Yehuda Leb ben Joshua Portit Porges)
A web of legends surrounds the one-time Prague
ghetto, its beginnings are lost in the myths.
Over the centuries the mysterious face of the Jewish Town has attracted
the attention of historians and the curiosity of visitors.
It rouses feelings of unfathomable enigmas, untraceable tracks of
Today we know that the Jews did not find their home here at the
time of the comans and Quadi, as 18th and 19th
century historians supposed.
They came towards the end of the first millennium of our era.
From that time on, the history of their settlement became part of
the Czech Lands, their integral and essential essence.
Over the centuries the coexistence of the Jews and the rest of the
inhabitants of Prague and of the Czech Lands was coexistence typical
of the Diaspora, full of transience, conflict, suffering, painful
hatred, deathly spite but also mutual enrichment, encounter and
The fate of the Prague Jews truly was a reflection of the Prague
Jews truly which was a reflection of the social, economic problems
our country underwent.
This was a highly complex development, much was not comprehended
and even more awaits true clarification.
There are still unmarked spots on the map of the life of the Prague
The reasons are indifference, lack of tolerance, the absence of
a will to comprehend that prevailed in the last decades.
The indictment must be laid to the world war that cut the thread
of life and history, fate is the true offender.
When did the Jews first step on the blessed land of Bohemia?
The lack of historical sources may not give us a chance ever to
give a satisfactory answer to this question.
But it clearly was at the time of the first historically recorded
Bohemian princes, in the 9th and the early 10th century.
In the well-known description of Prague penned by Ibrahim ibn Jakub
(965) the Jews are expressly mentioned as clearly very important
persons active in local and long-distant trade.
We do not known for certain where these Jews came from, we do not
know where their first steps led them, where they found their first
homes in the Prague Basin.
They may have been merchants from the East mediatin profitable trade
between the Frankish Empire, the German lands, Byzantium, Kijevan
Rus and the Hazars, possibly Jews from the West.
They may have lived in the settlement below Prague Castle or below
Vysehrad, perhaps in what is now Mala Strana, the Lesse Town. One
core of the Prague Jewish settlement was, for certain, the enclave
to the north of the Old Town Square.
Here, on of the Old Town Square. Here, on the edge of the early
medieval Prague market center, the Jews established an important
It was not far to the market from the scattered farmsteads and small
hamlets, not far to the highly important old trade routes and the
fords across the River Vltava.
Then the Jews still lived scattered among other Christian and foreign
merchants and traders.
At the beginning at least they enjoyed the same tolerance as the
Frankish, Saxon and Polish merchants.
But this conciliatory neighborliness, peace and calm did not last
The clamour of the crusades reached Prague with their raging pogroms
in the name of the one and true faith.
The chronicler has left us reports of forced baptism and of killing
in Jewish Prague (1096).
The scanty and not very reliable reports of the equal status had
This was not changed even by the privilege granted by Prince Sobeslav
in the 70s of the 12th century, whereby formally the Jews were given
the same status as other foreigners.
Increasingly they were pushed to the margin of society.
The relationship of the Christian surroundings to the Jewish minority
was influenced by the development of the Church´s official
attitude towards the Jews.
The anti-Jewish offensive of the papacy in the early 13th century
aimed at restricting the further economic rise of the Jews left
little mark on the conditions of the Pragie Jewish community.
The Czech monarchs took little notice of the resolutions of the
Lateran Council (1215), which set out to limit the economic and
social influence of the Jewish Communities in Europe to a minimum.
The Premyslid rulers made it quite clear even in this sphere that
they were the true masters of their land.
Thus the Prague Jews became increasingly dependent on the will of
By stages they became the true servants of the royal Chamber.
They were given a number of concessions and freedoms by the charter
issued by King Premysl Otakar II ( 1254).
On the other hand, it strictly defined their duties and by various
provisions influenced their entire life.
At that time Jewish settlement will have existed only in the growing
The concentration of settlement, growing mutual dependence, all
of this encouraged feelings of belonging together among the members
of the community and strengthened their economic potential.
The tolerant government of the last Premyslid kings proved favorable
to the development of the Jewish community.
It was at that time that they built the New Synagogue, called Old-New
from the 17th century on, today the most famous sight in the Jewish
Town apart from the Jewish Cemetery.
Its architecture conveys to this day the atmosphere of the period
of Premyslid Prague, and its ornaments are proof of the highly developed
skill of the Masonic lodge of the time.
The evil times that befell the entire kingdom when the Premyslids
died out left their marks also on the Jewish community.
