Polna Medieval Jewish Quarter
and the Baroque Church of the Assumption of the Virgen Mary
Order Tour Code: C EE9
The Jewish Quarter in Polna is one of a few Jewish Quarters that survived from the middle ages. The place is known also, because of the Hilsner Affair. There was restored also the national cultural monument, the baroque Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady with the beautiful interior.
We recommend a combination with the visit of Trebic.
8 HOUR ROUND TRIP
A combination with Jindrichuv Hradec medieval town and castle , Telc medieval town and castle ,
Velke Popovice brewery , Brno town ,
Knights Templar wine cellars , Moravsky Krumlov castle with the Slav Epic paitings or Coloured Modern Artistic Glass trip ,
Polna Jewish Ghetto –In a small old medieval town survived the Jewish ghetto that was founded in 1681 .
The Jewish quarter makes 32 houses with the synagogue from the year 1684 .
The ghetto survived also its original triangle basis .
The famous American actress and singer Barbara Streissand planned to make the movie Yentl here.
The Jewish Cemetery – is situated 700 m from the city center . It was expanded several times since the 16th century .
The cemetery is being kept by the group of independent enthusiastic people from the near towns .
The Jews in Polna have been mentioned in the town chronicles since the half of
16 century. Their original settlement on the periphery of the town, at a place called
Pod Kalvárií (Under the Calvary) lasted till 1682. In that year they were allowed to
build their own Jewish town - a closed quarter with two gates. The synagogue was
built two years later, in 1684.
In 1717 a common house - the rabbi´s residence was founded next to the synagogue.
After several great fi res that aff ected the Jewish town in the years 1712,
1734, 1740, 1823 and 1863, the synagogoue had always been rebuilt. In the
beginning of 19century there were wooden stools for 80 women. At that time,
in the main hall there were 118 seats for men and each seat had its particular
owner. The men´s part was usually entered from the street and a lengthwise corridor,
there was a special entrance to the women´s gallery. The original synagogue
had a baroque appearance; four typically elongated windows with pointed
arch and a fragment of paint (uncovered during the restoration in 1998) remain
The synagogue served as a house of prayer up to the beginning of 1940´s.
During the era of Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the Polna Jews were taken to concentration camps. The synagogue served the German authorities as a storehouse of the furniture seized by the Nazis. Valuable religious items and
interior equipment were taken to Prague, where a „Museum of Extinct Race“ was to be established.
In 1951, the Czechoslovak Hussite Church purchased the synagogue, later there was a storehouse of paints, chemical fertilizers, there had also been a waste paper scrap-yard. The building became dilapidated. In 1968 the ceiling caved in
and the roof fell in a year later.
The peripheral brickwork of the building served for storing wooden fuel and old junk of the nearby living families. The social changes after November 1989 stopped the planned demolition of the synagogue. The Club for Historical Polna,
founded in January 1990, initiated the rescue of the synagogue. The Club members removed the rubble and convinced the new town leadership of the importance of preserving the synagogue. The peripheral brickwork was completed in
the upper parts and the whole building was temporarily roofed.
In 1994 the town authority approved the restitution of the restored „rabbinical“ house and the synagogue to the property of the Federation of the Jewish Communities
in Prague. In 1996 - 2000 a restoration of the synagogue was under way, at expense of 3,5 mil.CZK (with fi nancial participation of Polná). The Regional
Jewish Museum (with expositions „Leopold Hilsner´s Story“ and „The History of the
Jews in Polná“) was established in the restored synagoue in September 2000.
Murder In Polna - Exhibition To Mark The Centenary Of The Hilsner Affair
The myth of Jewish ritual murder, known as the blood libel, came into being at a time of religious intolerance, crusades and persecution of Jews. The first blood libel case occurred in 1235 in Fulda, Germany, and the most infamous case took place in 1475 in Trent, Italy.
These accusations had tragic consequences, with the torturing of hundreds of Jews, pogroms and expulsions. In the 17th century the blood libel was particularly widespread in Eastern Europe. Not a single case was ever proved and the myth was often refuted by experts, as well as by secular and church authorities.
In the late 19th century, anti-Semitism became a means of political attack in Germany, Austria, France and the countries of Eastern Europe. It was primarily used by nationalists and Christian Socialist and radical parties in the fight against liberalism and social democracy. Berlin and Vienna were the centres of anti-Semitic policy in Central Europe. Charges of ritual murder also became a tool of aggressive political campaigns. The more absurd the allegation, the more difficult the defence against it. Just as in the Middle Ages, the allegations of individuals became allegations of the entire nation and the Jewish faith. In the years between 1881 to 1913, a number of baseless and completely trumped-up charges of ritual murder were made by anti-Semites, patriots, clericalists and radicals in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine and Russia. The investigations, however, never revealed anything but lies and rumours.
The most infamous anti-Semitic political trial was the Dreyfus Affair in France (1894-1906), which has often been compared to the Hilsner Affair in terms of its significance. Although Dreyfus was not accused of ritual murder but of treason, the course of the trial and its consequences were similar in many ways. In both cases innocent victims were accused and condemned. However, while Dreyfus spent five years on Devil’s Island and lived to see at least partial rehabilitation, Hilsner spent 10 years in prison and never lived to see a revision of his trial.
