(Liberec, Czech Republic 50°47' 15°03')
By Prof. Dr. Emil Hofmann, Rabbi in Reichenberg
Translated from the original German by Jan O. Hellmann/DK
Edited in English by Rob Pearman/UK
The history of the Jews in Reichenberg covers a period of more than 300 years, and the history of this community demonstrates a character of its own. This is not because the typical characteristics are missing; what happens in this town is very much the same as what happened in other cities on a larger scale, in particular the changing fate of the people and their insecure legal status.
Until the establishment of the religious community, there was no organized association of Jews in Reichenberg. At the outset, this was because there were too few Jews in this town. The influx of immigrants increased after the second half of the 18th century, thanks in particular to legislation during the reign of Maria Theresa that supported trade and the growth of the weaving industry following the prohibition by Josef II in 1784 of the importing of cloth.
Jewish merchants came to Reichenberg from many parts: not only from the Bohemian towns of Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav), Neubidschow (Nový Bydžov) and Polna, but also from Moravia, especially from Trebitsch (Třebíč) and Pirnitz (Brtnice).
At first, these merchants came on their own, but later they were accompanied by their families. Even in 1810, however, at the height of this activity, the Jewish population of Reichenberg probably did not exceed 100.
Of course, smaller congregations did exist. For a long time, the Jews were allowed to stay in Reichenberg only on a temporary basis, and therefore it was not permitted to establish a community nor to create a cemetery. The last ruler of Reichenberg allowed no protected Jews (Schutzjuden), nor did he register familiants, nor grant the usual concessions. As a result, the names of Jews are missing from the familiant books and from the official registers of Reichenberg; they were registered in their home towns. This does not, however, mean that they did not stay in the town at least for some time.
Therefore, for this period, this is not so much the history of a Jewish community, but rather of a Jewish trading colony. Its significance was mainly economic. There is a considerable contradiction between this economic significance and the ban by the authorities and guilds. However, despite all the limitations, the necessities of life distorted the legal framework, and the demands of domestic trade and industry turned this town into the meeting point of Jews from ‘out-of-town’.
In the history of the Jews in Reichenberg, we can distinguish between three periods: the first is the ‘residential’ period, which lasted for about 60 years. The second lasted for more than two centuries and included a legal ban on settlement, but did not prevent Jews from living in Reichenberg. The third period started in 1860, following the introduction of equal rights.
The Barons von Biberstein
The chronicler of Reichenberg, Father Karl Felgenhauer, parish priest of Christofsgrund (Kryštofovo Ú dolí ), who was very positively inclined towards Jews, notes in his handwritten record for 1812, the following: In 1495, in the time of Ulrich, Baron von Biberstein, there was a great famine. Three families that lived below Jeschken (Ještěd Mountain) disappeared without trace. Others came to us and built new houses. Among these were 18 Jews.
As the work of Felgenhauer is full of errors and as the author often dates the events too early, it is necessary to examine his information carefully and critically. However, the assumption that Jews had already settled in during the period of this aristocratic lineage, with its powerful Friedlander and Forster branches, and then settled in Reichenberg later, cannot be dismissed out of hand.
The town gained in importance thanks to its economic growth. However, Reichenberg is already mentioned in 1454 in a record of the land holdings of the village of Hammerstein. A century earlier than this, there was rivalry between the towns of Zittau and Görlitz about trading routes through Reichenberg. Evidence of repeated prohibitions that favored other routes shows that there was considerable traffic through Reichenberg. As this town was located on a trading route, it is understandable that Jews settled here very early.
The members of the Biberstein family were not supportive of the Jews. The last member of the family, Joachim II, was negative and hostile towards them. On 4 May 1542, when acting as the clerk at a meeting of the Parliament of Bohemia, he agreed to the following resolution: Regarding the decision from the last meeting concerning the Jews that led to the expulsion of the Jews from Bohemia by His Majesty the King based on a request by all three ranks which has been inscribed into the records of the meeting, it is resolved that His Majesty the King shall maintain this decision and that no Jews shall be permitted to take residence in Bohemia now and for eternity. Those who are found in this kingdom shall lose their head. The only exceptions shall be those who received from the King, on the most recent St. George's Day, a Letter of Dispensation which they can present to anybody and to those coming to pay their debts. These Jews are to write down all their claims and hand this record to the high bailiff of the Kingdom of Bohemia before the feast day of Saint John. If they fail to do so before the feast day of Saint John, they shall not retain any right on these claims.
At the same time another member of the family, Hans von Biberstein, had moved several Jews from Bohemia to Sorau (Žáry now in Poland), and in 1365 he mortgaged a village in Sorau to a Jew. In the time of Ulbrich IV and Hieronymus Biberstein, at the beginning and middle of the 16th century, Jews lived on the lands of Friedland (Frýdlant). The local archive contains nothing more than fragments of the Biberstein documents. None of these deals with the Jews and even in the many debt notes no Jewish names are to be found. However, from other sources it is clear that many branches of this aristocratic family had dealings with the Jews. Despite the circumstantial evidence and probabilities, there is actually no proof of any Jewish presence in Reichenberg during the Biberstein period. We find it hard to believe the Felgenhauer report as it does not quote its source and, when we think about the high number of 18 Jews settling in at the same time, this does sound rather fantastic and makes us wonder.
Our chronicle also notes: In 1498, two Jews beat a rich grocer so badly beneath Gallows Mountain that he remained lying there as if he were dead. When he woke up, he told the magistrate what happened. The Jews were followed and found in Zittau, from whence they were sent to Prague. Felgenhauer is again silent regarding his sources. His record is equally anecdotal in the story of the audience of the Jew Benjamin at Berka from Dauba (Dubá ) in the year 966. Benjamin is said to have complained about the killing of his travelling companion and, as a result, the founder of Reichenberg had the killers hanged. It would be interesting to have Jews documented in Reichenberg so early, but we are forced to disregard the stories of Felgenhauer as little more than fairy tales.
The Barons von Rädern
But now we are coming to records with historical foundations. According to a trustworthy source, the Jews were in Reichenberg for the first time in 1582. For this evidence, we can thank the head of the Reichenberg rulers, Joachim Ulrich of Rosenfeld. In his autobiography he writes inter alia: From fear of the plague, Jews from Prague have also fled here. I have more than 60 of them outside my city walls. The fact that the author does not speak from memory but in the present tense makes the story even more interesting. This first record of Jews in Reichenberg describes the humanitarian act of providing asylum. The place outside the city walls was beyond the ‘Red Neisse’ river. Joachim Ulrich of Rosenfeld was a man without prejudice, who had spent his youth in Russia and Poland, where he met Jews. It is correct to call him the ‘father’ of Reichenberg.
Such free thinking was not only true of the head but also for the rulers. Melchior von Rädern also strikes out, in his land regulation, against the gentiles who made excessive loans of money and grain. The free thinking of the von Rädern is also shown by the fact that Jews were able to settle in Reichenberg, and even more from the fact that they were able to purchase real estate. We find the Jew Isaac as the wealthy owner of a house. Further, the following is found in one of the ruler's registers of sales:
by Elias Ehrlich of a house and half a barn from Isaac the Jew on 23 March 1622. In the local town registers here, at the instigation of master Dero's merciful permit, is hereby agreed upon honestly and sincerely following the purchase of an inheritance: Isaac the Jew sells his house, which is next to the house of Paul Schrötter and also adjoins the garden of Mrs Daronn, all of it fully nailed and screwed, and half a barn at the house of Agnes Zimmermann previously in the possession of Kaspar Neumann. For this shall Elias Ehrlich at the earliest date pay a sum of 155 ß. The guarantor for payment is citizen Abraham Ehrlich with the right of seizure of the house in the case of non-payment. The ruler is to be paid 10 ß with a half keg of beer for the community. Witnessed by: Michel Kloss town judge, Hans Sieber councilor. In the index of the registry is written: The Purchase by Elias Ehrlich of the house and half barn from Isaac the Jew.
The purchaser of the house was a respected cloth manufacturer and town judge. Even two decades later, the number of houses in Reichenberg was no more than 263. In a protest by the council in 1708 against the toll office, the following is underlined: This meadow is planted with wood.
The house of Isaac could be the 2nd house on the left side of the Old Town Square (Altstädtische Square) in what is today known as Schückerstrasse. If it were not very large it would not have been possible to distinguish it from other houses.
It is therefore apparent from the land register that already in the 1st quarter of the 17th century a Jew possessed a house in Reichenberg. As the note in the land register twice states here it is obvious that the Jewish house owner was domiciled in Reichenberg and not in another place.
Incidentally, we can see his name twice in the municipal records. In the year 1619, it is written in connection with the costs of paving: To Isaac the Jew is given 1/12 of four Schock and 12 coppers for 3½ days of stone transport with 3 horses. In the church accounts from the same year is written: To Isaac the Jew is paid 18 Schock and 30 coppers for green taffeta and hem for the baptismal font. These are two exquisite notices which support each other. They show that Isaac was active and versatile, and that he enjoyed the trust of what was at that time an Evangelical church in Reichenberg. It is not known why Isaac left Reichenberg nor where he went to. He is perhaps the very same person ‘Isaac from Münchengraz’ (Mnichovo Hradiště) who appears 17 years later as a supplier. As he was well known and popular in Reichenberg, it is possible that he was a popular supplier.
Thanks to the evidence of a reliable witness, it is proven that there was one further Jewish inhabitant of Reichenberg by the name of Samuel. The Steward of Friedland castle writes to the magistrate of Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav) asking him to ensure that this Jew presents himself at Friedland Castle because a local citizen has raised a complaint against him. He writes that Samuel the Jew had lived in Reichenberg for a long time. As this letter is written in September 1623, this Jew must have already settled in Reichenberg in the time of the Barons of Räder. In a second letter, the Steward states explicitly that he, the Jew, had settled in Reichenberg and had been a local subject there and had not taken his leave in a correct way and therefore is incorrectly held by you as your subject. He belongs therefore still to the jurisdiction of Reichenberg, and he promises to take the necessary action. From the further note by the highest administrative officer of the castle and I hear that he bought a house in Jungbunzlau, it is possible to conclude that Samuel had reached a level of prosperity. It cannot be excluded that other Jews lived in Reichenberg at that time, but probably they were few in number. In any case it is proven that Jews lived in Reichenberg in the time of the Barons of Räder. It is also probable that Jews lived in other estates owned by the Räders, as the Räders wanted to increase the number of protected Jews (Schutzjuden). This was for financial reasons as the Jews had to pay protection taxes. However, the rule of the Räders ended after six decades and the time was not favorable for such plans.
Albrecht Wallenstein, the Count of Friedland
The previous owner of Reichenberg was outlawed because he was a supporter of the so-called ‘Winter King’ and had to flee the country. On 5 June 1622, Albrecht Wallenstein bought the estate from public ownership and borrowed money for the purchase by giving the estate as guarantee. On 8 June, the magistrate arranged a festive dinner in connection with the reckoning up of the malt tax. Later it was noticed that the new ruler had withdrawn from the town the rights to brew beer, produce malt and trade with salt. To compensate for this, he supported the weaving industry and the construction of the New Town in order to assist the building industry. The change of ruler was also very important to the Jews. A new window had been opened for their economic activities. Wallenstein was not only a great leader but also a genial economist.
It is quite natural that, in order to develop the economy of his territory, he should draw Jews to it and give them adequate privileges. Of special importance to Reichenberg is the former Prague banker and merchant Jacob Bassewi. He was the first Jew in the former Austria to achieve the status of nobility. He received the title from Treuenberg and a coat of arms with jewels.
Bassewi can be compared only with Josef Süss Oppenheimer (known as ‘Jew Süss’), although the latter was better equipped in terms of financial understanding and political ability. Already in 1622, Bassewi applied for the right to buy houses in places where Jews were not settled. Wallenstein knew him for a long time and had a high regard for his commercial abilities. He needed such people for his far reaching plans. He was in business with Bassewi as a silent partner in the coin production consortium. When later the heirs of the governor Lichtenstein and of Bassewi were tried, nobody dared to go against the mighty ‘generalissimo’. Out of pure gratitude, he cared for his business friend until the end of his life. So it was that during his fall from the highest pinnacle, a late summer sun of favor from his patron shone down upon Bassewi. The Jewish merchant became a ‘princely Wallenstein’ Jewish merchant at the imperial court. On 4 June 1632 he received, together with his cousin Leon who was his business companion, a privilege from the Prague duke. Although in this privilege they received the right to do business without any hindrance in all the towns, markets and areas of our dukedoms of Friedland (Frýdlant), Sagan and Glogau (Hlohov), they received on the same day a special privilege for Reichenberg: Further we also give to the said Bassewi, in order to improve his possibilities for business and living, the exceptional freedom to build a house in our town of Reichenberg at the best location for him and in order to speed up the process we order, you our chief officer, to support him with material and payments to the citizen builders. In the event that he should find a house that is already built, we give you the powers to allow him to buy it and allow him to have his friends or children, Jewish or gentile, to live there and to direct his business from there. We further order that, if the Bassewi people need protection anywhere in our Dukedom or in all of the Kingdom of Bohemia, they shall enjoy our highest official protection. Nobody shall dare to act against this our will without punishment. We seal this letter with our great seal. It is remarkable that this privilege concerning Reichenberg is presented as an ‘exceptional’ freedom.
The following order was issued by the Jičín administration on 5 December 1633 to the head of the administrative of the castle of Reichenberg: The Bassewi Jews, who have the privilege to direct their business affairs in your town without any hindrance and a copy of whose privilege is in your possession, shall be supported and protected in the best way and shall have any support that they require to ensure their freedom.
