PRAGUE (Czech Praha ), capital of the *Czech Republic; it has the oldest Jewish community in *Bohemia and one of the oldest communities in Europe, for some time the largest and most revered. Jews may have arrived in Prague in late Roman times, but the first document mentioning them is a report by *Ibrahim ibn Yaʿqūb from about 970. This may be interpreted as showing that Jews had either settled in Prague or carried on business there without necessarily settling permanently. The first definite evidence of the existence of a Jewish community in Prague dates to 1091. From an analysis of medieval commerce in Prague, it is reasonable to assume that its beginnings date from about the middle of the tenth century. Jews arrived in Prague from both the East and West around the same time. It is probably for this reason that two Jewish districts came into being there right at the beginning, one in the suburb of the Prague castle (Suburbium Pragense) and the other close to the second castle, Wissegrad (Vicus Wissegradensis).
The relatively favorable conditions in which the Jews at first lived in Prague were disrupted at the time of the First Crusade in 1096. The Crusaders murdered many of the Jews of Prague, looted Jewish property, and forced many to accept baptism. During the siege of the Prague castle in 1142, the oldest synagogue in Prague and the Jewish quarter below the castle were burned down and the Jews moved to the right bank of the river Moldau (Vltava), which was to become the future Jewish quarter, and founded the Altschul ("Old Synagogue") there.
The importance of Jewish culture in Prague is evidenced by the works of the halakhists there in the 11th to 13th centuries. The most celebrated was *Isaac b. Moses of Vienna (d. c. 1250), author of Or Zaru'a, a native of Bohemia who spent part of his life in Prague. Since the Czech language was spoken by the Jews of Prague in the early Middle Ages, the halakhic writings of that period also contain annotations in Czech. From the 13th to 16th centuries, the Jews of Prague increasingly spoke German.
At the time of persecutions, which began at the end of the 11th century, the Jews of Prague, together with all the other Jews in Europe, lost their status as free people. From the 13th century on, the Jews of Bohemia were considered servants of the Royal Chamber (*servi camerae regis). Their life in Prague was subject to the most humiliating conditions (the wearing of special dress, segregation in the ghetto, etc.). The only occupation that Jews were allowed to adopt was moneylending, since this was forbidden to Christians and considered dishonest. Socially the Jews were in an inferior position, but economically many of them were relatively well off. Against payment of high taxes they were protected by the king by means of special privileges (e.g., the privilege issued by *Přemysl Ottokar ii in 1254).
Protection by the kings made it possible for larger numbers of Jews to settle there, particularly from Germany. In the 13th century a new Jewish settlement was founded in Prague, in the vicinity of the Altneuschul (the "Old-New Synagogue"), construction of which was completed in 1270. The synagogue, which still exists, is the oldest remaining in Europe. By the 13th century the Jewish community of Prague owned a cemetery, which was then situated outside the city walls (on the present Vladislav street), and also served other Jewish communities in Bohemia. It was sold, under pressure, to the citizens of Prague as a building plot in the 15th century.
The community suffered from persecutions accompanied by bloodshed in the 13th and 14th centuries, particularly in 1298 and 1338. Charles iv (1346–78) protected the Jews, but after his death the worst attack occurred in 1389, when nearly all the Jews of Prague fell victims. The rabbi of Prague and noted kabbalist Avigdor *Kara, who witnessed and survived the outbreak, described it in a seliḥah: Et Kol ha-Tela'ah. It was also described in a Christian work Passio Judaeorum Pragensium secundum Joannem rusticum quadratum. Under *Wenceslaus iv the Jews of Prague suffered heavy material losses following an order by the king in 1411 canceling all debts owed to Jews.
At the beginning of the 15th century the Jews of Prague found themselves at the center of the Hussite wars (1419–36; see *Hussites). An analysis of Hussite biblical interpretation shows possible Jewish influence. The attitude of German Jews toward the Hussites reveals a certain sympathy on the part of the Jewish communities for this movement (as expressed, e.g., by Jacob b. Moses *Moellin, the "Maharil" of Cologne). The attitude of the Hussites to the Jews was not entirely friendly. Some Hussite ideologists (e.g., Jacobellus of Stříbro (Mies) in the treatise De usura) demanded that Jewish moneylending be prohibited. However, no such prohibition was ever issued in Prague during the time of the Hussites. The Jews of Prague also suffered from mob violence (1422) in this period. The unstable conditions in Prague compelled many Jews to emigrate. Nevertheless, the Jewish community continued to exist there throughout the Hussite period, and this in itself may be considered proof of the relatively tolerant attitude of the Hussites toward the Jews.
The position of the Jews in Prague in the second half of the 15th century remained insecure. There were also attacks in that period (as in 1448 and 1483). Following the legalization, at the end of the 15th century, of moneylending by non-Jews in Prague, the Jews of Prague lost the economic significance which they had held in the medieval city and had to look for other occupations in commerce and crafts. Thus the Jews began to compete economically with the citizens, at a time when the traditional crafts were in a state of crisis.
