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Reichenberg (today Liberec in the Czech Republic) was founded by German speaking colonists and first documented in 1352. Its citizens were home weavers. Jewish merchants resided in town as early as the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century. They supplied the home weavers with the raw wool and provided for selling their finished products. Under the dominion of the Gallas (1634 - 1757) followed by the Clam Gallas - owners of the county of Friedland and Reichenberg - the Jewish merchants were not allowed to reside in town and were expelled several times but always returned shortly afterwards having become of vital importance for the weavers. For this reason Reichenberg never had a Ghetto or a Jewish quarter.
After 1848, more liberal national legislation allowed Jews to settle definitely in Reichenberg. During the industrial revolution, the town became the center of the textile industry of the Hapsburg Monarchy, also known as the "Austrian Manchester". While the Czech speaking labor force attracted from the hinterland was a serious menace for the linguistic and cultural identity of the German speaking bourgeoisie, the newly settled Jewish merchants, doctors, lawyers and textile mill owners and managers were bilingual and able and ready to give a substantial contribution to German culture. Allowed to build a monumental synagogue right next to the German Theater and the Town Hall and happy to be finally welcome, they cooperated successfully in political, economic and cultural life. The German Theater, famous for its high standard, was run by Jewish managers, conductors (Karl Rankl, Josef Blat, Kurt Herbert Adler, Heinrich Jalowetz) and sponsors.
Of the 71 lawyers practicing in town in 1938, 35 were Jewish. When in October 1938 the so-called Sudetenland was annexed to the German Reich, nearly all Jewish inhabitants (approximately 1600 from the city and others from the outskirts and neighboring villages) fled to Prague or to the interior districts of Bohemia and Moravia, where they had come from and where relatives of theirs had remained. When Hitler occupied the rest of the country they were deported and murdered.
Reichenberg's ethnic mix was irrevocably altered after the deportation of the Jews in WW2. This was followed in 1945 by the re-established Czechoslovak government's expulsion of the long-established German-speaking residents from the now-renamed Liberec. The newly settled Czech citizens knew nothing about the former Jewish population and their important contribution to the history of the city was completely ignored.
As a former German citizen (born in 1936 and expelled in 1945), I felt it was my duty to restore and preserve this memory.
This database includes 896 individuals from Reichenberg (Liberec) to various camps and their disposition when known. The fields for this database are as follows:
Note to Comments Field: The entries in this field include the following abbreviations:
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Last Update: 22 February 2009 by MFK