Roudnice, Ĉerný Kostelec and other places.
The teachers aimed to unteach the children the jargon they spoke at home with their parents.
Many important men visited the Kolín Hebrew Institute, and all have praised the school.
In August 1846, the famous Viennese preacher, Noe Mannheimer visited Kolín. He wrote the following into the memorial book of the Hebrew Institute: During my short visit in Kolín, it was a great pleasure to have convinced myself about the extraordinary results of the teachers and pupils in the local Israelitic school. These confirm the keenness, diligence, and vigilance of the teachers and perception and efforts of the youth. I wish that this beautiful and magnanimous work will continue to bring the best results in honor of the school founders and the Kolín community and will be a blessing to the coming generations.
Similar statements of appraisal have also been given by the following rabbis:
Dr. S. Sachs
Dr. I. Jeiteles
Jakub Hallerv David Löwy
Marek Winternitz director of the Israelitic school in Prague
In 1855, the great philanthropist from London, Mojžíš Montefiore, honored Kolín with his visit. He was accompanied by Dr. L. Loewe, director of the Jewish theological college in London. Montefiore knew half of the world; he had visited the most remote countries and had visited many Jewish institutions. He was so impressed by what he saw and heard in the Kolín Jewish school, that he established a foundation for the support of the poor pupils in the school.
Even the gentile school inspectors were satisfied every time they came to visit the school. Jan Pátek, imperial and royal school inspector wrote the following in the memorial book of the school on the 7th of February 1865: God bless the wonderful work of the teachers
The Hebrew Institute lost its religious character in 1871, when it became a public, mostly German elementary school.
Since 1782, there was also a German school in Kolín, which was found by an order of the emperor Josef II. The pupils were taught in leased rooms. The school moved a few times. From 1805 to 1810, it was in Pražská Street no. 2 in the house of Martina Valková. From there, it moved to Kouřimská Street to house no. 12, which belonged to Josef Paleček. In 1816, the school rented inn rooms in the house of František Vojtěchovský in house no. 15 and moved there, paying 64 thalers per year. It stayed there until it was moved into its own building in Židovská Street in 1846.
The first teacher in the Kolín German school was Gutmann Freund, born in Kolín. He taught 20 hours a week 1st graders (611 years old) for 10 hours and 2nd graders (815 years old) also for 10 hours. The 1st graders were taught letters, spelling, and reading (5 hours), writing on the blackboard and paper (3 hours), basic arithmetic (1 hour), and inflection (1 hour). 2nd graders were taught ethics and obligations (2 hours), reading written and printed texts (1 ½) hour, calligraphy (2 hours), spelling and dictated writing (1 ½ hour), arithmetic with small and large numbers (1 ½ hour) and German grammar (1 ½ hour).
Initially, the number of pupils in the school was 41. However, it quickly grew to 92 and later 200. A good friend of the new German school was Juda Löw Saudek, who took care of the necessary things to run the school and donated many supplies. Other good friends of the school were:
In 1795, a novelty was introduced at the school. The best students received an honorary diploma for their hard work and results. Juda Löw Saudek had 100 of these diplomas printed from his own money.
In 1796, the education was interrupted for a long time because a devastating fire burned down the Jewish Street and caused great losses to the inhabitants. The imperial and royal state government, therefore donated 50 textbooks to the German school. As so despite the difficulties, the examination on the 15th of September was successful as witnessed by the regional school inspectors, various representatives and guests among whose were abbe Alexander Pařízek imperial principal of the Normal school in Prague and abbe Václav Müller, principal of the Main School in Kutná Hora. The pupils with the best results received books and the poor pupils received socks and shoes.
The teacher Gutmann Freund was also praised, his pupils wrote in a clean font and partly also in ornamental font, showed eagerness to God and the homeland, and prayed a prayer for the imperial and royal military, written by their teacher.
Gutmann Freund died in 1799 after 17 years of service. One year before his death, his salary was raised from 175 to 200 thalers per year, due to pressure from the magistrate.
His successor was Izák Prager, who was called in from Turnov. He was a perfect substitution for his predecessor and in many aspects, he was even better. He worked in Kolín until 1807. When he left, three men applied for the position. They were Michael Spitzner, Marek Bresnitz, and Bernard Schlesinger. Marek Bresnitz got the position. His salary was 175 thalers a year. Even this small salary was not paid regularly. On the 2nd of September, he complained that since the 11th of April, he had not received a single kreuzer from the Jews. He also complained
that the salary was insufficient since after paying for lodging, firewood, and other expenses, there were just 45 thalers left, while the teacher minimum fixed by the law was 130 thalers.
