02. Bechyně

Written sources show that Jews were in Bechyně from the second half of the 16th century. During the 17th century there was a Jewish com-munity founded that lasted until the Nazi occupation. In 1880, there were 91 Jews living in Bechyně, then from 1890 to 1898 the Jewish population (maximum 4.6% of the population) declined gradually. By 1900, there were 87 Jews living here, and in 1930 there were only 32 Jews (1.4%). The synagogue and Jewish houses in Bechyně. There was evidently a prayer house in the town from the beginning of the 17th century.

The current synagogue, whose northern side is adjacent to the city walls, was built in 1872-1873 in simple Classicist style with a neo-Romanesque façade on the site of an older Baroque synagogue built after 1784. The synagogue was used for religious purposes until the Second World War; during and after the war, it was used as a warehouse. In 1973, the synagogue was repaired and adapted for the needs of the Fire Museum, which remained in the synagogue until 2001. From 2004 to 2008, the synagogue was reconstructed for the needs of the Czech Hiking Club. The women’s gallery features a small exposition on the history of Jews in Bechyně and its surroundings. The interior furnishings have not been preserved.Near the synagogue there stand six Jewish houses that were owned by Jews before the mid-19th century. This former “Jewish Street” was not a closed ghetto, however, and Christian houses also stood here. All Jewish houses have been reconstructed but are still preserved. The Jewish cemetery was founded before 1636 northwest of the square on Michalska Street in the area outside the city wall.

The cemetery was repaired in 1697 and expanded in 1834. On a cem-etery area of 1,369 square meters there are about 180 tombstones preserved from 1687 until the early 1940’s. The decorations on the tombstones include the blessing hands of the Kohens, a Levite set, a crown as a symbol of wisdom or the sign of a person with a deep knowledge of the Tora, the Star of David, and the symbol of the mourning tree. The cemetery is closed.

Interesting: Part of a former Jewish community house, adjacent to the synagogue, still holds the preserved ritual mikveh.