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[Pages 554-569]

The History of the Jews in Reichenberg (Liberec)
together with Friedland (Frýdlant v Čechách)
and Deutsch-Gabel (Jablonné v Podještědí) [continued]

The Religious Community (1861-1932)

The new period in the 7th decade of the previous century (ie 1860s) brought three rare gains for the Jews: freedom of movement, freedom to engage in trade, and legal equality. In line with these favorable auspices, some 30 Jewish families settled permanently in Reichenberg. In order to satisfy their religious need, they quickly decided to form a Jewish community and to ensure the two most important attributes: namely a prayer house and a cemetery. The preparations were put in the hands of a committee consisting of five co-religionists: Jacob Spitz, Seligmann Taussig, Siegmund Liebitzky, Josef Kraus and Jakob Strenitz. Jacob Spitz can be thought of as the founder of the community; he was the owner of the hot food stall mentioned earlier and a descendant of Eleasar Fleckeles, as well as the son of Isaac Spitz, the regional rabbi in Jungbunzlau. On 8 April 1862, the statutes of the community were presented to the authorities in order to receive approval.

The state administration had no objections to the formation of a Jewish community, but did not approve it in the light of imminent religious legislation. The state administration was further of the opinion that there should be a Jewish community only in Prague and not in the rest of the country. The guaranteed right to exercise religion did not include the establishment of a community. What was therefore possible in Reichenberg – from 1 February 1863 - was the foundation of a Jewish association based on association law. The members of the provisional committee were elected to the board, with J. Spitz elected as the first chairman. All that could be permitted was the use of a rented prayer house. The first of these was in a room in the house of Friedrich Knoll at no. 2 Röchlicherstrasse, 116/IV. It was ceremonially opened on 4 September 1861, which is to say on the evening before the Jewish New Year, and in the presence of invited leaders of the administration, the deacon P. Ignatz Frank and various local dignitaries.

The “Reichenberger Zeitung” (Reichenberg News) reported in a small news item: “In the newly established Jewish prayer house, a service was held for the first time in connection with the coming Jewish New Year.” The financing of the prayer house was achieved by a loan of 2,760 florins. This was re-paid in the form of 276 debenture bonds each of 10 florins and paid back by yearly draw[50]. As the community grew until it included almost 90 families, this prayer house gradually became too small. On top of that – and especially on High Holy Days - the temperature inside was very high because of the cloth press located below on the ground floor. So the prayer house was relocated to the house of Eduard Elger, at no. 10 Friedländerstrasse, 241/1. From 1 October 1870, two floors were leased initially for 10 years at an annual rent of 750 florins; the premises were adapted at a cost of more than 4,000 Austrian florins. The community's wealth was not sufficient to cover such an expense, so money had to be borrowed. In order to cover these loans, all the donations received by the community were used. In this prayer house, there was space for 104 men in the lower part and for 104 women in the gallery. The first musical instrument used was a rented harmonium. This was followed by an organ bought by Felgenhauer Scharf, which was later sold, together with a Torah scroll, to Münchengrätz (Mnichovo Hradiště ) for 700 florins. Services were held in this prayer house for almost two decades.


The Temple

The temple was built in the style of the early Renaissance and crowned with a cupola, and is therefore an adornment to the center of the city. The first initiative for this building was already provided in 1875 in a memorandum written by Wilhelm Winterberg. He was also the first person to contribute a significant sum to the building fund. It took a long time to turn this initiative into active work. As far back as 1833, the general assembly had elected a committee of 15 members under the leadership of Josef Lažansky to resolve all the problems and to prepare the work. The committee soon sketched out a plan of action that would gather the necessary funds through subscriptions, the sale of temple seats and a larger loan. The committee was able to hand over to the board 43,928 florins – of which they had collected 38,873 florins. It is remarkable that one third of the total collection was from citizens of other religions. Their trust in the community was also shown when many of them bought bonds issued later.


Temple, exterior view


While the building committee was handling the preparations, the religious leadership was not sitting on its hands. At the suggestion of the leader of the community, Siegmund Liebitzky, at the plenum meeting on 25 September 1884, it was agreed to purchase a piece of land measuring 8,764 square fathoms[51] which belonged to Mrs Agnes Hübner. This piece of land was deemed to be especially suitable as it stood in the town center in a prominent and open location on Lerchenfeldstrasse (Larks' Field Street). It was a fortunate decision as there was surely no better or more suitable location. In order to make it possible to go around the outside of the temple and in view of the inevitable monumentality of the building, it was necessary to purchase a neighboring plot owned by Schiefler for 5,000 florins and to build an especially strong supporting wall. This wall required the expenditure of more than 13,000 florins. It was not necessary to build on this land, and so space was made for a garden.

Now it was necessary to create two committees: a Buildings Committee to handle the planning, order the various works and supervise the construction; and a Finance Committee to raise any capital that was still lacking. The community appointed the following to the Buildings Committee: Josef Pollak (representative), Dr. Wilhelm Hersch, J.L.Knina, chief engineer Moritz Lemberger, factory director Hermann Nettl, and Siegmund Weil. The Finance Committee comprised: Heinrich Langstein (representative), Josef Lažansky, Heinrich Pollak, Salomon Polaček, Max Schnabel, and Dr. Ignatz Ullmann. Two famous Viennese architects, Max Fleischer and Professor Carl König, accepted invitations to visit Reichenberg; after their return home, they presented their individual proposals. Upon the recommendation of the expert members, the community decided on the proposal by Professor König, and so he was entrusted with the project. All the detailed plans came from his studio. Supervision of the work was carried out by architect Daud, professor at the state trade school in Reichenau. All carpenters, metal workers, plumbers and other craftsmen were employed from local Reichenberg companies. Only the best materials were used. This was also true for the pews. The cost of stonemasonry was almost half of the total building cost, which was 149,775 florins. The total cost of the temple, which has 250 seats for men and the same number for women, as well as the meeting hall and heating, can be divided as follows:


  florins crowns
Plot of land, supporting wall and cleaning 37,468 79
Construction 77,069 09
Interior furnishing 19,600 66
Various unforeseen costs 9,434 44
Fencing 3,805 26
Heating 1,698 47
Garden 698 50
Total 149,775 21


The financing can be shown as follows:

  florins crowns
Temple building fund on 31 December 1887 17,911 01
Collection by Buildings Committee up to 31 December 1890 43,808 -
From the Burial Society of the Jewish Community 5,500 -
From the Women's Society of the Jewish Community 2,000 -
From the Retirement Trust of the Jewish Community 2,000 -
Mortgage from Savings Bank with annual repayment 40,000 -
Debentures 30,000 -
Collection for internal decoration 560 21
Interest received in period 1888-1890 2,220 12
Donations in period 1888-1890 3,961 09
Bequests in period 1888-1890 670 -
Profit from sale of inventory from the old prayer house 516 10
Remainder to be covered from current running income 628 68
Total 149,775 21


The second loan was made in the form of 300 bonds in the names of creditors, at 100 florins each and at 5% interest. The repayments were drawn annually.

The organ was built by the company ‘Rieger Brothers’ in Jägersdorf (Krnov), following a design by the music directors Albrecht from Zittau. The cost, inclusive of freight, was 3,546 florins.


Temple, interior view


A very important milestone in the history of the community is 24 September 1889. It was on this day that the newly-built temple was officially opened in the presence of the state and town administration, the military, the catholic and evangelical[52] clergy, representatives of many local societies and of the surrounding Jewish communities. The master builder Sacher made a short speech at the entrance to the temple. After the handing over of the key, the chairman of the community Heinrich Langstein greeted the honored guests in the vestibule. In his answering speech, Mayor Dr. Schücker praised the sense of solidarity within the community. After the opening of the service with a hymn came the words of consecration by the rabbi, the lighting of the eternal light, and then the Torah roles were taken out from the Ark of the Covenant and carried around the temple accompanied by song. The organist Gerhard composed a special hymn which was sung by the new choir. Then Rabbi Dr A. Posnanski gave his speech of consecration. He preached on the text “Who might climb the mountain of the eternal? Those who have clean hands and heart.” (Psalm 24, Verses 2-3).

According to the Reichenberg News, the speaker explained clearly the purpose of the temple. In the report issued in 1891 concerning the building of the temple, it is written: “The event was brought to its culmination by this wise and well-formulated speech”. The festivities concluded with a motet by Haydn, the Prayer for the Emperor, an anthem heard standing and with uncovered head, and with songs by the choir under the leadership of Julius Fischer. The liturgical part was led by Regional Rabbi Adolf Kestenberg. The closing evening prayer was sung solo by Ignatz Hersch. The festivity remained an unforgettable event for all the participants. At the following meeting of the Board, it was noted that there was total satisfaction with the festivity at all levels of society and throughout the community. The previously mentioned K.V.Liebitzky, as well as Josef Pollak and Josef Lažansky, had the satisfaction of seeing the completion of the work to which they had dedicated their lives, while K.V Löwy, who gave his best years to the project, was no longer among the living. Later, the 25th and 40th anniversaries of the temple were celebrated at a New Year service with sermon and song.

