This project seeks to list representatives of all of the Jewish families from the Moravian town of Safov (Schaffa) in the Czech Republic.
CURRENT CZECH NAME: ŠAFOV
FORMER NAME: SCHAFFA
The village of Safov is located at 48.52 degree north and 15.44 degree east, a short distance to the south of the town of Znojmo on the border with Austria
In 1670, Jews who had been expelled from the Lower Austrian towns of Weitersfeld and Pulkau founded the Jewish community of Schaffa (Safov). As the region had remained largely desolate following its destruction by the Swedes in 1645, Count Maximillian Starhemberg, the feudal landowner, willingly granted asylum to these refugees. Of the eighty-five Jewish families who eventually settled in the region, only a portion established their homes in the area that later became known as the Judengasse. The remainder set up homes in the market square to the north of the church, and by the Petrientor.
According to legend, it is said that the refugees barely escaped with their lives, but that they nevertheless carried their Holy Scrolls with them into exile. Until the year 1938 a well-preserved Torah with the inscription "weit im felde" (referring to the name Weitersfeld) was maintained in the Schaffa synagogue.
In 1734, when the Countess Maria Anna von Althau commissioned the construction of a new church, she ordered the relocation of all Jews living to the north of the church into the Jewish ghetto.
In 1778, the Jews were granted permission to enlarge their cemetery and, in the following year, construction of a new synagogue was completed. In 1781, following the Edict of Tolerance issued by Emperor Josef 11, the Jews were permitted to establish their own schools. A new Jewish school was established in 1800; the first teacher to be hired was L. Lederer from the town of Trebitsch. Beginning in 1805, Johann Bauer, a teacher from the local school, was hired to teach two hours a day at the Jewish school. For his services he was paid 80 Guilders a year. Until the school laws were amended in 1869, the Christian schools as well as the Jewish school functioned under the supervision of the local parish priests.
On June 13, 1822 the entire Jewish ghetto, with the exception of one house, together with forty-five houses in the Christian community, was destroyed by fire. Upon being rebuilt, the majority of the 120 Jewish homes were constructed as single-story houses.
The Jewish community remained under the protection of the feudal landowner until 1848. During these years the Jews were allowed to organize their own community councils, and these remained in existence until 1919. Also, starting in 1848, permission was granted for fifteen Jewish dwellings to be erected within the Christian community. At the same time similar provisions were approved in a number of neighboring communities.
A testimonial to the political freedom granted to the Jews is the school and council chambers that were erected in 1869. When first established in 1800, the school had only a single grade. By 1848 it had expanded to two grades and, after the passage of the compulsory education act in 1869, a third grade was added.
The Jewish community dominated trade in the region of Znaim (Znojmo) - Hollabrunn - Krems - Zwettle - Zlabings - Jamnitz through the sale of woolen goods, cloth, linens, and leather, as well as commerce in sheep's wool, flax, furs, skins, antlers, and bristles.
In 1870 the Franz-Josef Railroad was opened, and two years later the northwestern line opened. Both lines bypassed Schaffa, with the closest stations being at Hozeldorf and Schonwald, each about fourteen kilometers distant. These events resulted in a relocation of commerce and industry away from Schaffa, and the subsequent decline in the importance of the Jewish community.
Pursuant to these events, the community experienced a sharp economic recession and many former Jewish homes were sold to Christian laborers. In 1790, 556 Jews and 540 Christians lived in Schaffa. By 1837 these numbers had increased to 633 Jews and 610 Christians. By 1900 these numbers diminished to 374 Jews and 602 Christians, to 150 Jews and 588 Christians by 1910, and 65 Jews and 707 Christians by 1930.
In 1938, at the time of the Anschluss, there were twenty-five households with a total of 52 Jews living in Schaffa. About one third of these emigrated abroad, while the rest were deported in 1939. Also in 1938, following the Nazi occupation of the Sudetenland, the village of Schaffa was annexed to the German Reich. Without any strong expression of anti-Jewish sentiments, the German-speaking inhabitants of Schaffa welcomed the annexation as a means of ridding themselves of Czech domination.
Source: Gedenkbuch der Untergegangenen Judengemeinden Mahrens, Hugo Gold ed. (1974). Footnote: When I visited Safov in 1992, few traces of the former Jewish community remained to be seen. Only a handful of houses remained standing, as well as one building that I was told had once been the synagogue. Though there was no protective perimeter to prevent entry, the cemetery had not been vandalized and appeared comparatively well cared for. I was told that a group of Dutch students* come periodically to maintain it. I could not discover the connection that these students may have to Safov. John Schaffa
- Note: a subsequent visitor to Safov has written that the cemetery work was performed not by Dutch students, rather by a group of Austrians from Langau (directly across the unguarded border from Safov). Additionally, he wrote that the Langau priest, Andreas, maintains a house in Safov for use as a school and that the priest has twice cleared the cemetery. Father Andreas has been involved in writing a book (in German) about the town, supplemented with research from the Wiesenthal Center in Vienna.
[I actually had a chance to restore the cemetery with a group of Czech students in 2000. I met Father Andreas and received a copy of the book about Safov which I am willing to share via email to anyone that asks. I also had the opportunity to photograph the cemetery and town during my two week stay. - Gordon Baldwin]