In 1813, the teacher Bresnitz took a fiveweeklong leave, extended it to four months, and then never returned to Kolín. He stayed in Pest where he got a position as a teacher.
Michael Spitzner, born in Kolín, was chosen as the next teacher. He served the school very well until he died in 1850. His beginning salary was 175 and later 200 thalers per year. He also held the position of the communal scribe, took care of the Jewish registries, and was the executive of a local savings bank. For that, he was paid separately. He was often praised by the school inspectors. In 1839, his son Juda was hired as his assistant.
During Spitzner's time as a teacher, a school fee was introduced. It was three kreuzers per week and was only to be paid by pupils from wealthy families. Still, even the wealthy pupils often did not pay, and the unpaid sum was so high that if the teacher was able to extort it, he could buy a beautiful house from that sum alone. The school fee was paid to the teacher.
In 1823, the salary of Spitzner was raised from 200 Viennese thalers to 200 conventional thalers. After Spitzner, the following men worked at the school:
David Brückner (later the administrator of the school in Lomnice na Moravě)
Jakub Singer (later the rabbi in Německý Brod)
and later the trio: Adolf Pacovský, Alois Taussik, and Aron Fried
The school had three grades. In 1898, the German school was closed and restructured into a linguistic and religious school, where Jewish pupils that studied in Czech schools received education in German and Hebrew. After the world war, this school was closed due to a lack of interest. To this day, there are still many people who received a good foundation in the Kolín Jewish school and with love and appreciation, they recall their Jewish teachers who fulfilled their difficult task with holy passion, often for a very insufficient salary.
Each Chevra Kadisha Gemilus Chasadim has its statutes. The statutes of the Kolín Chevra are from 1680 and 1718 and are based on rules from 1610. The Kolín Chevra is therefore the second oldest after the Prague Chevra.
The Kolín Chevra followed the example of the Prague Chevra. Like the Prague Chevra, the Kolín Chevra had two members who made sure that the statutes were aligned with the needs of the public, which varied in peace and war times. Substantial changes in the statutes were made in the years 1639, 1641, 1650, and 1718. These were recorded in the association's books and were approved by the Kolín rabbis. In 1680, we read the signature of rabbi Feiwesch who proudly called himself the soninlaw of Abraham Lichtenstadt; in 1718 the signature of Prague rabbi Baruch Austerlitz, later of Eliáš Spíra, Jakub Illowy, Eleázar Kallír and of Dr. Josef Gugenheimer.
The Kolín Chevra never had many members. It was very selective and becoming a member was a great honor. In 1718, the maximum number of members was set (in the statutes) to 36. Therefore, new members could only be accepted when a place was freed due to death, expulsion, or voluntary resignation.
New members had to pay an admittance fee, which varied. The sons of members paid little, sonsinlaw paid more and new members without a relative in the society paid the most. Furthermore, the members had to pay a monthly fee and also had to make small contributions to the ceremonial dinner (Chevra sude). This dinner took place every year and was an important event.
The members of the brotherhood were obliged to live strictly according to the religious laws and participate in all three daily services. They were supposed to pray piously in the temple and set an example for the others. They were not allowed to go to inns. When somebody broke the rules, especially in time of service, they were punished by a penalty for their first offense and they were expelled from the society for their second offense. Playing card games was looked down upon and explicitly forbidden on Mondays and Thursdays, in the evenings of new months, during fast days and naturally on Saturdays and holidays.
In 1610, the Chevra Kadisha received the right from the rabbinate to punish disobedient members not only with a penalty but with anathema too.
At regular and ceremonial meetings and during burial ceremonies, the members had to follow a strict set of rules. The more learned members took precedence over those less learned and the older members over those younger. It was not allowed to change this order. The worst wrongdoing was if a member purposely broke a religious rule or accused a coreligionist in public court. In the case that somebody was expelled from the Chevra, he had to pay all due fees and a penalty of three thalers.
The services had strict rules. When somebody died, the chairmen would call the society's members together and they would meet at the Prague gate and wait for the servant to deliver the news. Then, they would go to the cemetery together. In the meantime, the deceased would already have been brought there.