The fact that this order was issued a year and a half after the granting of the privilege shows that the Bassewis encountered some difficulties in Reichenberg. It is not obvious from the sources whether the branch office of the Bassewi company bought or built a house. In either case, it meant that the Jewish employees of this company were able to live in Reichenberg. So Jacob Bassewi sent one of his employees to Reichenberg to pay for textiles and he, as it is said, stayed there during our holy days. The size of the Bassewi business - which grew from a court company serving a duke to a global company - is worthy of a detailed economic study. The death of Bassewi himself came just a few months after the assassination of his patron.
The loan of 40,000 guilders made by the Duke to Bassewi as start-up and working capital does not appear to have been paid back at once, but in regular amounts usually of 1,000 guilders each time. This is indicated by the order dated 6 June 1633 from the Jičín administration to the Count of Reichenberg. He was instructed to ensure that the cloth weavers of Reichenberg paid the 400 Reichenberg thalers that they owed the Duke for wool either to the two Jews or to their representatives. These in turn were to pay 1,000 florins to his merciful highness the Duke. From the main register of the Jičín administration, it is clear that the Basewi did not always have 1,000 florins to hand.
The Counts Gallas and Clam-Gallas
To enter this period of history is like moving from the open air into a closed room. Reichenberg was ruled for more than 200 years by these counts. During this time, Jews could not become citizens not even subjects. This was not, in fact, because of the counts but because of the law. The Jewish Law of 14 August 1725 and also that of 20 September 1725 forbade the settlement by Jews in places where they had not previously been settled. According to the Responsibilities of country inhabitants and local authorities, the local authorities were given more responsibility for the Jews. The Jewish Law of Franz II dated 3 August 1797 was clearly released after the French Revolution. It is a milestone on the road towards equal status for Jews and supports their education. However, it is objectionable in its maintenance of the monstrous familiant regulations. This law was also rather reactionary in terms of the right of residence. It states that: A Jewish family shall only be tolerated in places where Jews settled before 1725. The Counts of Clam-Gallas often wished to settle Jews on their land, but they were prevented from doing so by the law. They did not know or had forgotten that Jews had already been living in Reichenberg many years earlier. Because of this, Jews were not allowed to have homes within this estate. On 16 August 1799, the Prague Jew Pzřibram bought a house in the village of Hanichen (Hanychov) from Joseph Porsche but was ordered by the count to sell it within a year to a gentile. These reports by Fiebiger may be believed despite the fact that he does not supply sufficient evidence as proof.
Also, in the year 1804, the Seegen brothers they were merchants were obliged to sell within two months the house they had officially registered in Reichenberg. They were ordered to ensure that they found a purchaser with due property and citizenship rights. Such anti-Jewish tendencies were a product of the time. The idea of a national economy was at that time an unknown concept; where we today recognize the self-sufficiency of the country, the earlier concept was the self-sufficiency of the city. Furthermore, the guilds urged the administration not to allow the Jews, if they were already present, to stay in Reichenberg any longer or to increase their number.
In 1833, the merchant class complained: The Israelites have taken over our opportunity to speculate and to profit within the space on the town square which they have been allocated. On the one hand it was believed that keeping Jews away would be in the local interest, on the other hand they understood the need to get around the legislation and allow the Jews to settle - at least tacitly. Of course, the Jews were still under the threat of expulsion their ‘Sword of Damocles’ - and had to face harassment of every kind.
Despite this, Jews lived in Reichenberg all the time, even though their permit allowed them to stay only for the duration of the annual market. They constantly rented storehouses and cellars. For example, such places were in the possession of the Marx brothers from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav) around the middle of 17th century. In 1747, Salomon Löbl from Münchengratz (Mnichovo Hradiště ) rented a cellar from Karl Hoffmann on the corner of Hablau and Tuchplatz, just where the ‘Deutches Haus‘ (German House) once was and where today stands ‘Donauhof’ (Danube Court). In 1780, the magistrate asked the regional council whether Jews who had cellars could be charged a war tax.
Despite the constant defeats and even the fact that they were only tolerated and temporary, Jews consistently remained in Reichenberg. When the hostess of the Ratskeller Inn (The Town Cellar Inn) in Reichenberg was murdered in 1649, there was an immediate search for the stolen jewelry. The fact that only Jews from ‘outside’ the town were interrogated does not prove that no Jews lived in Reichenberg. The proof that there were Jews in Reichenberg is found in a letter from a magistrate in 1697, where it is written: Ref: the Jews…. If there had been no Jews in Reichenberg, an answer concerning the Jews would have been much simpler. The magistrate would just confirm that there are no Jews in the town. Here, the answer was publicly read in a magistrate session and diligent investigation was initiated.
In 1704, the count's distillery and tannery in Maffersdorf (Vratislavice) was leased to Israel Gybel, a Jew from Leipzig. In the lease contract it is mentioned that the leaser is free to do business with the Jews in Reichenberg and in all the country. This passage proves that there were Jews at that time in Reichenberg. Otherwise a reference to them would be impossible as the contract was written at the castle by the official scribe at that time. From a note in the town's documentation on the weight of wool from 1705, at least one Jewish inhabitant can be shown to be in the town. The note states that: The Jew Natan Grottau's hemp is held in the hemp storehouse of Gottfried Seibt on the basis of a power of attorney of the Jew Vör in the presence of Johan Andreas Tugeman the judge, having been weighed as requested by persons who had demands for payment from Grottau, namely Gottfried Seiliten, idem Gottfried Hoffmann and Gottfried Hawel from Franzendorf (Františkov).
The following note can be found in the city protocols of Reichenberg: On 13 April in the year 1714, a meeting was held in the municipal hall in the presence of the whole community here in Reichenberg. What was agreed is hereby noted word for word. Those who allow Jews to store their goods such as feathers, wool, clothes or the equivalent in a room, cellar, house or similar, shall be reported to the authorities and they shall pay a fine and shall lose the goods that are in the store. Whoever lends linen or other items to a Jew shall pay a double fine without any relief.
In the third decade of the 18th century, the number of Jews in Reichenberg began to increase. Even though the number was, of course, small, this growth was observed with mistrust and various unpleasant attempts were made to limit the growth. These began with general advice. The magistrate's meeting on 22 February 1732 decided that: It is important to keep an eye on any Jews who remain in the town outside of the yearly and weekly markets, to ensure that they do not damage the trading opportunities of other citizens.
On 16 October 1732, thieves broke into the deacon church and liturgical objects were stolen. Rohn writes about this: ‘The villainous Jews were accused of this blasphemous deed. The forester Benjamin from Reichenberg and the executioner from Leitmeritz (Litoměřice) pursued the thieves. The robbers tied up their horses at Gallows Mountain in Reichenberg and disappeared without trace. ’ If it was suspected that there were Jews among the perpetrators, then this would at least be indicated in the ‘wanted’ poster published by the magistrate and made public by Dr Viktor Lug with his usual meticulousness.
In 1776, even the church interfered in Jewish matters. The deacon at that time was Karl Topitzowski and he issued a declaration: ‘In the records of the city meeting (Lit.EW.E. page 233, §3) it is written: ’The reverend father deacon made public via the Reichenberg magistrate that no Jews shall be present in Reichenberg on the Sabbath, which means Saturday and Sunday, but on the other days of the week they shall be free to move around and carry out their trade. If, however, some citizen were to accommodate them on the forbidden days, then he will be punished. It is recorded in the protocol that this is taken ‘ad notam’. From the record of disputes between Jewish wool traders in Prague and Polish-Lissau dated the year 1782, it is apparent that Jews were living at this time in Reichenberg.
We can also see, from an internal letter from the count's finance office dated 24 April 1787, the following: To the Magistrate! It has been brought to our attention that Jews are living permanently in the town, that they do not rent their accommodation as they should, and therefore that they are breaking the law on itinerants. From Anno Decretario, Jews are not permitted to live in the town. Therefore the magistrate must stop this practice and consign the houses where the Jews may stay permanently without endangering the purpose of public inns where foreign people stay and avoiding a crowd of Jews being there. This order from the highest authority was read out at the town hall to all the citizens who had Jews living with them on 14 September, namely: Anton Altmann, Paul Posselt, Franz Meissner, Jakob Brendl, Josef Siegmundt, Adam Peukert, Agnes Hübnerin, Paul Köhm's wife, Josef Pohl, Joseph Müller, Christian Güntzel (publican), Karl Hübner, Mechel Guntzl (publican), Karl Horn, Josef Gahler and Josef Altmann. This means that 16 homes were occupied by Jews and already it was said: what a large number of them. The names of the tenants are not known.
A constable from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav) was appointed to list the names of the Jews for military purposes. He wrote to the magistrate on 3 August 1793 as follows: Upon my arrival, I will immediately register those trading Jews resident here in order not to disturb them from their business. According to the town protocol, 21 persons of the Jewish faith lived here at this time. On 12 April 1799, a new inventory followed. This showed as follows: As the influx of Jews into Reichenberg is growing and their business is more and more complicated, the following are allowed to be here: 1. Jacob Rohnauer from Polna (Polná); 2. Israel Widmann from Polna; 3. Friedman Hitler, as footman of Widmann; 4. Elias Löwenthal from Polna; 5. Markus Reisman, as his footman; 6. Samuel Rohnauer from Polna; 7. Leopold Strenitz from Jungbunzlau; 8. Herzfelder from Pirnitz (Brtnice). In truth, this was a meager list.
The magistrate did not bother the Jews. In the period of Mayors Joseph Neuhäuser and especially Johan Friedrich Trenkler, the Jews were looked upon benevolently. Mayor Trenkler therefore appears in a pamphlet entitled The Jewish Boy. In the summer of 1782, the Jews from Böhmische Leipa (Česká Lípa) and Böhmische Aicha (Český Dub) asked the mayor to bring forward by 8 days the market due to be held on the birthday of Mary because 8 and 9 September were Jewish holidays. They also offered the community a gift of two ducats. In the magistrate's record, it is written: As this causes no harm but is actually useful, the market this year will be held on 2 September.
The magistrate was not always so benevolent. When the Jews from Böhmische Leipa made a similar request in 1809, it was turned down. Of course, on this occasion, the ducats in support of the application were missing. At that time, there was a silent rebellion in the council chambers against the estate administration. The spiritual leader of this act of independence was Leopold Richter, a competent and resolute man, whom the manorial authorities tried to remove from his position but without success.
The conflict between these two authorities was also seen in connection with Jewish matters. In 1785 the Jew Marcus Löbl from Gylow applied to the count's trade department for a permit to cook for the Jews in Reichenberg on some days in each week. Inspector Paul asked the magistrate for an expert report and indicated at the same time that the permit would be refused by the count's office. The town council answered that they had nothing against the refusal by the authority, but that they reserved to themselves the right to handle the personal affairs of the town's citizens and of foreign persons so long as they are in the town, and would themselves decide in the case of these and other Jews according to their own judgment. To moderate the force of this response, the magistrate added: There is no discussion regarding the acceptance or non-acceptance of the right of Jews to residence. The forbearance of the magistrate had long been a thorn in the flesh of the manorial authority which tried to enforce the expulsion of Jews from Reichenberg. Suspicions and certain incidents were used as an artificial justification. Whenever they wanted not to tolerate the Jews, they merely sought an excuse.
The first manorial ban on Jews in 1799
On 6 September, Christian Phillip, Count Clam-Gallas from Tchernhausen (Černousy), issued a strongly-worded order that Jews were not to be tolerated in his ‘subject’ town and manor of Reichenberg. The most conspicuous part of his order is the following: For a long time, the number of Jews in Reichenberg has been increasing and it seems therefore that the magistrate willfully ignores or does not wish to know about the existing legislation. This places me in a compromising position, as I am responsible for the people, politics and economy. I am even more surprised that the council has permitted entire Jewish families to settle in the town. Women of this nationality are not allowed in the town. There is a Jewish hot food stall, and kosher slaughtering is tolerated. The council and especially the mayor do not see the danger caused by the fact that the hot food stall and the Jewish tabernacle are right opposite the parish church. The magistrate cannot be unaware that there were no Jews within my manor in Anno Decretario and that there is a penalty of 1,000 ducats for those who give housing to Jews. This law has been unchanged since 1725.
No law has changed this ruling of 1725; in addition, there are the supplementary manorial order of 14 November 1771 and the Bohemian decree of 14 November 1771, stating that whoever is not able to pay the penalty of 1,000 ducats shall be subject to corporal punishment. According to the decree published in Bohemia in January 1782, Jews are only permitted to stay overnight for the duration of a market. I am therefore ordering the Council, within 48 hours of receipt of my decree, to expel all Jewish women, men and families that have settled here and take personal responsibility. Otherwise both the magistrate and I myself will be subject to punishment. In this connection, the magistrate shall provide within three days a list of those Jewish merchants who have a legitimate and lawful wholesale business and trade in Reichenberg and are excluded from this expulsion as they are important for the economy of the town on the basis of having a proper license which excludes women and families. I am in no doubt for one moment that the magistrate will follow my order immediately, thereby protecting himself against the danger arising from connivance over such a long time. Otherwise I will be forced to protect myself by ruling and intervening according to the law of the country. And so we have here a Jewish expulsion in miniature.
The magistrate invited the Jews to the Town Hall, read out the count's decree to them and announced their expulsion within 48 hours. The following in particular were affected: Isaak Hermann and his son-in-law Salomon Reissner, also Beer Klein, Adam Hlawatsch with his wife, and Veronika Kanarki. Elias Löwenthal was given three months in which to wind-up his business. A total of 14 others, mostly wholesale dealers, received the promise of a permit to remain in the town provided that they could provide proof that: they do not have with them any family or the meanest (sic) Jewish woman.