The tension between the Jews and the citizens brought about a considerable change in the position of the Jews in Prague. From the beginning of the 16th century the citizens repeatedly attempted to obtain the expulsion of the Jews from the city. Their demands to this effect, in 1501, 1507, 1517, etc., were unsuccessful, however. Despite the growing tension between the Jews and the citizens of Prague, the position of the Jews began to improve at the beginning of the 16th century, mainly owing to the assistance of the king and the nobility. The Jews found greater opportunities in trading commodities and monetary transactions with the nobility. As a consequence, their economic position improved. The number of Jews in Prague increased from the beginning of the 16th century. In 1522 there were about 600 Jews in Prague, but by 1541 they numbered about 1,200. At the same time the Jewish quarters were extended. At the end of the 15th century the Jews of Prague founded new communities in the New Town and on the Kleinseite. At the beginning of the 16th century they left these districts and concentrated on extending the Jewish quarter in the Old Town. At the turn of the 15th and early in the 16th centuries they rebuilt the devastated Altschul and built the Pinkas Synagogue (the construction of which was completed in 1535).
Under pressure of the citizens, King *Ferdinand i was compelled in 1541 to approve the expulsion of the Jews. The elegy Anna Elohei Avraham, composed by *Abraham b. Avigdor, is related to that expulsion. The Jews had to leave Prague by 1543 but were allowed to return in 1545. Following the defeat of the first anti-Hapsburg rebellion in Bohemia in 1547, in which the towns played an important part, the latter lost a great deal of their political importance in the country and were no longer able to threaten the Jews of Prague seriously. However, in 1557 Ferdinand i once again, this time upon his own initiative, ordered the expulsion of the Jews from Prague. They had to leave the city by 1559. Only after the retirement of Ferdinand i from the government of Bohemia were they allowed to return in 1562.
The progress of the Jewish community of Prague had been noticeable also in the cultural sphere even before their expulsion when the Gersonides (successors of Gershom Kohen) founded a Hebrew printing establishment before 1512 (see Hebrew printing in Prague, below). During the reign of Rudolf ii (1576–1611), who transferred his court to Prague, and of his successor Matthias (1611–19), the position of the Jews was particularly favorable. L. *Zunz called that period the golden age of Prague Jewry. Some Jews attained fabulous wealth and became the patrons of the Jewish community, notable among them Marcus Mordecai *Meisel (1528–1601), the Gersonide Mordecai Ẓemaḥ Kohen (d. 1592), and Jacob *Bassevi von Treuenberg (d. 1634).
The favorable position of the Jewish community of Prague during the reign of Rudolf ii is reflected also in the flourishing Jewish culture. Among illustrious rabbis who taught in Prague at that time were *Judah Loew b. Bezalel (the "Maharal"); *Ephraim Solomon b. Aaron of Luntschitz; Isaiah b. Abraham ha-Levi *Horowitz, who taught in Prague from 1614 to 1621; and Yom Tov Lipmann *Heller, who became chief rabbi in 1627 but was forced to leave in 1631. The chronicler and astronomer David *Gans also lived there in this period. At the beginning of the 17th century about 6,000 Jews were living in Prague. To extend the Jewish quarter, the community acquired in 1627 the so-called Lichtenstein houses, thus almost doubling the area.
In 1648 the Jews of Prague distinguished themselves in the defense of the city against the invading Swedes. In recognition of their acts of heroism the emperor presented them with a special flag, which is still preserved in the Altneuschul. Its design, with a Swedish cap in the center of the Star of David, became the official emblem of the Prague Jewish community.
After the Thirty Years' War, government policy was influenced by the Church Counter-Reformation, and measures were taken to separate the Jews from the Christian population, to reduce the number of Jews and segregate them in ghettos, to limit their means of earning a livelihood, and to extort larger contributions and higher taxes from them. The ultimate aim of this "antisemitism of the authorities" was to reduce the importance of the Jews in Prague. A number of resolutions and decrees were promulgated; among them, the resolution of the provincial diet of Bohemia passed in 1650, and the *Familiants Law of 1727 were particularly oppressive. According to the latter, only the eldest son of every family was allowed to marry and raise a family, the others having to remain single or leave Bohemia.
In 1680, more than 3,000 Jews in Prague died of the plague. Shortly afterward, in 1689, the Jewish quarter burned down, and more than 300 Jewish houses and 11 synagogues were destroyed. The authorities initiated and partially implemented a project to transfer all the surviving Jews to the village of Lieben (Libén) north of Prague, later a suburb of the capital. The clergy fanned anti-Jewish feelings. Great excitement was aroused in 1694 by the murder trial of the father of Simon Abeles, a 12-year-old boy who, it was alleged, had desired to be baptized and had been killed by his father. Simon was buried in the Tyn (Thein) church, the greatest and most celebrated cathedral of the Old Town of Prague. Concurrent with the religious incitement against the Jews, an economic struggle was waged against them.
