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Cheb, Czech Republic

CHEB (Ger. Eger), town in West Bohemia, Czech Republic. The community there, one of the oldest in Bohemia, dated from the 13th century. The privileges granted to Cheb Jewry by the rulers were successively endorsed by the kings of Bohemia, from Ottokar II in 1266 to Charles IV in 1347. When in 1322 the town was pawned to the king, the privileges of the Jews were explicitly included in the agreement and reendorsed whenever the status of the town was reconfirmed, as in 1347 and 1385. The community had increased to almost 3,000 by the 14th century; almost all were massacred in 1350. The Jewish street became known as "Mordgaesschen," i.e., "Murder Lane" (the Jewish street today). Jews again began to settle in Cheb in 1352 but were forbidden to live in the former Jewish street. In 1364 Charles IV confirmed their right to a synagogue and cemetery. At the election of the town council in 1386, four Judenmeister were also appointed. Sigismund I granted certain privileges to the Jews, but in 1430 expelled them from Cheb at the request of the townspeople. The synagogue was converted into a church and the cemetery was closed. Jews were permitted to return to Cheb in 1435, but were again expelled in 1502. In 1463 King George of Podebrad permitted them to build a synagogue. During the intervals in which the community was able to flourish peaceably, a number of well-known Jewish scholars were active in Cheb. Rabbi Nathan (second half of the 14th century, first half of the 15th century) acquired international fame here. He died and was buried in Jerusalem. From the end of the 17th to the middle of the 18th centuries a few Jewish families lived there. They left for unknown reasons. A new congregation was established in 1862 and grew rapidly. By the beginning of the 20th century the name of Eger had become a byword for rabid antisemitism in the Hapsburg empire. There were 515 Jews living in Cheb in 1921, and 491 in 1930 (1.5% of the total population), of whom 75 declared their nationality as Jewish. During the Sudeten crisis of 1938 the Jewish community left Cheb. On September 23 the city's two synagogues were burned down. In January 1945 a transport of prisoners from Auschwitz stopped at the local railroad station and 139 dead bodies were removed. They were cremated at the local crematorium. In the cemetery a monument in memory of Nazi victims was dedicated in 1950. At nearby Pořiči another 180 bodies were removed from the same train, the victims having died en route or been shot. They were subsequently cremated or buried at the local cemetery.

A congregation of about 200 was organized in 1945, but dispersed in 1947. In 1962 ten Jewish families were living in Cheb. In 1969 a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust was unveiled on the site of the Jewish cemetery destroyed by the Nazis.

Noted Jews born in Cheb include Norbert *Frýd (1913–1976), who wrote about the Holocaust in his native country; the German-Jewish poet Hugo Zuckermann (1881–1914), and Paul Loewy-Levi (1891–1970), a pioneer of the puppet theater and stage designer.


Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 184–5; J. Simon, in: MGWJ, 44 (1900), 297–319, 345–57; M. Grunwald, ibid., 71 (1927), 416–8; A. Wilkowitsch, in: H. Gold (ed.), Juden und Judengemeinden Boehmens (1934), 121–9; H. Horowitz, in: Zeitschrift fuer Geschichte der Juden in der Tschechoslowakei, 2 (1931), 127–30; 4 (1934), 5–9; Bondy-Dvorsky, 1; A. Stein, Die Geschichte der Juden in Boehmen (1904), 22–30; H. Klaubert, in: Zeitschrift fuer Geschichte der Juden (1965), 59–64. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Fiedler, Jewish Sights of Bohemia and Moravia (1991), 83–84.

[Isaac Ze'ev Kahane / Yeshayahu Jellinek (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.