A Chronology of the Jewish community of Nikolsburg

The earliest known mention of Jews in Nikolsburg is a document recording a loan by Ephraim "a Jew of Nikolsburg" to a noble family.
However, in the domain register of Nikolsburg for this year there are no Jews.
There is no mention of Jewish victims when Nikolsburg is razed by Hussites. However Jews expelled from Vienna and Brünn may have been invited to settle there afterwards in an effort to repopulate the town.
The freedom of the manor is granted to Nikolsburg Jews, allowing them to attend the court of the feudal lord of Nikolsburg - so by this time there was a Jewish settlement.
According to an inscription on the ceiling, Nikolsburg's main synagogue, the Altschul, was built in this year, possibly on the site of an already existing prayer building.
According to various documents ennumerating the possessions of the Nikolsburg domains, there are 41 Jewish vassal families in the town.
A new ennumeration records 68 Jewish vassal families, each paying one gold ducat in tax every year. At about this time, Nikolsburg becomes the seat of the rav medinah or chief rabbi of Moravia.
The domain register records 96 Jewish houses.
The lord of the manor grants the Jews of Nikolsburg the right to elect their own judge - in return they have to supply the manor with a ton of oil every year.
The Jews of Nikolsburg are given official permission to trade in linen and other cloths.
The feudal lord, Prince von Dietrichstein, grants a new charter of priveleges, allowing the Jews of Nikolsburg to elect their own officials and granting the Rabbi the right to inflict punishment in cases involving only Jews. In addition, the Jewish community is placed under the jurisdiction of the manor, not the town, and thus receives court protection in conflicts with other inhabitants. Instead of contributing feudal labor, a large annual payment is now made by the entire Jewish community. In addition, the Jews are now officially licensed to engage in trade in wine, meat and wood.
Rabbi Jehuda Löb Eulenburg, since 1574 chief rabbi of Moravia, is buried on the Rabbonimplatz, the hill at the center of the graveyard at Nikolsburg. The inscription on the tombstone is the earliest one still visible.
The domain register records 138 Jewish houses.
Repeated occupations, destruction and disease during the Thirty Years War cause terrible losses. An account records the deaths of 964 Jews in Nikolsburg as a result .
The founding of the Chevra Kadisha is recorded by the beautifully illuminated cover of the burial society' statute book.
A new ennumeration records only 96 Jewish houses with 145 families, in addition there is a hospital and a community building.
The town is plundered by the Turkish army besieging Vienna.
Following the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna, Prince von Dietrichstein grants refuge to 80 additional Jewish families - in return for appropriate payment.
The Jewish community of Nikolsburg signs an agreement with the wine growers of the town to purchase a fixed quantity of grapes every year for kosher wine and for a commission to meet every year to set the price. The wine trade is at the center of Nikolsburg's economy.
A plague epidemic breaks out, for which a hospital is set up in the Judengarten.
An imperial order commands that the Jewish population of Moravia be reduced to the level of 1657 and all later immigrants be expelled. All the evidence suggests that the order was never enforced in Nikolsburg.
Jews captured during the conquest of Belgrade are ransomed by the community and settle in Nikolsburg.
Jews and Christians procrastinate over who should pay for construction of a new sewer system. Prince von Dietrichstein settles the dispute with the former paying one third, the latter the rest.
Prince von Dietrichstein imposes a new set of statutes on the Jewish tailors guild, setting an upper limit of 8 masters, each one with a companion and an apprentice.
A foundation set up by Rabbi David Oppenheim during his short tenure in Nikolsburg purchases land (around the later Oppenheimerplatz) for the Bethamidrasch and a Jewish school, as well as providing for poor students. This probably grew into the Nikolsburg Yeshibah which at the height of its fame attracted up to 400 students.
Establishment of an armed police to keep order, with 2 men posted in the Jewish town.
Outbreak of a great fire which destroys practically the entire Jewish town, including the old synagogue. Many residents are forced to flee as far as Pohrlitz, and on the way their possessions are stolen by a group of about 40 vassals and retainers of the manor. Requests for police protection are refused, and a great dispute arises over who is responsible.
Prince Walter von Dietrichstein stops the rebuilding of the Jewish town, so the victims of the fire have to spend the winter in tents. After intervention on their behalf by the Jewish community of Vienna a commission is appointed by the emperor. A settlement reached the following year which fixes the boundaries of the jewish town allows construction to be completed. Most of the houses still standing today in the Jewish town date from this period, and also the Altschul synagogue was rebuilt in a new style and has remained unchanged until the present day.
