BUČOVICE (Cz. Bučovice; Ger. Butschowitz), a small town in southern Moravia, Czech Republic, is located at 49°09' N, 17°00' E', 17 miles ESE of Brno (Brünn); it covers about 12 square miles. Population in 2005 was about 6,500,with fewer than 10 Jews.
The Jewish community in Bučovice, one of the oldest in Moravia, increased in importance when Jews expelled from Brno in 1454 settled in the town. Moravian Jewish community synods were held there in 1709, 1724, and 1748. Bučovice was one of 52 communities officially recognized in 1798. The Jewish community built a synagogue in 1690 and rebuilt it in 1853. The community numbered
- 9 families in 1673
- 508 persons in 1798
- 566 in 1848
- 256 in 1880
- 180 in 1900
- 64 in 1930 (2.07% of the total population), 13 of whom declared their nationality as Jewish.
In March / April 1942, Bučovice's Jews were deported to Theresienstadt, and from there to the death camps.
The newly released Czech Jewish Registers provide considerable information on historic Bučovice. See below for information on using this resource.
Bučovice rabbis included Avigdor, son of the "saintly" R. Paltiel (d. 1749), Abraham Hirsch Halberstadt, and Bernard Loewenstein (1857–1863), author of Jüdische Klänge (1862), a volume of popular poems which he dedicated to the community.
A small museum exhibition in the town is devoted to the history of the Jewish Quarter -- east of the square, ul.Komenského, Smetana, Zdanicky. From the original 49 houses only the fifth Neo-Romanesque synagogue (r.1853) was demolished, in 1966.
The cemetery (landmark Nr. 3607 S.M.), on Hájecká Street, on an isolated suburban hillside, was founded at least in the 17th century. Its oldest tombstones date from 1767. The last known Conservative Jewish burial took place before 1942. At the cemetery entrance stands an eclectic ceremonial hall built in 1892, temporarily utilized as a garage. There is a sign, in Czech. The encircling brick wall is broken in places due to the hillside terrain; it has seen gradual repairs between 2006-11.
According to Czech Wiki, the Jewish cemetery in Bučovice is one of the three largest cemeteries in the Czech Republic, and is located on the northwestern foot of the castle hill. There are about 2500 graves. The complex had two gates, the first for the public and the second, located slightly above and looks toward the center of town, was for hearses (the old second entrance was lost after WWII). From the first gate, stairs lead to the ceremonial hall, of which only side walls remain. See at cs.wikipedia.org, search the phrase "Židovský hřbitov v Boskovicích".
The cemetery is reached by turning directly off a public road. Access is open to all via the continuous masonry wall, a fence, and a locking gate. Original and current size of the cemetery is 0.507 ha / 4743m². Gravestones are in their original locations, with 25-50% of them toppled or broken. No stones have been removed. Made of marble, granite and sandstone, they include finely smoothed and inscribed stones and flat stones with carved reliefs. Stones have Hebrew, German and Czech inscriptions, and some show traces of painted decoration. There are no known mass graves. A pre-burial house has wall inscriptions.
The Brno Jewish community owns the cemetery property, which is now used only as a Jewish cemetery. Adjacent properties are residential. The cemetery was vandalized during World War II and between 1945 and 1982. Occasionally, private visitors stop.
In the 1980s, local non-Jewish residents, regional or national authorities and Jewish groups within the country cleared vegetation and repaired the wall. The Brno Jewish community pays regular a caretaker. Weather erosion remains a moderate threat. Drainage and vegetation are seasonal problems; vegetation sometimes makes accessibility difficult. Security, pollution, vandalism, and incompatible existing or proposed development remain "slight" threats to the cemetery.
Noteworthy Bučovice individuals included Rabbi Bernhard Loewenstein (1821-1888) and Josef Fischhof, musician / composer (1804-1857 [d. Wien]).
A memoir of the life of a young Jewish girl who lived in/around Brno in the 1860s records that "Butschowitz was a dusty market town in a pleasant wooded district, a lordly castle with an orangerie was its pièce de résistance. It was not on the railway, so a grimy carriage took visitors along a bumpy road that passed between rocks. One then reached the long village street. The doors of all the houses were opened and the inhabitants of the houses rushed out, inquisitive and excited to see who the visitors were. Then one arrived at the large, roughly-plastered square, surrounded by small houses amongst which the two-storied Grand Hotel towered majestically."