However, even with the building of the temple, the community's work and troubles were not finished. The community council had to fight several feuds with the temple's neighbor, but in the end they found an amicable solution. These feuds were about alterations to the buildings on both sides. An exchange of plots of land was negotiated with the town community for several years until a contract of exchange was signed in 1894. Owing to regulations, 150 square fathoms of the Lerchenfeldstrasse were needed from the temple plot. In exchange, the town gave the community a plot of 27.5 square fathoms and paid 12 florins per square fathom. However, a few years earlier the Jewish community had paid the town double this price, and so it offered to sell for 1,400 florins. For this reason, the community contributed to the building of the bridge which goes over Turnerstrasse to Lerchenfelsdstrasse. Both the temple and the bridge are still today nicknamed ‘The Jewish Bridge’, even though the Jewish contribution was very small, at just 500 florins.

The summer months of 1899 were dedicated to the decorative painting of the temple. A scheme was presented by Ladevig from Vienna, but the offer by the Reichenberg company ‘Meininger’ was successful, as it was much closer to the original intentions of the architect, Professor König from Vienna, and it was also recommended by him. On the basis of this offer, ‘Meininger’ was appointed to provide the decoration in real gold paint at a maximum cost of 4,250 florins. The work was supervised by Professor Johann Beer from the trade school. The interior decoration, with its fine colors, corresponds very well to the external architecture. On the evening before the New Year feast came the re-lighting of the eternal light and the re-consecration of the temple. In 1913, the Philantropia lodge (see later) donated a beautiful chandelier for the winter prayer hall. The board of the community takes great care and commits great expenditure to the preservation of the temple building


The Cemetery

The next important task for the community was the foundation of its own cemetery. The nearest cemetery was four miles away in Turnau, and the bodies of the deceased had to be transported there. The first choice was a plot of land at N. Top. 1643[53]; however, this was not permitted by the town administration owing to the planned expansion of the city. In March 1864, the community succeeded in buying another plot of 500 square fathoms from Anton Schöpfer. This plot is on Ruppersdorferstrasse unter N.Top.1696. The town administration gave its permission two months later. The related costs were covered by donations and a loan. After alignment of the site along the street was regularized and 50 fathoms had been set aside for the grave digger, a chamber for washing the bodies, and a hut for the funeral wagon, there remained 400 square fathoms for burials. A further restriction came later when the ceremonial hall was built. The cemetery was taken into use on 20 April 1865. The first person to be buried was Joachim Goldberg, a former soldier, himself a gravedigger and a widower tradesman who died at the age of 77. For this inaugurating event, the cemetery was consecrated by Regional Rabbi Dr. Elbogen. In 1866, it was decided to buy some neighboring plots in order to increase the capacity of the cemetery. This was done in 1894 and the space allowed room for 1,181 graves. The rabbi consecrated the new plot on the occasion of the burial of Marie Fischl on 7 August 1896, who died at the age of 70. In 1894, it was decided unanimously to follow the proposal of Dr. Wilhelm Hersch to construct buildings for humanitarian purposes on the remaining land in case the town administration should ever require the cemetery to be closed down.


Ceremonial Hall, exterior view


In the following years, the wall between the old and new cemeteries was removed and a new wall was built around the whole cemetery. This work was contracted to Josef Pilz for a sum of 2,650 florins. At the end of 1900, a ceremonial hall, a new hall for the washing of the bodies and an apartment for the cemetery gardener were constructed by the builder Anton Worf at a cost of 27,000 crowns. A pulpit and chandelier were donated by two generous members of the community. Shortly afterwards came the great and dignified decoration of the hall.


Ceremonial Hall, interior view


A few steps from the entrance to the cemetery – in such a way that it is the first thing a visitor sees - is a monument to those who fell in the World War. The ceremonial uncovering of this monument took place in July 1927 in the presence of many participants. After a speech by the community chairman Dr. Langstein, Rabbi Professor Hofmann gave a memorial speech. The simple but dignified ceremony, without songs, was very impressive. As well as the monument, the cemetery contains a row of graves of fallen warriors, the graves of some 80 war refugees[54], a funeral urn wall (the cremation urns are treated as coffins) and children's graves. On the graves of the worthy chairmen of the community and of the temple and of other worthy members of the community, there are plates inscribed with words of honor from the community.


The Organization

The Statute of the Jewish Community was printed four times: in 1877, 1896, 1924 and 1931. The Statute of 1877 determines that: “Each new member shall pay an admission fee which is to be agreed upon with the board and which must be, as a minimum, half of a half year's payment, but in no case higher than three times half of the highest payment of anyone in the community”. As for the division of costs, the community had an ideal state of affairs in the beginning. There were four tax classes, with contributions of 16, 12, 8 and 4 florins. Six years later, the contributions were increased to 24, 18, 12 and 6 florins. In the Statute of 10 years later, there are six classes of 45, 36, 30, 24, 15 and 6 guilders. Because of the increasing needs of the community, it was inevitable that the costs and the taxes had to be increased. In 1896, the contribution fee was based on the number of contributors in each class. Downwards were the following ⅕, ₢, ⅗ and ⅘ of the quotient (though the minimum payment was 1 florin), and upwards were the following 1, 1⅕, 1₢, 1⅗, 1⅘, 2, 2₢, 2⅘, 3⅕, 3⅗ , 4 and so on, up to a maximum of 150 florins[55]. In 1876, the general meeting resolved that any Israelite living in Reichenberg for more than half a year without becoming a member of the community should pay the tax. This was very important for all communities. However, the Imperial and Royal state administration forbade this practice, declaring it to be contrary to the freedom of religion and stating that Israelites should pay only if they participate in the life of the religious community. In their appeal to the Ministry of Religion and Culture, through the town administration, the Jewish community stated that this ruling is a threat to the very existence of the community and that the fee does not endanger freedom of religion. The appeal was successful and it was also used by other communities.

The year 1901 saw the introduction of a significant tax reform. Its spiritual originator was the then-book keeper Alois Soudek. According to this reform, each member had the right, up to November of each year, to present to the community his declaration of state tax, and the community tax was then to be paid accordingly in the relevant income class. When the state tax declaration was shown later at a possible appeal against the community tax prescription, then the state certificate would be ignored by the community. If members did not show the state tax certificate, their income was estimated by the community, and their community tax was prescribed according to this estimate.

The main principles of this progressive community tax were as follows: complete exemption from tax for penniless members, a tax discount for those that were financially constrained, and stricter taxation for those that were financially strong. The tax scale was in 20 steps. The maximum tax was 1,000 crowns per annum. The scale was based on the average number of members, the average annual budget and the average income of the members. This tax reform was valid for 30 years and always offered the community the option of adapting to current need. Soudek's reform might also have acted as an example for other communities, but this did not happen because the administration changed its opinion and did not approve similar statutes for other communities. The government saw the administration of this fee as an addition to personal tax, which it sought to avoid. As far as we can tell, this doctrine was first abandoned by the government two years ago.

In 1931, the tax legislation and especially the possibilities of appeal were modernized as per current legislation. A maximum of 44 tax classes were foreseen, and the highest yearly tax is not to exceed 5,000 crowns[56]. As well as the increase in the amount, a substantial part of the new statute covers the introduction of another appeal process, namely a special appeals commission. The appeal is no longer handled by the board. The appeals commission consists of 11 members, among whom five are selected by the board for the duration of the period for which the board has been elected. No more than three of the 11 may be members of the board, and members of the tax commission may not also be members of the appeals commission. Five are to be members of the community board for the duration of the election period and six are community members elected during the general election The appellant can be present during the examination of his appeal, and he may also address the commission during the examination. He may also be represented by another tax payer living in Reichenberg.

Until 1877, election was for a period of 25 years and later of 30 years. In 1931, it was reduced to 21 years. According to state law, the rabbi also had the right to election, as did the officers of the community and those members who had reached the age of 30 and had lived in the territory of the community for a minimum of two years. From 1895 to 1920, there were two groups from which members may be elected: the first consisted of state, country and public servants as well as doctors who had graduated from domestic universities and the rabbi; the second comprised highly taxed community members who paid 50% of the community income between them, as well as cantors and the teacher.

Each of these two candidate groups supplied half of the board members, representatives, auditors and members of the tax commission. The members of one election group had the right to elect members of the other group. Elections were made first by the second group. When the results were published, then the first group elected members. After the peace that followed the World War, it was thought that, in order to improve democracy, there should be only one candidate group. However, the election still had to be carried out with candidate groups as otherwise the statutes would need to be changed. In order to avoid a dispute at the time of elections, the various societies and parties were always able to reach agreement.


Exceptional events

In 1876, a terrible and bloody deed made the headlines far beyond the city walls. During a seizure, Isaac Abeles - a 50-year old hard-working merchant with a poor education - killed the commercial agent Eduard Pellheim with several knife trusts. The trial lasted three days and was led in an exemplary fashion by District Court Judge Hartmann. The trial revealed a very unhappy picture of society. Abeles was sentenced by the jury to death by hanging. He was subsequently pardoned and the sentence was changed to 20 years' penal servitude. On 18 August 1889, the date of the Emperor's birthday, he was pardoned and released from prison. He spent the rest of his life in quiet seclusion and died in 1897 at the age of 70. His defense was led by the lawyer Petak. During the reading of the sentence in the old court house in Färbegass, Abeles fainted and suffered stomach cramps. This caused great excitement among the public that were present, not least because at that very moment there came a furious thunderstorm. The people could not understand how it is possible that a Jew could kill another Jew.

From this event, a popular verse was coined:

The Sun shines at night-time, The Moon shines during the day, The Jew Abeles Has killed Pellheim

Two other crimes are to be remembered. In 1894, Olga, the 6-year old daughter of the merchant Julius Fantl, was the victim of a sexual murder. Every section and level of society participated in her burial.