The anti-Jewish official policy reached its climax after the accession to the throne of *Maria Theresa (1740–80), who in 1744 issued an order expelling the Jews from Bohemia and Moravia. This was actually carried out against the Jews of Prague, who were banished (1745–48) but were subsequently allowed to return as a result of influential intervention on their behalf and after they promised to pay high taxes. In 1754 a great part of the Jewish quarter burned down. Despite all these persecutions, Jewish culture continued to flourish in Prague. In the Baroque period, noted rabbis were Simon Spira; Elias Spira; David *Oppenheim; and Ezekiel *Landau, chief rabbi and rosh yeshivah (1755–93).
The position of the Jews greatly improved under *Joseph ii (1780–90), who issued the *Toleranzpatent of 1782 and other decrees connected with it. The new policy in regard to the Jews aimed at gradual abolition of the limitations imposed upon them so that they could become more useful to the state in a modernized economic system. At the same time, the new regulations were part of the systematic policy of Germanization pursued by Joseph ii. Jews were compelled to adopt family names and to establish schools for secular studies; they became subject to military service and were required to cease using Hebrew and Yiddish in business transactions. Wealthy and enterprising Jews made good use of the advantages of Joseph's reforms. Jews who established manufacturing enterprises were allowed to settle outside the Jewish quarter. Among the first Jewish industrialists of Prague, who were engaged particularly in the textile industry, were the Porges (later Porges of Portheim), Dormitze, and Epstein families.
Subsequently the limitations imposed upon Jews were gradually removed. In 1841 the prohibition on Jews owning land was rescinded. In 1846 the Jewish tax was abolished. In 1848 Jews were granted equal rights, and by 1867 the process of legal *emancipation had been completed. In 1852 the ghetto of Prague was abolished and united with four other "cities" as the fifth district of Prague, called Josefov (Ger., Josefstadt). Because of the unhygienic conditions in the former Jewish quarter, the Prague municipality decided in 1896 to pull down the old quarter, with the exception of important historical sites. Thus the Altneuschul, the Pinkas and Klaus, Meisel and Hoch synagogues, the famous Radnice, or Rathaus (Jewish town hall), erected by Mordecai Meisel, the larger part of the old cemetery, and some other places of historical and artistic interest remained intact. Many Jews moved out of the old quarter and dispersed throughout the city. Whereas in 1870 more than half of Prague Jewry lived in the old quarter, in 1900 less than one-quarter remained.
In 1848 the community of Prague, numbering over 10,000, was still one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe (Vienna then numbered only 4,000 Jews). In the following period of the emancipation and the post-emancipation era, the Prague community increased considerably in numbers but did not keep pace with the rapidly expanding new Jewish metropolitan centers in Western, Central, and Eastern Europe. While an increasing proportion of Bohemian Jewry concentrated in Prague, the importance and size of Bohemian Jewry within world Jewry began to dwindle. In the period 1880 to 1900, Jewish natural increase reached its peak in the world, whereas the number of Jews in Bohemia reached its maximum in 1880 and subsequently decreased. The table "Number of Jews in the Jewish Community in Prague" shows the numerical development of the Jewish population of Prague (including the suburbs incorporated in the city, some only after World War i).
During the revolutionary period of 1848 there were violent anti-Jewish outbreaks in Prague. In consequence, the emigration of Bohemian Jews to America and Western Europe that had begun in the 1840s increased and gained momentum.
After emancipation had been achieved in 1867, emigration from Prague abroad ceased as a mass phenomenon;
|Year||No. of Jews||% of Jewish population of Bohemia||% of total populationof Prague|
movement to Vienna, Germany, and Western Europe continued, but in Prague the loss had been offset by the influx of Jews from the smaller provincial communities. Jews contributed to the economic progress of the city. They were now represented in industry, especially the textile, clothing, leather, shoe, and food industries, in wholesale and retail trade, and in increasing numbers in the professions and as white-collar employees. Some Jewish bankers, industrialists, and merchants achieved considerable wealth. The majority of Jews in Prague belonged to the middle class, but there also remained a substantial number of poor Jews.
Emancipation brought in its wake a quiet process of secularization and assimilation. In the first decades of the 19th century Prague Jewry, which then still led its traditionalist Orthodox way of life, had been disturbed by the activities of the followers of Jacob *Frank. The situation changed in the second half of the century. The chief rabbinate was still occupied by outstanding scholars, such as Solomon Judah *Rapaport (Shir; officiated from 1840 to his death in 1867), the leader of the Haskalah movement; Markus *Hirsch (officiated 1880–89); Nathan *Ehrenfeld (1890–1912); and Heinrich (Ḥayyim) *Brody (1912–30), but the mainstream of Jewish life was no longer dominated by the rabbinate. Many synagogues introduced modernized services, a shortened liturgy, the organ, and a mixed choir, but did not necessarily embrace the principles of the *Reform movement.
Jews availed themselves eagerly of the opportunities to give their children a secular higher education. The table "Number of Jews of Prague among the University Students" shows the participation of Jewish university students at Prague (the famous Charles University, founded in 1348, was split in 1882 into a German and a Czech university).
