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Mining town in western Moravia (near the Bohemian border) in today’s Czech Republic. Jews are first mentioned as residing in Jihlava (Ger., Iglau) in 1249. In 1345, Margrave Charles (later Emperor Charles IV) invited Jews to the town, where they engaged primarily in moneylending. In 1426, Margrave Albrecht V expelled the Jews of Jihlava because of their alleged interactions with the heretical Hussites. Jewish houses were divided up among the Christian populace and in 1511 the synagogue was converted into a church. Jihlava’s Jews then settled nearby, helping to found new Jewish communities in Puklice (Puklitz), Třešt’ (Triesch), Police (Pullitz), and Pirnice (Pirnitz).

Jews played an important role in developing Jihlava’s textile industry. In 1709, Jewish merchants were permitted to trade in the town upon payment of a special tax, but they were required to leave by nightfall. A few Jews were granted special permission to reside in Jihlava at the end of the eighteenth century; by 1837, a total of 17 Jews lived there legally. Jews began arriving in larger numbers following the Revolution of 1848, and the population grew rapidly after residential restrictions were lifted in 1860. There were 99 Jews in 1848; 221 in 1857; 1,090 in 1869; 1,415 in 1880; and 1,450 in 1900.

Jihlava’s first house of prayer was established in 1856; a religious congregation was officially recognized in 1862; a Moorish-style synagogue was dedicated in 1863 (with an organ added in 1896); a cemetery was consecrated in 1869; and a burial society was established in 1870. From 1890 onward, Jihlava’s religious congregation encompassed 31 towns and villages in the surrounding region. Jihlava’s first rabbi was the Hungarian-born Joachim Jakob Unger (1826–1912), who served from 1860 until his death. His successors were Friedrich Weiss, Albert Schweiger, and Arnold Grünfeld (who was killed by the Nazis in 1941). Jihlava was a German-speaking enclave; its Jews tended to identify with German language and culture until the rise of Nazism.

Composer Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) was born in nearby Kaliste and grew up in Jihlava. Siegmund Werner (1867–1928), one of Theodor Herzl’s early aides, and Julius Tandler (1869–1936), an anatomist, Austrian politician, and pioneer of social welfare, were both born in Jihlava.

Jihlava’s synagogue was torched on 10 November 1938 (Kristallnacht), and Jewish shops were demolished on 28 April 1939. Jews from the town were resettled in surrounding villages in 1940 and deported to Nazi extermination camps in 1942. Only 32 Jews returned to Jihlava after the Holocaust.

Suggested Reading

Dotyky: Židé v dějinách Jihlavska (Jihlava, Czech., 1998), incl. summary in English; Hugo Gold, ed., Die Juden und Judengemeinden Mährens in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart (Brno, Czech., 1929), pp. 243–247; Hugo Gold, ed., Gedenkbuch der untergegangenen Judengemeinden Mährens (Tel Aviv, 1974), pp. 60–66; Jens Hampel, “Das Schicksal der jüdischen Bevölkerung der Stadt Iglau, 1938–1942,” Theresienstädter Studien und Dokumente (1998): 70–99.