On 3 November 1929, the 23-year old holder of the general power of attorney, Erwin Löwy, was killed by shots to the head during a Sunday afternoon walk in the forest. He was buried in Vienna.

Neither murder was ever solved, and the murderers remained unpunished.

On 10 February 1866, there was a vote for the election of K.V.Liebitsky and Joachim Deutsch to the Community Association[57]. Despite the strong recommendation of the state counsel Dr. Sieber, only ten of the 28 councilors present voted for these candidates.

The following day, the Reichenberg News wrote in a leading article: “The liberals failed their first test. A town such as Reichenberg is evidently sufficiently reactionary to refuse - without any motive - entrance into the Community Association of the first two Israelites to seek it. There must be some inexplicable urge for naïve prejudice that leads to such a decision in the second half of the 19th century, especially when such an application comes so late in time[58]. The reason is simply that the applicants are Jews.” Joachim Deutsch renewed his application and shortly afterwards was accorded his civil right. Up to 1874, a further eight Jews received the same civil rights as the gentile citizens of the town.

The working party of councilors which until this time had been a successfully operating part of society now followed an anti-Semitic tendency. In a meeting on 9 December 1890, Councilor Dr. Jennel pronounced “that the growth of inhabitants in Reichenberg is basically because of the immigration of two foreign elements, and their growth in numbers is not to the benefit of the city. In the one case, they are mainly proletarians who are placing stress upon the employment market and are often of a criminal nature, as the statistics show; and in the other because their growth and prosperity is leading to the impoverishment of the local population”. This statement was a huge insult to both minorities, namely the Czechs and the Jews. The Jews first became aware of this statement through a notice in the Reichenberg News. Councilor Hasenöhrl pointed at the attack on Israelites in the next meeting and demanded that the mayor distance himself from it in a suitable way.

Councilor K.V Heinrich Langstein rejected the attack. He was thanked at the next meeting of the Board of the Jewish community for his resolute stand. The answer of the mayor was very sophisticated. He completely overlooked the fact that the expressions used by Dr Jennel, if not in form then in content, were a general accusation and insult to the Jews. The Jewish citizens of Reichenberg were disturbed by this discussion in the Reichenberg parliament for years. Their indignation should not have been directed only against Dr. Jennel but also against the mayor, Dr. Schücker. His anti-Semitic views should not surprise anyone.

The anti-Semitic daily newspaper in Reichenberg “The Deutsche Volkszeitung”, which appeared from autumn 1885 to November 1919 (i.e. for 34 years) was generally considered to be the mouthpiece of the town council. Even in the early 1890s, exaggerated nationalist sentiments were evident. The fact was that, at that time, those within the Jewish community who had been members of the town council and of the regional school council were not allowed to become members of the Community Trade Council, and Jews were also driven out of other societies


The World War

Our community also donated to the Fatherland offerings both in terms of goods and of blood. No fewer than 18 sons and relatives offered their lives to the Fatherland. These are the following:


Breslauer Ernst Deutsch Albrecht
Freudenfels Otto Hermann Arthur
Iltis Rudolf Iltis Theodor
Jerusalem Victor Kraus Alfred
Langstein Julius Lederer Oswald
Lustig Emil Mendl Arthur
Nettl Hans Nettl Richard
Pollak Alfred Schalheim Oswald
Winterberg Fritz Dr. Winternitz Fritz


Memorial to the Fallen


The shining of the light of eternal glory shall be their memorial. In memory of those who have fallen, a monument was erected at the cemetery and a plaque was placed in the temple. Those who fell are also remembered at the service of the Day of Remembrance. Every effort was directed at one target only, namely Victory. Therefore the community attempted to avoid holding elections which, according to the Statutes, were due to be held in the middle of September, and so the board under the leadership of Dr. William Fleischer applied to the Board of Control to hold the elections no sooner than the third month after the signing of a peace. Until then, the existing board should be allowed to manage the community. They wrote in this application: “Owing to the state of war faced by our beloved fatherland, many of our members are called to arms. Until they truly complete their duty to the fatherland, it would not be proper to deprive them of their right to vote or not to vote”. The state administration left the decision to the Regional Steward's office, and he agreed. The election was therefore postponed until the time of peace, and the board functioned from 1911 until 1919 (i.e. for a full eight years).

The community had much to do and many concerns. In order to bring a sound and efficient system into operation, a large Care Association was established under the leadership of Alois Soudek. The Treasurer was Siegmund Meller. The latter also led the clothing initiative and was tirelessly active. The rabbi and the head of the religious department were also, of course, members of the Care Association. After the entry of Italy into the war, this became a state organization and also took care of 100 Italians together with their own parish priest. Alois Soudek continued as head of the organization. Immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, the board of the community arranged war-relief collections for the relatives of those that were called to military service.

Very soon there was an influx of refugees from the east. They were from the evacuated areas of Galicia and Bukovina, mostly from Dębica. These people, who had been forced to leave their farms and homes, did not feel unlucky to be here. They received a kind reception from their co-religionists – even though their local co-religionists were not as orthodox as they were. They were warmly greeted - even at the railway station where they arrived. They were also received by the gentile inhabitants of Reichenberg, who were warm, friendly and sympathetic to their fate. The leader of the Regional Steward's office, State Councilor Victor Ritter von Steffek, understood the pitiful situation of the refugees and the community found in him a good adviser.

This care for the refugees is a glorious chapter in the history of the community. The refugees were placed in various private lodgings and in several dormitories in Reichenberg, in the neighboring villages of Rupperndorf (Ruprechtice), Hanichen (Dolní Hanychov), Maffersdorf (Vratislavice), Franzendorf (Františkov) and also in the communities of Friedland (Frýdlant) and Deutsch-Gabel (Lada v Podještědí ). The inspectors of the dormitories in Reichenberg and the surroundings were Josef Abeles, Karl Deutsch, Ludwig Edelstein, Josef Fleischer, Dr. Konrád Perutz, Leopold Sterschuss, Max Spitz, Eduard Stiassny and Gerson Schnürmacher. They looked after those that were in their care.

In other parts of the community, Rudolf Eisner, Dr. Rudolf Feig and Siegfried Freund took care of the refugees in Deutsch-Gabel and Dr. Karl Winternitz did the same in Friedland. The company ‘Teltscher & Löwy’ built a maternity ward for the women in Röchlitz (Rochlice). On the initiative of the rabbi's wife, Eugenie Hofmann, a sewing workshop was established where almost 100 women and girls found an income. The effect of this work was also very important for the morale of the women. The leader received active support from the Ladies' Committee. The Care Committee and the rabbinate were much involved with the administration of these many activities, in the case of the rabbinate mainly with the belated official weddings and registrations of children from religious marriages. (In Bohemia, weddings for all non-Christian communities had to be held first at the town hall and then afterwards would come the religious ceremonies.)[59]

The women and the community in general were very active in giving help to the wounded soldiers both through the Red Cross and in private hospitals. Ludwig Edelstein and the company ‘S.S. Neumann’ set up private hospitals. The religious needs of the Jewish soldiers in the garrison were also looked after. More than 400 Jewish soldiers and officers of the 44th regiment from Kaposvár, in the Somogy region of Hungary, were transferred to Reichenberg. They were preached to in the synagogue in their mother tongue. The community also provided Seder for the other Jewish soldiers and the wounded. It was increasingly difficult to get matzoth. The rabbinate also faced new tasks in terms of spiritual welfare. The Russian prisoners-of-war in the camps at Berzdorf (Ostašov) and Deutsch-Gabel had to be looked after as well. In the first period of the War there were more than 1,000 Jewish prisoners in and around Reichenberg. Among these, some 150 remained in the camps, while the rest were employed as farm workers. In the prison camp in Deutsch-Gabel there were some 120 co-religionists. The rabbi held a service in each camp every month and also arranged a Seder evening in the Berzdorf barracks. In the final years, the prisoners were allowed to participate in services in the temple. Often a separate service was arranged in the meeting hall of the temple for foreign co-religionists and their guards. The Jewish community as a whole as well as individual members participated in the various war loan schemes. After the putsch[60], the idea of forming a National Jewish Council was raised; this led to many discussions, but was never realized.


The Rabbinate

Until 1880, the Jewish community belonged to the regional rabbinate from Jungbunzlau. A financial contribution was made by the members of the community on the basis of the amount of tax paid to the count. The last regional rabbi was Dr. Isaac Elbogen. He was very active through his selfless cooperation in the establishment of the Reichenberg community. K.V.Liebitzky, together with a deputy as the representatives of the community, participated in the celebrations in Jungbunzlau when the rabbi retired. In 1890, a legislative ruling was made that the position of rabbi should be through a private employment contract. And so it is written in the first community statute at § 32: “The position of the rabbi is to be determined at any time by a specific ad hoc contract”. These new laws concerning the public status of the rabbi were also recognized within the community's Statute. In the long period when Reichenberg was without a rabbi, sermons were given in the prayer house by various preachers. So, in 1874, Dr. Ehrenteil from Hořice delivered a sermon for which he received a payment of five ducats.

