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Petschek Family

Industrialists and bankers in Bohemia. The Petschek family, originally based in Kolín in central Bohemia, included captains of industry of Czech lands from the late nineteenth century. Its members reached their pinnacle of success in the period of the first Czechoslovak Republic (1918–1938).

The Petschek family was involved in the soft coal industry, centered in northern Bohemia—in particular areas of Most (Brüx) and Ústí nad Labem (Aussig). Moses ben Israel (1822–1888), its founder, moved from his native village of Pečky (hence the family’s name) to nearby Kolín, where Isidor (1854–1919), Julius (1856–1932), and Ignatz (1857–1934) were born. The Petschek family began its ascent to the top of the Bohemian economy around 1890, when Isidor joined the board of directors of the largest coal-producing company in Most/Brüx, the Brüxer Kohlenbergbau-Gesellschaft. At the same time, Ignatz settled in Ústí nad Labem, where he was a key coal trader, involved in exportation. The third brother, Julius, who had held a senior position with the State Prosecutor’s Office for Financial Matters (Finanční Prokuratura), joined the family business in 1906 after resigning his government post; he was actively involved in mining and other branches of the industry in which the family had an interest.

In 1917, the Petschek brothers acquired the mining company Johann David Starck’s Bergbau und Industriewerke, while hiring Fritz Heller, an expert in the coal mining industry, as its professional director. In 1920, Ignatz Petschek established a mining company in Ústí nad Labem, while at the same time helping to establish a family-owned bank in Prague, which was subsequently managed by six family members.

Following the death of Isidor Petschek in 1934, his son, Otto, became the head of the Petschek concern, a position he held only briefly as he, too, died that year. Hans Petschek, Otto’s brother, then assumed responsibility for running the business. He represented the family’s interests in Prague until 1938, when, following the Munich Agreement, he moved to New York, where he joined the United Continental Corporation with his cousin Walter, Julius Petschek’s only son.

The Petschek family constitutes a notable example of the continued prosperity of the Jewish economic elite in Bohemia from the end of the Habsburg era well into the days of the first Czechoslovak republic, despite the political vicissitudes that east Central Europe suffered during the interwar period.

Suggested Reading

Gustav Otruba, “Der Anteil der Juden am Wirtschaftsleben der böhmischen Länder seit dem Beginn der Industrialisierung,” in Die Juden in den böhmischen Ländern, ed. Ferdinand Seibt, pp. 209–268 (Munich, 1983); Joseph C. Pick, “The Economy,” in The Jews of Czechoslovakia, vol. 1, pp. 359–438 (Philadelphia, 1968).



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann