Horažďovice ( [ˈɦoraʒɟovɪtsɛ]; German: Horaschdowitz) is a town in the Plzeň Region of the Czech Republic. It lies on the Otava River, some 50 km (31 mi) to the South-East from the region capital of Plzeň.
Horažďovice is also a Municipality with Extended Competence and a Municipality with Commissioned Local Authority within the same borders.
A fortified settlement was established here in the 10th century and two centuries later the stone castle became an administrative centre of the Prácheň region (embracing today’s region of Horažďovice, Sušice, Kašperské Hory, Strakonice and Vimperk). When the stronghold lost its significance, the centre was moved to a settlement on the Otava river. Around 1200, St. Peter's Church was constructed in Horažďovice along with a fortress in the surrounding neighborhood which was connected by a wooden bridge. The king Václav II. gave the settlement the status and rights of town in the year 1292.
The greatest disaster for Horažďovice was the Thirty Years' War, when there was damage caused by two large fires and the town was twice plundered by Swedish troops. The badly damaged castle was rebuilt, the monastery was enlarged and a chapel by Loreta was built during the Šternberks reign in the 17th century.
The 13th century fortification included a Baroque castle which was rebuilt during the Švihovský reign as a Renaissance castle, with the only remains being cellars carved in the rock and a rotund tower. Since 1920, the castle houses a town museum. An important monument is the Convent church of the Virgin Mary standing on the site of the former chapel of St. Michael from the 13th century. For almost 100 years it was the seat of The Order of sisters of Notre Dame for the whole country. After 1989 The Order returned. Near the town, on the hill Prácheň, is the Church of St. Kliment - the ninth Christian church in Bohemia, probably consecrated by Metoděj.
The town has a population of almost 6 000 people today. In 2003 the town office became an administrative centre for 20 villages representing 12,500 people.
Horažďovice's location along the trade route from Prague to Bavaria Trade ensured a promising future for Horažďovice. One of the most significant families with a large impact on the history of the settlement was the Bavor House of Strakonice, who built a Gothic fortress here in the 13th century. The town enjoyed great prosperity in the second half of the 15thcentury, when the ownership was taken over by Půta Švihovský from Rýzmberk. He initiated development of administrative centres in the town vicinity such as the castles Rabí, Švihov and Velhartice.
The Rummerskirchs had a significant impact on the town by introducing pearl oysters farming in the 19th century. The collecting of pearls was organised by the gentry and was even attended by the Emperor František I. in the years 1809 and 1818. In the last pearl oyster harvest in 1944, 20,000 oysters were opened. After the Second World War the farming of pearl oysters declined. The last owners of the township were the Kinskys of Vchynice and Tetov. They laid out a garden in the style of English park with many rare specimens of trees and plants. The English park is called Ostrov today. The Kinskys owned the township until 1945. In 1898, Heřman Steiner, Zikmund Friedler and Josef Geschmay opened a starch factory which was so successful that it inspired potato farmers across Bohemia to form an agricultural cooperative, which purchased the factory in 1912. It still operates as LYCKEBY AMYLEX and is the largest producer of potato starch in the Czech Republic. Jewish Merchants were notable as the source of much of Horazdovice's commerce during the 19th and early 20th centuries
A Jewish presence in Horažďovice is believed to have existed from ancient times and the first written reference to the Jewish community is contained in the records of the Thirty Years' War (1618 to 1648) which indicate that 10 Jewish families were present in 1618. Archival evidence indicates that a Jewish cemetery existed in 1619. The first synagogue and Jewish school were founded in 1684.
Officially banned from guilds, the early Jewish residents were farmers and traders. The earliest Jewish homes were concentrated in an area that is now called Prácheňská Street.
The Jews of Horažd’ovice were subject to orders and decrees that made life extraordinarily difficult throughout much of their entire history.In the 17th century, the number of Jewish residents in Horažd’ovice was limited to 10 families, partially in an effort to discourage competition for local tradesmen. Renting homes to Jews was strictly prohibited. In the late 17th century, an edict prohibited the Jews from allowing their cattle to graze with the communal herd. In 1687, Jews were targeted further with special taxes, prohibitions on carrying firearms and an edict requiring Jews to wear a yellow cloth badge.
The most far-reaching restrictions on Horažd’ovice's Jews were a series of measures known as the Family Laws "Familianten", introduced by Austrian Emperor Charles VI in 1726 and designed to limit Jewish population numbers. All marriages between Jews required the State’s permission. No Jew under the age of 30 could marry and only the eldest male in each family was permitted to do so.
The repeal of the Family Laws in the mid 1800s launched what many regard as the "golden age" of Horažd’ovice Jewry. By 1890, the Jewish community reached its peak population of 300 – 9% of the total population. The influence of the Jewish community however was far greater as they were the driving force behind much of Horažd’ovice’s Industrial Revolution.
In 1873, Samuel Kohn opened a matchstick factory that produced matches with colourful wax heads in decorative boxes for export to the east. On the adjacent property, a paper manufacturing plant owned by Rud, Firth and Bernard Gans was particularly important as it employed many workers and purchased straw from local farmers. In 1898, Heřman Steiner, Zikmund Friedler and Josef Geschmay opened a starch factory which was so successful that it inspired potato farmers across Bohemia to form an agricultural cooperative, which purchased the factory in 1912. It still operates as LYCKEBY AMYLEX and is the largest producer of potato starch in the Czech Republic.
The best known Jewish business in Horažd’ovice’s was the vinegar and spirits company "Münz Brothers" founded by Simon Münz in 1831 and famed for its "Münzovka" whiskey. Expanded by his sons, Eduard and Karel Münz, and later by František and Pavel Münz, it became the largest distributor of spirits and vinegar in the region and was the sole distributor of almost all foreign wines and domestic mineral waters. In 1859, Heřman Katz founded what was to become the largest grocery mercantile house in southern Bohemia. In 1907, his son Otto Katz founded a wholesale grocery house which was as prosperous as his father’s.
A significant number of Jews emigrated from Horažďovice from 1850 to 1938, particularly to the USA, Australia and South America, some inspired by the community’s international business perspective. Adolph Sabath, emigrated to the US in 1881 aged 15 and served in the US House of Representatives for 48 years representing the 5th Congressional district of Illinois. In 1880, Sigmund Eisner emigrated to the US from Horažďovice aged 21 with the family sewing machine. By 1922 the Sigmund Eisner Company in Red Bank, NJ became the largest manufacturer of uniforms in the US with over 2,000 employees; it became the exclusive supplier for the Boy Scouts of America after providing uniforms for the Spanish–American War. His great-grandson Michael Eisner was CEO of the Walt Disney Company from 1984 to 2005.
During WW II, the Jewish Community was deported by German military authorities as part of The Final Solution. 93 Horažd’ovice Jews were transferred via railway on transport Cd to Terezín on November 26, 1942. Six Jews were deported by other means. Only seven survived. No Jewish community exists in Horažd’ovice today.
In 2014, Westminster Synagogue in London, which holds one of the surviving torah scrolls from the Horažd’ovice Synagogue, received permission from the town to place memorial stones "Stolpersteine" in front of the homes of Jewish families who were deported by German military in WW II and perished. To date, 15 "Stolpersteine" designed by artist Gunter Demnig have been placed at three homes in two separate ceremonies under the auspices of the Horažd’ovice municipal authority.Rudolph I of Bohemia,died here
Otakar Ševčík, born here
Martin Joseph Nováček, the father of Ottokar Nováček was born here
Milan Nakonečný, born here
Sigmund Eisner, born here