The few weddings that occurred were mostly carried out by the regional rabbi. Services were occasionally held by Jacob Haller from Karolinenthal (Karlín), Adolf Ehrenteil from Hořice, Dr. Joel Müller from Böhmische Leipa (Česká Lípa) and Eisner from Beubidschof (Nový Bydžov). As far as we know, prior to the formation of the Jewish community, weddings were officiated by Abraham Grünfeld, the regional rabbi in Jičín, Markus Goldman and Jacob Zeckendorf from Liten (Liteň). The first rabbi of Reichenberg was Salomon Pollak, who was born in Leipnik (Lipník nad Bečvou) in 1811. He was director of the Jewish ‘model school’[61] in Wag-Ujhely. In 1869 he was called to Reichenberg as teacher, took the rabbinate examination and received approval from Regional Rabbi Haller. After this, he was employed as rabbi by the community and as such confirmed by the state administration. He served the community until his retirement in 1889, and died on 5 June 1895 at the age of 84.

There were 14 applicants for the vacant position. On the final shortlist were Dr. Siegmund Fessler, rabbi in Landsberg and later in Halle, and Dr. Adolf Posnanski. The latter was elected. He was born in Russia and until his 18th birthday he had studied the Talmud. Then he studied theology and philosophy in Paris and Breslau[62]. He received the rabbinate certificate at the Jewish seminar in Breslau. He is the author of the book of exegesis “Siloh” and was rabbi in Reichenberg for the three years from 1889 to 1891. He transferred from Reichenberg to Pilsen, and later become a professor in Vienna. There he died at the age of 68 on 8 October 1920 and is buried in a grave of honor. After him, rabbi candidate Dr. Julius Reach was temporary rabbi for half a year. He later became rabbi in Raudnitz (Roudnice), Gaya (Kyjov) and Prague. After his departure, religion was taught in the middle schools by Dr. Moritz Grünwald from Jungbunzlau. No fewer than 25 applications were received for the vacant position as rabbi. Among these was one from Dr. Emil Hoffmann. He gave a test sermon, after which he was elected. He has been rabbi of Reichenberg from 1892 to this day.


The Administration

The board of the community at first comprised five and then seven members. In 1896 it was increased to 12 members. Until that year, the plenary meeting was the most significant event. This meeting was responsible for the election of the rabbi, cantor, teacher, and of the board. This meeting was also where all the community business was discussed. Every member of the community had the right to speak at the plenary meeting. Even though the discussions were sometimes heated, this kept the interest alive for the community. In 1896, a 14-member community board was established together with a supporting board – also of 14 intermediate members - as a consultative and deciding body. This supportive body consists of members of the smaller executive board and a further 14 representatives. The religious board today consists of Eduard Soyka, Josef Lažansky and Josef Pollak. The latter has been on the community board for more than 35 years.


Rb. Salomon Pollack
Rb. Dr. Adolf Posnanski
Rb. Dr. Prof. Emil Hofman
Siegmund Liebitzky
Leopold Löwy


Heinrich Langstein
Dr. Wilhelm Schnürmacher
Dr. Wilhelm Fleischer
Dr. Leo Langstein (dz. K. V.)


From 1863 to 1865, the restaurateur and merchant Jakob Spitz was chairman of the religious board; from 1865-1885, this post was held by the wool merchant Siegmund Liebitzky. This means that two men held the post in those two decades. They were followed by: lawyer Dr. Theodor Haller (1885-1886), merchant Leopold Löwy (1886-1889), manufacturer Heinrich Langstein (1889-1900), lawyer Dr. Wilhelm Schnürmacher (1900-1911), and lawyer Dr. Wilhelm Fleischer (1911-1921). Currently, lawyer Dr. Leo Langstein is chairman of the parish council.

Community chairmen and vice-chairmen in chronological order were: Leopold Löwy, Heinrich Langstein, Dr. Wiliam Hersch, Dr, Ignatz Ullmann, Dr. Wilhelm Schnürmacher, Ernst Weiseles, Dr. Emil Peres, Alois Soudek, Ernst Soyka, Dr. Rudolf Kraus and - since 1932 - Dr. Leopold Bass.


Eduard Soyka
Josef Lazansky
Sigmund Meller
Otto Fanll
Fritz Löwy


As synagogue chairmen: Jakob Strenitz, Leopold Löwy, Eduard Soyka, Josef Lažansky, Siegmund Meller and - since 1931 - Otto Fantl. Of particular note is the self-sacrificing decades-long activity of Siegmund Meller, who dedicated his time and life to the benefit of the community.

Treasurers: Wilhelm Winterberg, Daniel J. Pick, Josef Pollak, Ludwig Edelstein, Edmund Deutsch, Emanuel Spitz, Josef Fleischer, and - since 1925 - Hugo Hersch.

The Senior member of the board is Eduard Stiassny.

Dr. Wilhelm Schnürmacher and Dr. Wilhelm Fleischer, as chairmen of the community board, were also members of the National Jewish Council. Dr. Schnürmacher was a deputy-member.

The parish board administers a number of trusts and donations for Jahreszeit, as well as for charitable and educative purposes.

The poor members always had the attention of the community from the very beginning. Those that were actively responsible are Jakob Strenitz, Leopold Löwy, Josef Lažansky, Otto Fantl, Siegmund Meller and - since 1931 - Egon Popper. In 1932, the organization of aid to the poor was reorganized and changed to a Welfare Centre. The members of this are: the members of the parish council, all humanitarian societies in Reichenberg, the rabbi, and the chairman of the parish board. It is gratifying that women also participate in this Welfare Centre - where Otto Fantl is chairman and Fritz Löwy is treasurer. The organization is based on the principles of the most modern welfare aims. The main target is to provide the poorest in Reichenberg with sufficient cash, loans, coal and foodstuff. Activities also include summer vacations for children.

The income of the Welfare Centre in its first year was:


From Jewish corporations and activities for children kč. 51,086.75
From Jewish private contributors kč. 68,327.00
  kč. 119,413.75
Of this total, the amount used for local co-religionists kč. 72,908.85
For migrant beggars kč. 13,358,20
For administration kč. 4,253.45
This means:  
For locals 80.54 %
For migrating beggars 14.75 %
For administration 4.71 %


The problem of migrant beggars can only be solved through organizational measures and through the cooperation of the national organizations. The doctor for the poor is Dr. Julius Schnabel

The formation of a matriculation register at the community and the inclusion of the legal circuit areas of Reichenberg, Kratzau (Chrástava), Friedland (Frýdlant), Gablonz a/N (Jablonec nad Nisou) and Tanwald (Tanvald), as well as the separation from the Turnau (Trutnov) matriculation register, was accepted by the state administration on 14 November 1864 on condition that the registrar is domiciled in Reichenberg. The first registrar was Valentin Fischer - from April 1865 until he resigned in 1873. He was followed by Salomon Pollak until the end of 1890. After this, Rabbi Dr. Posnanksi held the post for one year, and until the end of 1892, the lawyer Dr. Wilhelm Hersch. Since 1893, Rabbi Dr. Hofmann has been the registrar. He is the last one to have been sworn in by the government representative and later state governor Count Karl Coudenhove. As per the order of the state administration, the Gablonz-Tannwald registry was separated from the Reichenberg one as from 24 April 1878.


The Community Employees

Cantors: Joachim Pesseles, from 1861 until his death on 28 October 1887 at the age of 49; Heinrich Goldstein (previously teacher in Schüttehofen (Sušice) and Tapolza) from 1889 until 1920. (He died on 19 October 1926 at the age of 80); Adolf Kesteberg (previously in Rózsahegy and at the Pinkas synagogue in Prague) served in Reichenberg from 1889 for a full 40 years. He died on 12 February 1930 at the age of 78; Leo Wartelski, who was also the teacher of religion from 1923.

Teachers of religion and cantors: Hugo Löwenthal (1912-1914) and Samuel Ungermann (1920-1923).

At the outset, there was a special religious school at house no. 169-II in Reichenberg. This was closed in 1877 and religious education was then carried out in public schools. The parents paid for the education, but the fee was reduced over time and, at the end, the education was free of charge. Until 1868, religion was taught by the private teacher Valentin Fischer, then by Adolf Hlawatsch - who also wrote a brochure “Das Synagogenjahr” (The Synagogue Year). He was followed by J. Löwitt and N. Steiner.

Ritual slaughterers: Valentin Fischer (1863-1893); Semy Steindler (1893-1931); today, Chaim Laib Wolf - who is also the cantor.

Organists: Josef Schmidt from the beginning in 1873; followed by Ferdinand Gerhard who provided loyal service for half a century; then Eduard Proksch, Otto Feix and today, the regimental music director, Wilhelm Pochmann

It is an honor for the social spirit of the community that, as early as 1875 on the initiative of Wilhelm Winterberg, a retirement trust was created for the employees of the community and their widows.


The Societies

The Jewish societies are thriving. The two oldest are “Chevra Kadisha” and the “Israelite Women's Association”. Chevra Kadisha was founded in 1864, but statutes were first approved by the authorities in 1871. These were drawn up in cooperation with the religious board. The first chairman was Joachim Deutsch, after him came Moritz Rosenbaum; Josef Lažansky was then chairman for some three decades. Chevra Kadisha thanked him for his service by appointing him an honorary member. Otto Fantl has been chairman since 1915. In 1914, Chevra Kadisha celebrated its 50th anniversary by the foundation of a trust of 20,000 crowns taken from the society funds for the building of housing for the poor in Reichenberg. This project was subsequently cancelled but then more recently re-launched. The next and most important target of the society is the building of a planned old people's home. Members honoris causa[63] were Emanuel Deutsch and, today, Otto Epstein.

