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SVIHOV: Klatovy, Bohemia PDF Print E-mail

Svihovphotos. The Jewish settlement existed since 1570. The ghetto was established during the restriction laws in 1736 when Jews were forced to exchange their houses with Christians. The ghetto was situated in one area of today's Vrchlickeho Street. The ghetto burnt down at the end of the 18th century. The houses had to be rebuilt. The Jews had to live separately so the ghetto disappeared. The first synagogue was destroyed by fire and the second newer one pulled down in 1960. Two Jewish cemeteries: old and new on the edge of the village near the town cemetery. The old cemetery founded in 1644 has many Renaissance, Baroque, and classical tombstones. The new cemetery  founded in 1878 has only a few tombstones with the rest of the area empty. aerial  photo The Svihov Torah is owned by Congregation Albert, founded in 1897, the oldest continuing Jewish organization in New Mexico: "Sixty-Seven miles southwest of Prague is the village of Svihov nestled in a small valley. The village includes a town square, post office, town hall, and a famous water castle. Svihov was chartered in Bohemia in 1501 and later became a part of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. The earliest known Jewish settler arrived in 1570 and within 50 years there was a Jewish community which survived another 300 years. Svihov is the second oldest Jewish community in the area - one other dates from the late 1400s. Although the Jewish Community in Svihov never grew beyond about 20 families, by 1670 they had built a prayer room, and, soon after, a wooden synagogue. When these were destroyed by fire in 1773, a new Rocco style Synagogue was built, where services were held until World War II. After World War II, the synagogue property was sold. The building was torn down in the 1960's and a house built on the land. Svihov’s Jewish Street (now Vrchlického St.) was on the north side of the square. It was a ghetto of about 78 people who owned 16 houses. The ghetto was established in 1736 by the forced exchange of houses between Christians (who gained better homes) and Jews (who moved down). Several Jewish families moved outside the street after it was destroyed by fire in 1773. We assume the Jewish inhabitants were a strong presence in the community. At one point about three quarters of the factories in the district were established by Jews. During the 19th century, Svihov’s young people began to move to larger villages, such as Klatovy, and then on to cities like Prague. Only 21 Jews lived in Svihov in 1930 and those remaining were likely deported with the rest of their district to concentration camps in the fall of 1942. Only one woman and her daughter returned to Svihov after World War II, living there until they immigrated to the U.S. in 1955. The Svihov Torah was written in 1850, its scribe supported by a Jewish community of 17 families. In the manner of the time, the "fundraising" probably included some money for supplies, but primarily consisted of room and board for the scribe, who moved from home to home while he wrote the new Torah. The old Jewish cemetery in Svihov, near the railroad, was consecrated in 1644 and enlarged in 1828. It includes sandstone markers which date from 1644 to 1913. A new Jewish cemetery was founded in 1878, and abolished by law 1890. Burials continued there, however, until WWII. Most sources state it was destroyed after WWII, but Seymour Lefton, a member of our Congregation, visited ..., and found it standing, with beautiful marble obelisk monuments suggesting families that were rather well off. Seymour reports that the old cemetery is totally overgrown and its markers deteriorated beyond reading. He took photographs of both cemeteries so perhaps we will be able to read names on some of the markers. Knowing how many years have likely passed without memorial, Seymour said Kaddish at the cemetery for the families whose legacy has come to us with their Torah.We have been trying to learn everything we can about the Jewish Community of Svihov, to locate any survivor’s or descendants of survivors and to learn the names of those who died in, or were deported from, Svihov. We have located one descendant of a Svihov family, whose grandparents left in the early 1900's. In our search for information we received guidance and information from a new father in New York, a Rabbi’s wife in D.C., a chaplain at West Point and a family in Missouri. We were sent copies of a 1905 postcard depicting Svihov, recent photographs, tourbook articles, and from Paris, a German article (now being translated) about the town’s history. We will be assembling a photo display, from these sources and Seymour’s visit, and hope to discover more Secrets of Svihov." [February 2009]


US Commission No. CZCE0000181

Alternate names: Švihov [Cz], Schwihau [Ger]. Svihov is located in Bohemia, Klatovy at 49°29' N, 13°17' E , 30 km S of Plzeu, 19 miles SSW of Plzeň (Pilsen), 6 miles N of Klatovy. Cemetery: old cemetery 500 m E. Present town population is 1,000-5,000 with probably no Jews.

  • Town: Mestsky Urad, 340 12 Svihov. Regional: Okresni Urad, Referat Kultury, 339 0l Klatovy; and Pamatkovy ustav zapadnich Cech, 301 00 Plzen; and Zidovska Nabozenska Obec, Smetanovy, sady 5, 301 37 Plzen.
  • Interested: Okresni Muzeum, Hostasova 1, 339 O1 Klatovy; tel. 0186/2309; and Statni Zidovske Muzeum, Jachymova 3, 110 00 Praha 1.
  • Caretaker: Mr. Vesely, 340 12 Svihov Tel. 0186/932-44.

Earliest known Jewish community was 17th century. 1930 Jewish population was 21. Jews moved to big towns after 1848. The Jewish cemetery originated in 1644 with last known Conservative Jewish burial in 1913. Malinec, Vlci, and probably Luzany (6 km, 6km, 7km away) used this landmarked cemetery. The flat portion of the suburban hillside, separate but near other cemeteries, has no sign or marker. Reached by turning directly off a public road, access is open to all via a broken masonry wall and non-locking gate. The pre- and post-WWII size of cemetery is 1381 sq. m.

100-500 stones, all in original location, date from 1644-20th century. The marble, granite and limestone flat shaped stones, finely smoothed and inscribed stones, flat stones with carved relief decoration, double tombstones or multi-stone monuments have Hebrew, German and Czech inscriptions. Some tombstones have traces of painting on their surfaces, portraits on stones, and/or metal fences around graves. The cemetery contains no known mass graves, structures, or special sections. Plzen Jewish community owns the Jewish cemetery. Adjacent properties are agricultural gardens. Occasionally, private visitors and local residents stop. Local non-Jewish residents and Jewish groups within country did restoration in 1990-1. Plzen Jewish congregation pays the regular caretaker. Moderate threat: vandalism. Slight threats: uncontrolled access, weather erosion, vegetation and existing nearby development.

Vlastmila Hamackova, Zabelska 37, 312 15 Plzen; and Jiri Fieldler, Brdickova 1916, 155 00 Praha 5; tel. 55-33-40 completed survey on May 21, 1992. Documentation: Gold (1934) and Herman: Jewish Cemeteries of Bohemia and Moravia (1980): census. No site visits or interviews occurred. See book: Le cimetiere Juif a Svihov by Vlastimila Hamackova in Judaica Bohemiae 28 (1992) S. 88-92

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 February 2009 00:25
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