Martin Fencl

Due to the project „Our Disappeared Neighbours" I have really created my own work that I would probably never started on my own. In comparison with the works you can do sitting at home and gathering second-hand information from books, in this treaties I wrote about what I had seen with my own eyes. I tried to look up data in old annals that I had thought before not to be available for ordinary people. I got into the archive in Beroun and also into the archive of the Home Office where I created my own exploration card without any problem. I learned that those places were opened for me as well. It was also interesting to meet people who remembered how our country looked like decades ago, I learned about things that would anyway disappear in the abyss of history. But the most beautiful thing about it all, that is the feeling I have created something of my own.

Searching for the past

I thought originally that this work would be just about the Jewish cemeteries. However, in the very beginning I came upon the problem where to start. That's why I went to the Educational and Cultural Centre of the Jewish Museum in Prague, where I supposed to get some help. In the ECC they tried to persuade me to find out something about the people who had survived the concentration camps of the Second World War and to make an interview with someone who's still alive. When they didn't succeed to persuade me about the idea, they gave me few pages of text on the Jewish settlement of Prague part of Liben (our school is in Liben), a map of Jewish town from 1840 and a connection of a lector ECC who was engaged in the Jewish history.

So I started to search for the place where the cemetery of Liben used to be located. But there's an enterprise on that place at present. That was how I finished with Liben.

I made my mind up it would be better to occupy myself with the cemeteries in the country. I read in the book "Old Bohemian and Moravian Jewish Cemeteries" (in English) that there was a very important Jewish cemetery from 17th century in the village of Liten. By coincidence, I knew Mr. Polacek in that village who lived for almost 90 years there, and who, how I later found out, worked as a driver for Mr. Roubicek, a Jewish businessman of Liten. So I decided to start there.

I found the way to the Jewish cemetery of Liten with help of the above-mentioned book. I was very surprised by the dimension and the state of the site. The area of the cemetery is about 100 to 50 meters, the wall is recently mended, and you can see someone worked there a few years ago. After I looked thoroughly around the place and made some photographs, I went back to the village to get some information from Mr. Polacek. Mr. Polacek welcomed me kindly. He told me about several Jewish families that used to live in Liten before the war, but he didn't know much about the cemetery. I concluded of that it would be better to concern the Jewish settlement in general.

The second time, I went to Liten to find out something at the municipality. I found out there that the annals I wanted to look in were in the district archive in Beroun. The town has had its chronicle since 1952. So I visited the local library, where the librarian found for me the book `The Monographs of the Beroun and Horovice District', where I found the certificate allowing the creation of Jewish cemetery of Liten. Then I went also to teacher Rotmeisel who used to write the annals of Liten, but I didn't catch him at home.

As I knew already some details, I addressed the lector - specialist on Jewish cemeteries - which had been recommended to me by the ECC, with whom I made an appointment in archive of the Home Office. I created my exploration card in the archive, however, there was nothing but the familiant books (In 1726 The Familiant Law was set, along which only 8541 Jewish families were allowed to live in Bohemia. These families weren't allowed to move in a free way. The familiant books content the names of all legally settled Jewish families in Bohemia from 1726 to 1848 when the law was abolished). Because of the hand-written manuscript and because of German, I wasn't able to read the books and I didn't even need them. From the lector I learned about another Jewish cemetery in Morina. I visited the cemetery of Morina a few days later. It lies on the hill behind the village and it is in the state of reconstruction now. There was an inscription at the entranceway that the cemetery was accessible only in company of a man from the municipality, but the gate was opened and I hadn't much time, so I visited it on my own and took some photographs. However, about the cemetery of Morina, I found out just the time of origin.

Then I went once more to Liten where I paid visit to teacher Rotmeisel. The teacher, a man about eighty, lent me some typescripts on Liten and told me what he remembered himself. Then I visited Mr. Polacek and queried all what he remembered.

Nothing but the archive of Beroun remained me to visit. From an acquaintance of mine from Koneprusy I was given connection to the archive director Mr. Topinka whom I called the very day to know when there was opened. I went to Beroun a few days later with my grandmother who was to help me with eventual German texts. In the archive Mr. Topinka found me a record about Jews in Horovice region (the region of Beroun used to be a part of the region of Horovice) which helped me very much. With Granny, we even went through the annals of Liten. There was just one reference to Jews in the municipal annals of Liten starting in 1922 (it was the duty of every municipality to write its annals since 1922). They were mentioned at the occasion of the election of the local authority when the Jewish party won a chair at the town hall. The municipal annals were written with a neat handwriting, so it was very easy to go through. It became more difficult by the parochial chronicles (the archive of Beroun possesses parochial chronicles dating from the beginning of 19th century), they were written in a very confused style and even partly in Latin, partly in German and partly in Czech. So I didn't read whole parochial chronicles, but I looked for the references to Jews in times that were significant for the Jewish community of Liten (foundation of the Jewish school, construction of the synagogue, etc.). However, there were just things concerning the Catholic Church (the attachment of a new part to the graveyard, how many children did sing at the mass in the church, etc.).