The first Chevra Seude was arranged at the beginning of the 1870s, although on a small scale. This traditional charitable meal was held on two further occasions more than 50 years later: on the occasion of its 60th anniversary, Chevra Kadisha arranged a celebration jointly with the Israelite Women's Association, which also had its 60th anniversary. These jubilee festivities were held on 29 and 30 May 1926. On the Saturday evening there was a ceremonial service with a sermon, on Sunday morning a visit to the cemetery with a commemorative speech, and in the evening a ceremonial meeting with a lecture by the rabbi about the history of Chevra Kadisha in Reichenberg. The festivities were concluded with a dinner in the large hall of the Volksgarten, where 300 ladies and gentlemen participated together with many honorable guests from the neighboring communities.

The Israelite Women's Association, like Chevra Kadisha, takes care of departed women as prescribed in the ritual regulations. This is not their only activity; they also undertake charitable tasks. They support and take care of poor brides and have several times sponsored wonderful textiles for the temple. The first chairwoman was Rosa Freyberg; she was followed by Ida Freyberg, Babette Hlawatsch, Berta Polaczek, Emilie Langstein, Sophie Winterberg - who was elected as a chairwoman honoris causa after her term of office - and Ida Fleischer. Today Eugenie Hofmann is chairwoman and Adelheid Kraus is chairwoman honoris causa.

There are two religious societies: The Temple Choir Association and the “Achdus Jisroel”. The task of the choir is to look after the liturgical songs. It was formed in connection with the building of the first temple and at that time had 45 members led by Dr. Wilhelm Hersch. Men and women have participated over decades in the weekly rehearsals voluntary, selflessly and eagerly. The leaders of the temple choir have been: Emil Deutsch, Dr Wilhelm Schnürmacher, and Josef Fleischer. The new organization of the temple choir was brought before the community administration many times. Mainly on the initiative of Karl Willner, the temple choir was established in 1901 as an independent society with statutes confirmed by the authorities. The first leader was Karl Willner, followed by Ernst Soyka and then, for a quarter of a century, Dr. Alfred Soudek. Siegmund Meller was member honoris causa. For decades, Julius Fischer was the choir leader. For his merits, he was elected member honoris causa. After a long break, during which the choir leaders were Richard Fuchs, Eduard Proksch, Hugo Wagner and Otto Feix, Julius Fischer returned to leading the choir.

“Achdus Jisroel” is an organization bringing together the very strict orthodox members of the community. Almost all of them originate from the east. Their origin is to be found among those war refugees who remained here after the conclusion of peace. The rabbinate allows them full freedom for their religious practice. Their leader is Abraham Ehrlich. Through this society, the community is seen - at least from the outside - as one that is unified. It is commendable that even with its name “Israel Unified”, this community seems not have any separatist ideas. Today the ritual slaughterer for this organization is Naphtali Karthagener.

In 1901, a local group of organizations known as “The Aid Association for the Jewish Inhabitants of Galizia” was established. This humanitarian organization aimed to provide our co-religionists in that country with income and work through the establishment of small industrial operations. The center of this organization was in Vienna and therefore all local organizations in Czechoslovakia were disbanded after 1918. Rabbi E. Hofmann was the chairman of this organization in Reichenberg - which was one of the largest in old Austria - from its foundation until its closure.

The lodges have played a large part in boosting interest in Jewishness. They promote human and Jewish ideals. The oldest lodge in Reichenberg - the “Philantropia” - is a branch of the worldwide Bnai Brith organization and was founded on 12 September 1894. As use of the name “lodge” was forbidden in ‘old’ Austria, the “Philantropia” called itself the “Israelite Humanitarian Society”. Its first president was Imperial Councilor Alfred Deutsch. In 1932, Leo Levitus took over. Engineer Rudolf Teltscher held the post of vice-president. This organization also worked for the benefit of the general public. It was thanks to Philantropia that the Girls School was founded. This was later changed to a High School for Girls and then to the Girls Reform-Technical School[64]. On the initiative of the lodge and of Rabbi E Hoffmann, a home for the feeble-minded was founded in Hloubětín-by-Prague. Before the War, Philantropia arranged public lectures to which the wider community was also invited. As well as Rabbi E. Hofmann, lectures were given by Professors Herman Cohen, Ludwig Geiger, Moritz Lazarus, Franz Oppenheimer and the writers Gustav Karpeles, Adolf Kohut and Hugo Salus. In this way Philantrophia gave the public the opportunity to listen to eminent Jewish authorities. These lectures were very beneficial to the spiritual life of the community.

In 1909, the Reichenberg Lodge of Brotherhood “Hort” was founded. The first chairman was Salomon Glückauf. Today it is led by Engineer Otto Eisenschiml. In 1920, the lodge “Societé” opened its doors. Its first chairman was Dr. Rudolf Königstein, and since 1930 its chairman has been Fritz Löwy. The central lodge is in Prague. Both “Hort” and “Societé” are committed to the provision of charitable assistance. In all three lodges, there are sister societies that support and supplement the work of the lodge brothers.

The “Zionistische Volksverein Theodor Herzl” (Zionist Peoples Association of Theodor Herzl) was founded quite late - in 1908. Its first chairman was Dr. Hugo Reichmann. The current chairman is Engineer Erwin Schwarzkopf. Wilhelm Weiss acts as delegate to the national association. With complete satisfaction can the association see its modern-day Master Eckhart[65] in its own Emil Deutsch.

This association, which contributed greatly to the strengthening of Jewish awareness, found followers very slowly in Reichenberg. Even if it did not receive a major response at first, it must be admitted that its idea is winning more and more support. I refer to the idea that the building of Palestine is not a party political question but a general Jewish task. Its various campaign collections for Keren Hajessod[66] and other trusts have been very successful even among non-Zionists.

In 1927, a local chapter of the “Land Organisation of Jewish Women” (“WIZO”) was founded. As a worldwide organization, its target is to promote Jewish cultural and social work and especially to assist with the development of Palestine mainly through homes for infant children, homes for young girls and educational institutions. The local group very quickly became an important part of the social and cultural life in the community. Eugenie Hofmann has been its chairwoman since its foundation.

The Jewish renaissance movement in Reichenberg is also involved in physical fitness. In 1922, the “Jüdische Sport und Turn Verein” (The Jewish Sports and Gymnastic Association) known as the “Maccabi” was founded. Its first chairman was Dr. Franz Kraus, and since 1930 it has been under the leadership of Robert Wassermann. Each year, the “Maccabi” presents to the public a well-arranged gymnastic show. Upon its 10th anniversary, the association issued a commemorative publication.

It is fortunate that we in Reichenberg have also been able to organize Jewish youth – the bearers of our Jewish future. There are two youth organizations. “Jüdisch Wanderbund Blau-Weiss” (Techeleth Lawan)[67] is significantly older, having been founded in 1912. It has been through various development phases. A majority of those members of the younger generation who are conscious of their Jewishness started here. The young leaders have support from the parent council.

The association “Bund jüdische Jugend” (Berit Hanoar)[68] founded in 1931 by Rabbi E. Hofmann has developed a great deal in a short peroid. The association helps boys and girls who are seeking knowledge on all kinds of Jewish issues. The first chairman was Walter Schütz

All these associations contribute very much in arousing and reinforcing awareness of Jewishness.


Jews in non-Jewish Organizations

Members of the community have also participated in public life. Nobody has forced his way into public or honorable posts. However, those who have been called to such positions are only too happy to put their energy and know-how to the service of the public at large. The Jewish community was represented on the school council by Moritz Rosenbaum. When this was dissolved and replaced by the Imperial and Royal district school council, the Jewish community had the right to be represented by a voting member. The Jewish councilors were: Wilhelm Winterberg until 1878, Siegmund Liebitzki from 1878-1889, Heinrich Langstein from 1889-1900, Rabbi Professor E. Hofmann from 1900-1910, Dr Wilhelm Schnürmacher from 1910-1916, and Dr. Wilhelm Fleischer from 1916-1920. Since the 1870s, a Jew has been elected as magistrate in almost every election period. In 1919, Guido Knina was elected to the town council for the Social Democratic party and remained there for four years.

Jews have also been appointed as lay judges and as councilors in the Chamber of Commerce and Trade. Alfred Deutsch was active for decades as a trade councilor. In 1884, when the city council established a health council to deal with all matters concerning hygiene, they called for assistance from the court, prison, rail and general physician, Dr. Karl Kohn. In 1864, he had also founded a modern public bath in Reichenberg at a time when there was just one public bath in the town: the Wilhelmsbad on Gebirgsstrasse. This was not adequate for a town with 20,000 inhabitants; it was far away and little bit old fashioned. In spite of that, the new bath was not a success and had to close down after four years.


Alois Neumann


We are not able to list all the individuals who worked for the public good, but we can mention those who had or have a leading position in society. The first to be mentioned is the manufacturer Alois Neumann. He was vice-President and then, from 1896 until his death in 1914, President of the Reichenberg Chamber of Commerce and Trade. He was well appreciated both by the Emperor, who rewarded him with several honors, and by the citizens. He was involved in the last toll law under the monarchy, the foundation of the Institute for Trade Promotion, the development of the Weaving School into a technical college for the textile industry, and the building of its current premises. The manufacturer Rudolf Teltscher was recognized as the leader of many corporations and was vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce and Trade. Commissioner Councilor Hugo Fantl has already been the successful vice-President of the Commerce Committee for a decade. This description of the Jewish Community and its institutions covers the period up to the end of 1932.