The magistrate forwarded the protocol to the lord of the manor on 10 October together with a detailed report. The magistrate expressed his thanks to the count for the well-meaning and fatherly attitude expressed in the decree and hoped that his grace will hold to his decision persistently and unshakably. The magistrate then adds that they had previously most recently in April attempted to set a barrier against the increasing number of Jews, but then notes innocently: it is common to be content with that which is at least functioning in part.
The magistrate pointed at the fact that the immediate expulsion of Jewish wool traders would be disturbing, because they mainly sell to the castle and therefore a large number of middle class families and manufacturers would be bankrupted. Therefore he asked the count to make a personal exception from the expulsion for those Jews operating with a wholesale trading license to supply wool to the small cloth weavers. The count reacted to this proposal by referring to a decree received from Prague on 25 November 1799. This was a very forceful and angry response. In particular, Mayor Trenkler was hauled over the coals because he had, despite the count's decree, not removed his Jewish tenant.
The lord of the manor rages that no official may leave unobserved any deed against the highest law even if it is contrary to his own personal interest. Having failed to take notice for so many years, the magistrate must counteract these shameful violations immediately and take the necessary steps to stop them. Neither I nor anyone else is empowered to interpret the laws, nor am I willing to let Jews settle within my estate and, as it is permitted to me ex jure dominicali to do so, I do not allow anyone other than those male Jews mentioned below to remain in the town for commercial reasons and these must not build a family: 1. the heirs of Michael Fürth, 2. Simon Lamel. 3. Salomon Přzibram, - all three of these from Prague, 4. The brothers Gutmann from Polna, 5. Isac and Samuel Schulhof from Pirnitz (Brtnice), 6. Elias Goldschmidt Eidam from Trebitsch (Třebíč ), 7.Tobias Sobotka from Prague, 8. Löbl Pauer, 9. Jakob Ronauer, 10. Samuel Ronauer, 11. Israel Hüttmann - these last three all from Polna, 12. Isaac Polnauer from Trebitsch, 13. Lewy Herzfelder from Pirnitz, 14. Naphtali Basch from Polna. These may continue their trade either themselves or via the holder of a general power of attorney. I am willing to accept that wholesale traders may keep a servant for their service and comfort. However, the magistrate shall strictly ensure that the servants or domestics do not run their own business.
As I understand that the Jews who have been expelled may sneak into the neighboring villages at night time and even live there, I issue an order to all my subjects forbidding them in the strictest terms to take in Jews. The first violation will be punished with three days of unpaid labor, the second with a fine of three imperial thalers. This order shall not be understood as providing an exclusive right to the 14 Jews mentioned to trade with wool, linen and stockings. On the contrary, any tradesman whether Jewish or gentile shall be free to sell and purchase such things in the town provided that he leaves the town within three days or receives from me a license to carry out trade in a similar way as the others.
This order is a tightening of the previous order because it forbids people from staying overnight in the villages, which was usually permitted. Very often people stayed overnight in villages surrounding Böhmisch Aicha (Český Dub) and came back in the morning as a ‘newcomer’. This practice would have continued had it not been for the ban on Jews. As before, a married couple lived in the Jewish parish house claiming to know nothing about the expulsion order. In the year 1800, five Jews from Prague who were already resident in Reichenberg had to present themselves for conscription. Apart from one student, all the Jews in the town were employed in trade. Because of the growing number of Jews in Reichenberg, preparations were made for a new plot against them.
The second manorial ban on Jews in 1810
The first thing that happened was a complaint to the lord of the manor on 26 November 1809 signed by all wholesalers and privileged cloth manufacturers, traders in spices, materials, handcraft and carvings and primary linen manufacture. They complained that foreigners and outsiders were endangering domestic manufacturing and trade through their unauthorized activities in Reichenberg. Then they targeted the Jews: There is no article which is not traded by them. This nuisance is increasing daily and, if it is not attended to decisively, the economic survival of authorized local traders will be endangered. Then they applauded the first ban on the Jews: This decree was designed with the greatest wisdom.
The failure of the first ban rankled in particular with the leader of the High Office. It could not be put up with any longer. The initiator of the anti-Jewish action was the leader of the High Office, Josef Markowsky. As a former lawyer, guild lawyer and later guild inspector of the magistrates, he agreed with the members of the cloth-makers guild. By contrast, the magistrate took the opposite view, probably because he was more closely in touch with all the various levels of society and less estranged from and single-minded with regard to the foreign brokers. The magistrate did not misjudge the importance of the Jews in the commercial context of Reichenberg. However, despite having this greater insight, he finally gave way to the pressure of commercial interests. The fact is, the magistrate was only a subordinate officer of the local authority.
However, Markowsky knew that the implementation of the first Jewish ban failed because of the tolerance and understanding of the magistrate. Therefore, in order to have the second ban in place, he needed to push through the first ban if he was to ensure the cooperation of the magistrate. This needed to be secured by persuasion and not by command. The Jewish policy of both local and manorial authorities had much in common and, despite many attempts, the local authority had neither the will nor the courage to make a firm stand on behalf of the Jews. The second Jewish ban took a dramatic course which can be easily followed in the town's archives in Friedland Castle. When the thread is broken, it can be easily picked up again. Officially, Markowsky is fighting in the name of the High Office, but in reality he is fighting on his own behalf. Only one decree is signed personally by the count. All other correspondence is directed and signed by Markowsky.
As early as the beginning of 1810, he overwhelms the magistrate with communications: The High Office will not be satisfied until it is convinced that the decree of 1799 and its further implementation are complete. However, he seeks to support his case by argument: Despite princely and well-intentioned support, the Jews have grown insufficiently close to the civic life of the other subjects of the town. As if this was possible in such a short time and under the prevailing conditions. Typically for that time he adds: The expulsion of Jews will be considered a favor by the subjects of the town of Reichenberg who earn their living from cloth making. However, as Markowsky knows that not all citizens agree to this, he raises his admonishing voice: No subject shall act against it. Finally he adds: The High Office is sure of the active cooperation of the magistrate, who is interested in the well-being of the subjects and of the High Office.
The response of the magistrate follows in the first week of February. He seeks to go even further than the line taken by the High Office and makes proposals which were not even thought of in the first ban. In his report, it is written: The number of Jews in Reichenberg has increased to 63. Among them, many have in their service footmen and servants who are brazenly involved in all types of trade, and when added together they are the equivalent of half a Jewish town. It is not necessary to underline that the interests of the town lie as close to the heart of the magistrate as they are for his Highness the Prince, and the magistrate takes this opportunity to offer, with pleasure, his thanks to him.
When he received the consent of the magistrate, Markowsky tried to convince the count, using the well-known law as a lever. In his official report on 2 April, he proposed the following: With regard to the settlement of so many Jews, it was already noted by the leader of the regional state administration that this should not be tolerated by your Highness lest you should be held responsible. The High Office will therefore do its utmost to ensure that the magistrate follows the legislation to the letter. This was how the High Office managed to secure a decree from the count. It arrived from Prague and was received by the magistrate on 15 May. It is very long-winded.
The first part deals with foreigners and the second part with the Jews. I must express my indignation that the expulsion of Jews from my town of Reichenberg according to my father's decree of 26 November 1799 has not yet been put into effect, and indeed that their number has increased. I feel sure that in future the magistrate will observe my orders punctually and carry them out completely. I also express my dissatisfaction with my High Office for not having pursued these matters more vigilantly. I therefore command as follows:
In its appearance, this decree is milder than the first ban on Jews, but in reality it is much stricter. To the penalties for the villagers, it adds the punishment of imprisonment. One of the new regulations is that Jews staying in town for the permitted three days are not allowed to reside in private houses. The regulation allowing them only to stay in the inns also applies to foreigners, but it does not thereby limit the Jews any less.
The authorities held a meeting in the municipal hall on 1 July, and on this day the ban on the Jews was announced to the landlords and to the Jews. Markowsky was also present. Thirty-six home owners agreed to give immediate notice to foreigners and Jews in their houses and to make their houses free of them within 15 days.
On 3 June, the house owners in Christianstadt (Kristiánov) were also requested to give notice to all foreigners and Jews as these were anyway not allowed to stay, and to report their names to the High Office within 14 days. This protocol was signed by 11 house owners from Christianstadt.
In the middle of June, the High Office and the magistrate issued a joint Publicandum to the public which bore the town seal. The most important points of this announcement are the following: As per the highest decree, no other Jews than those named in section 36 as being permitted to stay in town are allowed to lease a private house. These wholesale traders are permitted to remain in private homes for the benefit of local trade. Any other Jews or foreigners are to be directed to authorised inns. Therefore all private house owners are warned that giving shelter to Jews will be punished with a fine of 25 florins. As for the licensed inns, the following are listed: Leopold Hölz, Cajetan Spitzka, the Community House, Franz Hofmann, Tobias Gintzel, Ignatz Knirsch, The Inn at Neustadt, Franz Hauser, Anton Schöpfer, Ignatz Swoboda, Josef Pohl, Franz Salomon, Josef Hofmann, Wenzel Ginzel, and Carl Ginzel. Should the future show a need for additional licensed inns, then this will be reconsidered.
If anyone gives shelter to somebody in an inn which is not licensed for the purpose, the punishment for the first offense will be a fine of 25 florins, for the second offense it will be the same fine plus imprisonment for one week and, for a third offense, the inn license will be taken away.
It is remarkable that this Publicandum which, firstly, is 120 years old and, secondly, is a document of cultural significance, mentions 14 Jewish businesses, while the count's decree refers to permission to stay ‘from time to time’.
The High Office had also noticed that the magistrate hesitated, and so he pushed for the earliest cooperation: The High Office will not forget that it was unanimously agreed with the magistrate that all measures will be precisely carried out in order to arrive at the common target and not to leave the proceedings of the administrative authority open to public derision.
In his answer, the magistrate let it be known that, taking a broader view, the ban on Jews is far from desirable: Since the shock of the official decree of 1 May affecting the Jewish inhabitants, it has become apparent to the magistrate that the reduction in the number of Jewish wool traders to just 14, with the consequent effect of shortages and higher costs for cloth, will lead to increases in the price of clothing.
However, no further consideration could change the course of events. The majority of the more-than-50 that were to be expelled asked for dispensation. There was a flood of petitions, but all were turned down by the magistrate with reference to the count's decree. Many argued about the commendable service they had given and their importance to the income of the poor cloth makers. But no-one would listen. The application by one of those who was to be expelled is very touching: For the past 70 years, my forefathers grew their business in Reichenberg and leased a cellar as a storeroom. I have known this place since my childhood. I beseech you to give me consideration as one whose parents grew old in Reichenberg. But this plea was in vain!
The Jews did not have the sort of advocates that the Swiss enjoyed. The Helvetic government as was natural looked after the trading houses of their own distressed people. But the Jews had to look out for themselves.
While the petitions of Jews living in Reichenberg piled high upon the magistrate's table, 17 wholesale merchants from Prague brought a complaint against the count's decree. This complaint is set out in strong and self-confident language. It contains personal and factual information. Above all, the complaint points to the misuse of the count's benevolence in a way that was more likely to succeed. They argue about their tax contribution. They point out that they pay more trade taxes in a year than the whole of Reichenberg together with its surroundings, more indeed than the entire estate.
They proudly underline their value to Reichenberg. It is actually because of our hard-working and determined business spirit that the citizens of Reichenberg are able to enjoy their current prosperity. In earlier times, the cloth makers had to travel individually on foot to Prague in order to sell a few pieces of cloth to our forefathers. Now we travel to them and to their sons, and so they sell to us more than one third of all they produce some 50,000 pieces. It is because of us that their wooden huts have become impressive houses.
Because they are so upset, these wholesale traders from Prague are actually exaggerating when they claim that the blossoming of industry in Reichenberg is possible only because of their untiring efforts. They should probably have just said that they too have contributed to the town's development.
In terms of the facts, they cleverly counter the legal line of argument: If the authorities have no right to tolerate Jews in Reichenberg, than how can it be explained that 14 trading houses are allowed. As the goods are not ready to be bought, the restriction makes no sense. No - they argue only complete ignorance about the nature of the trade can justify the assertion that a certain amount of time is sufficient to undertake the necessary purchases. Without claiming the right to settle or to take up residency, the appellants request that they be allowed to rent private houses in Reichenberg in the future as was the case from time immemorial. Finally they ask for a local commission to investigate the matter. Lo and behold, the unexpected happened.
The country administration set up an investigating commission, which met in Reichenberg on 22 September. Its members were: the leader of the regional state administration from Jungbunzlau Merkl, the Count's High Officer Markowsky, Mayor Trenkler and three magistrates, the trade chairman Römiheld, four tradesmen and manufacturers, the four aldermen of the cloth makers' guild, four aldermen from the weaving mills and three of the Jewish appellants.
This large commission ruled that economic issues must be subordinated to matters of policy, and that the Jews are merely ‘a tolerated nation’. It acknowledged that among the Jewish merchants and among their forefathers there are many solid people, and that many people in Reichenberg can thank the Jews for their prosperity. Then they rebuked the Jews for being offensive and boastful.
The Jewish wool trader shall, at the end of his permitted period of stay, hand over any remaining cloth that he might have at that time to a tradesman or cloth maker that he knows for later sale, but he must not deliberately arrange for this to happen and then use it as a pretext to attempt to remain permanently in Reichenberg. Otherwise the bustling town of Reichenberg would soon be a totally Jewish town.
The appellants abstained from further words, merely pointing to their complaint and indicating that they did not believe their case had not been proved. They also signed the protocol. The protocol was sent to the regional authority for a decision. This authority refused the appeal both with regard to the limited stay and to the leasing of private houses. The Jews must be forbidden from staying in gentile houses as in a population of more than 8,000 souls, they can more easily be kept under police control when they stay in public inns. As foreigners and even Swiss tradesmen have to be satisfied with these inns, then it is also appropriate for the appellants. A total of 27 guest rooms are available in Reichenberg and these will be sufficient as Jews do not stay in town for the whole year.
