Jewish settlement in the Czech country is nowadays, after the Nazi genocide, the matter of past. Specially bad situation is in the South and East Bohemia, where there are no Jewish communities any more and where only a few people of Jewish origin have been living so far. Somewhere however sacral monuments have been preserved at least - cemeteries and synagogues.
In the present Prachatice district three precious jewish cemeteries have been preserved: Those in Čkyně and in Vlachovo Březí have been repaired in 80th and 90th, the one in Dub is still under repair. Also a burial place of 96 jewish victims of Nazism were laid out piously in Volary.
The beginning of the Jewish settlement in Čkyně goes back to 16th century. Under feudalism the residence of Jewish people in the certain place - without full rights in the society - was not a matter of course. Their life was conditional on complacence of the ruler, feudal nobles, and church, on tolerance of the Christian population, political circumstances. Small town Čkyně was a trade and market center of the south-east Volyně district in late 16th century and several jewish families lived here already. Only one family survived the Thirty´s War. Roll of Assesment of 1654: "two Jews on the Vysoký dvůr in Čkyně: Šťastný and Izák". Then the settlement spread again, in the years 1703 to 1728 that time owner of Čkyně Adam František Hrušovský z Hrušova defended "his" Jews against the Volyně council. Theresian land-registry from the year 1748 indicates ten jewish families, six of them dealt in wool, linen and feathers, two families in skin, one family in spirit and one Jew worked as a painter. With the date August 16, 1825 administrator of authorities gives 151 jewish people next to 526 christian ones. In the patriotic work "Das Königreich Böhmen" 34 jewish families is given in the total number of 207 persons to the year 1840. After the year 1849, when the legislative segregation of jewish population in Austria ended, the walk out from villages and small towns to bigger towns started. In the year 1890 the synagogue in Čkyně was closed, only 11 people lived here in 1930. With leaving of ghettoes the gradual proccess of asimilation to the Czech nation began, especially in bigger towns however the German orientation in language, nation, and culture remained, as the heritage of the ruler Joseph´s authoritative germanisation.
From the Čkyně Jews comes a significant Czech lawyer prof. of Univ. and doctor of law Alois Zucker (1842-1906), he was a professor of the lawyer faculty of the Czech Univerzity in Prague, author of broad scientific work, the dean of the Czech Lawyer Faculty, a representative of the Reich Council in Vienna (1885-1901), and a member of the Royal Czech Company of Theory and of the Czech Academy.
Other native people of jewish origin began to participate in public life, e.g. the first postman in Čkyně was Josef Lederer (died in 1905, buried in the local jewish cemetery).
In the Prachatice district there were four synagogues in the past, that even before the holocaust stopped to serve for purpose of worship. Synagogues in Čkyně, in Vlachovo Březí and in Dub stopped to be in use before the year 1920, as the local jewish communities were abolished due to significant fall of believers. Those synagogues were then sold by succession jewish communities to private buyers, who rebuilt them for residential buildings. The synagogue in Vimperk, which was built by the Vimperk Jewish Community in the year 1925 and consecrated ceremonially on January 3, 1926, was however burn down already on November 10, 1938 by Nazis. Synagogues in Vlachovo Březí and Dub lost their sacral character being rebuilt, only the Čkyně synagogue has preserved it so far.
Nowadays´ Čkyně synagogue (Nb. 105), which stands not far from the centre of the town towards the railway station, is the second one here. Beginning of local Jewish settlement goes back to the late 16th century and the old synagogue stood within the former manor, so called "Vysoký dvůr", next to the out-buildings of the manor, and it origined maybe from the 18th century. After the year 1827 the that time owner of the Čkyně demesne the doctor of law JUDr. Karel Claudi settled with local jewish community to take over the building and as a replacement he had the new synagogue built on his own expense in the year 1828, that followed in services as a property of jewish community. All buildings of the former manor were pulled down in the half of 20th century, the local Standard Farming Cooperative arose here and later blocks of flats.