The murder of 19-year-old Anezka Hruzova (b. 16 April 1879) took place in Březina Wood near Polná, a hundred years ago on Ash Wednesday, 29 March 1899. The body was found in the morning on Holy Saturday, 1 April. She had bled to death from a deep cut on the neck , although there was allegedly only a small amount of blood at the scene of the crime. There was immediately talk of ritual killing. Easter that year fell on the Jewish Passover, and rumours of the blood libel were revived in Polná. Although there were other suspects, the investigation concentrated on Leopold Hilsner (b. 10 July 1876), a 22-year-old Jewish vagabond of low intelligence, who was arrested without any incriminating evidence due to public pressure. The charge was backed by the local elite and influenced by a seditious anti-Semitic press campaign and by heightened Czech-German national disputes on the political scene. A key role in the trial was played by the plaintiff, the well-known Czech nationalist and radical deputy Dr. Karel Baxa. Under these circumstances and only on the basis of inconsistent and indirect evidence, Leopold Hilsner was condemned to death in the Kutná Hora Trial (12 - 16 September 1899) for involvement in the murder of A. Hruzova. The verdict was quashed on 25 April 1900 on the basis of T. G. Masaryk s protest at the absurdity of the accusation and in light of recent findings. At the new trial in the regional court of Písek (25 October - 14 November 1899), Hilsner was also charged with involvement in the murder of Marie Klimova, who had died two years previously. The trial followed the same scenario, and Leopold Hilsner, once again on the basis of indirect evidence, was condemned to death for involvement in both murders. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on the basis of an imperial reprieve on 11 June 1901, although a number of requests to renew the trial were turned down. Shortly before the end of the First World War (24 March 1918) Hilsner was pardoned by Charles I. He spent the rest of his life in Velké Mezirici, Prague and Vienna; he died on 9 January 1928 at the age of 52 in Vienna. The real murderer of Anezka Hruzova was never found.
The trial of Leopold Hilsner was factually void, and the probative proceedings were completely inconclusive. The first crime evidently had a sexual motive of a sadistic nature, while the cause of death was not even established in the second case, and anumber of testimonies included factual inconsistencies. Hilsner himself was of a timid nature and hardly capable of such a violent act. It was clear to many people at the time, as it is today, that this was mainly a political trial, greatly influenced by anti-Semitism, the nationalistic press and the tense political situation with regards Czech-German relations. Towards the end of the century the Habsburg Monarchy was floundering in a drawn-out national and political crisis, and was no longer able to defend itself against these pressures. T. G. Masaryk intervened in the trial not to defend primarily Hilsner, but to defend the good sense, pragmatism and culture of Czech political life.
The trial of Leopold Hilsner was also the first affair in Czech society to achieve such widespread media publicity - especially in the tabloid, anti-Semitic and radical papers, as well as in various pamphlets, cartoons, picture postcards, anonymous leaflets, letters and popular songs. The exhibition of the Jewish Museum in Prague features such lesser-known material so as to highlight the events of a hundred years ago from a new perspective, in the context of the political scene of the day, anti-Semic publication and the period atmosphere. It is of significance today, because Czech historiographers have so far failed to devote sufficient attention to the Polna Trial and to the Czech politics of the period. Such themes as anti-Semitism and nationalism were never too welcome in the past.
Text: Dr. Arno Parik Collaboration: Michal Frankl, Andrea Braunova
E from Prague , 2 hours
1)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 - 9hour round trip
Trips combinations :
2)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Telc SEE1 - 10hour round trip
3)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Trebic Jewish Quarter - 10 hour round trip
4)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + C. Sternberk castle SE2 - 10hour round trip
5)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Kasak´s glassworks E3 - 10hour round trip
6)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Kutna Hora town E1 - 11hour round trip
7)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Kasak´s glassworks E3 + Cesky Sternberk castle SE2 - 11hour round trip
8)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Zleby castle E2 - 11hour round trip
9)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Cesky Sternberk castle SE2 + Kutna Hora town E1 - 11hour round trip
10)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Konopiste SE1 - 11hour round trip
11)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Telc SEE1 + Kasak´s glassworks E3 - 12hour round trip
12)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Konopiste castle SE1 + Cesky Sternberk castle SE2 - 12hour round trip
13)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Kasak´s glassworks E3 + Kutna Hora town E1 - 12hour round trip
14)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Kourim E4 or Prerov E5 folk architecture museum + Kasak´s glassworks E3 - 12hour round trip
15)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Kourim E4 or Prerov E5 folk architecture museum + Zleby castle E2 - 12hour round trip
16)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9+ Telc town and chateau SEE1 + Kourim E4 or Prerov E5 folk architecture museum - 12hour round trip
17)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Telc town and chateau SEE1 + Kutna Hora town E1 - 12hour round trip
18)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Kourim E4 or Prerov E5 folk architecture museum + Kutna Hora town E1 - 12hour round trip
19)Polna medieval Jewish Quarter trip number SEE9 + Kutna Hora medieval town E1 + Kasak´s glassworks E3 - 12hour round trip
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