This argument did not impress the appellants. So they made a complaint against the regional administration. Soon afterwards, the country administration advised the regional administration: Foreign traders shall be treated in the spirit of the current liberal economic principles. This means that 'at the top' rather different winds were blowing.
The protocols of the investigation were next presented to the administration in Vienna. On 21 February 1811, this administration issued an edict saying basically the following: The court ministry is rather taken aback by the behavior of the Reichenberg administration which dared on its own initiative to limit to a maximum of 14 days the period of residence for foreigners and strangers coming to the town and to forbid them to stay in private houses. Such rules conflict with the more charitable Austrian economic policy and have a damaging impact on the state's interest. They cannot under any circumstances be tolerated, especially when issued without any previous discussion with the country administration. The ruling of the Reichenberg administration is therefore to be considered as invalid.
In accordance with this court decree, the gubernium issued the following statement in July 1811: (1) The ruling that Jews are forbidden from fixed and permanent stay in Reichenberg is based on the decree of 1797. However, no exceptions may be made as regards a temporary stay for named individuals and previously selected trades people. But any foreign merchant irrespective of religion shall be able to come temporarily to Reichenberg and carry out his business. Therefore the exceptions made by the Reichenberg administration for selected Jews are void and not valid. (2) The period of stay for Jewish manufacturers, traders or their employees cannot be limited to three days and certainly not to a number of days or weeks.
This was great progress, even though there is a certain degree of contradiction. Permanent stay is not permitted, but it is also not permitted to limit the stay.
Instead, a compromise was made by lifting by law the ban on settlement. The court administration thus produced a defeat for the manor administration and in particular for Markowsky. In his response to the country administration, we can see his embarrassment. Instead of going onto the attack, the manor administration was obliged now to defend itself. It switches between assertions and predictions: We, the local administration, regret that we have drawn upon ourselves the displeasure of the state administration. The matter has been seen from a different angle than from the one we intended. It was simply our intention to control the presumption of foreigners. And it continues: The High Office hopes to be exempted from being held responsible when, because of this ruling, half of Reichenberg is a Jewish town.
The refrain Reichenberg could become a Jewish town appears over the centuries. Just how groundless it is has been shown by its subsequent evolution. Not even the later enlightened times brought any proof of such an assumption. Having lost the main battle, the chairman of the traders - Römheld - attempted a rearguard fight. He requested an audit of the Legal Proceedings against Foreign Jews. He asks the count to intervene urgently with the other most senior counts so that he might present his detailed report to Privy Councilor von Prinna. He claims that the matter would be decided to the benefit of the traders of Reichenberg if the legal proceedings were first changed in Prague. To expect a positive outcome after the earlier course of events was surely a vain hope.
Nothing more is known about the fate of this action. It may as well have disappeared into the sand. The ban on settlement continued, but in principle it was abolished by the removal of any time limitation. The second ban on Jews in Reichenberg was also a washout. From this time onwards, the count showed restraint about the Jewish question. Soon afterwards, in 1811, there were approximately 57 people of the Jewish faith in Reichenberg.
Up to the time of the Constitution
Nowhere in the records is there any evidence of the administration getting involved in the Jewish question following the rebuff from Prague. On the contrary, the High Office is very silent. The count accepted the authority of the administration of the imperial High Court on the interpretation of the law, and was reassured by its decision. This was the logical outcome of his belief in the law.
However, the regional administration now became interested in the Jewish question and regularly pressed the magistrate for a report. The magistrate seems to follow the count's decree more strictly now than in 1799 because, in 1827, they used the second Jewish ban to refuse to allow the tenant of the road toll Adam Haan to bring his family from Münchengrätz (Mnichovo Hradiště ). This insistence might have been caused by the fact that Count Christian Christof Glam-Gallas often stayed at Reichenberg Castle and that Head Steward Ludwig often reminds the magistrate, as he is commanded by his master, about the strict implementation of the count's decree. According to the above, the Hübner statements do not correspond to the truth. Yes, indeed, Haan was not permitted to bring his family into the town. However, the argument was different: the count's decree was not mentioned in any way. The answers to the questions of the district administration are invariably the same: No Jewish families have settled in the town of Reichenberg (1811). Some are here on a temporary basis, but without wives and children (1820). Even as late as 1850, the magistrate reported to the newly formed regional administration: Here there are no institutions for Jewish worship or education, as no Jews are settled anywhere in the town. Just a few are here on a temporary basis according to the trading permits given to them individually.
That all looks very good on paper. For certain, it was forbidden for Jews to settle in Reichenberg. But in reality the law was circumvented. Economic needs were stronger than bureaucratic rules. Many Jewish inhabitants also had their wife and children with them. From the registers in the deanery and in the Jewish community at Turnau (Turnov), it is also clear that there were Jewish weddings and births in Reichenberg after 1810. And so what we have is a situation not of de jura but rather of de facto residency.
However, we must not anticipate the events. We must, rather, follow their sequence. It is certain that, in the first period after the second Jewish ban, the magistrates were forced to act strictly in accordance with the rules. This can be seen from the fact that two Jews who had leased private accommodation from Wachtel, the landlord of a communal inn, were forced to leave. This happened without the knowledge of the magistrates as the two Jews sneaked in. Two foreign Jews, the Beyrsdorf brothers, were also expelled from Reichenberg. They were very popular men, and many people put in a good word for them. Even though they were about to be expelled, many still borrowed money from them. They came back from Zittau to collect their claims, and the notice of expulsion was extended.
In 1815, Markus Taussig was fined seven florins because he opened his shop during Sunday's holy service. In 1823, the following Jews lived in Reichenberg: Samuel Strenitz, a familiant from Jungbunzlau; Siegmund Haan; Juda Weiss; Samuel Reitler; Jonas Pollak, a wool trader; and Wolf Prinz, an innkeeper. In 1827, the Jewish community in Reichenberg was ordered to arrange for Jewish passports. Jewish passports were not valid for a particular period of time not even for a short one - but only for a specific purpose. In the following years, the number of Jews in Reichenberg was relatively large. It came to 57 in total. We are in possession of the following official list:
|Place of birth
|Neubidschow (Nový Bydžov)
|Münchengratz (Mnichovo Hradiště;)
|Neukolin (Nový Kolín)
|Wolf E. Schuster
|Münchengratz (Mnichovo Hradiště )
|Münchengratz (Mnichovo Hradiště )
|Münchengratz (Mnichovo Hradiště)
|Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Goltschjenikau (Golčův Jeníkov)
|Goltschjenikau (Golčův Jeníkov)
|Goltschjenikau (Golčův Jeníkov)
|Goltschjenikau (Golčův Jeníkov)
|Münchengratz (Mnichovo Hradiště )
|Neukolin (Nový Kolín)
|Salomon Löwy Kuh
|J. Bondy Pirnitz
|Polna (Polná )
|Löbl S. Basch
|Polna (Polná )
|David Löw Brandeis
|Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Neubidschow (Nový Bydžov)
|Neubidschow (Nový Bydžov)
|Neubidschow (Nový Bydžov)
|Neubidschow (Nový Bydžov)
In the following years, the number of Jews in Reichenberg declined dramatically. They totaled no more than 34. This is probably because of the requirement for a Jewish passport. Those without a passport had to leave the town. In the following years, the number of Jews fell to a total of 27. New names appear, including Jakob Bauer, Moses and Abraham Budie, Markus and Wolf Reichman.
The year 1827 brought new difficulties. The need for the Jews to have a residence passport was introduced. This demand also produced an income for the town. In 1833, the Traders' Association encouraged the magistrates: The magistrates should force the Jews to obtain a residence passport, which will bring in considerable income. A certain Simon Rothschield, who had lived in Reichenberg for 10 years, was accused in 1831 of not having a residence passport. In addition, the requirement for entry passports for carts coming in and out of the town was introduced. The period of validity of such passports was very limited. Finally, the conditions attached to a Jewish passport were made ever more stringent.
In 1830, the magistrates decreed that: any unknown Jew - even one encountered on the street - shall be stopped and his residence permit shall be checked. Soon afterwards, the regional administration decreed that all Jews that were in Reichenberg on a temporary permit should be expelled immediately.
However, the magistrates did not follow through on this order and instead they applied the brakes. They referred to the local conditions in Reichenberg: As the wool trade is mainly in the hands of Jews, and the cloth makers have a daily need for wool, immediate expulsion is not advisable. It seems that this expulsion order was never carried out, and the storm passed away. However, they added that the Jews should be closely watched.
Many institutions and corporate bodies were very concerned about the number of Jews in Reichenberg. While a civil servant who called himself ‘no more than a forwarding clerk’ demanded the completion of Jewish forms, the police inspectors were less harmless. They applied to the magistrates as follows: The majority of Jews living here have rented houses on an annual basis because they stay here all year. Of course, the landlords should also be punished. The police inspectors were very clever in adding the following: Because of the danger of cholera, it will be necessary to convert some of the residential houses into hospitals, and the evacuees will therefore be left without homes, as many houses are occupied by Jews. However, the magistrates did not agree with this quibbling story.
The Chamber of Commerce also raised a storm. Their complaint referred to the oft- repeated claim about the large number of Jews and implored the magistrates to defend the rights of the citizens against Jewish mischief and the disturbance of trade. However, the magistrates paid no attention to these complaints. They supported, in effect, the status quo.
At the start of the 1830s, two Jewish companies from Prague established cotton weaving mills in Reichenberg. These were ‘I.L.Lieben’ and ‘Phillip Tandler’. While a total of 18 manufacturers, among them ‘Tandler’, paid three florins each year in tax, ‘I.L.Lieben’ had to pay 15 florins.
The stormy year of 1848 is coming ever closer. It left its mark also in Reichenberg. According to Hübner there was a riot against Jews in Reichenberg, but this is not correct. There was nobody to riot against because there were very few Jewish families in the town. However, the Jewish question stirred the emotions even in Reichenberg.
The Political Association had few members, but they included the intellectual elite of the town. This association held frequent meetings. There was a lot of political debate in this association, but there was also a serious aspiration to master the actual questions that affected society.
The association had a fine motto: It is a question of principles not a question of persons. The Jewish question was also discussed, and this was done in the liberal spirit of the time. There was a discussion about an article which appeared in the magazine Grenzfoot under the heading Theaterjude (The Jewish Theatre) and a letter received from Manchester concerning Jewish equality.
The first chairman of the association, August Uchatzy, who was also its driving force, gave a series of lectures about Jewish emancipation. He made remarks which seem to have been friendly to the Jews. The content of his lectures is described only sketchily in the records of the association. According to Uchatzy, the oppression of the Jews began when Christianity became a state religion. He described their former freedom and showed how they were slowly deprived of their rights. Therefore this unlucky nation has been, right up to our time, in a constant struggle with other inhabitants of the world.
This series of lectures was followed by a debate in which several citizens participated, especially the pharmacist Hlasiwetz. No conclusion was reached, but the participants spoke about full Jewish emancipation and made several proposals on this matter.
Even the first newspaper in Reichenberg, in its first issue dated 1 April 1848, under the headline News from Near and Far, touched several times on the Jewish question. It is interesting that an article signed by H (and probably written by a Jew, Dr. Hamburger, who was a diligent contributor to this paper) describes Slavic anti-Semitism as ‘hatred of the Germans’.
A response from the gentile side accuses him of disturbing the good relations between the two nations. This argument contained many indications of anti-Semitism. The brotherhood between nations proved to be no more than a pleasant dream. Even so, in 1848, the Reichenberg Tailors' Guild sent a suggestion to the national meeting of German colleagues in Frankfurt-am-Main, concerning the Rejection of Jews from normal civic professions.
In 1851, the first Jew leased the town's distillery. This was ‘Bernhard Spitzer and Associates’. (His associates were also Jewish.) In 1860, the distillery was leased, after a public auction, to Moritz Spitzer for six years. He was followed one year later, by mutual agreement on all sides, by Eduard Soyka, who later became Chairman of the Temple. He had the confidence of the town, and his lease was extended no fewer than six times for a total of 35 years.
In 1854, the magistrates decided to lease the task of collecting rubbish in the streets and squares to Leopold Raubitschek for a two-year period. However, he was obliged to commit himself, under threat of a punishment by a fine of 100 florins for each offense, only to employ gentiles and not Jews.
When Raubitchek withdrew his bid, the lease was given to Bernhard Spitz and Bernhard Beck on the same condition. The potential fine was 100 florins. So, even after the revolution, intolerance had grown some strange fruits. In 1861, the newly founded Reichenberg Chamber of Commerce gave positive expert advice about the appeal by the butchers in Böhmish Leipa (Česká Lípa) not to accept Jewish butchers into their Guild. The dawning of modern times came very slowly.
Life within the Community up to 1860
The majority of Jews in Reichenberg were merchants, but industry and crafts were represented too. There were innkeepers, one tailor, one glazier, one belt maker, and also leasers of tolls and distilleries. The first Jewish physician was Dr. Sigmund Munk, who settled in Reichenberg in 1840 and later became a military field doctor. By the end of the 1850s, there were already two Jewish dentists and one railway official.
The first Jewish legal matter heard at the court in Reichenberg was that of Tobias Markus from Neubidschow. In October 1747, he stated under oath that, on his way back from St Michael's Fair in Leipzig, his cart was stolen in Reichenberg. Other things were also stolen, including two Hebrew books, which he valued as being worth three florins.
