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Town in the Czech Republic, located 55 kilometers east of Prague. The earliest record of Jewish settlement in Kolín (earlier Nový Kolín; Ger., Kolin or Neu Kollin) dates from the beginning of the fourteenth century; a religious community and synagogue were probably active in the early fifteenth century. During the years 1541–1549 and 1561–1564, Jews were expelled from the town, but by 1574 some 33 Jewish men (and possibly families) lived there again. A communal record book, dating from 1598, has been preserved.

The Jewish population of Kolín increased mainly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; in addition to commerce and textiles, local Jews also worked as garnet cutters and drillers. In 1653, Jews constituted 29 percent (roughly 390 persons) of the total population; 138 Jewish families lived there in 1718; 153 families (670 persons) in 1747; 251 families (1,169 persons) in 1793; 313 families in 1850; 1,347 persons (17.4%) in 1857; 1,148 persons (10.1%) in 1880; 806 persons (5.3%) in 1900; and 430 persons (2.3%) in 1930.

Kolín was one of the largest and most important Jewish communities in Bohemia and was home to many prominent Talmudic scholars. El‘azar Kallir (1728–1801) was head of the town’s famous yeshiva. In addition to maintaining a burial society (with statutes from 1610 and a book of minutes from 1795), there were more than 20 other societies and associations, including charity, educational, women’s, and Zionist associations. In addition, there was a Jewish sports club.

In 1942, the Nazis deported 2,202 persons from the Kolín region to the Terezín ghetto. Of these, only 104 (4.7%) survived the war. Following World War II, the religious community was reestablished (a rabbi lived in Kolín until 1953), but it had only 15 members in 1966 and was dissolved after 1970.

About half of the buildings in Kolín’s medieval Jewish quarter have been preserved, including a synagogue dating from 1642–1696 on the site of an earlier house of prayer. A cemetery with tombstones dating from the first half of the fifteenth century remains as well; within it are graves of such famous rabbis as Betsal’el ben Yehudah (d. 1599; son of Maharal of Prague). A newer cemetery, established in 1887, contains a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

Kolín was also the birthplace of rabbi Shemu’el ben Natan ha-Levi Kolin (1724–1806), the American Orthodox rabbi Bernard Illowy (1812–1871), the Austrian scientist, philosopher, and inventor Josef Popper Lynkeus (1838–1921), leading European coal magnate Ignaz Petschek (1857–1934), American law professor Georg Petschek (1872–1947), and Czech literary critic and poet Otokar Fischer (1883–1938).

Suggested Reading

Richard Feder, “Dějiny Židů v Kolíně,” in Die Juden und Judengemeinden Böhmens in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, ed. Hugo Gold, pp. 277–298 (Brünn, Czech., and Prague, 1934); Hana Greenfield, Fragments of Memory: From Kolin to Jerusalem (Jerusalem, 1990).



Translated from Czech by Stephen Hattersley