The first few decades of the 14th century were a period of general
uncertainty, and at that time there was repeated looting without
mercy in the Jewish streets, the most secret hiding-places were
searched, digging went on even in the synagogues, by order of the
king and by the will of the rabble.
The long reign of Emperor Charles IV. (1348-78) brought the Prague
Jews new privileges and relative calm even though the Luxembourg
rulers - the reigning local dynasty - treated Jewish property as
though it were their own.
They put it in pawn, sold it, or used it as backing for guarantees.
But the king ensured protection and, among others, offered a chance
for them to settle inside the walls of the arising New Town.
A sign of the status of the Jewish community is a banner that has
survived, given to the Jews of Prague by Charles IV in 1375.
From that year on the Jews would, over the centuries, come to the
gates of the ghetto to welcome the kings of Bohemia in Prague.
The banner was a shield and legacy of the favors of the ruler´s
predecessor, a symbol of ambition and sign of hope.
But there were times when this symbol of the reler´s favour
proved to no avail.
A terrible pogrom in the absence of King Vacla IV in 1389 almost
eradicated the people of Israel in Prague.
The deadly anguish, hopelessness and impotence can be heard to this
day in the words of a mournful elegy composed by a witness to the
pogrom, Avigdor Kara.
Every year on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the words of this
elegy sound as a warning memento among the walls of the Old-New
Beginning with the Hussite period the Prague Jews became an important
political factor for one whole century.
The struggle between the triangle of monarch - nobility - towns
as to who was to own the profitable Jewish taxes strongly influenced
the life of the entire community.
At the same time this protected them from possible explosion, which
was never in the interest of all three rivals.
At the end of the weak reign of the Jagiello dynasty, changes began
to be implemented that determined the status of the community more
than all the disputes as to Jewish taxes.
The economic and political changes at the end of the 15th and the
early 16th century caused the Jews to being driven out of the credit
trade. Usury was no longer only their prerogative.
The Prague Jews managed even then to come to term with this and
to adapt themselves.
They endeavored to find their place in the crafts and trade.
No wonder that this resulted in growing antagonism towards them
on the part of the burghers organized in guilds.
In the early 16th century there were increasing complaints by the
respected guild masters of Prague about Jewish competition Many
of them would have preferred to see the Jews far from the walls
Petitions to the king demanding the expulsion of the uncomfortable
competitors increased in numbers as time passed.
As on so many occasions in the history of the Jewish Town, when
discord reigned among the inhabitants bringing lack of unity, distaste
to submit to the interests of the majority, restiveness in the streets
and in the families, the Christian surroundings this time tried
to use this to achieve the definitive expulsion of the Jews from
For several decades the Jews had to live in fear of their very existence.
Various attempts to drive them out in the years 1518-1543 were followed
by calmer periods that raised the hopes of the inhabitants of the
The unstable ship of fate of the Prague Jews tossed in restless
times. In 1551 the Jews were again driven to the margin of society
by the words of an order-in-council of Ferdinand I commanding that
?all Jews were to wear a sign on their garments that might distinguish
them from the Christians ...?.
The forced marking of the Jews, which had been demanded in various
forms before but was never adhered to, this time proved a harbinger
of dark distressful times to come. In 1557 Ferdinand I, on the instigation
of his younger son, the Arch-Duke Ferdinand, who was governor of
the Czech Lands, issued a decree exiling all Jews from Prague and
the Czech Lands.
Many Jewish families at that time departed, but a number of families
who managed to be granted exceptions remained in the town.
Every step of those who closely followed to remain was closely followed
by the Christian surroundings, and thus Jewish trade and crafts
did not develop much.
This unpropitious situation lasted until Maximilian II ascended
The new king revoked all decrees of expulsion by degrees and, on
the contrary, confirmed many, almost forgotten privileges for the
During the reign of Maximilian and his successor Rudolph, Jewish
trade and Jewish crafts came to flourish once again.
This prosperity of the Prague Jewish community is linked to a number
of famous names which survive in numerous sources.
The greatness of the time can be seen on beautiful Jewish prints,
parchments and a number of official folios that have survived in
a continuous series from 16th century.
It speaks to us from the famous chronicle of David Gans ?Zemah David?
and other writings by this scholar.
From it we are informed of the outstanding donor of the Prague ghetto,
Mordechai Maosel, Rabbi Lov and his contracts with the eccentric
Emperor Rudolph II as well we about Gans himself and his encounter
with Johannes Kepler and Tycho de Brahe.
