Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities, Settlements and Memorial Sites in the Czech Republic
Due to the death of Jiří Fiedler – the author of the Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities in Bohemia and Moravia – the distribution of as yet incomplete encyclopaedia entries has been suspended. Only entries that are complete are available for distribution. If you have any questions about the history of Jewish communities in the Czech Republic, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite growing public interest, the history of the Jewish community of Bohemia and Moravia has so far been documented only in a fragmentary way. Often, the only available material for those interested in this topic are pre-war publications and specific articles, which are being supplemented only gradually by more recent research. In an attempt to satisfy the needs of many inquirers, we have decided to gradually make available online the Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities, Settlements and Memorial Sites in the Czech Republic. This work was launched by Jiří Fiedler on the basis of his private archive.
The encyclopaedia is the result of Jiří Fiedler's more than thirty years’ work involving the extraction of archival and library sources, correspondence and on-site research in various localities. This work formed the basis of Jiří Fiedler's earlier book Jewish Sights in Bohemia and Moravia (published by Sefer, 1992; English version 1991). The encyclopaedia entries that are gradually being made accessible in electronic form, however, are far more extensive and detailed.
At present, about a fifth of the total number of encyclopaedia entries (of which there will be several thousand) have been completed. These include
- settlements of Jewish communities or prayer associations (of associated communities)
- other localities with the proven or assumed existence of a Jewish prayer hall
- places associated with the life of important Jewish figures (i.e., mainly their places of birth)
- cadastral communities with Jewish cemeteries (sometimes belonging to distant religious communities)
- sites of concentration, labour and internment camps
- places with graves of the victims of the 'death transports' from the end of World War II
Content and structure of the entries
What can you find in the encyclopaedia?
Apart from basic toponymic, geographical and administrative data on a given locality, it includes:
- information on the beginnings of Jewish settlement, its demographic development and, where possible, the social composition of the Jewish community
- an overview of privileges granted
- a record of disasters that have struck the community
- basic information on the history of the religious community and a list of its functionaries (community leaders, rabbis, cantors, etc.)
- information on local religious, educational and charity institutions (synagogues and prayer halls, ritual baths, schools, hospital, etc.)
- a description of the Jewish street or quarter, important public buildings, (where available) a list of residential buildings and their occupants
- information on cemeteries
- a list of preserved registers of birth, a selection of other major archival materials, and at least a partial list of available illustrations of the given locality
Individual data are indicated by a symbol for the source from which they were taken. Each entry ends with a list of literature and sources used.
For the sake of completeness, published data that is erroneous, disputable or contradictory, as well as earlier and more recently revised opinions, are cited alongside each other. Particular use has been made of specialist literature published in Czech and German. The main archival materials to have been excerpted so far in the most systematic way are some of the earliest census lists of the Jewish population, as well as certain registers. Data from municipal chronicles, oral information from former inhabitants and facts obtained by personally checking the state of former Jewish settlements/monuments and the condition of areas where Jewish sites once stood (synagogues, cemetery buildings, etc.) are often of extraordinary value.
What did not fit in the encyclopedia?
In addition to the many early archival materials that have not yet been excerpted, the Holocaust period, too, is not covered in the encyclopaedia (apart from a few exceptions). Holocaust-related research and documentation is being conducted by the Museum’s Shoah Documentation Department and other specialised institutions. Similarly, the encyclopaedia does not contain comprehensive information on ritual objects from individual localities which are now housed in the collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague. This area is being gradually researched in the Museum’s Documentation Department.
The information that has been put together has not been processed in the form of a continuous text (apart from a few exceptions). It is mostly in the form of a list of facts and numerical data that have been excerpted from various sources so far. Individual entries are of various length, from a quarter of a page to fifty pages, depending on the historical importance of the given locality and on the amount of sources researched so far.