Emancipation was accompanied by a strong tendency to adopt the German language, and by assimilation to German
|% of the Jews of Prague who declared themselves to be:|
|Year||% of Jews among university students|
|German University||Czech University|
culture and national consciousness. Jews formed a considerable part of the German minority in Prague, and the majority adhered to liberal movements. David *Kuh founded the German Liberal Party of Bohemia and represented it in the Bohemian Diet (1862–73). Despite strong Germanizing factors, many Jews adhered to the Czech language, and in the last two decades of the 19th century a Czech assimilationist movement (see Čechů-židů, Svaz) developed which gained support from the continuing influx of Jews from the rural areas. Through the influence of German nationalists from the Sudeten districts antisemitism developed within the German population and opposed Jewish assimilation. At the end of the 19th century Zionism struck roots among the Jews of Bohemia, especially in Prague. The table "Number of Jews of Prague who Declared their Nationality other than Jewish," showing the national affiliation of the Jews of Prague, indicates the extent of assimilation there (Jews were entitled to declare their nationality as Jewish from 1920).
Growing secularization and assimilation led to an increase of *mixed marriages and abandonment of Judaism. Whereas under Austrian rule cases of baptism were not very frequent, at the time of the Czechoslovak Republic, established in 1918, many more people registered their dissociation of affiliation to the Jewish faith without adopting another. The proportion of mixed marriages in Bohemia was one of the highest in Europe, amounting to 24.3% in 1927 and 30.73% in 1933 of the marriages of all Jewish males and 22.1% and 25.25% respectively of Jewish females. The proportion in some small communities may have been higher than in Prague, but the difference could not change the overall picture substantially, since almost half of Bohemian Jewry resided in Prague. The consequences of this development are clearly demonstrated in the census of 1939, conducted under the German occupation. Of those classified as Jews in Prague according to the Nazi racial laws, 12.1% did not profess the Jewish faith.
After the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic, when the suburbs were incorporated in the municipality of Prague, the Jewish communities did not similarly affiliate. The paradoxical situation therefore developed that there were seven Jewish communities in Prague, one covering the inner city (districts i–vii) with approximately one-half of the Jewish population of Prague, and the other six in the various suburbs. These seven communities were federated in the Union of Jewish Religious Communities of Greater Prague, cooperated on many issues, and also established joint institutions; among these the most important was the Institute for Social Welfare, established in 1935. There were many Jewish associations, organizations, and institutions in Prague. Among associations of a religious character the most important was the ḥevra kaddisha existing from the early 16th century. The *Afike Jehuda Society for the Advancement of Jewish Studies was founded in 1869. There were also the Jewish Museum and the Jewish Historical Society of Czechoslovakia. A five-grade elementary school was established with Czech as language of instruction. The many philanthropic institutions and associations included the Jewish Care for the Sick, the Center for Social Welfare, the Aid Committee for Refugees, the Aid Committee for Jews from Carpatho-Russia, orphanages, hostels for apprentices, old-age homes, a home for abandoned children, free-meal associations, associations for children's vacation centers, and funds to aid students. Zionist organizations were well represented. There were three *B'nai B'rith lodges, several other fraternities, women's organizations, youth movements, student clubs, sports organizations, and a community center. Four Jewish weeklies were published in Prague (three Zionist; one Czecho-assimilationist), and several monthlies and quarterlies. Most Jewish organizations in Czechoslovakia had their national headquarters in Prague.
Jews first became politically active, and some of them prominent, within the German orbit. David Kuh and the president of the Jewish community, Arnold Rosenbacher, were among the leaders of the German Liberal Party in the 19th century. Bruno *Kafka and Ludwig *Spiegel represented its successor in the Czechoslovak Republic – the German Democratic Party – in the chamber of deputies and the senate respectively. Many Jews also joined the German Social Democratic Party and some rose to leadership; Emil Strauss represented that party in the 1930s on the Prague municipal council and in the Bohemian Diet. From the end of the 19th century an increasing number of Jews joined Czech parties, especially T.G. *Masaryk's Realists and the Social Democratic Party. In the latter party Alfred Meissner, Lev Winter, and Robert Klein rose to prominence, the first two as ministers of justice and social welfare respectively. Klein, leader of the white-collar employees, participated in the founding of the World Jewish Congress; he was tortured to death in a concentration camp. Meissner (d. 1952) was a member of the last Council of Elders in *Theresienstadt, and survived the Holocaust.
The Zionists, though a minority, soon became the most active element among the Jews of Prague. Before World War i the students' organization *Bar Kochba, under the leadership of Samuel Hugo *Bergman, became one of the centers of cultural Zionism. At the same time Zionism also spurred Jewish political activity. The Prague Zionist Arthur *Mahler was elected to the Austrian Parliament in 1907, though as representative of an electoral district in Galicia. Under the leadership of Ludvik *Singer the Jewish National Council was formed in 1918. Singer was elected in 1929 to the Czechoslovak Parliament, and was succeeded after his death in 1931 by Angelo *Goldstein. Singer, Goldstein, František Friedmann, and Jacob Reiss represented the Zionists on the Prague municipal council also. Some important Zionist conferences took place in Prague, among them the founding conference of *Hitaḥadut in 1920, and the 18th Zionist Congress in 1933.