If we did not have all these sources, which have remarkably survived
from that time including Gans? chronicle, writings of the Royal
Chancellery and the Imperial Court, the ? White Book of the Jews?,
and others, we might not even regard this as something so exceptional.
The reason may be that it happened after a period of striking decline
of the community that the Jews experienced in the first half of
the 16th century as a result of historical events, inner conflicts,
pogroms, fires and attempts at their expulsion.
There were other great men whose influenced the intellectual life
of Jewish Prague at the end of the 16th and 17th century.
In the first place, the versatile Joseph Shelmo Delmedigo from Candia.
Shelomo Ephraim Luntschitz, the successor to Rabbi Low in the office
of the Chief Rabbi of Prague.
The authorities in Vienna for his alleged anti-Catholic attitude
persecuted Zom Tov Lipmann Heller.
Yehuda Leb ben Joshua Portit Porges, the chronicler of the Thirty
Years? War and its consequences for Jewish Prague, and others.
Mystic currents and elegiac poetry had strong expanders and authors
in Prague at that time.
In the 16th to 18th century literature came into being that served
as the basis for the entire intellectual and literary movement of
Jewish literature of the 19th and the 20th century had its roots
The Thirty Years War left bloodstained marks all over the country.
The economy was disrupted, tens of thousands of people died.
But despite the war the Prague Jews managed to keep all that they
had acquired in the preceding decades with their far from small
They took an active part in the defense of Prague during the last
Swedish invasion in 1648.
The favorable Jewish legislation of Ferdinand II opened up for them
certain hitherto forbidden activities, increasing their ability
to compete within the city as such.
Prague, still kneeling among the defeated before the victorious
Habsburg, could not oppose the emperor?s decision, though there
were frequent complaints of Jewish competition.
For more than fifty years the Prague Jews lived in relative calm.
The borders of the ghetto became stabilized, there was a slow but
steady increase in population.
It was not until the end of the 17th century that the idea of reducing
the Jewish population in Prague arose once again.
A frightful epidemic of the plague caused great mortality in the
At that time a Jewish plague cemetery was laid out far beyond the
city walls on the territory of Olsany of the time.
A fire that broke out in 1689 was a further merciless blow.
Practically all the houses of the Jewish Town burnt down, and even
some of the synagogues collapsed in the flames.
The Prague city authorities tried to use this disaster to expel
the Jews completely from Prague.
The time of the 17th to 18th century did not bring any guarantees
of the independent and calm existence of the Prague Jewish community.
Although Emperor Joseph I and his successor Charles VI by stages
confirmed for the Jews their age-old rights, the situation of the
Prague community continued to remain uncertain.
On the insistence of the burghers of the Old Town the ghetto was
equipped with new gates at the beginning of the 18th century, they
were to ensure that a checkpoint existed and restricted the gradual
extension of the Jewish Town.
But both gates and gateways, nor the strict check on all Jews arriving
in the competitiveness of Christian trade and crafts.
Emperor Joseph I showed goodwill towards the Jews, but his successor
Charles VI began, in 1714, to look for a possibility of how to reduce
the number of Czech Jews without provoking the nobility that was
interested in the Jewish money, without disappointing the townspeople
and guilds and without losing the advantageous income of Jewish
The result of his efforts were the ?Family Laws? of 1726.
These notorious laws laid down for the whole of Bohemia and Moravia
the fixed number of Jewish families that would be tolerated, and
these family places were not permitted to be exceeded. In Bohemia
there were 8.541 such family places, in Moravia 5.106, and strict
records of these were kept. In each family only one son was allowed
to get married and start a family of his own.
The others had to wait until another family place became free, either
by death or departure abroad or official confiscation.
According to these laws the Jews were not allowed to settle in places
where they had not lived prior to the year 1726.
These laws influenced the social and population development of the
Prague Jewish community for more than one hundred years.
They became the target of strong criticism on the part of the Jewish
representatives as from Christian men of enlightenment and free
Despite the loss of population, the constant latent or open disfavor
of the authorities the Prague Jewish Town was basically on the rise.
The shape of the ghetto underwent changes, and social differences
inside the community became increasingly larger.
There was quite a large stratum of well-situated merchants with
several really rich men at their head.
They all longed to change their lives, to attain the same status
as the richest burghers of Baroque Prague of the time.
The Prague Jews welcomed the accession on the throne of Empress
Maria Theresa after the death of Charles VI (1740) with great hopes.