At that time, suicide by Jews was very rare. However, in 1811, a waiter at Knirsch who had been excused military service killed himself. The motive was said to be his gambling debts. The Jews that were settled in Reichenberg collected 139 florins to pay for this man's burial. This case is noted in the History of the Guild of Inn and Restaurant Keepers, and it is said that - according to the custom of that time - the dead man was not even taken down the stairs but thrown out through the window into the yard. This is more likely to have been how such matters were handled a hundred years earlier. By now, Jewish suicide was not treated in this way, not even for Mayor Rössler. Though his body was put in a sack, he did receive a proper burial in Turnau. Up to the middle of the previous century, those Jews that had settled in Reichenberg travelled to their home towns for the autumn High Holy Days.
The hot food stall
The oldest known Jewish hot food stall was in the house of Mayor J. Fr. Trenkler. This was at Eisengasse (Železná ) 14, conscription number 250-1. Its location in front of the town church was a constant eyesore for the manor administration.
At the time of the Jewish ban in 1799, the magistrates spoke very highly of this hot food stall which was run by Mark Popper. Of course, they left the final decision to the lord of the manor, but they agreed with the Jewish applicants that, if some Jews were to be allowed to stay temporarily in the town, it would be very hard for them if they were obliged, during their stay, to go without their kosher food. Nor would it be good if they were to cook for themselves, as this would be a fire hazard. They also said that Mark Popper's hot food stall should be permitted provided it was removed from the vicinity of the church and could not be seen from there.
The count was ruthless in his opposition on this matter. He decreed: I cannot permit the hot food stall to remain, and the cook must find out for himself and for his family what is not permitted. I am sure that Jewish dignitaries cannot enjoy his food and, in the event of sickness, they are not obliged to follow the Jewish rules for food and drink, and also that their servants can cook for them and they can bring kosher meat from Böhmische Aicha (Lípa) or from Turnau.
Mark Popper's food stall was thereby closed down, although nobody took his expulsion seriously, and he was soon back in Reichenberg, having suffered no harm. No fewer than 16 Jews applied for Tobias Kleinerberg to receive a permit to organize a hot food stall on the ground floor of his house. It is not clear whether it was by accident or on purpose that this hot food stall was once again located close to the church. In the end, this hot food stall was exiled to the edge of the town.
This was the only issue which might make one think about there being a ghetto in Reichenberg. One of the oldest hot food stalls was at the inn ‘Blauen Stern’ (Blue Star) run by Ignatz Knirsch on Friedländerstrasse (Frýdlantská ) opposite today's inn ‘Zur Stadt Friedland’ (At the Town of Frýdlant). The gable of this inn faced Bernard's smithy. The large cellars were cut deep into the hillside, and are still used today by the representatives of ‘Gambrinus’, the supplier of bottled beer.
Before this inn was opened, the magistrates examined the house and found it feasible for the Jews because of its location at the edge of the town. In the year 1836, the police also refused to permit the opening of a new hot food stall on the grounds that it was close to the Ringplatz (Main Square): following earlier decrees, such hot food stalls are to be at the periphery of the town. This also happened to the second hot food stall in the inn of Josef Berger, which is today the restaurant ‘Zur Stadt Olmütz’ (At the town of Olmütz) at Birgsteingasse 254/IV.
In 1812, Josua österreicher a Jewish toll leaser and butcher made a complaint against the Jewish restaurateur Josef Berger (also known as Simoles Oser). He claimed that Berger had taken supplies from another butcher, when österreicher alone had the license for undertaking slaughtering in Reichenberg and the surrounding villages. As some Jews had, for the past 30 years, been supporting a slaughtering concession for a Jew from Jungbunzlau, they argued strongly for the need for a new hot food stall because every day some 70-80 people ate at Berger's. Strangely, the same argument is used by the police in turning down the application: The proposers are already now, and have been since their arrival in Reichenberg, eating in gentile restaurants. The cook at Berger's was Wolf Prinz from Turnau.
In 1826, the hot food stall ‘Zur Stadt Olmütz’ was taken over by Josef Cantor, a schutzjude from Münchengrätz. He paid 100 florins each year as a contribution to the city lighting. In 1845, it was taken over by his son-in-law, a schutzjude from Neukolin (Nový Kolín) and later the leader of the Jewish community. He had to pay 120 florins in annual interest to the magistrates. The lower part of Birgsteinsgasse, in front of house number 254/IV where the hot food stall was, is even today popularly called the ‘Judenberg’ (Jewish Mountain). The street beside the inn ‘Zur Stadt Olmütz’, leading into Steingasse (Stone Street), is called ‘Judenstiege’ (The Jewish Path).
We hear that there was already a tabernacle in Trenkel's house. On each Sabbath, the Jews met at the hot food stall for worship. Notices of marriages and weddings were given out. People came from all around in order to celebrate weddings. It is clear that there were regular services in the hot food stall because it is known that, in 1851, Karpeles from Prague sponsored a Torah cover and, in 1859, the Koppelmann brothers from Prague sponsored a framed Tetragram, which is today in the winter prayer hall. The latter is dedicated to ‘the town synagogue’. There definitely was not a temple but simply a prayer room, which is also called in Hebrew ‘Beth Kneseth’. On the first page of the first protocol book of the Jewish community, it is indicated that services were held in the hot food stall. The real prayer room was probably organized in the hot food stall for the first time at the beginning of the 1850s, because before this time the recording of names was undertaken in the synagogue in Turnau. The hot food stall was also used for social events. A gentile doctor describes how, in 1824, he met 40 people there.
Jews in the economic history of Reichenberg
Jews played an important role in the economy of Reichenberg. They were both suppliers and buyers. They supplied the important raw material wool and, as cloth and canvas traders, they bought and distributed the domestic products. There was constant interaction between craft, industry and trade.
As is correctly written in a report from the magistrates to the lord of the manor in 1799: There are already strong relations and shared interests between local canvas and sock makers and the Jews. The trading links between out-of-town Jews and Reichenberg is already evident at the beginning of the 17th century. In 1607, the Jews of Böhmische Aicha were dealing with Adam Demut who ran a large business in Reichenberg, and also with Martin Jentsch, Simon Fiebiger, Adam Hübner, Caspar Neumann, Christoff Bucheld, Georg Hermann in Harzdorf (Nový Harcov), Jacob Pöckscher and other citizens. The Jews supplied honey, leather and grain. In exchange for credit, citizens provided their ‘house and yard’ as guarantee - and occasionally even as forfeit.
In 1634, Reichenberg had to borrow 90 Reichsthaler from the Jews for the costs of upkeep of the Viscontian soldiers. In 1648, a messenger from Reichenberg brought a letter from Friedland Castle to the aldermen of the Jewish community in Jungbunzlau. This is also proof of an existing commercial relationship. At the end of September 1649, a messenger was sent with a letter from the administration to the Jew Isaak from Münchengrätz concerning the delivery of oats, hay and straw to Bunzlau (Boleslav). He met him at Aicha, and soon came back again. But he was soon to be sent again to Münchengrätz so Isaak's wife can supply oats, hay and straw thereto.
In 1666, the mayor and magistrates of Jičín asked the magistrates of Reichenberg to help their Jews Salomon and Moyses with their claim against a cloth maker. Both had a claim on two pieces of cloth, and in addition Moyses had a claim on 10 Reichsthaler. In the petition from Jičín to Reichenberg, the magistrate writes: They reminded the debtors several times without any real success and we ask you kindly to assist our poor Jews as they are deep in debt. From these two cases, it can be seen that the Reichenberg citizens paid their debts to the Jews.
Jews as canvas and cloth traders
Canvas weaving was not the main trade in Reichenberg. Because of this and because the large wholesale houses at Nurnberg had a near-monopoly in the canvas trade, (and it was forbidden for Jews to live in Nurnberg in the period 1499-1850) only a few Jews traded with canvas. Those that did lived mainly in Jungbunzlau. In 1717, two Jews from there - Isaak Elbogen and Herschl Launer (who also traded in wool) - raised a complaint at the regional administration in Prague in the name of the entire Jewish community of Jungbunzlau regarding a missing canvas-measuring gauge in Reichenberg, the loss of which was very damaging to Jewish customers and their trade. All the canvas traders were summoned to the municipal hall.
They wondered: How can these Jewish grumblers dare to raise a false complaint to the most worthy gubernium. They meant by this that the complaint was false, and they complained that their Jewish customers owed them money. The debts were only small amounts of money that were owed in the period 1701-1712 by the following Jewish canvas traders from Jungbunzlau: Lasch, Jacob Israel Süsskind, the trader Gloger, Hirschel Wolf, Salman Nordan, Moses Salomon, Nathan Prager and Abraham Schlum. Defenses were then put forward by the Reichenberg magistrates. It is not known how the story ended, but 19 years later, a sharp note from the regional commerce office arrived at the count's commerce office in Reichenberg saying: There seem to be irregularities with the measuring gauge. The canvas weavers at the manor should measure their product with a complete yardstick and indicate the measure at both ends with a seal or a signature. In other words, the commerce office should not listen to the manufacturers' excuses and should take care that a measure is a measure and that all goods are measured with a correct yardstick.
By 1781, canvas weaving was already declared as a trade that was open to all to practice. However, although the general population and the various offices in Reichenberg did not comply with the spirit of this declaration, the higher offices understood this development. So, following a complaint to the gubernium by the wholesale traders Salomon Přzibram (a Jew from Prague) and Moses Jerusalem that they had been prevented from purchasing canvas and cotton, the magistrates instructed: You must carefully remove any limitations on canvas trading, any limitations on preferences, and any exemptions regarding canvas or cotton, and preferably remove any difficulties for weavers and spinners.
The cloth trade was of far greater significance for Reichenberg. Among the enormous quantity of goods that were produced, the sale of cloth was essential. According to the judgment of the experts, the fabrication of cloth was smaller in terms of volume than the manufacture. According to the magistrates, in 1697 the Jews did not have the craftsmen's right to sell cloth bit-by-bit. They were not allowed to sell it by the yard but only in complete rolls. According to the same records, they were not allowed to sell cloth at the annual market bit-by-bit nor to compete with the craftsmen. Both the Bassewis were major buyers. According to the ledger of the office in Jičín, the Steward of Reichenberg was ordered to urge the cloth makers to deliver immediately to the Bassewis 100 pieces of grey cloth. This order, which was probably for uniforms, was to have preference over any other order, which should be put aside.
In the middle of the 17th century, the brothers Salomon and Mayer Marx also ran a large cloth business from Jungbunzlau. However, the main trading center was Prague. The Reichenberg cloth makers travelled to Prague with their goods first on an irregular basis and then later every second week. The cloth was often sold or bought using false documents which showed it to be of foreign origin when it was actually domestic and vice versa. The same practice was to be found in Reichenberg. Unfinished cloth went to nearby Zittau or Görlitz which had a good reputation for cloth making, sometimes even finished there and sold to Bohemia and then to Reichenberg as Dutch or English cloth. In the beginning of the 18th century it was some 100 pieces yearly. That means around 10 % of the total yearly production.
It is not surprising that the official courts did not like this practice and tried to fight it. Namely, the ‘Warme Presse’ (Hot Press) from Jungbunzlau caused a storm in Reichenberg. The castle head at Jungbunzlau, Johannes Friedrich Geutter, wrote to the count's High Office and asked for him to intervene: Begging your Excellency and Grace as High Royal Governor to demand your Royal High Steward, Mr. Haubt, to stop the malpractices which are done with falsehood and will ruin and destroy the cloth industry in Jungbunzlau and which the ‘Warme Presse’ here is attempting to stop.
In spite of everything, Jews were only once suspected of being involved. In February 1655, at the business of the brothers Salomon and Mayer Marx from Jungbunzlau, they found a small amount of ‘two seals’ cloth from Reichenberg. They were arrested in Reichenberg and accused of having the cloth for sale as if it had three seals. The brothers protested their innocence. The ‘sworn-in elders of the cloth makers' guild’ in Reichenberg beseeched the castle head to punish them strictly. On the same day, he reported to the estate owner. Two days later the guild wrote directly to the count. Following the denunciation by a Jew, a raid was arranged at all the cloth shops in Prague. The city judge (the mayor was at the time Count Waizenhofer, guardian of the under-age Count Gallas.), together with two wealthy craftsmen from Reichenberg, checked the complete stock in seven Prague cloth shops, those belonging to Salomon Porgess, Abraham Neustadtl, Moyses Koyness (the leader of the Jewish community), Bernard Fanta, Lewin, Löbl Lassawitz and Lazar Bendiener. Approximately 50 pieces of cloth were confiscated as being suspect. They were described in an extensive record. The process stretched over nine months.
In June 1655, the Jewish cloth traders became inpatient and asked that the cloth be investigated by inspectors and returned to the respective owners. By October, they were naturally even more impatient. They asked that the cloth be handed over in exchange for security, as otherwise they were not able to pay the taxes and would fall into misery, together with their wives and children. The cloth will be rotten, our trade will be destroyed and we will lose our credit. Therefore we ask you to take merciful heed to end this matter and hope that no guilt or deceit is found. It is not obvious from the records (Archive of Ministry for Internal Affairs in Prague) how the matter ended. Probably they were innocent victims of denunciation. Otherwise so much time would not have been spent on the investigation.
The trade between Prague Jews and the Reichenberg cloth makers was already very active at the end of the 17th century, as is clear from a note in the Reichenberg Council's report of 1705. In a meeting on 13 February, the council confirms just one item: It is reported to us that Jews are dying in the ghetto in Prague. According to the report, up to 25 people are dying each day, which is a danger to our cloth makers who have a lot of dealings with Jews. Therefore Councilor E.E.Rath recommends to the cloth makers who usually travel to Prague not to travel there in order to avoid the spread of the epidemic - may God save us. It seems that the Jewish merchants of Reichenberg were not infected. This is also indicated by a letter from the governor to the head of the Prague Old City in which he asks him to inform the Prague Jews that it is up the authority of Reichenberg to appoint distributors and that the Jewish cloth traders cannot be sure that they will get supplies from Reichenberg. In the same year (1719) there also seems to have been some conflict between the cloth makers and the Prague trader Jaiteles, as the Steward asks in a letter whether a contract exists. The Jews of Prague also acted as peace makers, helping the Reichenberg cloth makers to resolve their conflicts with customers.
