The Sobědruhy Jewish Community
Jews settled in the village of Sobědruhy (German: Soborten or Teplitz-Soborten) prior to the year 1500 when the old wooden synagogue burned and was replaced by a stone structure. Two large lamps dated 1553 and 1654 once decorated the exterior. According to contemporary regional literature, the synagogue was later completely rebuilt in the gothic style. In 1750 the Empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Maria Theresia, gave the Jewish Community of Sobedruhy the funds to build a clock and a tower for the synagogue. The Empress had passed through the town and asked what building the synagogue was. She was told that it was a Jewish house of worship. The Empress had previously decreed that all houses of worship in the Empire must have a clock tower. This was the only known synagogue in Europe to have such a clock tower.
The Jewish Community, for most of the years of its existence, was Orthodox in its religious ritual and style. This was in contrast to the nearby city of Teplice, whose community was predominantly Reform. The Jewish population of Sobědruhy lived in the area known as the "Judengasse". Until 1848, this area was the Jewish ghetto and was the mandatory area of residence. The "Judengasse" which was really only one street, contained small houses, the synagogue and Jewish Community offices. The street was sometimes called the Tempel-Strasse. In 1900 a building housing the offices of the Jewish Community was constructed adjacent to the synagogue. A Jewish cemetery dating to approximately 1669 was located near the ghetto area on the Jewish Hill. It is a national cultural landmark and is ones of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the present-day Czech Republic.
Until approximately the middle of the 19th century, Jews formed a majority of the population of the village. Sobědruhy was a typical industrialized suburban village. The Jewish community owned and worked in many of the local factories. One well-known, large factory was that of Moses Bloch and Sons. This factory, which produced braids, paper wrappings and cardboard spools, was established in 1870 and closed down around 1948.
The Jewish Community of Sobědruhy had diminished in size by the time the Nazis invaded the border regions of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Many Jewish families had long before moved to nearby Teplice. Those Jews still living in the community in 1938 fled, as did other Jews who found themselves living in occupied German territory. In 1938 the Sobědruhy Jewish Community ceased to exist never to be re-established. Among the over 77,000 Czech victims of the Nazi Holocaust were many from Teplice, Sobědruhy and surrounding areas.
Today, Sobědruhy is a district of the city of Teplice, having been annexed in 1960. It is known officialy as Teplice-Sobědruhy. Many of the surrounding suburbs and villages were annexed to the city of Teplice after World War Two. Little physical evidence of the Jewish Community remains, though there are some small remnants. Parts of the "Judengasse", now called Stara Ulice remain. The synagogue was severely damaged during World War II and was pulled down sometime before 1958. The famous clock from the synagogue tower is now part of the collections of the Teplice Regional Museum. Along with the demolition of the synagogue was the demolition of the adjacent small house in which four generations of my Bauch and Koller and Preisler families were born and raised. The Bauch & Preisler Family were a part of the Sobědruhy community from the early 1700's right up to the invasion of the Nazis in 1938.
The Jewish Cemetery, which dates to ca. 1669 (from the tombstone of Jeruchim Katz, died 1669), was little more than a ruin when we visited in 1997. The remnants of a funeral chapel still were evident. Tombstones remain buried under thick brush, vines and trees. It was very interested to find out recently that the cemetery site has landmark status, though it is not marked as such. There is a project underway that will eventually clean and restore the entire historic cemetery. Some work has already been done through the efforts of the Teplice Jewish congregation. The cemetery is regularly cleared of vegetation and made to look generally presentable.
The only Jewish structure that still exists in the village is the building that housed Jewish Community (Jüdische Gemeinde) offices. This structure is now a private residence. This once vital Jewish community is now consigned to history, available to us only by talking to the few older residents of Sobědruhy who remember some of the Jewish families or by looking at newly published books of old postcards that contain images of the Jewish Community of Sobědruhy and nearby Teplice.
The vital records of the Sobědruhy Jewish Community were collected by the Nazis and deposited in Prague with records of all other Jewish Communities in Bohemia and Moravia. The Nazis had planned to construct a macabre museum to a distinct race! These birth, marriage and death record books for Sobědruhy date to 1788 and cover the period up to the year 1938. They are in excellent shape and are the only official records from the Jewish Community known to have survived the Holocaust. They are available to researchers at the Central State Archives in Prague. Information contained in these and other Jewish community registers is also available by writing to the archives directly. An invaluable source of detail on Sobědruhy and all the Jewish communities of Bohemia compiled in 1934 is Die Juden und Judengemeinden Böhmens in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. This book by H. Gold is part of the collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague. A copy of this book is also part of the collections of the Leo Baeck Institute in New York.
©Julian H. Preisler 2005-2016 - www.JPreisler.com