They assumed that the Family Law would be lessened in their favor
or perhaps completely revoked.
But they were bitterly disappointed in their anticipation.
The ruler in her anti- Jewish mood was forced to struggle for her
heritage from the very onset of her reign, and she almost succeeded
in putting an end to the century-old existence of Jewish settlement
The young monarch did not hesitate long and in the middle of December
1744 issued a decree exiling all Jews from Prague and later from
Although important European Jewish communities in the Netherlands,
England, Venice and Denmark undertook a diplomatic offensive against
this inhuman order and there was an avalanche of oral and written
intercessions, Maria Theresa would not be appeased.
In February and March 1745 almost 13 000 inhabitants of the ghetto
left their homes.
The Jewish Town remained deserted, all that remained within its
walls were several dozen sick persons, old men and pregnant women.
Many Jewish families lost all hope of ever returning and left the
country straight away.
Their steps led them to Saxony, Brandenburg and even Hamburg, the
Netherlands and the Rhineland.
The wealthier and those who hoped their considerable property would
be returned did not go so far.
They settled in the close environment of Prague, where in an uncertain
existence they did not lose hope of better times to come.
For example the existing community in suburban Liben grew considerably.
By stages the Jewish community grew into one of the largest Jewish
settlements in the Czech Lands generally.
After the issue of the Patent of Tolerance the first exceptions
were granted providing for settlement outside the ghetto.
In the decades that followed the perimeter outside the border of
the ghetto was several times enlarged so that Jews could live there.
In every case the Patent of Tolerance made a profound impact on
the life of the Jews as it did for others that were now tolerated.
The process of reform then continued at a slower pace - in the year
1797 a Jewish Systems Patent was issued that regulated the legal
status of the Jews in great detail throughout life.
The new intellectual generation was greatly influenced by Berlin
enlightenment and the ideas of Moses Mendelssohn, and they welcomed
these changes with enthusiasm.
They were aware that the Josephinian reforms opened the door to
That may sound exaggerated nowadays, but it is clear from Jewish,
in the first place Prague publications, that although Emperor Joseph
was the second of the Habsburg Empire, he held first rank in the
hearts of many thousands of the Jewish inhabitants.
The Josephinian reforms were not accepted explicitly.
The conservative circles around some of the rabbinical authorities
justifiably feared a weakening of faith, customs, language and autonomous
right, which had so far been the main support of the ethnically
closed community and, by no means least, a deterioration of the
basis of their own rabbinical power.
This was what happened in Prague where by degrees the pro-reform
circles rose to the top, who regarded complete equality as their
The reign of Joseph II was a decisive turning point for the Prague
It was no mere chance that in period documents from the end of the
century we find the Jewish Town called Josefov.
The Family Law was not revoked. While in other countries of Europe
the Jews became, from a legal point of view, true citizens, in the
Austro-Hungarian monarchy they only rose one step to become a population
that was tolerated.
The number of families that were permitted slightly increased.
The Jews were permitted to follow their religion and customs related
to it ?freely and without obstacles?, but everything had to be done
by permission, and such permits required money.
The efforts of the Prague Jews to establish themselves among the
German elite in this new situation and their growing share in Prague
industry and trade led, by the end of the first half of the 19th
century, to growing opposition in Prague that was becoming more
conscious of its Czech heritage.
These trends were particularly noticeable among the industrial workers
where the Czechs formed the absolute majority.
The rural workers were angered by the Jews? clear efforts to ?become
In 1844 Prague witnessed real anti-Jewish riots after a long period.
Reports of this found their way even into foreign media.
The dissatisfied workers destroyed the equipment of several factories
belonging to Jewish owners.
The enraged crowd linked their own problems with the existence of
the ?omnipresent? Jews and attracted even Jewish homes.
Four years later, in 1848, anti-Jewish rowdyism repeated with exceptional
strength in connection with the revolutionary events of the time
- and this time, the army too had to be called in to defend the
Once again the old-new anti-Jewish pamphlets made their appearance,
the situation became more tense.
At the head of the community stood another outstanding person, a
member of the Landau family.
Moses Israel Landau used the full weight of his authority, which
he enjoyed also in Christian circles, to try and improve the living
conditions of his fellow-believers and to achieve equality for them.
In 1849 finally the truly medieval Family Law was revoked.
In the years 1851 and 1852, thanks to the influence of Moses Landau,
the imaginary walls of the ghetto were pulled down, and after lengthy
negotiations the Jewish Town, now officially called Josefov, was
added to Prague as its fifth district.