The most important members of the Chevra Kadisha in Kolín were Icik Katz primate of the Jews in the rural area in 1692 and rabbi David, who was named chairman of the Chevra for life in 1681, despite the statutes of the society. He deserved this honor. At that time, Kolín was battling with plague. It was the most difficult time for the brotherhood. For each death, four members were drawn, however, rabbi David volunteered every time and set a good example for others to follow.
The Kolín Chevra Kadisha has had a cemetery since ancient times. The oldest tomb is from 1418, which means that the cemetery is more than 500 years old. There was a house at the cemetery, which was sold 35 years ago. It served as a hospital for the poor community members and as lodging (hekdesh) for traveling coreligionists. The society's servant, called liberer, treated sick locals and foreigners for a small fee.
A big part of the brotherhood expenses was the support of the poor, locals, and foreigners alike. The size of the support depended on the needs and wisdom of the supported. At the time when the common way of traveling was by foot or wagon, Kolín was often visited by important people seeking a place to rest or stay overnight. Usually, they also received a gift from the Chevra Kadisha as a souvenir.
The largest expense of the society was the maintenance of the hekdesh and the cemetery expansions made in the years 1688, 1789, and 1858.
The brotherhood was closely connected to the foundation dedicated to helping poor brides marry (Hachnosas Kallah).
The governing body of the Chevra Kadisha consisted of three members who alternated in the position of the chairman each month and five board members, one of whom was the community trustee. The electors were drawn from members who had been members of the society for at least three years. In the case of scholars, two years of membership were sufficient. To keep continuity in the brotherhood, at least one of the former leaders had to be reelected. The elections took place during Hoshana Rabbah. A ceremonial dinner took place during Simchat Torah. At the constitutive sitting, the members had to sit
in certain seats based on their function and age. After the election, the treasury was handed over to the new treasurer. During the ceremonial dinner, there was always a lecture. The local rabbi was always the first one asked to give it. In the case that he could not give the lecture, another scholar was asked first from the members of the society and then from the members of the community. The honorarium for such a lecture was half a thaler.
At least once in 3 months, a committee meeting took place. However, meetings of committee members happened more often as the chairman was not allowed to spend more than half an imperial thaler without the committee's consent. At the end of each month, the chairman in function had to call for a meeting where he handed the office over to the next chairman (Monatshalter). If he did not do so, he would not be allowed to hold the function of the chairman for another ten years.
The Chevra Kadisha was in a close connection with the Society of Pious Women (Nashim Zadkaniyot) who took care of female burials. This association was not independent, the women followed the instructions of men. It was reorganized in 1718 when the number of women members was set to 18.
The Chevra Kadisha had a prayer room for members only. It also had its own Torah and silver adornments for the Torah (kle kodesh). These were given to the community by the Chevra Kadisha under the condition that on Saturdays, the Chevra would have the right to call out its members to read from the Torah. In 1835, the Chevra donated a fine silver Torah crown (késer) weighing 234 lots to the synagogue under the condition that the crown would be used during all holidays and Saturdays when two Torahs are taken out. Furthermore, during Bereshish Saturdays (The first Saturday after Sukkot, when the new reading of the Torah starts), and when one of the members has a family ceremony.
There were usually good relations between the Jewish community and the Chevra Kadisha. The chairmen of the Jewish community were often important members of the burial society. The community was often forced to borrow money from the society. The society was very cautious and lent money only against some sort of security. It happened often that the community had to give all of their valuables as a deposit to the treasurer of the Chevra Kadisha.
The treasurer's house was a temporary home to many valuables. Almost every time there was a funeral, new deposits appeared in the house of the treasurer. The Kolín Jews did not pay for burial, but those living in the rural areas had to pay accordingly to their wealth. They had to pay the whole amount immediately after reserving the grave. When they did not have enough cash, they had to make a security deposit in the form of clothing, books, cloth, jewels, tools, etc. The fees were usually low: in many cases, they were 36, 40, 44, 72, or 80 kreuzers. The richest people paid 20 to 30 thalers. The fee was split equally between the Chevra Kadisha and the Jewish community, which was the coowner of the cemetery. In 1832, the community received 38 thalers and 38 kreuzers for 24 funerals and in 1836, they received 7 thalers and 47 kreuzers for 10 funerals. The Chevra Kadisha received the same amount.
