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Mikulov

MIKULOV

MIKULOV (Ger. Nikolsburg ), town in S. Moravia, Czech Republic. The Mikulov community was the largest and most important in Moravia, and was the seat of the Landesrabbiner ("chief rabbi") from apparently as early as 1574 until 1851. A Jew from Mikulov, a moneylender, is mentioned in a document of 1369, but there is no mention of Jews in the oldest known city record of 1414. An inscription in the synagogue (burned down in 1719) was dated 1450. The community was probably founded by expellees from Austria (1420), reinforced in 1454 by those from *Brno (Bruenn) and *Znojmo (Znaim). The charter granted the Jews in 1591 guaranteed a self-elected communal administration (the revised charter of 1612 (renewed in 1708) removed the Jews from the jurisdiction of the town to that of the lord). In 1593 the Jews were permitted to trade in textiles. On the conquest of the town by the Swedes (1642), the Jews raised a quarter of the town's contribution. Refugees from the *Chmielnicki massacres came to Mikulov in 1648. In 1653 the *ḥevra kaddisha was founded. In 1657 there were 145 families in the town. Their number was augmented in 1670 by expellees from Vienna, who at first kept apart from the local community, maintaining their own institutions and endeavoring to return to Vienna. A hospital for infectious diseases was built in 1680. Jews who were captured on the conquest of *Belgrade were ransomed in 1688 and settled in Mikulov. Almost the entire Jewish quarter, including the old synagogue and all records, was destroyed in a fire in 1719. The concomitant plunder led to a conflict between the central authorities and the local lord over military intervention. Under the leadership of Samson *Wertheimer, communities throughout Europe offered assistance to the Jews of Mikulov. The municipality bought up building sites to avoid the enlargement of the Jewish quarter, whose boundaries were fixed by an imperial commission in 1720.

The prosperity of the community depended on its connection with the cultivation of wines and the wine trade and on the town's position on the main road between Brno and Vienna. Many of the Jews were carters. The Jewish wine merchants leased vineyards, vats, and cellars or bought up the grape crops, paying in advance of the harvest. Jews also distilled spirits and produced the special Moravian plum jam (povidl). In the 17th century, the Jews undertook to supply the whole town with candles, and in the 18th century the purveyors of gold and silver to the imperial mint lived in Mikulov. The community takkanot from the 18th century are preserved in the National Library in Jerusalem. The Jewish tailors, shoemakers, and butchers were organized into guilds, with their own synagogues. However, most members of the community earned their livelihood in peddling, mainly in the villages of Austria.

Mikulov, the center of all activities of Moravian Jewry, was especially prominent when Samson Raphael *Hirsch held office as chief rabbi (1846–51). A German-language school, connected with a textile workshop, was opened in 1839. Joel Deutsch founded the Jewish institute for the deaf and dumb in 1844 (transferred to Vienna in 1852). Mikulov became a political community (*Politische Gemeinde) after 1848. After the economic importance of the community had declined when the Vienna-Brno railroad line bypassed Mikulov, many of its members left (after 1848), moving mainly to Brno and Vienna, where a "Verein der Nikolsburger" ("association of Nikolsburgers") grew up. The rapid decline in the community was reflected in the number of synagogues: 12 until 1868, five until the beginning of the 20th century, and then only two. The number of permitted families allotted under the *Familiants Laws was 620. From 3,020 persons in 1793, the community increased to 3,237 in 1830 and 3,680 in 1857, then fell sharply to 1,500 in 1869; 1,213 in 1880; 1,061 in 1890; 900 in 1900; 778 in 1913; 573 in 1921; and 437 in 1930 (5.6% of the total population).

The yeshivah of Mikulov was renowned, and many well-known rabbis held office in the town; nearly all of them were simultaneously chief rabbis of Moravia (see *Moravia). For a short period the town served as the seat of Hungarian chief rabbi and was a vital spiritual link between West Slovakian and Moravian Jewry. Until the mid-19th century Mikulov had the second largest Jewish community in the Czech-speaking lands. During World War i, Jewish refugees from Poland were concentrated in Mikulov, where they had their own school and prayer room. The scholar Abraham *Trebitsch lived in Mikulov and Aloys and Joseph von Sonnenfels were natives of the town.

In 1936 a Moravian Jewish museum was founded in Mikulov; it was transferred to Brno at the time of the Sudeten crisis, and from there to the Central Jewish Museum in Prague. The community dispersed at this time; many of its members were deported to the Nazi extermination camps from Brno in 1941. The community was revived for a short period after World War ii. In 1948 members of the Czechoslovak volunteer brigade (the so-called Sochor brigade) were concentrated in Mikulov before leaving for Israel – 120 soldiers and about 700 family members. The old synagogue (Altschul) was thoroughly restored in the years 1990–92. Other Jewish buildings were all pulled down during the Communist regime in 1950–75. The ancient cemetery is well preserved and also serves as a repository for tombstones from other liquidated cemeteries. It contains the graves of numerous famous rabbis of Moravia and Hungary. The mass grave of 21 prisoners from the local labor camp murdered by the Nazis in April 1945 is located in the cemetery. The Jewish surname Naach/Nash is derived from the Yiddish abbreviation of the town's name.

bibliography:

B.M. Trapp and V.R. Koenig, in: H. Gold (ed.), Juden und Judengemeinden Maehrens (1929), 417–50; A. Willmann and H. Flesch, ibid., 45–52; I. Herrisch, ibid., 193–7 (on Led-nice); Y.Z. Kahane, in: Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 4 (1950), 210–310 (bibl. 310–3); E.N.C. Roth, Takkanot Nikolsburg (1961); A. Engel (ed.), Gedenkbuch… Kuratoriums… (Ger., Czech, and Heb., 1936); D. Feuchtwang, in: Kaufmann Gedenkbuch (1900), 369–84; idem, in: Juedisches Archiv, 1 (1928), nos. 3–4, 1–3; L. Loew, Gesammelte Schriften, 2 (1890), 165–218; B. Brilling, in: Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden in der Tschechoslowakei…, 2 (1931/32), 243–7; L. Moses, ibid., 5 (1938), 85–108; A.Z. Schwarz, in: Studies… in Memory of A.S. Freidus (1929), 170–81; A. Scheiber, in: Yeda-Am, 5 (1958/59), 71–73; M. Freudenthal, in: mgwj, 46 (1902), 268–70; W. Mueller, Urkundliche Beitraege (1903), passim; Baron, Community, 3 (1942), index; S. Simonsohn, Ha–Yehudim be–Dukkasut Mantovah, 2 (1965), index, s.v.Nikolsburg; M.H. Friedlaender, Kore ha–Dorot (Ger., 1876); G. Deutsch, in: Die Deborah, 2 (1902), 354–62; Y. Heilperin, Takkanot Kehillot Mehrin (1952), index; A. Freimann, in: zhb, 20 (1917), 36f.; M. Steinschneider, in: hb, 5 (1862), 128. add. bibliography: J. Fiedler, Jewish Sights of Bohemia and Moravia (1991), 114–16.

[Meir Lamed /

Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)]

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