But it was not until 1867 that the Jews were granted full civic
The metropolis of Bohemia at that time assumed an increasing Czech
character and the number of its inhabitants more than doubled in
the years 1830 to 1910.
Most of them moved to Prague from the small towns of the Bohemian
countryside in search of a better future, and the local Jewish communities
The problem of the identity of the Prague Jews was made worse by
the problem of Josefov as a city quarter.
As the Jews acquired more rights, so their town decreased.
Although the houses were still standing, the original atmosphere
was becoming lost as their inhabitants moved away.
The share of Jews among the population of the fifth quarter continued
The final mortal blow to the ghetto came with the Slum-Clearance
Law of 1893.
In the following twenty years major building activity caused the
disappearance of almost the entire ghetto.
It brought to an end the history of the Wechsler, Cikan and Great
Court synagogues, the bizarre walls of the Jewish Town were pulled
down, after being an inspiration for many poets and an object of
hate for many centuries.
At that time, too, the Prague Jews parted with their old Olsany
In 1890 large new burial grounds were put at their disposal in Zizkov,
which serve to this day.
Although the Prague ghetto gradually vanished, the members of the
Jewish community maintained their position in Prague society.
The last peaceful decade of the existence of the Habsburg monarchy
was favorable for the economic development of Prague. Many an industrial
enterprise, a large part of the shops and financial life could not
have managed without the abilities of the Prague Jews.
In the years 1893 - 1915 the old ghetto disappeared as a visible
monument to the lives of whole generations.
No wonder that some Jews found that difficult to accept.
But the majority of the German, liberally oriented strata of Jewish
entrepreneurs applauded the slum-clearance and was determined to
fight for a new town.
The supporters of the old world were mostly regarded as eccentrics.
Nonetheless, they managed to save at least the most important of
the synagogues of the vanishing ghetto.
It is a remarkable fact that the creative work of the Prague Jewish
writers rose to the fore in this restless atmosphere of the turn
of the century, the First World War and historic turning points.
Prague with its religious and professional diversity, the city that
so often in history had shared in decisions that concerned the fate
of Europe, was always imbued with spiritual forces, full of tension
and conflicts, rebelling and yet humiliated.
The town where about 30.000 Germans lived, most of them Jews, gave
German and thereby world literature three major writers - Kafka,
Werfel and Rilke.
Not far behind in their footsteps followed such names as Oskar Baum,
E.E. Kisch, Ernst Weiss, Hugo Salus, Paul Leppin, Gustav Meyrink,
Paul Adler, Paul Kornfeld, Max Brod, etc., the majority of them
The ?Prague Circle? became a term of all-European culture.
And not only the writers among the ranks of the Prague Jews became
known in world culture.
There were many others who creatively worked in a variety of spheres.
They, too, contributed to Prague becoming a true spiritual crossroads
of Europe with an inimitable atmosphere.
New opportunities arose for the Prague Jews with the establishment
of the independent Czechoslovak Republic.
But this did not overcome the anti-Semitism among certain strata.
During the first Republic, too, there existed individuals and whole
political groups who fought the Jews. Nevertheless, the legal status
of the Jews in the Czechoslovak Republic was equal to that of the
In the census taken in the year 1921 the Prague Jews, for the first
time, were given the opportunity freely to claim Jewish nationality.
Almost one third of them availed themselves of this.
The rest claimed either German or Czech nationality.
Munich, the occupation of the Czech Lands and the war turned this
general activity and those certainties to dust.
Soon after the occupation of the country by the Germans, ignominious
and humiliating anti-Jewish decrees were introduced.
It was the onset of the most tragic time in the thousand-year old
history of the Jews.
First they were deprived of civic freedoms and prosperity, then
freedom of movement, later all human dignity and in the end - the
overwhelming majority of them lost their lives.
From the area of Greater Prague and its immediate surroundings some
40.000 innocent persons were transported to Terezin and the extermination
camps in the years 1941 - 1945.
Only a small fragment of these ever returned to try to renew a new
community on the ruins of the old one.
In the years 1945-1948 it seemed that the Prague Jews were truly
able to follow up their former famous traditions under new conditions
and despite the tragic experiences of the war while grieving the
untold victims of genocide.
The onset of the Communist regime in 1948 and the establishment
of the state of Israel were, however, the beginning of a major wave
Of the few thousand Prague Jews that had survived the war more than
two thirds moved away or emigrated.
Many of those who had suffered in Nazi camps and remained in their
homeland even after 1948 spent the Stalinist fifties in Communist
Another wave of emigration occurred in the years 1968 - 1969.
