Jewish cultural heritage

Detailed information are available at tourist presentation: Synagogue Slatina | Jewish cultural heritage in Slatina

Perhaps no other nation during its existence has gone through so difficult development as the Jews. Secular challenging of Jews claim on their own country, and a life in other countries, persecution and cataclysms came to ahead by the recent aspiration of Nazi Germany for a total annihilation of the Jews. Also, hardly any nation could retain such a strong Star of Davidviability, inborn sense of its own pertinence, ability to assert not only in their own country, but also anywhere else in the world. It is quiet legitimate therefore, to study a Jewish settlement in many countries in the world, especially in Europe, had been paid close attention. However not always have the documented results been unbiased, the specific absence of existing research was its focusing just on a towns, cities and small villages have been passed by. One of those villages in which a Jewish community has existed, almost three hundred years ago is Slatina by Horažďovice. With its range of Jewish settlements (ghetto, synagogue, school and a cemetery) Slatina is unique in its own way.

History of the Jews in Slatina

Slatina by Horažďovice was established in the 12th century (about the year 1150) and is one of the oldest communities in the area. About the year 1220 there was a small church court built. St. George's monastery which has largely partaken on a colonization of the area (southwest Bohemia), owned the church court in Slatina for 56 years, until the year of 1254, when bishop Tobias sold the court to Lord Bohuslav, burgrave of castle Zvíkov for 170 "hřiven" of silver (1 prague hřivna was equal to 254 grams of silver). Later on, in the possession of the church court and the village Slatina, continued other noble families. In 1691, the village was sold to Václav Lev Kunáš Jidřich from Machovice. The possession of the village Slatina by the family of Kunáš`s also meant a discontinuous innovation in its life. Kunáš`s, according to example of many other noble families, began with consecutive settlement of Jews on their manor in Slatina. After that, Kunáš`s allows Jews to lease abandoned houses and gave them construction plots to build their own houses, which later became the base of the Slatina ghetto. Jews in Slatina employed themselves by dealing grain and cattle, selling from door to door, and usury. Patronized by Kunáš from Machovice as a "Schutzjude", (i.e. protected Jew), they were ordered to pay him a big portion of their income. Since then, the Jewish divine services took place, which is also proven by the existence of the Jewish cemetery which was allowed by Václav Ferdinand Kunáš from Machovice by an establishing deed from the year 1723. The original cemetery, based on the establishing deed which was about 15×15 meters, was later extended to 58×28 meters and enclosed with a stone wall. Above the entrance was situated a board with the Jidish sign: "BAIS MOUEVITS L`CHOLCHAI. KHI UFOR ATHU VAEL UFOR THOŠUF", (i.e., The house of meeting all living. From dust you came and in dust you shall return). Today, there are 172 preserved grave stones of two types. The granite ones are commonly simple without ornaments. Now they are hardly readable. The second group is represented by a lime stela, with an arch and a floral motive of a folk art character.

Ghetto, synagogue, school and cemetery

Into the Slatina congregation belongs 12 villages, but on the cemetery have been buried Jews from a wide surrounding. The original synagogue was wooden, standing on a four wooden supporting pillars, with dimensions of 8×6 meters. The synagogue was situated in the center of the ghetto. In the year 1868 Jewish congregation bought a new construction plot from J. Podlešák, for 500 guilders to build a new brick one, for a rural style very palatial synagogue in a form in which is renovated in these days. There was a school, apartment and a chapel inside. The Jewish school with its history beginning in the end of the 17th century, ended its activity because of a small number of kids in the year 1893. From teachers mention at least Isaak Shwarz, who worked in the school since the year 1872. He was very popular for his work towards the Jewish congregation. The Jewish teachers were often mentors and helpers for Slatina`s reeves and mayors. The head of the Jewish congregation was the autonomous commission formed by elected representatives, and was lead by the mayor. This commission was negotiating over the issues of the congregation, such as the annual budget, maintenance of the synagogue, the school, dues to the county rabbinate in Blatná, charity, and other matters. As the Jewish congregation in Lažany Enistovy was established in 1868, the importance of congregation in Slatina had weakened. Many Jews emigrated to America in 1894. There were 134 people at first, and including other later immigrants, 250 of them were from Slatina. From an historic point of view, the most important part of Slatina is the Jewish ghetto, which remains are today, represented only by houses marked in the village plan from the year 1837, house number 19, 29, 31 and these are largely rebuilt. The ghetto was build in the part of village on a inhospitable, sodden ground (on a quags), where should have been rising possibly healing spring with a high content of magnesium. Around 1834 there were 17 Jewish families living in Slatina. Families lived usually in one room and sometimes there were more than one family in one room. It's hard to imagine the living conditions, when there were very large families with ten, sometimes even more children. Houses were typically wooden in combination with stone and big clay bricks.

The importance of Jews in Slatina

The main reason why Kunáš from Machovice agreed with settlement of Jews in Slatina was economic benefit resulting from this relationship. The Jews were also largely bringing entertainment to the life of village. For example the Jewish balls took place in the pub of Jew Hasterlik. There was also a Dominican pub. The Saturdays Sabbath brought to the village new touch of life, when Jews from the neighborhood came to Slatina in their traditional attire, black hats and long full beards. Also funeral processions passing through the village to the cemetery Na Hradcích, offered an interesting spectacle. Even though there were two different communities, the home inhabitants and the Jews lived in balance. Poor home inhabitants were helping Jews with their commerce in this area, as well as in Prague and Bavaria. Porters, carriers, and farmers were offering their own cartloads, cattle, and grain. Therefore it's possible to say that therein the time of prosperity of Jews in Slatina was important also for the community. With a decreasing number of Jews in Slatina, the expensive chapel was emptying out and the school discontinued its activity. The new generation of Jews were trying to earn their living in cities and moving to America. Mojse Hasterlik, wanted to save at least the synagogue for a while longer, so he made a deposit of 2000 guilders in Horažďovice to be sure that the synagogue would not be sold and that the interests of deposit would serve to cover the expenses for maintainance of the synagogue. On the 20th of September, 1917 the last Jew, Karel Sabath, left Slatina, and moved to Kasejovice. That same year the synagogue was purchased for 10 800Kčs (Czech Krowns) by tradesman and music teacher, Mr. Karel Volmut. He rebuilt part of synagogue where then school was, and turned it into a store. The former chapel was converted to a barn. After the World War II, he moved and the abandoned synagogue helped out to village and to a newly established collective farm. When the collective farm started to use the synagogue as a storage for fertilizers, it seems that her doom was certain. Fortunately, the synagogue was sold by the then owner JZD Svéradice after the consolidation of collected farms, and new owners renovated the synagogue to today's image. Within the documentation research for ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites, non-government organization with headquarters in Paris , France ) visited Slatina Ben-Zion and Rivka Dorfman from israeli branch office of ICOMOS. As a result of their visit, there was a recommendation, that with the help of organizations, institutions and sponsors should be salvaged the synagogue chapel and also the cemetery as a unique complex of rural Jewish settlement until its time.

Text based on materials from: Mr. Josef Smitka
Translation: Petr Vápeník