Jews were prominent in the cultural life of Prague. Their contribution to German literature was most significant. Of the older generation Salomon *Kohn dealt mainly with Bohemian Jewish topics; Friedrich *Adler, Auguste Hauschner, and Hugo *Salus among the most prominent authors; Heinrich Teweles was important as an author, editor, and director of the theater. The group of Prague German-Jewish authors which emerged in the 1880s, known as the "Prague circle" (Der Prager Kreis), achieved international recognition and included Franz *Kafka, Max *Brod, Franz *Werfel, Oskar *Baum, Ludwig Winder, Leo *Perutz, Egon Erwin *Kisch, Otto Klepetar, and Willy *Haas. Among Jews who contributed to Czech literature a pioneer was the poet Siegfried *Kapper; he was later considered the herald of Czech-Jewish assimilation. To this group also belonged at a later time Eduard Lederer *(Leda), Vojtēch *Rakous, celebrated for his novels about Jewish life in the Czech countryside, and Jindřich *Kohn, the philosopher and ideologist of assimilation. Other important authors were Otakar *Fischer, Richard *Weiner, František *Langer, his brother Mordecai Jiří *Langer, Jiří *Weil, František *Gottlieb, and Egon *Hostovský. Important scientists teaching at Prague universities included Arnold Piek, Max Saenger, and Edmund Weil (medicine), Samuel *Steinherz (history), Ludwig *Spiegel (constitutional law), Moritz *Winternitz (Sanskrit), Otakar Fischer (German literature), Oskar Engländer (economics), and Guido *Adler (musicology). Albert *Einstein taught in Prague in 1911–12, and Hans *Kelsen, a native of Prague, taught there in 1936–38. The composer Jaromir *Weinberger was born in Prague and lived there until his emigration in 1937; Gustav *Mahler, a native of Bohemia, spent several years in Prague as a conductor. Among many other noted Jewish conductors and musicians from Prague were Walter Suesskind, Frank *Pelleg, George Singer, and Karel Ančerl. The German theater in Prague knew its most glorious period under the directorships of Angelo Neumann, Heinrich Teweles, and Leopold Kramer. Ernst *Deutsch and Franz Lederer were among the most celebrated actors on the German stage, and Hugo Haas and Jiří Voskovec on the Czech stage. Emil *Orlik and Hugo Steiner-Prag were outstanding artists.
Jewish topics, and particularly the history and legends of Prague Jewry, were a frequent theme in the work of non-Jewish authors and artists, more so in the Czech cultural sphere than in the German. Retrospectively, the Jewish ghetto has been considered part and parcel of Prague's history. The statue of Judah Loew b. Bezalel at the entrance to the new City Hall, and a statue of Moses near the Altneuschul, both works of Czech sculptors commissioned by the Prague municipality, are monuments to this attitude. The Jews of Prague responded with gratitude and pride in their history; but latterly only a minority was still capable of living a meaningful Jewish life, much less of forging a creative Jewish future.
[Jan Herman /
From 1935, two years after Hitler's seizure of power in Germany, a constant influx of refugees arrived in Prague from Germany, followed in 1938 by refugees from Austria and the German-speaking occupied parts of Czechoslovakia. As a result the number of Jews in Prague on March 15, 1939, the day of the Nazi occupation, amounted to about 56,000. On July 22, 1939, Reichsprotektor Constantin von Neurath ordered the establishment of a Zentralstelle fuer juedische Auswanderung in Boehmen und Maehren ("Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Bohemia and Moravia"). Its director in fact was Adolf *Eichmann. Initially the office dealt only with Prague's Jews but as of Feb. 16, 1940, it affected all the Jews in the protectorate.
