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photo of cemetery being cleared of vegetation and town website in Czech [February 2009]

Village Polná is administrative part of village Hazlov, Vysočina Region at 49°29′N 15°42′E

Founded in the second half of the 12th century, Polna is first mentioned in a written document in 1242 as having a church. Originally, Polná was a forest collier settlement near a castle called Polná, originally Polmna. On the line between tBohemia and Moravia, Polna became an important mercantile and tactical point abd became the center (later Polná-Přibyslav) of Polna domain, mostly part of significant aristocrat families' property. During the Hussite Wars, Hynek Ptáček of Pirkenštejn, a Hussite nobleman, ruled over Polná and bought also nearby  Přibyslav. In 1623, all of the confiscated property [resulting from Rudolf Žejdlic's revolt against the Emperor] was bought by cardinal František of Ditrichštejn who changed the town's privileges and coat of arms. Polná belonged to the Ditrichštejns for almost 300 years.

In the 17th century a Jewish community settled in Polná. Today’s Charles Square) SE from the town’s main square (Hus Square) is a preserved and has the reconstructed synagogue. The old ghetto has two parts - the original town with a triangular plan, and a lower portion, "Rabbinical Place". 32 modernizedhouses, a synagagoue, 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.

In 1794 the castle (rebuilt to a chateau) burned down and was never completely restored . In the 19th century Polná was a Czech cultural center and formed a counterbalance to the German-speaking city of Jihlava.After 1850, 6 500 people lived in Polná, making it the third biggest town in the Vysočina region (after Jihlava and Třebíč). In August 1863 a giant fire destroyed 189 buildings and 456 families lost their homes. Many baroque and renaissance houses were ruined. Many people moved from the city.  Northwest Railroad built 6 kilometers away from Polná caused another economical decline. Railroad Dobronín-Polná was built in 1903 without passenger service. The most significant incident of the 19th century was the murder of a 19-year-old Anežka Hrůzová in the Březina forest. A Polná Jew, Leopold Hilsner*, was wrongfully accused of the crime. Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, later the first president of Czechoslovakia engaged himself in this affair.* (see below and here for Hilsner Affair) In 1906, the telephone network were installed. A power plant was built in 1911.  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[February 2009]

 

The Jewish cemetery is700 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.  +420 567212102 or 737937350. http://www.ipa.cz/polna

 

Synagogues Without Jews: [see photos, maps, history!] "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." [February 2009]
Last Updated on Sunday, 14 June 2009 20:18
 
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