Monuments of Jewish Settlements in Vysočina

Jews began arriving in Vysočina in the early Middle Ages. They settled in locations of important markets, on the crossroads of long-distance trade routes, and near royal residences. They were subordinate directly to the ruler, and were forced to pay considerable sums for permission to settle in a specific location. For centuries, they were a people living on the fringes of the societal hierarchy. The general animosity toward them stemmed not only from Christian doctrine, but also mostly from local residents that owed large sums of debt to Jewish creditors. In the early Middle Ages, Jews were prohibited from owning land and working as craftsmen, and so they were forced to find a different way to earn a living: monetary transactions and lending.

Up until the Hussite Wars, Jews lived in relative peace; they may have suffered countless financial losses caused by debt cancellations, but were able to avoid any dreaded disasters. However, after 1451, they were expelled from all royal cities under one pretext or another. They therefore made their way to neighbouring towns and villages, where foundations were laid for Jewish towns. It was not until the second half of the 18th century that Jews were granted (for a fee) the right to residency, to study at local schools, and work as craftsmen.

True equality for Jews came in 1849, and their social and economic lives fundamentally changed—they could move where they wanted, sell real estate, work in any type of profession, and were granted the right to vote. These changes resulted in Jewish populations moving away from the villages into cities, where they made great contributions to trade and industrial development. The positive course of Jewish religious events were brought to a forceful halt with the Nazi occupation. This event marked the greatest tragedy in history: the Holocaust.

There are many places in Vysočina where one can see reminders of Jewish settlements: individual houses, quarters, synagogues. In many cities, a great deal of attention is paid to the reconstruction of these places, and, even though the synagogues no longer serve their original function, they are made accessible to the public as exhibition and concert venues. As a result of insensitive management over past decades, the only monuments that have survived in many places are the Jewish cemeteries.





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