Within the Reichenberg region of the Jewish community, there are also the areas of Friedland (Frýdlant) and Deutsch-Gabel (Jablonné v Podještědí )

Friedland (Frýdlant)

This town was made famous by Wallenstein, who founded the dukedom of Friedland. Jews lived in Friedland much earlier than they did in Reichenberg, that is to say from the time of the Bibersteins. In 1505, the Jew Mayer was accused in Friedland of buying stolen goods. In 1535, in Magdeburg, Merten Taupmann from Zwickau accused the Jew Kolmann from Friedland regarding two transports of herrings from Frankfurt an der Oder to Leitmeritz (Litoměřice). Kolmann had to pay seven shillings for each transport but lied that he did not have to pay. Based on the testimony of two witnesses – one from Langenau and the other from Alt-Leipa (Stará Lípa) - he was sentenced in 1536 to pay 20 scores for the transports, 20 scores in damages and to pay the costs of the trial. (This is from the Magdeburg court records in the archives of the Görlitz town council.) In the book of the city records of Friedland, it is written on page 293: “After that, Isaac Juda Goldscheider, thanks to the merciful favor and consent of Squire Christof von Redern, bought the house of old Hans Schindler, together with some land, in the upper town. But he left it un-built and did not pay taxes and inheritance taxes, which have recently been paid to the mayor and judge by the honorable Mr. Friedericus Dallus. As more complaints are to be expected from Prague on 26 January at the latest, the house and plot is duly transferred by the above-mentioned secretary, signed by the Mr. David Heynes, the Steward in Reichenberg, to Mr. Georg Knobloch. It is also noted that on 24 March 1624 the same house was sold to the honorable Kaspar Fuchs from Friedland for 110 scores.” From this it is obvious that, as early as the beginning of the 17th century, a Jew owned a house in Friedland, even if only for a short time.

Jews certainly lived in Friedland in the time of Wallenstein. The following application is very instructive. It also explains why in many places only one Jew was living and that he felt insulated within the hostile environment. Here we can read that a Jew is applying not to give fixed abode to other Jews, as he is not willing to be made responsible for them. The application deserves to be quoted:

“Application from the Jew Moyse Jacob of Friedland, 16 June 1627

Honorable Esq etc.

Merciful Lord and Master Mr. Country-Steward. I wish that the faithful and omnipotent God will give to you both health and wellbeing. I cannot humbly hide from you that I live with my wife and child in the town of Friedland and wish to stay here. I pay one florin each month for my right to live here, which is very difficult for me, my lord and master, as times are hard. I therefore ask you, kind lord and master, to ease the payment.

Furthermore, I am sending this humble application to you, my lord and master, because I wish to have a business and to live in the town of Friedland, to have the right to trade from an open shop, to make ritual slaughtering for my own household, to buy distillates from the citizens or from your deputy Maximilian and then to sell it freely. Furthermore, I request that no other Jews should have the right in the afore-mentioned town of Friedland to have a business and to live, and to have debts, and that such debts are not to be paid by me. Furthermore that no-one should be able to take me to any other court than your princely chancellery at Jičin. This is because there is a princely toll in Friedland and two citizens are assigned to it. I am humbly asking your Mercy to decree that I pay the toll in two parts: one part to your Princely Mercy, and one part to the Jewish tax collector and furthermore that tax which is to be paid to the treasury(71).

I wish to thank your Princely Mercy for all these privileges and hope that you do not refuse my application.

I remain and wish your Mercy the protection of the most omnipotent God.


Moyses Jacob Judt of Friedland

Humbly: to the High-born Master Gerhard von Taxis, Baron of Hulsz and Waletschoff, etc, Colonel of your Personal Administration and your Princely Country-Steward of the Dukedom of Friedland, my humble application.”

The government of the Dukedom did not follow the wishes of the supplicant. The yearly tax of 12 florins was not reduced nor was it written that other Jews should not settle here.

The privilege issued in Jičín on 17 June 1627 says as follows:

“I, Gerhard von Taxis, etc

After detailed consideration I could not refuse the application of this afore-mentioned Jew in the name of the Princely Mercy, the High-born Duke and Baron Abrecht, Duke of Friedland, War Counselor, Chancellor, Colonel of Prague and Field Marshal. As Steward, I give the following privileges:

Firstly, that he may live in the town of Friedland without hindrance from others, and that he shall enjoy the same rights and privileges as other citizens. For that he shall pay each year 12 florins to the duke's treasury.

Second, that the afore-mentioned Jew shall have the right to drive a trade and business with an open shop in the town of Friedland and to freely slaughter for the needs of his family without any hindrance from others.

In the event that other foreign Jews make debts in the name of Moyse Jacob, he shall not be responsible for such nor be taken into prison for any fault other than his own.

When this reaches the hands of our Steward, officer of the dukedom and the mayor of the town of Friedland, an order shall be issued that the Jew Moysen Jacob shall freely and without disturbance enjoy the received rights now and in the future.

This charter is certified with my own seal and signature.”

We also hear about the further destiny of this Jew when, in 1628, he receives the right to change the payment of his protection fee. Moyse Jacob was imprisoned because it was strictly forbidden to serve foreign liquor. Another Jew also received the right of domicile, and it seems that they ran their business jointly. This is obvious from an application by the Castle Steward to the Field Marshal's office: “To the Captain, I make an official application requesting that he issue an entrance permit to two Jews domiciled in Friedland with the names Moyse Jacob and Daniel Moyses so that they are able to trade freely with the imperial storehouse and with the army in the supply of various victuals and other goods. In 1633, they suffered some damages in the village of Einsiedel. The inhabitants should therefore pay them due compensation.” (This means that they were protected against violence from soldiers and difficulties with ordinary people.)

Bassewi was allowed to collect each week from the dukedom a few hundred guilders in taxes. At the end of 1632, the Castle Steward informed him that “his collection each Monday is beyond reason as he cannot possibly know how much each poor subject has in his pocket in this time of unrest.” Martin Pülz, Bassewi's authorized agent in Friedland, refused one day to receive the money that was due to him and another trustee had to be found. In February 1633, the Regional Steward ordered that the payments to Bassewi should not be made from the Friedland taxes but that the full sum should be delivered to Jičín. The Bassewis lived in Friedland for a period of time and also had a wool shop. In 1841, the Pinkas brothers and David Grünwald lived in Friedland; they leased the ruler's distillery. They probably formed a joint operation. Pinkas was a familiant in Valirimitz (Valměřice), near Gross Rohosetz (Hrubý Rohosez) at Jungbunzlau (Mladá Boileslav). In the wedding register of the Jewish community in Turnau (Trutnov) an interesting remark is made about David Grünwald: “Marriage consent to farm the land”[69].

In 1856, Henrich Beck leased a dairy farm in Wiese (Lučnice) in Friedland. At the beginning of 1860, the Jewish physician Dr. Straschnov took up residence in Friedland.


Deutsch-Gabel (Jablonné v Podještědí )

Deutsch-Gabel existed more than a thousand years ago and is one of the oldest- if not the oldest - towns in North Bohemia. The name probably derives from the name of a street which Emperor Karl IV already protected in the 14th century and which formed a ‘fork’[70]. It is therefore understandable that Jews settled at such an important trading center. However, there are no written reports of any Jewish presence in Deutsch-Gabel. Those records which survived the occupation by the Hussites in August 1420 were subsequently destroyed by the fire of May 1788.

From indirect sources we know that individual Jews were resident there at the end of the 16th century. A woman executed in Reichenberg in 1599 admitted under torture that she sometimes sold stolen goods to the Jews in Deutsch-Gabel. In the contract book for the east part of Hennersdorf am Rollberg (Dubnice) there are the following two notices: in spring 1600, Martin Wilde paid 15 Scores and among others also paid the “Jew from Gabel”; then, on 27 December 1610, the Jew Salomon from Gabel receives from Jacob Procop seven Mites 15 Groschen, as owed by Jacob Ohlmann.

Besides these paltry notices, there is also a fragment of a grave stone. It is part of the front wall of a house in the road “Hermdorfer Pforte”. It is said that it was built into the wall some 100 years ago:


….here lies a woman…and noble, daughter of….distinguished, wife of….
Segal (=Levit, Landau)… (The soul joined) in the bond of living …in the year 352[71].


The stone therefore stood at the grave of a married woman and is dedicated to her memory. The word[72] ן ק צ is written according to the old pronunciation without[73] י, which means with a spelling mistake. The last three letters probably indicate the year. It is interesting that they also make some sort of eulogy, which only appears very occasionally. The date 1592 could be possible as Jews were at that time in Deutsch- Gabel, as has been indicated above.

There is an old saying that stones can speak. It is true that gravestones are important and often the last witnesses to the age of a Jewish settlement. However, the broken piece of gravestone in Gabel explains nothing as we do not know where this stone comes from. We can simply refer to the oral tradition, but this is often not reliable. According to this tradition, this stone originates from a Jewish cemetery which, hundreds of years ago, was at the place where today the garden of the house opposite stands. This plot of land was at the city wall, which is still partly preserved. The sketch shows the position of this former Jewish cemetery. However, this reconstruction is based only on an assumption that the former Jewish cemetery was on this site. This assumption is not proven. Recently another gravestone with a Hebrew inscription was found where the water channel straightens out, but this is also not proof. This stone has been so much eroded that only single letters are legible. It is therefore uncertain where these stones originate. They were often used in new buildings, and men transported them from place to place.