In the Memorial Book of the Čkyně Parochial Office (kept from the year 1786 and put up in the parish ) it is written in Latin about the construction and opening of the new synagogue of that time church administrator František Stáně. The construction of the building was launched on April 14, 1828 and on September 26 of the same year it was already finished. It used to be one of the biggest and most beautiful synagogues of former "Prácheňský" district, the report talks about a very nice building fit out with magnificence, not having analogue.
Later the winter prey room has been built to the new building in the west side, which was possible to heat. It is situated on the first floor and below it, (and partly below the empora of the main prey room) other rooms are on the ground floor served originally as a jewish school and flats of clerics. This was confirmed by a construction-art research of Dr. Jan Muk from Prague as well as by an exploration of the designer of the reconstruction arch. František Petrlík fromz České Budějovice.
At the time of its flourishing, in 19th centuryí, the Čkyně jewish community had its own clerics (rabbi and cantor), and šames looked after the synagogue. Besides local Jews also the co-religionists form the wide surroundings took part in services, mainly at feasts. Regular services had been held here untill the year 1895, then they were transfered to Vimperk, but rabbi still lived in Čkyně. The last ones were after the year 1890 Jiří Bohumil Stranský, Mojžíš Reitler (from 1897) and Josef Bloch (from 1903). For occasional services the synagogue still served till the end of the first World War, under the function of rabbi Julius Löwenbein, who practised in Vimperk, new seat of the jewish community. The Čkyně Jewish Community was abolished in 1890, only 3 jewish families lived here in number of 11 persons, while in Vimperk (including Boubská village) 20 jewish families lived in the same year of a total number 60 persons.
In 1922 the Vimperk Jewish Community sold the former Čkyně synagogue to the Španingers (the money was used for the new Vimperk synagogue construction), who then made the reconstruction and adaptation of the object for a family house and a workshop. To the east part of the synagogue, where the main prey room was, the floor was included, on the ground floor there was set a cabinet-maker´s workshop, the first floor was residential. The west part of the synagogue with the winter prey room has preserved not injured. It was lived in permanently untill the year 1983, which has made its existence possible up to now. Other synagogues, that survived the Crystal Night 1938, were mostly pulled down during the communism or rebuilt for other purposes.
After the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia inlands the situation of jewish inhabitants became worse every day. After the overriding of Vimperk a few Jews found asylum in Čkyně, but with application of Norimberk Race Rules the jewish population was step by step deprived of civil and human rights, excluded from political, economical and cultural life and the property was dispossessed what was the lose of material basis of the existence. Deportations to the camps of concentration and attrition followed, where the death was waiting fot the great majority of them. The main reception camp in this process of genocida was so called ghetto in Terezín in our country, where the whole town was gradually modificated into the prison camp from November 1941 to June 1942. In November 1942 the deportations in Prachatice district began, when the jewish people had to turn up to Klatovy town, the seat of the German "Oberlandrat" and assembly point for SouthWest Bohemia transports. From Klatovy two transports were dispatched: Cd with 650 prisoners, which came to Terezín on November 26, 1942, and Ce with 619 prisoners, in Terezín on November 30, 1942. From both the transports totaly 1. 196 people were tortured to death and only 72 were saved (1 prisoner was not included).
14 of 16 Čkyně citizens of Jewish origin deceased as victims of Nazi "Last Solution of the Jewish Matter". 2 women died in Terezín, 7 men and 5 women did not survived Osvětim. Only 2 local citizens stayed alive thanks to their so called mixed marriages (Karolina Španingerová and Jaroslav Lederer; they are not living now). Mainly from the Lederer family other Čkyně natives died, who did not live here at that time yet.
From the former synagogue the people went for their death, too - sister of Karolina Španingerová Julie Červinková and former Vimperk trader Isidor Schwager with sons Rudolf and František. For all the victims from Čkyně and surroundings the pious room is dedicated in the local jewish cemetery, where their names are hewn into the stone for everlasting remembrance. The tablets are devoted by our member, Jan Podlešák M.A., who is the author of this text as well. In the year 2008 it will be 180 years from the origin of our synagogue, I wish its beauty and signification were renovated since that time.