Introduction and Jewish Life Benešov (German: Beneschau) is a district town, located about 40 km. southeast of Prague in Central Bohemia (Středočeský kraj), Czech Republic. It was chartered as a seigniorial town as early as the first half of the 14th century, with a tiny Jewish population first mentioned in 1419. The oldest documentation, from 1570, mentions 5 Jews (apparently heads of families). An official inventory of the Jewish population of Benešov from 1723 names four Jewish heads of families: Jakob Budlowsky (who settled around 1674), Moses Budlowsky (also from 1674), Markus Roubíček (1699), and one Jewish woman named Fliess (from 1722). In 1750 Benešov was home to six Jewish families; a hundred years later, around 8 families. The Jewish community was officially registered in 1893, with 786 persons (including those living in 27 surrounding villages), and Jews lived there continuously until the Nazi occupation. There was no true ghetto; Jews lived scattered among their Christian neighbors. In 1930 the community numbered 237 (2.8% of the total population), 24 of whom declared their "nationality" as Jewish.
Benešov was the center of the nationalistic Czecho-Jewish League (Svaz čechů-židů), a resistance movement to the predominance of German language and culture imposed by the Hapsburgs. The movement is evident to genealogists in the mid 1880's, when vital entries begin to be written in the Czech language.
Synagogue The Benešov synagogue was built in the classical style in 1845, on a site granted to the local Jews by Prince Lobkowicz, about 100 meters west of the modern-day Masaryk Square.The synagogue underwent repair and enlargement in 1884, and served the local Jewish religious community until the Nazi occupation. After 1945 the building served as a chapel for the Czechoslovak Hussite Church. It was demolished in 1975 and its contents sent to the Central Jewish Museum in Prague. The synagogue was replaced by the unsightly Billa supermarket; photographs can be viewed in the photo section. Thanks to Petr Šraier for photos of the synagogue, displayed at the Hussite Church.
Cemetery Benešov’s Jewish cemetery was founded probably in the 16th century, but documents date from the 17th century. The oldest tombstone is that of Simson ben Yitzhak, dated 1796. The cemetery was largely dismantled in the 1980s, and some matsevot were moved to the new Jewish cemetery, established in 1883, and located in a park approximately 500 m northeast of Masaryk Square, near the urban municipal cemetery. The cemetery today is owned by the Jewish community in Prague. The cemetery is surrounded by a new brick wall and features 17 stelae, mostly from the 19th century, along with around 300 modern tombstones, a museum, and a ceremonial hall. There is also a grave of 13 French prisoners from a death transport in 1945. Keys to the cemetery can be obtained at the city information center.
New Items Geni contributor Petr Šraier has just posted a beautiful display on his Facebook page, which he calls "Židovská komunita v Benešově - připomínka obětí holocaustu" (The Jewish community in Benešov - a reminder of the Holocaust"). Facebook "friends" are invited to "like" the page.
The recent book by Geni contributor Joanie Holzer Schirm, Adventurers Against Their Will, features stories of many members of Benešov families, glimpsed through letters discovered after Joanie's father's death. The companion piece to this book, to be titled "My Dear Boy," is profiled in this advert-laden article.
Shoah The vast majority of Benešov’s Jews were transported and murdered in the Shoah. Most of the community (about 76 people) was deported by the Nazis to the Maly Trostinets extermination camp near Minsk in 1942. After World War II a small museum commemorating victims of the Holocaust was placed in the former ceremonial hall of the new Jewish cemetery.
Holocaust victims from Benešov profiled on Geni.com include Emil Poláček, Josef Bejkovsky, Karl (Karel) Bejkovsky, Arnost (Ernst) Holzer, Hugo Bloch, Richard Rindler, Anna Ehrlich Rindler, Zdeňka Sommer (Kraus), Miloš Bloch,
- Fiedler, Jiří. Jewish Sights of Bohemia and Moravia. Prague, Sefer, 1991.