Two very interesting documents shed light on such activities by the Prague Jews. In the Friedland Leben IV, there is a document concerning the Reichenberg cloth makers: ‘The obligations and declarations of Prague Jews and brokers’. Hereby, the titular Count Johan Wenzel of Galas with the undersigned Prague Jews as brokers received the merciful permission to assist the Reichenberg cloth makers honestly and without cheating when they take products to Prague for sale from time to time. The Jews promise the merciful High Count to deal with the cloth makers truly, honestly and sincerely, especially during their travels to Prague, to buy their cloth cheaply and in a timely manner, and to pay them immediately in common and not false currency or with good wool whichever they should prefer. Everything shall be properly registered as well as the cloth and the number of seals, as per the statement of the appropriate inspector. Should they have any complaints, these can be brought to our representative in Prague and he will refer them to the Count. Any of his decisions concerning payments will always be truly followed. The masters have six weeks in which to make any complaint. If they do not do so within six weeks we, the Jews, have no further obligations, and the cloth makers have the right to deal with other tradesmen here on the flea market or in other places and to sell the cloth for money or for raw wool as they wish. We, the Jews, commit ourselves to take care of cloth trusted into our care and to comply with the agreed terms and time limits. Some of the cloth makers are producing goods of poor quality such as coarse blankets and horse blankets, which is damaging trade and industry. Therefore His Merciful Highness the Count orders the Reichenberg cloth makers to produce the goods in proper quality and of a prescribed length, width and weight, and instructs his officials to ensure strictly that no poor quality products come onto the market. We are placing our houses, property, Jewish rights and stock as deposit for our commitments. We shall be dismissed from our service and shall pay a penalty of 100 ducats and accept voluntarily Indultem Appelation any decision made by the Count in case of disagreement.
As confirmation, we and our wives have signed this document and obligation in the presence of the sworn scribe in Prague on 12 May 1701.
Hirsch Lieb, Jacob Jeckel with their wives and aldermen.
The new broker Wolff Lichtenstadt is to follow and keep this commitment, dated Prague, 11 December 1719.
The main part indicates mainly those items which are different from the previous brokers' agreement. These are the following: I, the Jew Wolff Lichtenstadt, together with my wife Cherle, being chosen by your Imperial Excellence the Count, do promise to be at the disposal of Reichenberg cloth makers coming to Prague to sell their cloth either directly or via a representative, and to serve them truly and to assist them with any need. Whereto, I deposit all my possessions and property. I promise to serve all Reichenberg cloth makers truly and honestly whether they are rich or poor, and to obtain for them higher prices than until now has been usual. The cash payments shall be due without any delay in a valid currency and shall not be withheld. In the case of any obvious failure of cloth, this shall be returned immediately to the seller. At the time of the measuring of the cloth, all shall be equal, whether rich or poor. The cloth shall be kept in a measure of 30 Ellen. The cloth makers shall be free to complain to your Highness if they feel they are treated badly or falsely, and I shall follow your decision, for which I once more deposit all my possessions and property. In the event that the sellers do not wish a payment to be made in cash but in wool, I commit myself to act as if it was a cash payment. For as long as I am the broker, I shall be the only one with whom the Reichenberg cloth makers are dealing except for cloth for uniforms or for export deliveries. There shall be no dealings with the traders from Görlitz. For my efforts in the market, I will receive no more than three kreutzer for a piece of cloth poy.
In the event of any proven maltreatment or violation of my duties, I shall bear the costs of any damage and lose my right as broker. For confirmation of this, I sign together with my wife, which makes her also personally liable. The Reichenberg cloth makers have also confirmed you as holding their power of attorney.
Below the text, it is written: The above mentioned contract is confirmed by me as guardian and administrator of Count Gallas's guardianship. I confirm that Lichtenstadt, together with his wife, shall be protected by this contract so long as they do not break the rules.
Prague, 11 December 1719.
Johanna, Countess of Gallas, née Countess of Gaschi.
A complaint by Reichenberg Jews in connection with the expulsion of Prague Jews from the city in 1744 shows very nicely how they were dependent on these brokers. They complain that the authorities hinder the sale of their products and describe the good services of Jewish brokers. One of these is named as Lichtenstädterin (this is probably Cherle, the wife of the newly appointed broker) and another is Moser. In a record from 1710, the mayors confirm and certify: The inhabitants here mainly produce cloth which they bring to Prague for sale by local Jews who sometimes take too much profit.
Here the Reichenberg cloth makers admit that even if they have only a small advantage from their trade with Prague Jews then they still do have some advantage. These mutual connections continued. The 17 appellants appearing in the above-mentioned complaint who promoted powerfully the sale of Reichenberg cloth were the following: Kopelmann Porges, the Epstein brothers, Beer Porges, Benedict Jeiteles, I.P. Kubinski, Salomon Löwy Kuh, J.Sobotka & Son, Michl. H. Wiener, Moyses Bondy, S.B.Hirsch, Luis Kalmus, Wolf J.Kalmuss, Simon Brandeis, Salomon Brandeis, Seligman M. Karpeles, Benedict Lucka & Heirs, and Jonas A. Porges.
Also those brokers coming to Reichenberg as representatives of foreign trading houses were mainly Prague Jews. They bought mainly in the ‘Deutches Haus’ and in the fulling mill. Tuchplatz (Cloth Square) served as a cloth exchange. Their buyers from Vienna, Budapest, Brünn (Brno) and Jägendorf also had trading houses there. Many companies acting for the purchasing merchants settled in Reichenberg. For example, the company ‘Latzko & Popper’ from Pest (as in Budapest) used the house ‘Irmenbach’, the company ‘Barber’ also from Pest traded via ‘Conrath’, the company ‘M & J Mandel’ from Vienna through ‘P. Schnabel’. Large quantities were purchased by ‘Braun & Herzka’ from Pest, the two companies ‘Sorer’ from Brünn, ‘Geringer & Quittner’ from Vienna and others. However, a detailed description of Jewish cloth trade in the last decades of the last century would be too extensive, and this article set a limit at 1860. Nevertheless, it should be noted that, as well as the trading house ‘Ludwig & Karl Kraus’, which was one the largest and leading companies in the old monarchy, a large number of serious cloth traders contributed substantially to the expansion of local production and trade.
The Reichenberg cloth makers' guild and the Jews
The Reichenberg guild of cloth makers was established relatively late and at a time when other guilds were already more important. They were always a protector of local interests. Foreigners who endangered them were considered to be enemies. The guild watched over their privileges with great vigilance and did not tolerate that they should be in any way transgressed. This was the spirit of monopoly, which was in conflict with the interest of society. Therefore the cloth makers preferred to draw the raw material wool - directly from producers, and sell the product cloth - directly to the consumers and to avoid any extra link in the chain between the two. The guild did not understand that the trade had a stimulating and troubling influence on developments in production. They considered trade to be unproductive and parasitic. They overlooked the fact that those who sell the products of their labor increase the value of the products (i.e. this creates a value). There was also a question of psychology: the cloth makers had a personal relationship with the goods they produced. Theirs was an honorable craft. These people had to work hard for their bread. Under serfdom, they had suffered ruthless repression by the manor owners and especially from the greedy officials. Therefore, in their own eyes, their personal effort increased the value of the product. The attitude of the Reichenberg cloth makers' guild toward the Jews was therefore typical. It fought against the Jews primarily as ‘the foreigner‚, and then against the middleman and the merchant. They fought most of all against the Jewish wool traders.
Their efforts to limit the trade were set aside by the regional administration in 1811, which rejected the reactionary proposals with the following argument: The Jews have no exclusive right to the wool trade or to other products as the trade is free. It is not permitted to exclude Jews from trade with products as it would be inappropriate to increase laziness through reduced competition. The cloth makers' guild was always complaining about the Jewish export of wool, meaning that only the worst quality remained on the domestic market. The guild saw a complete ban on the export of wool as a universal remedy. Approximately every fifth year, it sent to His Majesty an application requesting a ban on the export of wool. In contrast, here is a reply sent to Vienna to an offer of wool: The larger manufactures are always well supplied with all the fine wool they need. The regional administration was sufficiently objective to reject the excessive price increase of cloth and the complaint about the Jewish wool trade and against the export of wool. The guild was often furious about the foreign cloth traders. It repeatedly complained to the magistrates about a dozen foreigners who were buying raw cloth and having it dyed, printed and made waterproof at their own cost. This was because it meant that the guild's own dying mill lost work and it was damaging to its reputation.
What was later seen as manipulation - both permitted and laudable - was at that time frowned upon.
The complaints speak only about foreigners Jews are not mentioned once. But the Jews are not liked by the guild either, because they follow the example of Swiss, Greek and other foreign trading houses. The guild protests that Jews are buying bouclé cloth and smoothed cloth and cloth produced just to a Jewish order. The guild beseeches the magistrates to take strong action so that no cloth maker or cloth cutter in the future makes business with the Jews. The magistrates answered with a hint of irony: As it is the entire guild with all its members that is asking for a remedy, it is hard to believe that there are members who are operating against their own request. The aldermen of the guild are asked to present the names of craftsmen and cloth cutters and of the Jews to enable us to take the necessary measures. The guild managed to name only one Jew from Prague as a buyer of raw cloth. 30 years later (in 1841), the guild added the names of six Jewish companies from Prague. The number of those denounced was small. Nevertheless the guild went on complaining: If this mischief is not stopped, the Jews will - as they are always inclined to do - take over everything from the cloth makers.
This comes from the introduction of an application by the guild to the magistrates: Now the Jews are also coming. It shows that the so-called ‘manipulation’ was not introduced by Jews but by the foreigners, and was only followed by Jews. The claim of Siegmund Mayer: The idea that the two branches - namely production and finishing - are products of the Jewish sense of trade is not correct. In this case the Jews were just good pupils. The guild was opposed to those who have not bought items that are finished and complete. In earlier times, the cloth buyer went to the cloth maker and checked the product as it was produced. Now the buyer is free to watch the hard working maker at any time. He sits comfortably in his office, buys raw woolen cloth and has it finished under his own name. This cannot be changed, as individuals - mainly Israelites - are not changing their attitude to claiming such rights. The production of goods was not as comfortable as imagined by the guild. The configuration and calculation of the product required consideration and effort.
A further cause of friction between the Jews and the cloth makers was the cloth porters. The porter was a typical Reichenberg phenomenon and a specialty of the town that was not popular with the guild. The guild described the mainly sturdy porters as the origin of all evil. These porters no longer exist and can only be seen on the plastic art namely, the house sign in Lerchenfeldstrasse (Skřivánčí ulice) made by the sculptor Kolazcek. The cloth porters were truly devoted to the Jews and provided them with important services. They brought the finished and unfinished cloth to the Jewish houses. They ruled the roost on the square in front of the former ‘Deutsches Haus’ which is even today known as Tuchplatz (Cloth Square). There were no stalls or such like. Rather the cloth could be viewed on the back of the porters, where it was shown and valued. The guild repeatedly asked the magistrates to punish the porters because they brought the goods to the Jews.
Nor is the historian of the guild, Ludwig Hübner, free of prejudice against the Jews. Both in his main work issued to celebrate the tercentenary of the cloth makers' guild and called History of the cloth makers' guild in Reichenberg, and in his many local historical articles, he demonstrates his aversion towards the Jews. Such a commendable chronicler, who took such exemplary care of the town archive yet he lacks a deeper understanding of the economic relationships. In the tower of the deacon church, an account is preserved - dated 10 August 1880 - of important events in the local economy of that year. This account is signed by some of the magistrates and contains disparaging comments about Jewish wool and cloth traders. In 1884, Hübner founded a ‘Vigilance Committee’ with some eye-catching anti-Semitic tendencies. There were also protests against Jews by gentile companies, disputes in the press, lampoons and a lot of agitation.
The guild was succeeded by the Society of Cloth Makers. A modern researcher gives the Reichenberg Society of Cloth Makers the following farewell salute: In its active efforts for its members, it made a rare exception in Austria. Its peculiarly petty position is followed by a freer view, with a broader horizon. Instead of crafts, we now have factories coming into the market. While the former saw the Jewish merchant as an enemy, the latter considered him to be a friend and patron.
The Jews as wool traders
The Jewish wool trade was of central significance for Reichenberg. Soon after the founding of the guild, sheep keeping in Reichenberg and the surrounding area was insufficient. Demand for wool was increasing, and wool had to be obtained from an ever larger area. The nobility was not inclined to sell the wool to the makers on a retail basis. They preferred to sell it wholesale to a few buyers. Although we do not have much proof of this from the 17th century, the reality is that, just as with the foundation of the cloth makers' guild, it was the Jewish traders who supplied the makers with wool. It is not true that - as Hübner states - they gradually took control of a raw material which had been in the hands of the cloth makers. On the contrary, this resource was made available by the Jews. By the middle of the 18th century, the guild complains bitterly to the count: Not only the Reichenberg Jews, but also those from Prague are importing wool into Reichenberg.
