Historie židovské komunity

Mohelnice: History of Jewish Community

mohelnice_mestoThe oldest recorded mention of a Jewish presence in Mohelnice is from 1322. In this year the Czech king, Jan Lucembursky, granted permission to Konrad, the bishop of Olomouc, to employ Jewish moneylenders in the bishop's towns of Mohelnice, Svitavy, Vyskov and Kromeriz.

It is quite possible that in the following centuries other individual Jews settled in the town, but neither a synagogue nor a Jewish cemetery were established there. Permission from a king, feudal owner or town council was needed to institute a Jewish community. Mohelnice, being the property of the bishops and archbishops of Olomouc, was not granted this permission. Information about the activities of Jewish families, merchants and businessmen began to surface during the mid 19th century due to the considerable increase of Mohelnice Jews. After 1848, a reorganization of the state administration eliminated medieval discriminatory laws and brought equality of rights for Jews in the entire country. They used their newly attained freedom and moved from small, crowded towns and ghettos to bigger industrial towns such was Mohelnice, where they looked for better economic opportunities. The Jewish congregation in Mohelnice was founded in 1870. One of the results of this active group was the foundation of their own prayer room in the town square (the house number 9). The original prayer was located in so called Edelhof (30 Trebovska street). There were four other Jewish houses and stores in the town square before WWII. The nearest synagogues and ritual bath, called mikveh, were located in Lostice and Usov. Jews from Mohelnice kept close contacts with members of the Jewish community in nearby Lostice and Usov. In many cases families from these locations were related.

While around 1850 there were only 13 Jews in the town, during the 2nd half of the 19th century their number rose to almost 200, which represented about 7% of population of the inner town. The Jewish presence started to gradually decline after 1900. Shortly after the creation of the Czechoslovak Republic about 90 Jews resided in Mohelnice, and around 1930 only 40 of them remained. Almost all of the Jews left the town in 1938 to save their lives and property from the Nazis who occupied the Sudetenland in the fall of that year. Jewish people from Mohelnice escaped to that part of the Republic, which was not occupied by the German army. Only a few elderly and ailing persons of Jewish faith stayed behind.

In November 1938, a few weeks after the Munich pogrom, the Nazis organized a big anti Jewish pogrom in the rest of Germany and Sudetenland during which hundreds of synagogues and thousands of Jewish stores, houses and apartments were destroyed. This pogrom, called by the Nazis, "The Crystal Night", due to the sound of breaking windows, also found its way to Mohelnice. Several fanatics attacked Jewish dwellings and ransacked the prayer room.

The Jewish congregation was not renewed after the war. There are about 15 Jewish tombstones in the main Mohelnice cemetery. One of them bears the name of Erwin Ziegler who perished in Buchenwald in 1944. There is also a mass grave for the Russian prisoners of war victims of a death transport from Auschwitz. Among the citizens of Jewish descent from Mohelnice, who joined the anti-Nazi armed forces and fought on the Western front until the end of the war, were the Gratzer brothers, J. Mandl, Edgar, Charlotte and Otmar Ziegler and Artur Langer. A student of medicine, Kurt Wolf, escaped to the Soviet Union and became a member of the Czechoslovak army unit there. During the battle by Sokolovo he was killed on March 9, 1943. Kurt was posthumously promoted to lieutenant, received a doctorate and was awarded the Order of Red Flag, the Order of the White Lion with the star and the Czechoslovak War Cross 1939.

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