At the outbreak of the war (Sept. 1, 1939), prominent Prague Jews were arrested and deported as hostages to *Buchenwald concentration camp. Various anti-Jewish measures, e.g., deprivation of property rights, prohibition against religious, cultural, or any other form of public activity, expulsion from the professions and from schools, a ban on the use of public transportation and the telephone, affected Prague Jews much more than those still living in the provinces. Jewish organizations provided social welfare and clandestinely continued the education of the youth and the training in languages and new vocations – in preparation for emigration. The *Palestine Office in Prague, directed by Jacob *Edelstein, enabled about 19,000 Jews to emigrate legally or otherwise until the end of 1939. In March 1940, the Prague Zentralstelle extended the area of its jurisdiction to include all of Bohemia and Moravia. In an attempt to avert the deportation of the Jews to "the east," Jewish leaders, headed by Jacob Edelstein, proposed to the Zentralstelle the establishment of a self-administered concentrated Jewish communal body; the Nazis eventually exploited this proposal in the establishment of the ghetto at *Theresienstadt (Terezin). The Prague Jewish community was forced to provide the Nazis with lists of candidates for deportation and to ensure that they showed up at the assembly point and boarded deportation trains. In the period from Oct. 6, 1941, to March 16, 1945, 46,067 Jews were deported from Prague to the east or to Theresienstadt. Two leading officials of the Jewish community, H. Bonn and Emil Kafka (a former president of the community), were dispatched to *Mauthausen concentration camp and put to death after trying to slow down the pace of the deportations. The Nazis set up a Treuhandstelle ("Trustee Office") over evacuated Jewish apartments, furnishings, and possessions. This office sold these goods and forwarded the proceeds to the German Winterhilfe ("Winter Aid"). The Treuhandstelle ran as many as 54 warehouses, including 11 synagogues (as a result, none of the synagogues was destroyed). The Zentralstelle brought Jewish religious articles from 153 Jewish communities to Prague on a proposal by Jewish scholars. This collection, including 5,400 religious objects, 24,500 prayer books, and 6,070 items of historical value, the Nazis intended to utilize for a "Central Museum of the Defunct Jewish Race." Jewish historians engaged in the creation of the museum were deported to extermination camps just before the end of the war. Thus the Jewish Museum had acquired at the end of the war one of the richest collections of Judaica in the world. The Pinkas Synagogue, which is included in the museum complex, contains inscriptions of the names of 77,297 Jewish victims of the Nazi extermination campaign in Bohemia and Moravia.
In April 1945 the Prague representative of the International Red Cross (irc), Paul Dunant, negotiated with Reichsprotektor Karl Hermann Frank for the transfer of the Theresienstadt ghetto to irc auspices. When the Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London returned to Prague, a Jewish member of the State Council, Arnošt Frischer, also came back; under his leadership, the Prague Jewish community was reconstituted and a council of Jewish communities in Czechoslovakia established. According to the monthly Věstník, the official Jewish community publication, Prague had a Jewish population of 10,338 in 1946, of whom 1,396 Jews had not been deported (mostly of mixed Jewish-Christian parentage); 227 Jews had gone underground; 4,980 returned from prisons, concentration camps, or Theresienstadt; 883 returned from Czechoslovak army units abroad; 613 were Czechoslovak Jewish émigrés who returned; and 2,233 were Jews from Ruthenia (Carpatho-Ukraine), which had been ceded to the U.S.S.R., who decided to move to Czechoslovakia.
In the three years following the end of the war, the Jewish population of Prague rose to 11,000, after the return of Prague Jews and the settlement of other survivors of the Holocaust. Thus a basis for Jewish life again existed in the city, and Chief Rabbi Gustav Sicher, who had returned from Palestine, sought to establish firm foundations for the further development of Jewish activities. The Communist takeover of 1948, however, put an end to these endeavors and marked the beginning of a period of stagnation. By 1950 about half of the Jewish population had gone to Israel or immigrated to other countries. The Slańský Trials and the officially promoted antisemitism had a destructive effect upon Jewish life. Nazi racism of the previous era was replaced by political and social discrimination. Most of the Jews of Prague were branded as "class enemies of the working people" and suffered from various forms of persecution, including imprisonment, exile, forced labor, and, in some cases, execution. During this period (1951–64) there was also no possibility of Jewish emigration from the country. The assets belonging to the Jewish community – estimated at 100 million Czech crowns – had to be relinquished to the state, the charitable organizations were disbanded, and the budget of the community, provided by the state, was drastically reduced. The general anti-religious policy of the regime resulted in the cessation, for all practical purposes, of such Jewish religious activities as bar mitzvah religious instruction, and wedding ceremonies. Two Prague rabbis – E. Davidovi and E. Farkas – left the country, and in 1964 the office of the chief rabbi also became vacant; only two cantors and two ritual slaughterers were left. Services were held in only two of Prague's nine synagogues, while the other seven were used as exhibition halls and warehouses for the State Jewish Museum. The Hebrew inscription on the wall of the Talmud Torah Synagogue was removed by the museum director. The museum's collection of Jewish art and religious articles were used by the Czechoslovak Travel Bureau as a tourist attraction. Officials of the Jewish communal organizations achieved their positions by manipulated elections.
The social, cultural and, above all, political activity of Jewish communal officials was strictly supervised, and the officials themselves were agents of the authorities – in charge of supervising the members of the congregation, the people who attended prayers and festivities, and clients of the kosher restaurant. The officials participated in propaganda projects such as the World Peace Movement. They abstained, however, as much as they could from attacking the State of Israel and Zionism. The Rada zidovskych nabozenskych obci (Council of Jewish Religious Congregations) cooperated with the central federation of Jewish religious congregations in Slovakia, but the cooperation did not always go smoothly. While Bratislava complained that Prague was monopolizing the representation of Czechoslovak Jewry, Prague charged that Bratislava was getting a disproportionate amount of assistance from abroad. The bulletin Věstník ("The Informer") represented both Czech and Slovak Jewry, both sides supplied material for the publication, and both covered the expenses.