According to a Bachelor's thesis written in Czechoslovakia on the history of Bučovice (Christine Sromova, Masaryk University, 2011) "a plan exists of Bučovice, dating from 1727. It is drawn in ink and on the back appears the note "Ex Decanatu Kutscheroviensi. Butschowitz. Henricus Ern. Al. Halama Eques de Gicžin Parochus Butschoviensis." The plan, which measures 38.4 ×39.7 cm is extremely valuable for the history Bučovice as it contains a detailed drawing of the other buildings around the Jewish quarter. These include the original chapel of St. Trojice, a Baroque church, its cemetery with gates, and several civil and patrimonial domů. The plan shows that the Jewish quarter at that time consisted of 29 houses, laid out in approximately the shape of an L with Jewish homes surrounding three sides of the northeastern half of the village square area, with a well. In the eastern part of the square stands the synagogue. Two connecting streets lead to the northwest (present-day streets Jiráskova and Smetana). The lane leading to the northeast connects to main urban streets (today's Legionnaire Street). In the mid-18th century there were 54 Jews devoted to a particular povolání. In 1815 house No. 185 was bought by Jewish familiant Joseph Fischhof. The house is located on the square. Other houses gradually were bought by Jewish entrepreneurs such as Rudolf Stiassny (No. 97), Adolf Popper, (No. 98), Selig Wiltschek (No. 99), Rudolf Strakosch (No. 129), Joseph Strakosch (No. 130), Lazar Stiassny (No. 132), Herrmann Stiassny (No. 139)."
The following are representative GENI profiles for Jewish families in Bučovice:
- Joseph Fischhof (1766-1826)
- Leopold Friess (1784-1870)
- Josua Schüller (1773-1853)
- David Spitzer (1811-1895)
- Salomon Strakosch (1795-1867)
- Rudolf Stiassny / Stiassni (~1815-?)
- Markus Strakosch (1798-1866)
- Juda Wiltschek (1769)
The newly released Czech Jewish Registers at http://www.badatelna.cz/fond/1073 provide considerable information on Bučovice.
To read these early records, you’ll need to take a hard look at the old German script, Kurrent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurrent). And not everyone who made entries in Birth, Marriage or Death records wrote Kurrent very clearly.
To get started in the Czech Jewish Registers:
1. Click on the green tab that says "Inventář" next to an icon of a book.
2. Click on the green circle with the white plus sign next to "UREDNI KNIHY (matriky a indexy)"
Now you see a list of towns, page 1/30. Some have had scans attached; some will be posted later this year.
3. Click on the small green circle with the white plus sign next to the town you want (scroll ahead to the next page using the green arrows). You will see a list of files (with dates):
- N = Births (narození)
- O = Marriages (ohlášky, or banns)
- Z = Deaths (zesnulý, or deceased)
4. Select the register you want, click on the first icon – the one that looks like three computer screens – and you should see a new screen with the cover of the book.
5. Scroll through the book by using the green arrow buttons. First look at the bottom of the screen – in a few cases, individual Register books were indexed long ago, and such pages clearly look different even in thumbnail versions.
6. Use the - and + buttons at the bottom of the image to zoom in and out.
7. Click and hold your mouse button and drag to move the image around on your screen.
8. To take a screen shot:
- on a Mac, use command-shift-4.
- on a PC, use Ctrl-PrtSc. It’s convenient to drop the saved image into PAINT (an Accessory in Windows) and from there, save it as a .jpg for further cropping and enhancement.
Note that hitting Ctrl-PrtSc will immediately cause the image on your screen to zoom out.
The directions given in Czech at the bottom of each image say: "Click on the Print icon to generate a PDF reproduction. To print multiple reproductions, write their numbers separated by spaces (1,3,4,5) or range (1-18). A maximum of 20 reproductions can be generated into a single PDF file."
Note: taking screenshots is more effective than the .pdf's that result from the "print" process the website describes.
The website also provides the following viewing "shortcuts.” For them to work, you need to first click onto the image.
- Ctrl-A zooms in
- Ctrl-Z zooms out
- Arrow keys move image side-to-side
- ESCAPE returns image to original size
As you track Bučovice families, remember to take a look at the records of Brno, only 17 miles away. Many early Bučovice families had moved there by the middle of the 1800s, and many births, marriages and deaths are double-entered, or are entered only in Brno.