This project seeks to collect all of the Jewish families from the town of Polná in Bohemia, Czech Republic
Village district (bezirk) and region:
Polná is a town with around 5,000 inhabitants in the Vysočina Region of the Czech Republic.
In SE Bohemia, 45 miles WNW of Brno (Brünn), 8 miles NE of Jihlava (Iglau).
Founded in the second half of the 12th century, it is first mentioned in a written document in 1242. At that time, there had already been a church in Polná. Originally, Polná was a forest collier settlement, and not far from it there was built a castle called Polná, originally Polmna. The town lies on the line between two historic Czech lands - Bohemia and Moravia, therefore the town became an important mercantile and tactical point. (source Wikipedia)
The History of the Jews in Polná :
In the 17. century a Jewish community settled in Polná. Jewish Population 430 (in 1869), 238 (in 1890) The Jewish Town (today’s Charles Square) is situated South-East from the town’s main square (Hus Square). There is a preserved and reconstructed synagoge there. The old ghetto has two parts - the original town with a triangular plan, and a lower portion, "Rabbinical Place". 32 modernized houses, a synagogue, and a rabbi's house exist. In the synagogue is the Regional Jewish Museum with its permanent exhibitions "Leopold Hilsner´s Case" and "The History of the Jews in Polna and its Surroundings". Occasional exhibitions and concerts take place here. From the upper place you can pass through the Rabbinical House to the Rabbinical Place. By l930, there were only 51 Jews left. Only three Polná Jews survived WWII's deportations to concentration camps. By the late l980's, the synagogue was abandoned and crumbling and slated for demolition, a common occurance under Soviet rule. The l990's brought intense activity - it was urgent to repair these sites before they crumbled. The Polna synagogue was saved and reopened in September 2000. In 1949 Polná became part of the Havlíčkův Brod okres. In 1960, after another territorial reorganization it became part of the Jihlava okres. (Wikipedia and other sources).
"Just off the main cobblestone town square in Polna, a town between Prague and Brno an ancient arched passageway leads to the old ghetto complex. The ghetto has been relatively undisturbed since the Jews were moved in, in 1681, and it had a Jewish community until WW II. The complex, now a National Heritage Zone, but nevertheless a proletarian neighborhood, is on a sloping meadow. There are 32 houses in an upper, triangular court and a lower, smaller, rectangular one. The synagogue, once a dilapidated, stone building between the two courts, has been restored as a concert and exhibition hall. A small section houses Polna's Judaica, formerly hoarded by the Nazis to Prague.
By 1532, there was a significant Jewish community in Polna, then a thriving market town for the textile industry. The Jews, as merchants and moneylenders, settled among Christian neighbors but were never free from discrimination, humiliation and disdain. Through the centuries, decrees in Polna's legal Patent Book show that Jews did not have to perform certain civic duties such as army service or night guard, but engaging in trade was restricted, whereas king, nobility and Church extracted gold. They were forbidden to sell meat to Christians, or to testify against Christians in court.
The feudal lord, Cardinal Dietrichstein excluded non-Catholics from his diocese in 1654, but, oddly, allowed Jews in, because he regarded them as witnesses to the miracles and prophecies of the Old Testament. In response to complaints from the Gentiles, during the Cardinal's visit to Polna in 1676, he established a ghetto at Dolni Ulice (Lower Street) near the small Jewish cemetery on the edge of town. But local landowners resented the Jewish presence, and the area suffered from poor sanitation.
The ghetto was moved in 1681 to its present location. In their new environment, the Jews were permitted an autonomous municipal unit with a Jewish judge. They could build a tannery and dig a well. The town register lists magistrates Izak Michl, Izak Herschl, Abraham Ahron, Jakob Giml and Elias Wolf as some of the earliest community leaders.
For the first few years, the kehillah met and prayed in a wooden hut in a member's yard. In 1682, the parnassim and the town magistrate signed an agreement to have the town build a new, furnished synagogue, a vaulted well and a mikveh. The Jews paid construction costs over time and an additional annual fee. The synagogue was completed two years later.
The kehillah continued to grow. There were 50 families by 1714 and a permit to build a community hall was secured. By the end of the 18th century, there were 87 families and 16 new houses were added. In the mid 19th century, the kehillah's membership peaked at 770 people, constituting 128 families, causing some of the more affluent members to move out of the crowded ghetto.
The interior of the synagogue was refurbished in 1861 with the financial help of a descendent of Count Dietrichstein only to burn down tragically two years later in the worst fire of Polna's history. The Torah scrolls were rescued but the Jews' homes were destroyed and the synagogue had to be completely rebuilt.
- The "Hilsneriade" brought Polna to the attention of all Europe. In April 1899, a simple-minded but guiltless Jewish man, Leopold Hilsner, was tried for the murder of a Christian girl living in Věžnička, a village two miles from Polná, and sentenced to death. Anti-semitic feelings surfaced quickly, a pogrom was initiated and Jewish stores were boycotted for a long time. Thomas Masaryk, highly regarded as a symbol of national independence and justice, demanded a retrial- not to defend the accused but to "defend the Christians against superstition". Hilsner's sentence was changed to life imprisonment but he was freed in 1916, in the broad amnesty following the death of Emperor Franz Josef I. In 1961, as the woman's brother lay dying at the age of 93, he confessed to killing his sister to save himself the cost of her dowry.
The last rabbi of Polna, Rabbi David Alt, emigrated in 1920 after most of the ghetto houses had been sold to Christians and only 85 Jews remained. Nazis confiscated all Jewish property and, of the 40 Jews deported from Polna, only 2 adults and 2 children returned."
Birth, Death and Marriage record books for ….. are preserved and located at ……
The Jewish cemetery is 700 metres NW of Hus´ Square, behind the street "Pod Kalvarii". Since 16th century, it had been enlarged several times. With valuable Baroque, Classicistic, and new gravestones, the cemetery has been preserved by the group of local enthusiasts since 1988. In the last decade, the attention of some newspapers and magazines was attracted by the rumour about the possible origin of Adolf Hitler´s ancestors in Polna. Especially the gravestone of Rosalia Müller, nee Hüttler, in the right part of the cemetery, attracted attention.The oldest gravestones are from the 17th century, the newest from 1940.
Polná Inhabitants (those on geni in blue, those not yet entered in black) :
- Moses Herz (b. - 1845)
- Dr. Philipp Pollatschek (c.1817 - 1911) rabbi in Polna (Kreisrabbiner)
- Moses Pulzer (1813 - 1896)
Bohemia Jewish Census