An imperial decree imposes an upper limit on the Jewish population of Moravia. Only Jews registered ("systematisiert") in special lists can henceforth marry and have children. A place on the list ("Familiantenstelle") only passes to the eldest son when his father dies. Since the other male children are not allowed to marry, they have to either marry illegally ("Bodenhochzeit") or emigrate.
Jewish merchants from Nikolsburg are permitted to build 32 permanent stalls equipped with locks at the market in Brünn.
An imperial decree restricts Jews in Moravia to living within a clearly demarcated area, the ghetto, separated from the Christian part of the town. In Nikolsburg chains or ropes were stretched across the street to mark the border.
Completion of a new road makes it easier to reach Brünn and Vienna.
An ennumeration shows 107 houses in the Jewish town occupied by 332 families. Many of the houses also have small patches of garden. In the same year Bernhard Goldschmidt, an elder of the community, is allowed to found a business for wholesale trading. Several others follow shortly after, and Nikolsburg plays an important role in the central European trade in wool, wine and ironmongery.
Emperor Josef II issues a Charter of Toleration, opens the universities to Jews and abolishes the special taxes and regulations governing their movement, thus ending the restriction to the ghetto. However the system of Familiantenstellen remains in place, and the liberally minded Josef II dies shortly after.
An imperial decree calls on all Jews to adopt surnames and German first names, which have to be registered with the appropriate authorities.
There are 3020 Jews living in Nikolsburg.
The number of Familiantenstellen in Nikolsburg is raised from 600 to 620, at which level it remains until the whole system is abolished in 1848. Nikolsburg, with 168 houses, is the largest of the 52 officially permitted Jewish communities in Moravia.
Death of Rabbi Mordechai Benet, Chief Rabbi of Moravia since 1790 and one of the most influential figures in the Moravian Jewish community and in Nikolsburg.
A German-Hebrew Middle School for boys and an Elementary School for girls are set up to give young members of the community an adequate education for modern life. The boys school combines a full curriculum of secular studies in German with a religious education in Hebrew.
Completion of the Vienna - Brünn railway line through Lundenburg instead of Nikolsburg. As a result Nikolsburg began to lose its economic importance.
The Nikolsburg philanthropist Hirsch Kolisch founds the school for deaf and dumb with Joel Deutsch as director.
Following the revolutionary events of 1848 and the granting of full civil rights to Jews, the Jewish town of Nikolsburg becomes an independent municipality with its own administration, existing next to and with the same powers as the Christian municipality.
The Jewish population of Nikolsburg reaches a high point of 3680 persons.
Emperor Franz-Josef I ends all restrictions on Jewish ownership of real estate anywhere in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A rapid decline in the Jewish population of Nikolsburg sets in, as the inhabitants move to Vienna, Brünn and elsewhere.
The German-Hebrew Middle School is transformed into General High School for all citizens of Nikolsburg in accordance with the new law ending sepearate education of Jews and Christians. Religious education, however, continues in separate classes.
Bernhard Teltscher from an old wine-trading family of Nikolsburg, and Jakob Glattauer set up one of the biggest wineries in the country.
The Jewish population of Nikolsburg has already fallen drastically to 1139, many families having moved to Vienna or Brünn to pursue careers. At the same time many houses in the Jewish municipality are now occupied by Christians. Nevertheless, a proposal to unite the two municipalities is rejected by the Christian municipality.
The number of houses in the Jewish municipality has increased to 318 and there are now more Christians (1190) than Jews (919) living there. In the Altschul synagogue modernisers have gained the upper hand and the pews are rearranged so that the pulpit can be placed in front of the Thora screen. The Almemor loses its central importance.
The new ceremonial hall for the graveyard, designed by the Vienna architect Max Fleischer, is completed.
The Jewish population falls further to 749 persons.
Many thousands of orthodox Jewish refugees flee the fighting in the WWI front areas in Galicia. They are provided with emergency housing in the barracks at Nikolsburg and are able to return home by 1918.
Following the break up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the founding of the state of Czechoslovakia, the Jewish and the Christian towns in Nikolsburg are united into a single self-governing municipality called Mikulov.
Another great fire destroys parts of Nikolsburg, including some houses in the old Jewish town. In the rebuilding afterwards, a new street of houses, the Neugasse, is constructed on the land of the old Judengarten.
Just 437 Jews remain in Mikulov, 5.6% of the total population.
A Jewish Museum is founded at Mikulov. The Museum moved to Brno when Mikulov was annexed by the Nazi Germany in 1938 but under the Nazi-controlled Protectorate its contents were confiscated. They are now to be found as part of the Jewish Museum in Prague.
The last Jewish residents of Mikulov are brought to Brno and deported to concentration camps and murdered.

Copyright © 2010 Bob Lenk

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