Jews in Beroun

The first Jewish family got to Beroun in 1678. The Jews engaged themselves mostly in commerce, tanning and butchery in that time. There was nobody in Beroun or neighborhood then that would practice tanning, so the aldermen invited to Beroun a Jew called Mates Fiser who was very good at the craft. This case was very unusual for that time. The Jews usually lived in villages and had their ghettos in several towns. Moreover, it was less than 60 years after the battle of Bila hora and the Czechs weren't very fond of Jews who spoke mostly German. Mates Fiser's wife got permission to open a store where she sold the Netherlands linen. The Fiser got baptized after some time for smoother assimilation within Beroun, however, they died of plague epidemic that touched Beroun a few years later.

Next Jews didn't come to Beroun but in 1849 (one year after the abolishment of the Familiant law). They were six families. As early as in 1852, they founded a Jewish community and built the synagogue in the building of which was also the school (No. 77 today). The lessons were given in German there and 80 pupils attended it in 1870. In 1886 a Jewish cemetery was founded in Beroun, and a Burial society was established. They were not only in charge of the burials, but they also helped to the families left behind. Nowadays amateur gardeners do plant strawberries and fruit trees among the gravestones of Beroun's Jewish cemetery. The Rabin of Beroun (Ph. D. Moric Mueller since 1927) visited also another villages, e.g. Liten or Morina. As in another Czech towns the Second World War finishes the history of the Jews of Beroun.

Important dates

1678 - Jew Mates Fiser settled in Beroun
1852 - founding of the Jewish community + the synagogue with the school
1886 - founding of the Jewish cemetery
1939 - closing down of the synagogue of Beroun

Number of Jewish inhabitants in Beroun

1678 - 2 Jews
1849 - 6 families
1921 - 131 Jews, i.e. 12% of the population

Jewish settlement in Liten

The Jewish settlement in Liten was the oldest in the region. The first references to Jews date as early as from 1680 when Jaroslav Kunata, the count of Buben gave them permission to build the synagogue, school and cemetery. The certificate of the establishment of the Jewish cemetery is preserved and says:

(Approximate content of the text of the certificate, which is written in ancient Czech of 17th century:

Kunata Jaroslav the count of Buben allows the Jews of his domain to establish their graveyard in Liten in response to their request that arose after the great plague in 1680. The locality is specified in the document. The Jews are promised to keep the land forever to bury their deceased there. The control and administration of the cemetery is handed over to Ondrej Ledvina Lochovsky, the legal guardian of the Liten domain. The burial fee is set respectively to age and sex of each decedent.)

The lords of Liten were quite helpful towards Jews, and gave them permission to set up a school (the education of the Jewish children used to be assumed by Izrael Hirsh before). Since the year 1849, when Liten with surroundings had 1540 inhabitants from what 191 Jews, the number of Jews in the village began to decrease due to the abolishment of the Familiant law. In 1867 a new school was built (nowadays No. 66). The school was opened for public, and 33 children enrolled. But it was only 10 by 1896. In 1900 the school was closed down for the lack of pupils, and the left Jewish children moved to the Christian school. In 1880 the Jews built a new synagogue at the site of the previous. All Jews made their living with the commerce in the time of the First Republic. There lived these families in the village: the Roubicek, Zeckendorf, Raiman, Fisl and Eisner, but the Jewish part had only one seat at the town hall. The richest family probably was the Roubicek who possessed a farm, a store and a tobacconist's. The Jews dealt in market mostly one with another. They knew each other all over the region and they supported each other. (Mr. Polacek said he hadn't known but one poor Jew and any silly Jew, and anyway all Jews had been very hospitable. When he carted goods with Mr. Roubicek, he was always invited for lunch or at least allowed to garden where he could pick up of fruits what he liked. Mrs. Polacek who worked at a Jewish family in Prague had the same experience with the Jews. She says they used to prepare the meal for poor street beggars every Sunday. For the marriage of Mr. Polacek they received opulent presents from both families.) The Rabin lived no more in Liten by that time, but he commuted from Beroun every Saturday. Sundays all the men of the Jewish confession went to the service in the synagogue, but the women stayed at home. The cemetery of Liten still remained the capital cemetery of the region. Mr. Chyla worked there as a gravedigger.

During the Second World War all Jews of Liten were deported to Auschwitz from where no one returned. Some Jews tried to save themselves getting baptized, but it didn't help. Three women of Roubicek's family and two sisters of Zeckendorf's were deported as the last. (Mr. Roubicek is said to have been always claiming to stay in Liten till the last minute.) The inhabitants of Liten stayed kind to the Jews in the hard times.

Storage was made from the synagogue. The parson of Liten was only able to save the board of Decalogue that he concealed at the presbytery. Nowadays there's a firehouse in the building of the synagogue.

Foto str. 98: Jewish cemetery in Liten

Important dates

1680 - founding of the cemetery and synagogue in Liten
1715 - founding of the school
1867 - reopening of the school
1880 - construction of a new synagogue

Jews in Morina

In 1760 a Jewish community was established and a school was built in Morina. The village of Morina used to have own Rabin that commuted also to Beroun for some time. Since 1850 a lot of Jews moved to Beroun and to Prague, so the Rabin of Beroun started to commute to Morina in 1908. The Jewish cemetery of Morina became the second most important in the region after the one of Liten. In 1921 only five Jews lived in Morina, so the synagogue was sold to Sokol*.

*Czech patriotic organisation focused on physical education

Important dates

1760 - establishment of the Jewish community and construction of the synagogue


Monographs of the regions of Horovice and Beroun
Testimony of the past of the annals of Liten
Jewish settlement in Horovice region
Chronicles of Liten
M. Polacek's and M. Rotmeisel's narrative