In 1810, Head Steward Markowsky reported confidentially to his Highness the Count: It would be desirable if such a large business as the wool trade were not for the most part in Jewish hands'. By that time, Markowsky - as leader of the magistrates and a guild inspector had already done whatever he could to destroy the Jewish monopoly of the wool trade. Several local cloth manufactures joined forces and entered into the wool trade, but the Jewish traders reduced their prices and the manufactures were unable to compete. This competitiveness was what gave the Jewish wool trade its importance and made it impossible to destroy. Another frequently used way to attack the Jewish trade was to renew an option to purchase wool on the market before any foreign and especially Jewish - buyer. On the initiative of Count Mathias von Gallas, King Ferdinand III explicitly declared that the Reichenberg cloth makers should also have such an option to purchase.
The significance of the Jewish wool trade for Reichenberg can be illustrated with some figures: according to the guild, 36,076 pieces of cloth were produced in Reichenberg in 1779. If the wool required for this, calculated in hundredweight, is sold on average for 85 florins per hundredweight (the prices varied between 50 and 250 florins) the resulting value is 1,226,380 florins. In 1797, total production was 35,594 pieces of cloth, requiring approximately 16,000 hundredweight of wool, which corresponds to a value of 1,280,000 florins. In 1826, some 16,886 hundredweight of wool were used, and in 1883 some 18,769 hundredweight. At an average price of 80 florins per hundredweight, this makes a total value of 1,501,520 florins. In 1832, 52,400 pieces of cloth were produced, and the required amount of wool was 36,000 hundredweight. On approximately 2,000 looms, cloth and textiles were produced in lengths between 30 and 50 cubits. Most of this wool was imported by the Jews. The wool was weighed on the town scales, which was a symbol of the town of Reichenberg and today is to be found in the North Bohemian Trade Museum. Only the amount that was imported was recorded. At the initiative of Fürth, the good negotiator from Prague, printed toll receipts were introduced in 1812.
Handheld weights were forbidden. The Jew Lazar Haan had his handheld weight confiscated in 1818, even though he had only used it to measure the weight for the poor cloth and sock makers who were ashamed to go to the town weights with their small amount of wool. Elger, the Master of the Weights, complained in 1831 that Jews who lived in the town and traded there with wool were now going to Christianstadt (Kristyánov) to have their wool weighed. Records of the town weights are preserved for the years 1702-1782, 1850-1854 and 1863-1865. These records also show the amount of wool, the names of the cloth maker who bought it and the fee paid by the Jews for weighing. The weighing fee was a large income for the town. There are particularly detailed reports covering the 18th century. It is a pity that the weight protocols were not fully preserved. Thanks to these records, we know the names of many Jewish wool traders. The records are often incomplete. Often we find just designations such as: ‘a Jew from Bunzlau (Boleslav) ’, ‘a foreign Jew’, ‘the young Jew Tatsch’, ‘a Jew from Moravia’, ‘a Jewess from Nürnberg’, ‘Löbl's son, the married one the boy Löbl’, etc. Often all that is written is: a Jew.
In the following list are the names that are endlessly repeated in the weight protocols and also are of genealogical interest:
|Lichtenstadt Salomon from Prague
|Abraham from Turnau (Trutnov)
|Abraham from Schlan (Slaný )
|Löbl from Münchengrätz (Mnichovo Hradiště )
|Abraham Isac from Gabel (Janblonné v Podještědí )
|Löbl's son from Münchengrätz (Mnichovo Hradiště )
|Löbl from Jičín
|Löbl from Laun (Louny)
|Löbl from Příbram
|Löbl from Turnau (Trutnov)
|Bernard from Moravia
|Löbl¨s son senior and junior
|Löbl Simon from Humpolez/Humpolec
|Löbl Philipp from Turnau (Trutnov)
|Löwy Bernhard & Co.
|Löwy Israel & Co.
|Brandeis Wolf Löbl
|Markus Berndard from Böhmische Leipa (Česká Lípa)
|Markus Moses from Polna (Polná )
|Buchdrucker Mos. Israel
|Marx Jacob from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Daniel from Prague
|Marx Josef from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Daniel from Rohositz (Německý Rohozec)
|Marx Löbl from Münchengrätz (Mnichovo Hradiště )
|David from J. Bunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|David Jacob from Turnau (Trutnov)
|Eiselt from Polna (Polná )
|Eisenschimmel from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Mendel from Böhmische Leipa (Česká Lípa)
|Moses from Jičín
|Oesterreicher & Liebitzky
|Elbogen Israel, son
|Philipp from Turnau (Trutnov)
|Elbogen Samuels Aydam
|Philipp's son from Turnau (Trutnov)
|Elias from Beneschau (Benešov)
|Pinkas Samuel from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Elias from Turnau (Trutnov)
|Pinkas V. from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Feith Noe from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Raudinitz Löbl from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Feith Noe's son from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Feith Vör's son
|Feitel Löbl from Prague
|Salomon from Gillovey
|Salomon from Gratz
|Salomon from Jičín
|Salzel from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Samuel from Březno
|Samuel from Polna (Polná )
|Gutman Israel from Kolin (Kolín)
|Schidlow from Kolin (Kolín)
|Schidlow brothers from Kolin (Kolín)
|Schnabel L.from Neu Bidschow (Nový Bydžov)
|Herschl Moses from Svijan (Svijany)
|Schnabel Hermann from Neu Bidschow (Nový Bydžov)
|Schön Isaac from Münchengrätz (Mnichovo Hradiště )
|Herschl Salomon from Trebitsch (Třebíč )
|Schön Isaac from Teplitc (Teplice)
|Schulhof Jacob Löbl from Pirnitz (Brtnice)
|Herzka Jacob's sons
|Schulhof Isaac from Pirnitz (Brtnice)
|Hirschl from Laun (Louny)
|Hirschl's son from Laun (Louny)
|Singer & Reisemann
|Sorer and Konhrad
|Isaac from Bredl
|Straschnow Alexander Phillip
|Isaac from Bidschow (Bydžov)
|Strass and Staroste
|Isaac from Prague
|Strenitz Abraham from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Strenitz Jacob from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Strenitz and Pick
|Jacob from Aicha (Lípa)
|Jacob from Bidschow (Bydžov)
|This from Prague
|Jacob Markus from Bidschow (Bydžov)
|Jacob Simon from Boskowitz (Boskovice)
|Joachim from Vienna
|Josef Jonas from Turnau (Trutnov)
|Taussig and Grünfeld
|Josef Löbl from Münchengrätz (Mnichovo Hradiště )
|Taussig and Nevekluv
|Josef from Podol (Podolí )
|Vör from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Josef¨s widow from Podol (Podolí)
|Josef Markus from Bidschow (Bydžov)
|Winterberg Josef from Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boleslav)
|Kolliner Abraham from Turnau (Trutnov)
|Lazar from Kolin (Kolín)
|Lazar from Bunzel
|Lichtenstadt Mendl from Prague
|Wolf Löbl from Brendeis (Brandýs)
|Lichtenstad Calman from Prague
The Viennese wool business was expanding and the Viennese trading houses ‘Ausspitz’, ‘Rechnitz’, ‘Stotz’ and others had their representatives and brokers in Reichenberg. The cloth makers needed credit, and the Jewish wool traders gave them credit - often a very large amount. Many cloth makers should have been grateful, because it was only thanks to this credit that they were able to buy raw materials and carry out their trade.
The poor cloth weavers in particular were supported by the Jewish wool traders. It is obvious from the town court records that it was often very difficult for them to collect the debt. In a few of the records, receipt books and bonds books can be found - often with notes in Hebrew. This is because, in the early days, the Jewish wool traders indicated their names in Hebrew cursive writing. Of course, from the court books we hear only about such cases where payments were not made in due time. It is not possible to register here all such cases.
Of particular historical interest is a major trial from the first half of the 17th century and the collection of a smaller debt in the third decade of the 18th century. The large wool trial was initiated by the heirs of Jacob Bassewi. They had great difficulty in collecting a wool debt. It was not so much due to the dilatoriness of the cloth maker, but more due to general crises. The looting and taxation by Königsmark inevitably weakened the financial situation of the cloth makers. The trial probably took place in the period 1639 to 1644. The following document refers to the appeal.
We, Ferdinand III, by God's mercy elected Holy Roman Emperor etc. declare as decided by Our ordained president and councilors at Our royal castle in Prague concerning the appeal of the Mayor and Councilors of the town of Reichenberg. On the basis of the several pleas received concerning the demands of the heirs of Jacob Bassawi and Leon Bassawi (the appellants) against several cloth makers from Reichenberg (the defendants). Our president and councilors have been asked to study these in detail and to inform Us what is right and wrong. They have confirmed that the Mayor of Reichenberg and his Councilors have argued well for a reversal of the decision of 14 January 1649. This decision decided that the defendants must pay for the wool that was supplied 124 stones and 16.5 pounds inclusive of the interest accrued to this day as per the usual rate of interest. The court and process costs should be compensated with this letter and with Our seal is the mentioned decision confirmed. At Our Royal Castle in Prague on 19 February 1644.
Signed: Georg Wunshchirs.
Addressed to: the Mayor and Magistrate of Reichenberg.
Despite this court ruling, it seems that collection of the debt was very slow. This is shown by the letter from Johann Wagner from Prague in 1646 to the mayor and magistrate. The Bashewis assignee Wiedermann repeatedly sent his representative to Reichenberg to demand payments from several cloth makers. They were inclined to enter into a settlement and Wagner offered his services to that end. However, the representative of the Bashewis was not satisfied with the offer of 500 thaler. In the same bundle of documents there is also a register of the debts of cloth makers, how much each paid and what is yet to be paid. It is signed by Johannes Demant, who was obliged as a Protestant - to emigrate during the counter-reformation. On the front page is the note: This is from November 1636, a time when the Swedish people were dominant here. The report is a precise registry of all the grey and blue cloth that was delivered and paid for, what had to be paid to each supplier and what was not yet paid for. At the end of each page, there is a conversion from thalers to ducats.
The list of cloth makers shows that these families still live in Reichenberg. The following are mentioned: Christoph Beyer, Salomon Bayer, Abraham Ehrlich junior, Jacob Ehrlich senior, Christoph Fladeil, (illegible) Fiebiger, Christoph Hofmann, Hans Hofmann junior, Mathes Hofmann, Joachim Jantsch, Aron Keyl, Mathes Knobloch, Melchior Kretschmer, Christoph König, Ellias Möller, Christoph Möller, Christoph Pulz, Georg Posselt, Hans Richter, Joachim Schultze, Jacob Thalwitz etc. There are also repeated statements from the then-mayor of Reichenberg, Mayor Matthes Ginzel, who was selflessly active for the citizens during the Thirty Years War. He travelled several times with members of the magistracy on behalf of the wool trade. He intervened repeatedly at the court in Prague and in Jungbunzlau over the conflicts between the cloth makers and Leon Bashewi. Most probably, the magistrate was guaranteeing the citizens' payments for wool as was the case in other towns.
In February 1648, he entertained for almost 10 consecutive days his mercy the Regional Chief for his diligent involvement in the long disagreement of Mr. Vertimann and Leon Bassewi. The four remaining members of the magistracy (David Ulrich, G. Posselt, Michal Jung and Christian König) also appeared in Jungbunzlau in order that the complete council should be assembled. They tried to be popular with the regional administration through small gifts. Many tidbits were sent to the kitchen of the wife of the Regional Chief. It did not bring them any votes, but it improved the mood. There are two interesting notes that shed light on conditions at that time: To the Regional Chief: The Jew Löwele (probably Löbl), who asked the magistrates that he might appear before your merciful sight, should give 45 pennies to the magistrates. On one occasion when Mayor Ginzel needed money in Prague, he had to borrow 15 thaler from the Jewess Anna in Prague on which he had to pay her interest.
The register of debts of the cloth makers of Reichenberg and the surrounding area to the Jew Isakh Schön from Teplitz (Teplice) for the year 1733 is most interesting. It contains the following:
|Hans Georg Gruner, who should have paid to
the town judge in several installments
|Christoph, the old Ehrlich
|The heir of Christoph Müller
|Hans Christof Hauser's remaining debt
|The oldest son of Stusimel (Stoshimmel)
|Franz Haubmann as guarantor
|Hans Casper Klein Christian
|Jakowitz from behind the dye works
|Gottfried the father
|Gottfried Müller Weiss, tanner
|Son of the cloth maker Schwartzer
|His sister the tailor
|Son of old Schönbron
|Daughter of Christof Ehrlich
|Schulz from Haniken
|Schulz from the village Henner (Dolní Braná )
|Georg the carpenter
|David Jansch from old Harrtzdorf
|Georg Fleischsk from Harrtzdorf
On the debt note of Schön, David Herzog added to his signature a poor cloth maker.
In 1800, Dusensy, owner of the company ‘Joachim Edler’ from the town of Popper, applied to the manor administration for a permit to found a trading house dealing with wool, potassium and dyes. In his application, he refers to the general good reputation of his company which means that further insurances are not required. Count Christian Phillip was impressed by this businessman and always calls him Mr. Applicant. The count presented this application to all the guilds for approval and issued a decree in Liebverda (Libverda): As I have to look after the welfare of all of my subjects and of all individuals in my care, so I can permit this establishment on the basis of a convincing argument, in which it is strongly guaranteed that potassium will be sold only in whole barrels, that dyes will not be sold for any price below 50 pfennigs, and that the establishment is only employing gentile staff. If these conditions are fulfilled, then the Count would have no objections to the establishment. It is not known if this famous Jewish company renewed this application. As the manufacturers and traders from the surrounding area were, for obvious reasons, opposed to the project, the company did not reply and the project was not realized.
While the cloth makers often started in a small way and gradually expanded, the wool makers needed to have large sums at their disposal. They had to finance their dealings with the Hungarian sheep keepers, with the high aristocracy - especially in the ‘Somogyer, Tolna and Stuhlweissenburger limited partnership̵ - and with the high clergy who kept sheep on their large lands, so they already had to make a large down payment in the autumn each year. Sheep shearing took place first in the summer of the following year. The wool then had to be pledged for six or more months before it was sold to the Reichenberg cloth makers.