The old cemetery behind the Prague gate is a rare monument and would deserve a detailed study. There lay Jews who lived in Kolín and its surroundings in the span of five hundred years. There are 2637 tombstones and many graves without one. Many tombstones have fallen apart. From the indicated number of tombstones, approx. 450 are partially or completely unreadable; the others still tell us who is resting below, how they lived, how they served their creator and when they died. In the middle of the cemetery, the following Kolín rabbis are buried:
1860 Daniel Frank
1837 Chajim Deutschmann, born in Rychnov nad Kněžnou
1802 Eleázar Kallír, regional rabbi in Kouřim
1781 Jakub Illový
1745 Michel ben Jehudo
At their side also lies Becalel, son of the famous Prague rabbi Loew (Loew's brother lies not far from there). A Kolín legend tells that he died suddenly in Kolín after willingly opening a letter from his father that he had been carrying to Hungary. The Kolín Jews wanted to bring his body to Prague, but even a couple pairs of horses could not move the wagon with the body on it. They hurried to Prague to bring the sad news to the father. However, when they entered the rabbi's room and said that they were from Kolín, the rabbi interrupted them, saying: You are coming with the message that my son Becalel is dead and want to ask what to do with his body which you cannot bring to Prague. Burry my son at your cemetery in Kolín. There are many men who deserve the honor that my son would be buried beside them.
The old tombstones are often decorated, and their style often gives away their age. Until the sixties of the last century, the inscriptions were written in Hebrew, later in HebrewGerman and later also in HebrewCzech.
The old cemetery was in use until 1887. Later burials were prohibited by the authorities, even though there was still a lot of free space. In the same year, the Chevra Kadisha and the Jewish community founded a new cemetery in Zálabí and built a nice new ceremonial hall there and a house for the gravedigger. At the new cemetery, Rabbi Dr. Josef Gugenheimer (1896) and his son and successor Rabbi Dr. Rafael Gugenheimer (1916) were buried alongside each other.
Luckily, until now, the Kolín Chevra Kadisha has been led by chairmen well aware of their honorable task. We can mention at least those from 1900:
until 1904 Josef Saudek
until 1906 Ignác Sachsel
until 1908 Raimund Heller
until 1909 Dr. Max Brown
until 1915 Adolf Eisler
until 1929 Jindřich Singer
until 1931 Pavel Poláček
The current chairman is director Max Singer, son of the meritorious, longserving chairman, Jindřich Singer. The treasurer is Rudolf Adler. The head of the pious women is Hilda Feder.
Even today, the Kolín Chevra Kadisha fulfills its obligations: maintaining the cemeteries, accommodating the poor local and traveling coreligionists; managing the Hachnosas Kallah foundation for poor brides, putting tombstones on the graves of soldiers who fell during the war and keeping contact with Nashim Zadkaniyot. The Chevra Kadisha neglects just one obligation: is doesn't host annual feasts anymore, but that is caused by today's conditions
In Kolín, there were more than 20 Jewish associations and societies, however many of them ceased to exist because of changes of conditions, and others just barely survive. The societies of Talmudists (Shaschevre and Rashichevre) have disappeared. The Talmud Torah still exists, Bikur Cholim and others merged with the Jewish community. Not even the recently founded association for temple singing is active anymore. The Anijim and Evjaunim associations, who help provide food and fuel to the poor, are still active.
The Association of Jewish Women and Girls has been very profitable. It is tirelessly raising money to support poor Jews in Kolín and in other places as well. It also contributes to the support of passing coreligionists. For a long time, it was led by Žofie Poláčková, Růžena Saudková, and Antonie Skučová. Today it is led by: Irma Braunová wife of a dentist, Hermína Hellerová, Pavlína Poláčková, and Berta Weissensteinová.
The association distributes two wagons of coal yearly, some is also distributed to poor Christians.
The benefactor of the Kolín Jews is the association Derech Jeshoro which I have described in detail in an article in the Kalendář českožidovský 1928/1929 (CzechJewish Calendar, 1928/1929) with the title The First Jewish Health Associations. The association was established in 1811, following the example of the association in Prague under the same name. Its task was to take care of its sick members, convalescents, and old members. Its statutes state that it is forbidden for a wealthy man to be its chairman, as he might not fulfill his samaritan obligations, for example, to visit the sick, hire them a caretaker when necessary, to provide good and nourishing food, to oversee their doctor's work, to provide funding for the sick people at the hospital, to give them the attention they need, etc. The association cofinances members' stays in spas and gives monthly monetary support to its older members.