The liberalization of the regime during 1965–68 held out new hope for a renewal of Jewish life in Prague. At the end of March 1967 the president of the *World Jewish Congress, Nahum *Goldmann, was able to visit Prague and give a lecture in the Jewish Town Hall. Among the Jewish youth, many tended to identify with Judaism. In August 1968, however, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia put an end to this trend. The festivities that were to mark the millennium of Jewish life in Prague were canceled four times. A new wave of emigration began, and the Jewish population of Prague was further reduced to about 2,000.
The period of "normalization" after the invasion of the Warsaw Pact forces in August 1968 heralded renewed discrimination and oppression of the Jewish minority. The liberals who led the Prague Spring of 1967 granted the Jewish community freedom. Jewish institutions were free to act as they pleased. These liberals approved the Israeli and Jewish polices of President Novotny and his people. After the occupation on August 21, 1968, Jewish policies and Jewish institutions once again became targets of suspicion and attack. President Husak and the conservatives who surrounded him earmarked the Jews for special treatment. Prague's Jewry and foreign Jewish institutions were under surveillance. After the wave of hasty emigration in 1968–70, the authorities would not permit Jews to leave, particularly to the State of Israel. The close governmental ties with Arab countries had a strong impact on Czechoslovak foreign and domestic policies.
Czech dissent was by and large inclined to understand local Jewry and objected to governmental policies. The anti-Zionist campaign, which increased after 1970 and sometimes turned into overt antisemitism, affected the life of Prague's Jewish community. The conditions improved somewhat when Mikhail Gorbachev assumed the reins of power in Moscow. When the student demonstrations occurred in Prague in the fall of 1989 and the police displayed unusual brutality, numerous Prague organizations protested and the Council published a special communiqué. During the Samet Revolution, Prague Jewry identified with the protesters. After the change of the regime, the council was reorganized, personnel changes took place, and a young rabbi took over the vacant seat of the chief rabbi. Rabbi Karol Sidon, who had studied in Heidelberg and in Jerusalem and was trained there for the rabbinate, was installed in the position. He had cooperated with the dissent in the past and proved to be a prolific and respected writer.
The authorities handed back to the Prague congregation its jurisdiction over the Altneuschul synagogue and the adjacent ancient cemetery, as well as other synagogues and properties. These became a source of considerable income from visitors and tourists. The congregation renewed the regular services in the Altneuschul. There was a certain unrest in the early years when Jews, and youth in particular, wanted to return to Judaism. The veteran Orthodox synagogue goers – some immigrants from Carpatho-Rus – would not recognize the newcomers as Jews. Those not recognized as Jewish according to halakhah had to fight for their rights. In Prague, the younger generation identified with Judaism and the State of Israel and was forced to face the apprehension of the Conservatives.
The social function of the congregation and the desire to enjoy reparation, and indemnity monies from Germany and elsewhere led the elderly in particular to join the congregation. Also, cultural activities sponsored by the congregation and by the Jewish Museum gave the impetus for more extensive Jewish life; and many who had hitherto hidden their Jewish ancestry began to avail themselves of the services provided by the congregation. These included the activities of the Center for Educational and Cultural Activities, organized by the Jewish Museum. Consequently, Jewish life saw a revival. The center organized conferences, hosted exhibitions, and published books and other material. The bulletin Rosh Chodesh serves the Jewish communities in the Czech lands and in Slovakia, as does the annual magazine Zidovsk rocenka. The Czech Jewish communal institutions do not enjoy inner consolidation. Frequent quarrels, resignations, election campaigns, and confrontations disturb the congregation's peace and the communal life. Rabbi Sidon has been unable to remedy the situation. In 2005 around 1,300 Jews were affiliated with the community.
[Erich Kulka /
Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)]
Hebrew Printing in Prague
Prague was the first city north of the Alps where Hebrew books were printed. The earliest, printed in 1512, was a book of miscellaneous prayers. Of the early printers Gershom *Kohen emerged as the leading figure; from 1526 he and his sons carried on the printing business which for several generations remained one of the outstanding Hebrew presses in Europe. Gershom Kohen, with his brother Gronim (Jerome), produced independently in 1526 the famous illustrated Passover Haggadah (facsimile edition, 1926). In the following year (under the name of Herman) he obtained from King Ferdinand of Bohemia a printing privilege, which at his death in 1545 was reissued to his son Moses and in 1598 to his great-grandson Gershom b. Bezalel. He and his brother Moses after him were active until the middle of the 17th century. The Gersonides printed mainly liturgical items in this period, but also such important works as Jacob b. Asher's Turim (1540) and Moses Isserles' Torat ha-Olah (1569). Another printing press was founded by Jacob Bak who was printing in Prague by 1605. Jacob died in 1618, and after him eight generations of Baks printed Hebrew books in Prague up to the threshold of the 19th century. Their productions were mostly liturgical and for local use, and they, like other Hebrew printers, suffered much under the Jesuit censorship (from 1528) and occasional book burnings (1715, 1731). Jonathan *Eybeschuetz obtained permission to print the Talmud at Bak's (1728–41).