An expert summarizes his findings that the cloth makers were successful despite their lack of commercial acumen. The wool traders were active in Reichenberg for more than 50 years and did not have as much success as the cloth factories. A large number of these factories survived them and outpaced the wool traders. Yes, indeed, for the wool traders the commercial result was almost always a miserable one. Already in the early decades and even in the previous century, they complained to the town administration that they were losing money. They suffered large losses especially in the period when they were moving from small manufacturing operations to large business concerns. Finally only two Jewish companies remained, namely ‘Straschnow & Liebitzky̵ and ‘Berthold Winterberg̵. But even these closed down some 40 years ago.
It should be noted that, at the beginning of the 18th century, seven cloth makers from Reichenberg bought a large amount of wool from Wenzel Buda in Jičín, based on permission from the administration, and they suffered a large loss. The cloth makers finally recognized the good experience they enjoyed with Jewish wool traders. So in 1834, 21 cloth makers declared unanimously both orally and in writing at the court in the municipal hall of Reichenberg: We bear witness and confirm that, during the cholera time in 1831 when trade was difficult and we lacked wool, the merchant Karl Herzka supplied us with a large amount and as a patriot contributed greatly to the protection and stimulation of local cloth fabrication. Also several other Jewish wool traders were noticed by the administration and the citizens for their honesty and cooperation. As early as 1800, the magistrate certified of the wholesale trader Simon Lammel from Prague that: He lent large amounts to the poor cloth makers and treated them gently. He is worthy of the greatest attention and deserves the highest encouragement as his business has had an important influence on the stimulation of local industry for the benefit of the local cloth industry.
The wool penny
Among the many taxes that the Reichenberg cloth makers had to pay to the manor owner, the most oppressive and hated was the tax with the innocent name ‘wool penny̵. Even today it brings back bad memories, and in its time it caused people to dislike the Jews more than any other measure or incident. The abolition of the tax led to a service of thanksgiving. The memorial book of the cloth maker's guild contains the following note: On 20 May 1777, the honorable trade - as a sign of its thankfulness for the abolition of the wool penny tax by his glorious Imperial and Royal Majesty (our merciful government) - celebrated in the Church of the Holy Cross at the altar of the Holy Severinus a solemn service to which all the aldermen, journeymen, and altar boys came in procession through the town. During the service, the relic of Severinus was offered to all men to kiss for the first time.
Severinus is the patron saint of cloth makers. Even to this day, the local society of cloth makers holds a banquet every year on the Sunday before the Feast of Severinus. What was this tax whose introduction caused so much trouble and whose abolition brought such joy?
In 1669, Count Franz von Gallas - as the owner of Reichenberg and on the advice of his treasurer Flick - informed the cloth makers that in future they must buy wool only from the company founded by the manor. The guild agreed to this. However, they soon began to raise their doubts and opposed the ruling by referring to their privilege to trade freely in wool. Their application was rejected by the count in no uncertain terms. At the beginning of the following year, the guild committed contractually to pay three kreutzers for each stone of wool and 18 kreutzers for each hundredweight.
Ten years later a flat rate annual payment of 500 florins was introduced. The cloth makers protested and referred to their right and freedom to purchase wool from anywhere. On that, a tax of 11 pennies was paid. This 500 florin tax was paid for 11 years and the wool penny tax was paid for a further 96 years, making a total of more than a century. The guild tried consistently to pass these charges onto the suppliers, most of whom were Jews. It was probably at the beginning of 1752 that a petition was sent from the guild to the count. The normally obsequious tone of such petitions was, if possible, even more exaggerated. When there was something to argue against the Jews, the owner of the manor could never be flattered enough:
To Your Royal Excellence, the Count.
The High Born Count
The Merciful High Count and Master that receives this Plea.
Your High Royal Excellence, the Count.
In deepest subject submission, we obediently dare to place this application at your feet as permitted by the government of the Head Steward here in our town. Some time ago, a Jew from Portugal arrived in Reichenberg who drew upon your permission to commit to supply wool to all members of the guild and to pay the annual 500 florin surcharge to your gracious authority. After examination, the cloth makers resolved that this appears to be damaging to the trade. We therefore ask you, the Merciful High Master, to give the cloth makers the right freely to import wool and to pay the annual 500 florin tax directly to your gracious authority as we are committed.
It should not be forbidden to the Jews to provide wool to those who want it from them, but they should contribute in future from each stone or 20 pounds of imported wool towards those 500 florins which are to be paid to you.
We are your most obedient servants,
Franz Klinger, Johannes Josef Knobloch, Johannes Friedrich Beyer, Johannes Josef Jacob Witz, at this time Aldermen, in the name of all cloth makers.
This was answered by a decree:
As the tax of 500 florins or the so-called ‘wool penny̵ has been duly paid by the applicants and in order to avoid allowing the Jews and foreigners to have better conditions, we order that from 1 May the Jews and any others that are not tradesmen shall not be exempted from the wool tax.
Philipp, Count von Gallas.
Of course, those who were affected protested immediately to the count against the new tax, but without success. There is a note about it in the memorial book of the guild: A copy of a merciful decree served among others to Sallomon Gillowey, Jusua Bredl and their partners, Schutzjuden, in connection with the so-called wool penny. It is made clear to the supplicants that they shall pay for each stone of wool imported into our town of Reichenberg. The Authority has a high interest in supporting the Reichenberg cloth makers and their ability to continue their trade. Therefore the Jewish applicants shall pay the wool penny to the wool treasurer or cease importing wool into Reichenberg.
Reichenberg, 5 August 1752
Philipp, Count von Gallas.
This tax was annulled by the country administration. In 1775, the count decreed that for all imported wool one kreutzer shall be paid into the guild treasury. This was declared void by the regional chief authority. It is interesting to note the statement of the count that the wool penny is a replacement for the old tax of two kreutzers, the so-called ‘hundredweight gold̵. In the end, and after several reductions, the cloth makers had to pay just 145 florins, and the count declared: As the guild managed to secure a large reduction by the highest authority, then they shall be free from the requirement to pay the rest.
The introduction of the wool penny tax seems to have been caused by the arrival of a Portuguese Jew. According to Hübner, Portuguese Jews also settled in Prague in the time of Karl. The normally calm and outstanding historian Herman Hallwich becomes more of a fantasizing feature writer when he describes the role of these Portuguese Jews. As if he were writing a novel, he says: one nice morning, there appeared in the large office of the strict Steward a certain exemplar of the earlier but seldom seen today and now extinct - original industrial character. It was obvious at first glance that this was one of those ‘Schutz- and trader Jews̵. However, this time we saw a special kind of Jewish artfulness. Showing the greatest obsequiousness and shrewdness, the ‘Portuguese̵ - as this man was known in almost all of the land - stood in front of the city tyrant . Of course, he was here because of a very profitable business that the Portuguese is making for himself and for his more or less orthodox offspring.
Why should we quote more? This example is sufficient. According to Hallwich, this ‘Portuguese̵ was a well-known person throughout the land, but he limits the significance of this fact by the addition of ‘almost̵ and therefore offers no proof. On the contrary, not even the name of the man is known. How is this possible since he is ‘well-known in almost all of the land̵? At least his name should be known.
Hübner provides a colorful description of the excitement in the workshops and inns when the news came that the inventor of the wool penny was a Jew. These were bad days for the Jews. They could not remain here without being in danger of their life, and for many years they were no more than tolerated guests who could do their business during the day but in the evening had to leave town and stay overnight in the surrounding area. Hübner does not tell us the source of this information. It is also strange that Jewish lives should be ‘in danger̵ only at night. And yet they could do their business safely ‘during the day̵. Hübner presents it as if it was because of the wool penny that the Jews did not dare to stay overnight in Reichenberg. In reality, it was the order of the count which forced them into this nightly exodus, and this order had no connection with the wool penny.
The only sources that explain the introduction of the wool penny are the memorial books of the cloth makers' guild of Reichenberg. All later depictions are based on these. However, these memorial books (of which just two are relevant) are not dependable, because they are - as will be seen - subjective. The more recent of the memorial books is founded Anno 1775 on 24 February at the cost of the honorable cloth makers' guild. It was by its own account created at a time when a lot of work had already been done about the abolition of the wool penny. In reality, this was the aim of the memorial book. During the Seven Years War, the Prussians broke into the archives of the Reichenberg cloth makers' guild and destroyed many original documents. It was therefore necessary, owing to the lack of written material, to collect proof. The note about the wool penny in the older book was also made many years later than the creation of this book.
The deception of memory so many years after the introduction of this tax is obvious from the following. In an application to the count in 1752, it is written again: a Portuguese Jew came to Reichenberg. And a petition almost a quarter of a century later to the chamber procurator Dobroslav speaks about a foreign Jew. This means that the evidence from the guild's documents are not consistent and which is more important - they are also not precise. They say that the wool penny was introduced in the period of government of Steward Platz, while in reality it was in the time of Steward Flick. (By the way, both of them were born in Reichenberg.) When Platz came to power, the wool penny had already been in force for 30 years. Also the indications of the offer made by the Jew are different. In one place, it is written that the Jew offered to pay the count six crowns for each stone of wool, and in the other source that he offered to pay 500 florins each year. Also, in the tax department's comments, there is a reference to these imprecise statements by the guild. If the indications of the payments are imprecise, why should statements about Jews be precise and how did the cloth makers know that the origin of the wool penny was Jewish? Schreyer says that they heard about it ‘through the grape vine̵. Everybody knows how much value to place on such rumors. When you hear something through the grape vine, then it is imprecise, vague and without authority. This means that it was just a rumor that a Jew who might perhaps be a ‘Portuguese̵ - was behind what was invented by the count's High Office. And so over the years ‘rumor’ became ‘fact’.
The wool penny was not hated because there was a Jew behind it, but because it was so hated that therefore it must have been invented by a Jew. The guild needed the Jew for psychological reasons. How could they otherwise justify that at first they accepted it, then they withdrew their acceptance, and in the end they agreed to pay 500 florins a year? Now they could claim that it was in order to remove the monopoly from Jewish hands. When, after 100 years, the wool penny was contested and abolished, and the guild was advised to seek re-payment by legal means, the court stated that the guild had entered into the contract voluntarily. The guild argued that they acted in self-defense in order to avoid a Jewish monopoly: Those conditions that were stated on paper in 1669 seemed well considered and the guild willingly accepted them. The guild was surely not so witless that they would accept worse conditions just because this meant that a Jew was the cause. They did not hate them that much. It is impossible to find out today why they did so, but surely it was not for that reason. It was also not postulated during the trial by the chamber procurator defending the guild that he could not enter into this question. Therefore, the cloth makers with their lawyer tried to appeal directly to the taxation department, but without success. After the death of their lawyer, the cloth makers exceeded the time limits for the appeal. Different reasons are suggested for this. Perhaps they were not legally educated, or they were not in agreement among themselves, or they did not wish to punish the governing count for the sins of his forefathers as he brought them a lot of benefits.
Hereby the matter is even less clear. The total value of the wool penny tax was calculated by the guild as 52,625 florins. Is it believable that they would withdraw from a trial involving such an exorbitant amount of money, a trial which they had pursued with such ardor and even wrote a strong letter to the Empress Maria Theresa arguing against the authority on sentimental grounds? In reality, the cloth makers gave up because they could not argue against the Jewish evidence.
Schreyer informs us further: As a consequence, the first wool company was founded, behind which were the Jews Wolf Lichtenstadt and Itzik Löbl Jaitelses. He provides no source for this information. Both those individuals mentioned had lively business with the cloth makers, and Lichtenstadt was their broker. But the idea that they should form a company and force them to buy the wool and dyes from their company at exorbitant prices cannot be shown from the primary sources. Nor is there any mention in the guild books of such a Jewish company being founded with the manor's authority. Schreyer says about the foundation of the company in general: as a consequence. Hallwich gives a precise year (1696) as the year of foundation. Hübner follows him and adds that the new Steward Platz started with the foundation of the new company and that the income from this was divided between the authority and the Jews in unknown proportions. In the Little Chronicle of the Cloth Makers' Guild, which was issued on the 350th anniversary of the guild, the following remark can be found: 1693 - Steward Platz establishes a manorial company where the cloth makers have to purchase wool at a high price. He leases the company to the Jews Wolf Lichtenstadt and Izik Jaiteles. According to research, the history of this wool company seems to be similar to that of ‘the Portuguese’. As a member of the Bohemian Trade Council, Schreyer contributed his vote to the abolition of the wool penny. He is a perfect witness to this final act, but his information about the introduction of this tax is not correct as he follows the story of the guild, and the Jewish contribution to the manorial wool company is not proven.
The three above-named researchers Schreyer, Hallwich and Hübner describe in garish colors the negative impact of this hated tax.
For the first time, the writer on economics, Walter Havelka, with the benefit of modern means of research, explains the matter more gently in his book Geschichte des Kleingewerbes und Verlages in Reichenberger Tucherzeugung (The History of Small Trade and Distribution in the Reichenberg Cloth Making Industry) issued in 1932. On pages 40 and 63, he writes: The value of wool consumed in the period 1767-1769 was on average 400,000 florins per annum, so the annual tax of 500 florins raised the cost only by 1/8>sup>th per cent. He writes further: As the tax was unchanged from 1693, and the prices and quality of cloth increased from the 1730s, the effect of the tax on the cost of a single piece of cloth was negligible. The share of taxed cloth was reducing with time. Havelka does not refer any more to a ‘Portuguese’. Checks on the sources and on the psychological considerations lead to a conclusion that the Jewish influence on the introduction of the wool penny is an historical lie.
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