We also read in the statutes that the association does not give gifts to its members, but fair support to which every member is entitled. The association was led by Ignác Stein for a quarter of a century. He took over the association with an empty cashier box and left it to his successors with a large fortune in the form of fields and meadows, which had not been devalued by the world war. After Ignác Stein, the association was led by Julius Wlašin and since 1908, it has been led by Josef Weigner together with Adolf Arnstein and Max Skuč.
The association Derech Jeshoro encouraged the establishment of the association Jeshuo Beitau (Aid in Time) with the aim to help those who unexpectedly found themselves in a difficult situation. Derech Jeshoro is strictly bound by its statutes and cannot accept members older than 40 years of age and neither can it support nonmembers. This gap is filled in by Jeshuo Beitau. Its chairman is Adolf Eisler.
Firstly, I want to note that the Kolín Jews never sold liquor. The first Jew to rent out the town distillery and to be a liquor vendor was David Dub (who died in 1824).
The poor Kolín Jews made their living as vendors, doortodoor salesmen, and shop owners. They sold cloth, textiles, iron, clothing, junk, rags, and farm produce. There were many craftsmen among them. There were tailors and glovers (who together formed a single independent guild), shoemakers, butchers, glassblowers, bakers, goldsmiths, furriers, soap makers, bookbinders, wagoners, upholsterers, day laborers, cotton, wool and pipe makers, and garnet lapidaries. They were also toll collectors and later beer brewers, farmland owners, and tobacconists. The first manufacturer in Kolín was Jonáš Steinberger. He was titled the imperial and royal calico manufacturer. He died in 1814.
In the beginning of the 19th century, there were two doctors, Menase Holding, and Efrájim Grün. When a Kolín Jew wanted to wish another one good health, he would refer to the bible: Shall God protect you from needing Menase and Efrájim. Holding's wife was a midwife. Holding and Grün performed circumcisions. The bookbinder Marek Müller also performed this procedure (during the period 18061847, he recorded a total of 395 circumcisions). Šimon Kröner, Izrael Skutsch, surgeon Josef Grün, Dr. Vilém Herrmann and primarily Ignác Stein continued in this practice after him.
The wealthy Jews were often active in finance. They gave out shortterm loans, mainly to farmers. There were many who lent money and thus there was strong competition among them. Frequently, the interest rates were below the limit set by the law. The rabbis, too, were forced to earn extra money by lending.
It was often difficult for poor Jews to secure enough capital to run their small shops. A big help to these Jews was the Jewish loan fund called Darlehenskassa, who gave out loans at low interest. The debt was then supposed to be paid off in small regular installments within two or three years. This fund ceased to exist at the end of the 18th century. I do not know whether it came to an end because of the disregard or the kindness of the last treasurer, Juda Löwy Saudek. Approximately 60 years ago, a similar institution was founded in Kolín, called Ahavas Rea (Love Thy Neighbor). It collected a few thousand thalers, which it lent for a short period and low interest. It helped many coreligionists in the direst times. After the war, it lost its significance, because its means did not correspond with today's economic conditions. The chairman is Albert Meisl.
Today, the Kolín Jews are employed in a very diverse range of professions.
In 1850, 313 Jewish families lived in Kolín and there was no village in the region where Jews did not live. Despite this, there were not many wealthy Jews in Kolín, but there were many poor Jews.
Many Kolín Jews made a significant impact outside of their native town.
First of all, there were three doctors who succeeded elsewhere in the world. Mojžíš Beer and his son Jakub ben Mojžíš made names for themselves in Železnice (Eisenstadt) in Hungary. Mojžíš Beer died in 1769, his son in 1806. The inscription on Beer's tombstone reads that he treated paupers and those in need free of charge. About Jakub, we read that he was a skilful doctor, mohel, and a very active member of Chevra Kadisha. In the 1830s, the doctor Adam Spitz, a familiant from Kolín, was active in Polná. He was so poor, that when a bailiff (distrainor) visited him because of his tax arrears, there was nothing to seize.
The most famous scholar from Kolín was without a doubt, Samuel Halevi. He was the rector of the Talmudist school in Boskovice. He wrote a very valued book, Machatzis HaShekel.
The regional rabbi in Mladá Boleslav, Izák Spitz (grandfather of the poet, Mořic Hartmann), was born in Kolín in 1766. His father Benjamin Spitz was a penman, scribe, and a sofer.
Dr. Filip Pollatschek, rabbi in Polná, was born in Kolín in 1817.