Besides Kohen and Bak, other Hebrew printers of note in Prague included Abraham Heide-Lemberger and his sons (1610–41). From 1828 Moses Landau printed independently, in particular a Talmud edition (8°, 1830–35).
The standard guide is O. Muneles, Bibliographical Survey of Jewish Prague (Ger. and Czech, 1952); M. Kreutzberger (ed.), Bibliothek und Archiv, 1 (1970), and the bibliographies appended to the Yearbook of the Leo Baeck Institute (1956– ) offer additional information. New material on Prague appears mainly in the communal journal Vĕstník, the scholarly Judaica Bohemiae (since 1965), and in works commissioned by the Jewish State Museum of Prague. general works: S. Steinherz, Die Juden in Prag (1927); G. Klemperer, in: hj, 12 (1950), 33–66; 13 (1951), 55–82; G. Kisch, Die Prager Universitaet und die Juden (1969); L. Schnitzler, Prager Judendeutsch (1966); Gesher, no. 2–3, 15 (1969); The Jews of Czechoslovakia (1968); Jewish Studies. Essays in Honor of Dr. Gustav Sicher (1955). middle ages: Germ Jud, 1 (1963); 2 (1968); S. Steinherz, in: B'nai B'rith Monatsblaetter, 6 (1927), 433–8; idem, in: jggj, 1 (1929), 1–37; J. Proke, ibid., 41–224; R. Kestenberg, ibid., 8 (1936), 1–25; V. Rynes, in: Judaica Bohemiae, 1 (1965), 9–25; P. Trost, ibid., 4 (1968), 138f. renaissance: M. Wischnitzer, in: jsos, 16 (1955), 335–50; idem, Jewish Crafts and Guilds (1965), index; O. Muneles (ed.), Prague Ghetto in the Renaissance Period (1965); F. Thieberger, The Great Rabbi Loew of Prague (1954). prague expulsion: B. Brilling, in: Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden, 1 (1964), 37–42; A. Newman, in: jhset, 22 (1968), 30–42; B. Mevorah, in: Meḥkarim be-Toledot Am-Yisrael ve-Ereẓ Yisrael (1970), 187–232; idem, in: Zion, 28 (1963), 125–64. modern era: F. Weltsch (ed.), Prag vi-Yrushalayim (1954); H. Tramer, in: ylbi, 9 (1964), 305–39; F. Meissner, German Jews of Prague (1961; = ajhsp, 50 (1960/61), 98–120); R. Kestenberg-Gladstein, Neuere Geschichte der Juden in den boehmischen Laendern (1969); idem, in: ylbi, 9 (1964), 295–304; M. Brod, Der Prager Kreis (1966); W. Benda, in: Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden, 2–3 (1966), 85–94; J. Urzidil, in: blbi, 10 (1967), 276–97; G. Kisch, in: Judaica Bohemiae, 3 (1967), 87–100; J. Vyskočil, ibid., 36–55; K. Baum, in: mgwj, 73 (1929), 349–65. hebrew printing: Zunz, Gesch, 261–303; S.H. Lieben, in: Die Juden in Prag… (1927); A. Freimann, in: Soncino-Blaetter, 3 (1929–30), 113–43 (189–219); Ḥ.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri ba-Arim she-be-Eiropah ha-Tikhonah (1935), 1–29 [see also KS, index to vols. 1–40 (1967), nos. 126, 176, 213]. holocaust period: M. Moskowitz, in: jsos, 4 (1942), 17–44; M.Y. Ben-Gavriel, Bayit bi-Prag (1945); O. Kraus and E. Kulka, The Death Factory (1966), index; Juedisches Nachrichtenblatt (Prague, 1939–44); Juedische Kultusgemeinde Prag, Wochen, Monats-und Vierteljahresberichte, 10 vols. (1933–42); H.G. Adler, Theresienstadt 1941–45 (Ger., 1960), passim. contemporary jewry: A. Charim, Die toten Gemeinden (1966), 1321; R. Iltis (ed.), Die aussaeen unter Traenen mit Jubel werden sie ernten (1959). museum, ghetto, and cemetery: Historica Hebraica (1965); H. Volavkov, Story of the Jewish Museum in Prague (1968); idem, The Pinkas Synagogue (1955); J. Lion and J. Lukas, The Prague Ghetto (1960); idem, The Old Prague Jewish Cemetery (1960); I. Herrmann, J. Tege and Z. Winter, Das Prager Ghetto (1903); S. Muenzer, in: jggjလ, 4 (1932), 63–105; A. Deutsch, Die Zigeuner-Grossenhof-und Neusynagoge in Prag (1907); S. Hock and D. Kaufmann, Die Familien Prags (1892); B. Wachstein, in: Jewish Studies… G.A. Kohut (1935), 25–40. add. bibliography: J. Fiedler, Jewish Sights of Bohemia and Moravia (1991).
"Prague." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prague
"Prague." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved August 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prague