Tikkun Pacov is a registered, apolitical, non-profit, non-governmental organisation striving to keep the Jewish history and cultural heritage in the Pacov area alive. Tikkun (Hebrew for repair) for us means the renewal of historical memory and memory of the tragically deceased Jewish residents of Pacov. All donations to the transparent bank account No. 2701205032/2010 (IBAN: CZ72 2010 0000 0027 0120 5032; SWIFT/BIC: FIOBCZPPXXX) are highly appreciated and will be used in our ongoing efforts to save the local synagogue. Our address is: 320 Náměstí Svobody Sq, 395 01 Pacov, Czech Republic. You can also contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The statutes are available for inspection via the public register.
Pacov lies in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands area of the Czech Republic. Currently it has about 5,000 inhabitants. There are no resident Jews in today Pacov. However, a closer examination reveals traces of a community whose history stretches over several centuries, even if today it is almost forgotten. Few come to visit the Jewish cemetery managed by the Jewish Community of Prague. And almost no-one would recognize the former synagogue in a shabby building hidden behind a bottling plant processing spring water from the nearby Stražiště hill.
But things have begun to change for the better. There is a growing local interest in the half-forgotten history and fate of Jewish fellow citizens, a vast majority of which were engulfed in the tragedy of the Holocaust. The local interest in renewing their memory now also includes the restoration of tangible monuments left by the Jewish people in Pacov.
The former synagogue, one of the most significant Jewish landmarks in Pacov, has a chance for a new life.
Jews in Pacov
The origins of the Jewish community in Pacov can be traced back to the late 16th century. A recently published urban law-code of Pacov mentions an agreement between Jiřík Pekař and a Jew named Jakub on the use of an alley “by the butcher’s” that was made on the Mid-Lent Wednesday in 1595. Some 100 years later a religious community was established and apparently flourished without too much trouble next to a predominantly Roman Catholic population, because Pacov even functioned temporarily as the seat of a district rabbi in the early 19th century. The first prayer room was probably situated in a private home. A freestanding Classical synagogue was erected around 1823 and later rebuilt in the Neo-Romanesque style (a more detailed description available here).
The number of Jews in Pacov gradually grew until it peaked around 1880 at over 200 persons. Afterwards it slowly declined as many left for foreign countries or bigger cities, mainly Prague. In November 1942 the 97 Jews who then lived in Pacov were transported to Theresienstadt and later to Auschwitz concentration camps where all but six of them eventually perished. No seniors or children survived – including the youngest Holocaust victim Helenka Schecková, who was 2 years old at the time. The last Pacov rabbi Nathan Guttmann died in Auschwitz too. His daughter Nelly survived the Holocaust and now lives in Israel.
While making up a small fraction of the total population, the Jews were nonetheless greatly involved in its economic and political life and active in the town council right up to the World War II. They operated several big companies – a leather goods manufactory, wholesale store, large farm estate, and others. After the war, only a few survivors returned to Pacov. The Jewish community disappeared and so did the memory of it several decades later.
Local initiative to save the synagogue
Since 2015 a grass-roots effort of local citizens has been working towards the reconstruction of the synagogue and establishment of a museum/memorial of the former Jewish community in Pacov. In April 2017 the Tikkun Pacov synagogue association received non-profit status in the Czech Republic so it can move forward with their plans to restore the Pacov synagogue.
The association has now reached the final stages of negotiations with the current owner of the synagogue who agreed to sell the building.
The grass-roots efforts have so far resulted in several events in Pacov including a high school lecture, a public presentation and screening of historical film footage, and a public discussion with the Czech politician and sociologist Fedor Gál on anti-Semitism and Holocaust.
Recent research utilizing the archives of the Jewish Community in Prague and the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation in Los Angeles as well as testimonies of survivors and eyewitnesses from Pacov area has provided remarkable results including the discovery of the last Pacov rabbi’s daughter who visited Pacov in June 2017.
The Tikkun Pacov synagogue association has taken first steps towards securing financial support for the reconstruction of the synagogue and its conversion into a museum/educational center commemorating the Jews of Pacov as well as the issue of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. The fate of this monument is inseparably entwined with the remembrance of Jewish community that forms an important part of the historical heritage and memory of Pacov, the Czech Republic, and Europe.