S.I.Liben remarks correctly: “The use of Jewish gravestones is often even done in a grotesque manner. Searches have been undertaken for stones with Hebrew letters which should not be tolerated in Christian houses, but which have not been removed owing to a certain superstition, a kind of religious expiation as a good Christian symbol has been added.” So the Hebrew stone in the house in Gabel is crowned with a cross. Furthermore, a light hangs there as if it were a holy picture.

For 200 years, we have no records about Jews in Gabel. One single name which tells us nothing comes to us indirectly via the Reichenberg protocol on the weight of wool. For half-a-century, from 1815 to 1865, the Jewish records of Gabel were held in the Reichenberg deanery. In that period 14 births are noted. These records cannot be used as an historical source. In the middle of the 1830s, the first Jewish doctor, Dr. Wolfgang Hamburger, settled in Gabel. He was also the official government doctor. Born in Jungbunzlau, he was a man of many parts and a powerful personality who wrote several medical, aesthetic and political works. He also wrote the book: “Medizin, Topographie und Geschichte der gräfl. Herrschaft Lämberg und der benachbarten Stadt Gabel” (Medicine, topography and history of the manor of Lämberg and the neighboring town of Gabel).#&148;

Dr. Hamburger was also a candidate for election to the National Assembly in Frankfurt-am-Main. He died a private citizen in Kratzau (Chrástava).

In former times, individual Jews also lived on the small estate of Lämberg (Lvová),. At the beginning of the 15th century, the Silesian nobility[74] borrowed money from Jews in Lämberg as Jews were expelled from Görlitz in 1395.


Libenau (Hodkovice)

This town burned down in 1806. By a miracle a box containing the town privileges was rescued. Some surprisingly well-preserved parchments together with the town seal were first found in 1924. After the death of Wallenstein, the estate of Libenau came into the hands of Isolani, whose daughter joined a monastery as abbess and brought the estate with her as her dowry. Five of these documents refer to Jews.

28 February 1690: Maria Kunigunde Hildebrandin, Superior and Head of the Convent of regular Choir Women of St. Jacob bestowed certain privileges. In article 8, it is written: ”As in old times Jews have never settled here, so shall they not settle in the future.”

1 December 1731: Catharina Antonia Binderin, Superior and Head of the Convent of regular Choir Women of St. Jacob confirmed the above mentioned article 8.

30 January 1747: Victoria Freiin von Landau and Head of the Convent confirmed the above.

20 October 1748: Empress Maria Theresa confirmed the privileges of the St. Jacob Convent.

27 April 1783: Emperor Joseph confirmed the privileges.

This last one is surprising because, as we know, the Emperor Josef disbanded convents. In the original documents it is not said that these privileges were granted as a favour to Liebenau, where the citizens did not tolerate the presence of Jews. The texts which quote it as a favour must therefore be corrected. These texts are probably based on a copy to be found in the town record, which has been quoted from memory.

In 1808, the lessor of the “Superior Distillery” is named as Moises Rosenstein; in 1812 the protected Jewess Anna Schiller lived in Liebenau without any obstacles being placed in her way. In 1838, there was an unexpected conclusion concerning the right of settlement which is referred to in §38 of the old Liebenau chronicle: “Memorabilia”. Until then, the road toll had been leased to a gentile. In the year mentioned, however, the toll was auctioned by the magistrate of Münchengratz to a Jew, David Kompert. He immediately made an agreement with a citizen and weaver from Liebenau, Antonin Jeranek, that he could live in his house and collect the toll. However, the Liebenau magistrate immediately demanded that the contract be abolished, because Jews are not allowed to live in Liebenau. Kompert complained to the regional administration. Soon afterwards a public meeting was held in connection with elections and, among other documents, the town privileges were read out. When the citizens heard that Jews were not tolerated in the town, they complained about the actions of Jeranek.

Soon a Commission from the regional administration arrived, which edited the town privileges. It removed the Jewish item because it was against laws from a higher order. Kompert was therefore reinstated as the provisional lessor and received the right to settle in Liebenau. This solution was also accepted by the country administration and by the court administration. All appeals were without success, because of a court decree stating that Jewish lessors have the right of settlement in the towns for the duration of the lease.


Quellennachweis (Sources of information)

Archiv des Ministeriums des Innern
Archiv der Stadt Reichenberg.
Archiv der isr. Kultusgemcinde Reichenberg.
Archiv der Bezirksbehörde.
Archiv der ehemaligen Tuchmacherzunft und jetzigen Genossenschaft in Reichenberg.
Landesarchiv in Prag.
Schloßarchiv in Friedland.
Anton Fr. Ress e l: „Heimatkunde des Reichenberger Bezirkes, Stadt und Land.” 1903—1905.
„Mitteilungen des Vereines für Heimatkunde des Jeschken-Isergaues.”
Anton Ernstberge r: „Wallenstein als Volkszvirt im Herzogtum Friedland.” 1929.
Joseph Grunzel: ,.D. Reichenberger Tuchindustrie.”


Footnotes of author
  1. „Zeitgeschichte der hochgräfl. Clam-Gallas'schen Fabrikstadt Reichenberg.”
  2. Aus dem Cechischen übersetzt, „Die böhm. Landtagsverhandlungen und Beschlüsse.” I. Prag, 1877.
  3. Julius Heibig: „Urkundliche Beiträge zur Geschichte d. edl. Herren d. Biberstein.” 1911.
  4. Aus den Missivenbüchern J. 1623. Schloßärchiv Friedland. Der Liebenswürdigkeit der Herren Dr. Josef B e r g e r, Staatsarchivar in Prag, Prot. Dr. Rudolf Ginzel und Prof. Dr. Victor L u g, beide in Reichenberg, verdanke ich einige Notizen in den Quellen.
  5. Käthe Spiegel im Sammelwerk: „Die Juden in Prag.” S. 142.
  6. Archiv des Min. d. Innern., F 67/7. Den auf R. sich beziehenden Passus des Privileg, von” Bassewi bringt Hallwich nicht in seinem „Briefe und Akten”, sondern wird hier zum erst e n m a 1 e veröffentlicht. Dieser Passus ist zwar nur im Kon-. zept, in 3 Exemplaren vorhanden, aber das Konzept hat Au-- Spruch aufrolle Gültigkeit,”weil es mit den inneren Tatsachen -in übereinstimmung steht und obendrein auch von der. Jiciuer Kammer bestätigt wurde.
  7. In den uneingereihten Akten. Arch. der Stadt R.
  8. „Chronik . . . zweyer Städten Friedland und Reichenberg.” Prag. 1763.
  9. Von Syrowatka anläßlich des hundert jährigen Bestandes dieser Genossenschaft.
  10. Sessionsprotokoll. Arch. d. Stadt R.
  11. Max Freudenthal: „D. isr. Kultusgemeinde Nürnberg 1874—1925.” r.)2r>.
  12. Marperberger: „Beschreibung des Tuchmacherhandwerks”, L723. S. 109; G. Sartorius: „Gesch. d. Hauseat. Bundes”, Bd. II, 2. Abt., S. 720/21, Bd. III, S. 323—330; Sartorius v. Waltershausen: „Urkundl. Gesch. d. Ursprungs der deutschen Hause”, Bd. I, S. 292 ff. Raudnitz: „Reichenberg und dessen Tuchmanufaktur” in „Beiträge für Kunst” usw., Bd. II. Zitiert von Walter Hawelka: „Geschichte des Kleingewerbes usw.” 1932, S. 47.
  13. Archiv des Min. d, In.
  14. Friedländer Lehenbuch, Bd. IV. Landesarchiv Prag.
  15. Das Wort Peschores, das auf den Urkunden irrtümlich mit weichem B geschrieben wird, stammt aus dem Aramäischen. In der Bibel heißt das hebr. Wort Pescher Deutung. Im Talmud bedeutet Pescharutha Vergleich, die gütliche Beseitigung von Streitigkeiten, das Aufspüren von Auswegen, um einen Prozeß zu vermeiden.
  16. Der Mantelgriff (Kinjan sudar) war in der talmmli-scheu Zeit ein Erwerbsakt. Dann wurde es mehr ein Symbol bei übertragung von Objekten und Rechten, sowie auch zur Bekräftigung von Verträgen.
  17. Friedländer Lehenbuch. Bd. IV. Laudesarchiv Prag. Hier zum erstemuale abgedruckt.
  18. Uneingereihte Akten. Archiv d. St. R.
  19. Vgl. „Gablonzer Tagbl.” vom 22. Feber 1931), S. 7.
  20. „Die Wiener Jiulen-Kommerz, Kultur. Politik. 1700 bis 1900.” 1917.

Footnotes of translators

The ‘translating team’ advises readers that this has been the most difficult (and longest) of all the chapters from Hugo Gold's book that they have attempted thus far, especially in the administrative and technical sectors (e.g. on the wool and canvas industries). The text covers the major town of Reichenberg, but also the nearby smaller communities of Friedland, Liebenau and Deutsch-Gabel (where we have kept to the author's hyphenation even though it would be ‘Deutsch Gabel’ in modern German).