Filip Plaut, rabbi in Velká Šuráň, Slovakia, was born in Kolín in 1818. He is the author of the elevenvolume work Likute Chaver ben Chaim. He died in 1895.
Josef PopperLynkeus was born in Kolín on the 21st of February 1838. He completed his primary education there, as well as lower realschule. For the majority of his life, he worked as an inventor, writer, philosopher, and sociologist in Vienna. He died on the 21st of December 1921. His birth house in the former Jewish Street (currently Na Hradbách no. 50) has a commemorative plate made by the sculptress Erna EngelBaiersdorf, granddaughter of rabbi Deutschmann. It was unveiled on the 20th of December 1931. The memorial was a merit of the town major, Dr. Miroslav Jelínek.
The graphologist Robert Saudek was also born in Kolín, as well as his sister, writer Giza PickováSaudková, and his brother, doctor, and writer Dr. Ignác Saudek (who died in Brno).
The following were also born in Kolín:
Dr. Otakar Fischer university professor, poet, and author
Kamil Hoffmann author, and translator
Leo Borsky (born Bondy) editor of the newspaper Národní politika
Dr. Ludvík Singer leader of the Czech Zionists, parliament member and later the chairman of the Jewish community in Prague
Dr. Bohumil Stein author of the book Familie Schidlow and current chairman of the Jewish community in Prague
Dr. Marek Fischer an important figure of the Prague orthodoxy whose father, Eliáš Fischer, was the leader of the Kolín Jewish community for many years.
Feiš Kellin who later took the name Ehrenstamm, was a significant wholesaler and industrialist in Prostějov at the beginning of the 19th century. His family became very rich and influential but later fell back into poverty.
The sons of Mojžíš Petschek. They were known as bankers and mine owners: Isidor Petschek, born on the 15th of March 1854, Julius Petschek, born on the 14th of March 1856, Ignác Petschek, born on the 14th of July 1857.
Bernhard Mandelík an industrialist, was born in the Jewish Street. He was the father of Robert, Otta, and Ervín, owners of sugar factories and farms. They live partly in Ratiboř by Kolín and partly in Prague.
In 1881, 1148 Jews were living in Kolín and there were Jewish families in every neighboring village. Another Jewish community in the Kolín region was in Kouřim with synagogues in Kouřim, Zásmuky, and Plaňany. 10 years ago, the Kouřim community merged with the Kolín Jewish community, which currently has only 500 members. The synagogue in Plaňany was sold and the same fate awaits the abandoned temple in Zásmuky. The majority of Jews currently living in Kolín are immigrants. There are just a few original Kolín families. Even the old Saudek family is represented on the female side only. Due to today's economic conditions, the remaining members of the Jewish community in Kolín are getting poorer and poorer and it is possible that the old and famous Kolín Jewish community will lose its significance. For a long time, it has been the second community after the Prague community and always followed the Prague's example. Today, we find families from Kolín all over Bohemia, in Vienna, in Budapest, in America, just not in Kolín.
The following were the chairmen of the Jewish community in the past decades:
Director Julius Kraus
Dr. Josef Ornstein
Since 1825, the community has been led by Mr. Arnošt Spira, a retired inspector of the Czechoslovak railways. He is the treasurer of The Union of Bohemian Jewish communities and a member of the Highest Council.
This essay is not a complete detailed history of the Kolín Jews. That will have to be written in the future because recently, many historic materials have been discovered and only partially used while writing this text.
A historical map of the inner town of Kolín, Imperial land registry, 1841:
The Jewish Street (Juden Gaße) lies in the southwestern part of the town. The synagogue is the red house no. 151. The Jewish school was built in the lot in front of the synagogue (lot no. 152), 5 years after this map was made. The narrow street connecting the Jewish Street with the main square is Golden Street. The town walls are depicted in orange color. The western entrance into the town leads through the Prague gate (at the intersection of the town walls and Prague Street (Prager Gaße)). The old Jewish cemetery lies just outside of the map window in the Prague outskirts north of the westward continuation of Prague Street. The southern entrance into the inner town was through the Kouřimská gate near the southern end of Kouřimská Street (Kouřimská Gaße). East of it stands the church of St. Bartholomew, (no. 107, marked red). The city hall is in the northern part of the main square (no. 6, 7, marked red).
source: Císařské povinné otisky stabilního katastru, 1841. 1:2 880, Neu Kollin, Nowy Kollin. Ĉeský úřad zeměměřický a katastrální Ústřední archiv zeměměřictví a katastru, Praha
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