In May 2010, I traveled to the Czech Republic. One of the cities that I really wanted to visit was Prague, where I had lived years before. Prague is beautiful and there is so much to see and do there. But this time, my visit was different. I was on a special assignment to find out about Czech Jewish records.
I went to visit Dr. Lenka Matušíková of the National Archives, who is a custodian of the entire Czech Jewish collection. Dr. Matušíková welcomed me warmly and we were soon sharing our passion for old vital registers; she preserves them and I research them. Dr. Matušíková related the following details regarding the tragic tale of the Jewish registers:
"When the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia between 1938 and 1945, the registers and documents of the Jewish communities suffered a fate similar to that of the Jewish population itself. In October 1938, Jewish registration offices were closed. Registers from the Bohemian border region were collected in Liberec, the center of the so-called Sudetenland. The registers from the Jewish communities in the border regions of northern and southern Moravia did not survive at all and are believed to have been lost at the beginning of the German occupation.
In 1942, the Office of the Reichsprotektor ordered that all original Jewish registers in the so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia be sent to Prague. In April 1945, by order of the Gestapo, the original registers were transported to a paper mill in Prague and destroyed. Earlier in 1943, the duplicate registers also were collected, but thanks to the courageous Czech employees, they were stored outside Prague and survived. They were later declared to be valid originals."
Currently, the records of the former Jewish communities of the entire Czech Republic are located at the National Archives in Prague. This priceless collection contains more than 3,000 volumes of Jewish birth, marriage, and death registers that cover Bohemia, Moravia, and the Czech part of Silesia for the period 1784-1949. Registers are accessible for research by visiting the archives in person or by hiring a private researcher. Reviewing the records takes at least two days if the visit is not arranged ahead of time. On the first day, one requests retrieval of the registers and then must return the next day to actually review the records.
- The collection inventory, organized by town name, is available on the National Archive website.
- The locality index is helpful in determining which register to order.
For further information on the Jewish collection in the Czech National Archives, see the Czech Republic Jewish Records article in the FamilySearch Wiki.
The National Archives is looking into digitizing the Jewish collection. In the meantime the archive will respond to a written request from an individual. Here is the contact information:
Milady Horákové 133
160 00 Praha 6 - Dejvice
Dr. Lenka Matušíková
If you have Czech Jewish ancestors, the collection of Jewish registers at the National Archives is a vital resource for your research.