  1. Maria Theresa (Marie Therèse) (1717-80), daughter of Emperor Charles VI whom she succeeded in 1740 and the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions. Sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Mantua, Milan, Galicia and Lodomeria (a kingdom under the Hapsburg monarchy), the Austrian Netherlands and Parma. Return
  2. Josef II (1741-90) was the eldest son of Maria Theresa, whom he succeeded as Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of the Habsburgs. He was a modernizing reformer. Return
  3. The Barons of Biberstein: this family can be traced from 13th to 18th centuries. They held the Castle of Friedland and the lordship of Bohemia from 1278-1551. Return
  4. Parliament of Bohemia: many of the principalities within the Holy Roman Empire, of which Bohemia was one, had their own parliamentary bodies. Return
  5. The three ranks are: nobility, clergy and citizens. Return
  6. ß: it has not been possible to trace the meaning of the second letter of the Greek alphabet in this context, though it evidently refers to a monetary value. (See also note 46. ) Return
  7. Schock: one Schock is equal to three score (i.e. 60). The currency is not indicated. Return
  8. The Steward: the author uses a variety of titles for the senior officials who served the Counts and Barons. Return
  9. Albrecht Wallenstein (also Waldstein): a Bohemian military leader and politician who served the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II during the Thirty Years War (1618-48), a mainly religious war between Catholics and Protestants that led to devastation, famine and disease across much of Europe including Bohemia. Return
  10. Winter King: this is Frederick V, Elector Palatine from 1601-23, who also ruled as King of Bohemia for one year (1619-20), hence his nickname. Return
  11. Treuenberg: Jacob Bassewi was a court Jew (ie a banker). His great wealth enabled him to assist the emperors financially – especially when they needed funds to pursue wars. He was made a noble, taking the title von Treuenberg, as well as a coat of arms. He always exerted his influence on behalf of the Jews of the empire. Return
  12. Josef Süss Oppenheimer (1698 – 1738) was a Jewish banker and financial planner for Duke Karl Alexander of Würtemburg in Stuttgart. Nephew and stepson of the banker Samuel Oppenheimer, Josef made many powerful enemies, some of whom ‘arranged’ for his arrest and execution after his patron's death. ‘Jew Süss’ appeared later in several literary works and was also the title of a Nazi anti-Semitic film made in 1940 at the request of Goebbels. Return
  13. Jičín is an ancient town to the north-east of Prague. Return
  14. ad notam: from notes taken at the time. Return
  15. Polish-Lissau: today there is a small town called Lissau in Poland, close to the border with Lithuania. It is not known whether this is the same place. Return
  16. Anno Decretario: this is 1624, the year in which it was declared the Catholic religion was the only one permitted in Bohemia and Moravia. Return
  17. Jews were not permitted to settle anywhere that they had not been resident in 1725 (ie this was the ‘cut off’ date). Return
  18. ex jure dominicali; by the authority of the lord (ie of the Count). Return
  19. Thaler: a silver coin used throughout Europe for some 400 years. Its name survives in the modern ‘dollar’. Other currency denominations mentioned later are: florin, ducat, mites, groschen. Return
  20. Foreign brokers: they negotiated between seller and buyer. Return
  21. Publicandum: the use of Latin is common even today in matters of law and official matters; crudely translated, this means a public announcement or statement. Return
  22. Gubernium = regional administration. Return
  23. Time of the Constitution: this is 26 February 1861, the moment at which Jews were permitted to settle (ie cancelling the limitation set by the 1725 decree). Return
  24. Zbenslowitz, Blinko, Hrdlojone: the location and contemporary name of these places has not been traced. Return
  25. 1848 was the year of revolutions across Europe, most importantly in France, Germany, Poland, Italy and the Austrian Empire. Return
  26. Grenzfoot: a magazine/journal. (‘Grenze’ means frontier). Return
  27. Birgsteingasse: Birgstein (Sloup) is a monastery in North Bohemia. Return
  28. Schutzjude: a protected Jew was one who held a ‘Schutzbrief’ (writ of protection); the payment of protection money was known as ‘Schutzgeld’. Return
  29. Viscontian soldiers: Visconti was an Italian general who fought in The Thirty Years War. Return
  30. Canvas measuring-gauge: probably a stick which had a defined and certified length. Return
  31. The fabrication of cloth was smaller in terms of volume than the manufacture: it may be that fabrication means that which is produced in a factory, while manufacture is that which is produced either manually or within a home Return
  32. Two seals: a mark of a certain quality. (See ‘three seals’ later.) Return
  33. Friedland Leben: presumably a newspaper or some other type of record of ‘life’ in Friedland. Return
  34. Brokers: the original term could also be translated as ‘mediators’. Return
  35. Accept voluntarily Indultem Appelation: this probably means that, in the event of a disagreement, they will accept without question any decision made by the count. Return
  36. One Ellen is said to be the equivalent of two feet, although “60 feet” seems very long, so this may not be correct. Return
  37. For a piece of cloth poy: it is possible that poy stands for ‘partial or pre-oriented yarn’. Return
  38. Johanna, Countess of Gallas, née Countess of Gaschin: it is stated earlier that this document was written by the Countess because she was acting ‘as guardian and administrator of Count Gallas's guardianship’. It is not known for which young Count she was acting. Return
  39. Fulling mill: fulling (or tucking or walking) is a stage in woolen cloth-making which involves the cleansing of the cloth to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities, and make it thicker. The worker who does the job is a fuller, tucker, or walker. Return
  40. Vigilance: the original text speaks of ‘Argus eye’; in Greek mythology, Argus Panoptes was a giant whose epithet ‘Panoptes’ (all seeing), led to his being described as having multiple (often one hundred) eyes. Return
  41. Bouclé: a yarn with a length of loops of similar size which can range from tiny circlets to large curls. (Bouclé can also refer to the fabric made from this type of yarn.) Return
  42. Ruled the roost: literally, they ‘wielded the scepter’. Return
  43. Cubit: a traditional unit of length, based on the length of the forearm - from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. (See Genesis 6:15 et al. ) Return
  44. Königsmark: Count Hans Christoph Kö nigsmark was a Swedish General who fought in The Thirty Years War. Return
  45. Stein or stone: equal to between 22 and 40 pounds. Return
  46. ß and X: these two column headers may mean ‘debt’ and ‘interest’. Return
  47. This is a shortened version of a long linguistic labyrinth, which is really just a compilation of exaggerated and excessively polite expressions. Return
  48. Karl: ie Emperor Charles (Karel) IV. Return
  49. Seven Years War (1756-63): often described as the first ‘global war’ because it involved most of the Great Powers at that time and affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India and the Philippines. It was caused, inevitably, by overlapping trade and colonial interests, as well as by territorial and imperial conflicts within the Holy Roman Empire. Return
  50. ‘by yearly draw’: they drew lots each year and in this way some of the total was paid back. Return
  51. Fathom is equal to 1.8 meters (5.9 feet). Return
  52. evangelical: the Czechs distinguish between protestants (ie Lutherans) and evangelicals (ie the Hussite church). Return
  53. N.Top.1643: it has not been possible to discover what this means. Return
  54. Refugees: as the text notes later, these were from ‘the evacuated areas of Galicia and Bukovina, mostly from Dębica’. These areas of Ukraine/Poland/Romania were the scene of heavy fighting. Return
  55. ‘downwards were the following’: complex though this is, it means that they worked out how much was required and then divided the total among members according to this key. Return
  56. Crowns: these are now (ie post the 1918 creation of the new country of Czechoslovakia) Czech crowns. Return
  57. Community Association: an association of the various Societies in the town. Return
  58. So late in time: although by now things should be different, Jews were still not being elected on racial grounds. Return
  59. This was not the case in the territories from which these refugees came. Return
  60. The putsch; this is presumed to refer to October 1918 and the creation of Czechoslovakia. Return
  61. Model school: this is a school of high quality. Return
  62. Breslau, in previous times a major city in Prussia, is now the Polish city of Wroclaw. Return
  63. honoris causa: more often used for academic honorary titles. Return
  64. Girls Reform-Technical School: this is a ‘Real College’ providing education at a high level but aiming at the technical university, whereas a Gymnasium provided more of a classical education aiming at university study of law, medicine etc. Return
  65. Meister (Master) Eckhart (1260-1327): a German theologian, philosopher, mystic and emblematic of the intellectual spirit of the Middle Ages. His name is used here metaphorically. Return
  66. Keren Hajessod: Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal. Return
  67. Jüdische Wanderbund Blau-Weiss: The Jewish Hiking Club Blue –White. Return
  68. Bund jüdische Jugend: The Association of Jewish Youth. Return
  69. Marriage consent: Jews were not usually allowed to farm. Return
  70. Gabel is German for ‘fork’. Return
  71. The year 352: the year 1592 CE. Return
  72. The word is ן ק צ Return
  73. The missing symbol is: י Return
  74. Silesia is a region of central Europe, previously within Bohemia, then within the Hapsburg Empire, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. It is now mostly in Poland and also in the Czech Republic. Return
Jewish Community of Liberec (in Czech): http://www.kehila-liberec.cz/
Liberec Information Center (in English): http://www.infolbc.cz/indexen.html
Wikipedia on Liberec (in English): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberec
Jewish Encyclopedia (in English): http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12654-reichenberg
WEB page of the town of Friedland/Frýdlant (in German): http://www.mesto-frydlant.cz/de/
WEB page of the town of Deutsch-Gabel/Jablonné v Podještědí (in German): http://www.jablonnevp.cz/?page=de_
Wikipedia on Libenau/Hodkovice (in German): http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hodkovice nad Mohelkou
Reichenberg und seine jüdischen Bürger: Zur Geschichte einer einst deutschen Stadt in Böhmen (in German); Zide v Liberci : k Dejinam Obyvatelstva Mesta Pod Jestedem (in Czech). Hardback book by Isa Engelmann.


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