The Kynzvart curio cabinet conceals hundreds and thousands of unique objects which already astonished the visitors of the castle museum in the time of Prince Metternich. The use of the original archive catalog, the original handwritten inventory books and documents now helps to clarify the origin and history of many notable old and exotic curiosities and give back to them their long forgotten histories.
© Dr. Milos Riha, castle steward of the Castle Kynzvart (Koenigswart), Czech Republic, 2004
© Translation: Ladislaw Roth, 2006; Harriet Landseer, 2007
The town of Kynzvart developed into a thriving commercial center as it lies on a strategic location - on the trade route from Bavaria to Prague. The Jewish traders who established their presence in Kynzvart in the 14th century furthered this development. A Jewish cemetery was founded here in 1405, and by 1430 the Jewish community in Kynzvart numbered 180 families in. Jewish families driven out of nearby Cheb (Eger) also found a refuge in Kynzvart. A synagogue was built in the "Jewish Enclosure" (Judenhof, currently Male namesti) in the 15th century. Two historical homes were preserved in the Judenhof until Kristallnacht (9/10 November 1938). One belonged to the Chieh Elder; the other to the Rabbi. A medieval mikveh in the cellar of the "New York" house (built in 1775) survived the Nazi era. This house is probably the oldest Jewish building in western Bohemia.
David Oppenheim (1664-1736), the Chief Rabbi of Prague and Bohemia, and the author of many rabbinical texts, was born in Kynzvart. His library is now part of the Bodleian Library.
When commerce declined in the late 18th century, the Jews of Kynzvart sought opportunities elsewhere. At about the same time Emperor Joseph II decreed that all subjects had to adopt surnames. Three Kynzvart traders, the brothers Joel Baruch, Löwel Baruch, and Samuel Löwel Baruch, adopted the surname Königswart. They became quite wealthy and even opened branches of their business in Fürth and in Vienna. They also became long-term benefactors of the Kynzvart Jewish community. Judah Löwel Baruch Königswart founded a line that gained the status of minor nobility (Freiherr or ’free lord’) von Köningswart. Markus Königswarter brought life to the banking business in Frankfurt. The Frankfurt city council renamed the street "Grüner Weg" in his honor to "Königswarter Strasse" (Koenigswarter Street) on 31 January 1870. This remains a prestigious address to this day. The street is located close to the Zoo and Alfred Brehm Square, one stop by subway from the Central Station.
Jonas Königswarter, the son of Markus, became the director of the National Bank of Austria. He played a key part in the development of railroads in Austria-Hungary. He was also the president of the Viennese Jewish community (1868-1871). His son Moritz was one of the most important financiers in Vienna. His contemporaries considered him the most significant personality in Austrian Jewry over the preceding 50 years. The house in the Kynzvart Judenhof in which he was born burned down in 1849. Maximilian Königswarter founded a banking house in Paris. Other members of the clan were active in Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Hannover. They all maintained contacts with Kynzvart and supported the Jewish community there.
The history of the Jews and Jewish community in Kynzvart forms a part of the cultural heritage of the entire region. The synagogue, which survived two fires in 1865, was the oldest building standing in Kynzvart up to the time of the Nazi occupation. The last Jews left Kynzvart in 1938. The abandoned homes and the synagogue were plundered, set on fire, and razed to the ground during Kristallnacht. The Jewish cemetery was also completely demolished. The tombstones were used to pave the Kynzvart town square. In 2005 we observed the cemetery's 600th anniversary. In this way, we tried to fulfill our fundamental obligation toward the persecuted race and to recognize their remarkable history.
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