Today the Prague community is one of the smallest Jewish congregations
in Europe (several hundred members).
But in the eyes of other congregations and the whole world their
significance has not grown less.
The history and the traditions of the Prague Jews are unique.
For almost ninety years the Jewish Museum in Prague has helped maintain
During the second world war it was to serve the perverted Nazi idea
of a central museum of an ?extinct race? in Europe.
In 1945 it followed up its pre-war activity, which was supported
or subdued depending on the internal political development of the
In recent years the original function of the historic buildings
is being implemented anew and more intensively than before.
The rooms of the Jewish town hall are used for a variety of activities,
group meetings are developing.
The rooms of the Jewish Museum and the exhibitions in them are being
renewed and enlarged.
Buildings that have been closed for years are being re-opened.
Josefov, the former Jewish Town, seems to be coming to life again.
But nobody can bring back yesterday.
History of Habsburg Jews, 1670-1918
by William O. McCagg Jr
the extensive excerpt, click
The Christian cotton industrialists, however, operated in the towns
of northern Bohemia, near the Saxon frontier. In Prague, it was
above all Jews who made this new industry grow. Another case history
will illustrate the phenomenon. Moses Porges was born in
1781 into a humble jewish family that produced rosewater in the
Prague ghetto; his brother Juda (later called Leopold)
was born in 1784. When they first went into business shortly before
1800, Moses dealt in linen goods, Juda spirits, and
they wholly lacked capital. Yet by 1808 they had opened a small
calico and chintz printing shop in a dark cellar in the unsanitary
old center of Prague. Textile-printing was more important than it
now sounds. Until the decisive spread of mechanical spinning in
the 1830sz and 1840s, most of the actual spinning and weaving of
textiles took place on a piece work basis in cottages. The dyeing
and printing were the parts of textile production most suited to
the factory, and they became the locus of odern innovations in the
industry as a whole. The Porgeses were innovators. By 1819
their establishment was quite large. In 1830 they opened the first
great mechanical cotton printery at the Prague industrial suburb,
Smichow, a plant so splendid that the Kaiser visited it in 1833.
By 1855 they were employing 569 workers; by 1843, 700. Their factory
was then the third largest in Bohemia and they had other plants
The first known Jewish cotton printing plant at
Prague was established in the Karlin |__Karolinenthal] suburb in
the 1790s by a Koppelmann Porges. Whether he was related
to Moses and Juda is unknown, but by 1820 his plant
also was among the largest in the crownland. Meanwhile in 1802 Aaron
Beer Pribram and moses Jerusalem, wealthy Großhändler,
had entered the industry, as had Meir Dormitzer, the wealthy descendent
of a famous early-eigtheenth-century Jewish scholar; so also members
of the Epstein and Mauthner families, and of the taussig, bunzl,
Brandeis, Wehle, Lederer, Lippmann and Schick families, all of them
eminent in Prague. A convenient statistic reveals that by 1807 bohemia
had 58 linen, cotton, and calico " factories "
of which 15 (all recently established and near Prague) were Jewish
It seems legitimate to attribute this vigourous
expression of Jewish modernism at Prague, alonf with the others
mentioned earlier, in part to the citys latitudinarian rabbinical
leadership. But it is useful to reflect also on the record of Frankism,
for late in the 18th century the members of the sect in another
city, Warsaw, did smimilar things. They turned from their earlier
aspiration for ennoblement and because leaders of the economic modernozation
of the city - and of Poland. So pronounced was their group coherence
(maintained by siginficant endogamy) and their dominance in the
" bourgeois " professions of the city (that
is, law, education and manufacturing) that they can be held up as
a fine example of how a " religious ethic "
leads to modern capitalism. Given the strength of Frankism in Prague
about 1800, this record is more than suggestive, especially since
it is known that Moses and Juda Porges were the sons
of a frankist, and that they themselves visited the Frankist court
at Offenbach in the final years of the 18th century just when another
Porges was establishing the first Jewish cotton-printing establishment
By 1835 there were 117 cotton-processing establishments
in the crownland, of which 15 of the largest were in Prague and
owned by Jews. The industry by now produced annually 1,400,000 pieces
of cloth (at lengths of 30-50 ells), of which 800,000 lengthswere
produced in Prague. Not unnaturally, therefore, here as in Vienna,
the leaders of this industry were able to enter the ranks of the
imperial bourgeoisie and to win a considerable acceptance. By the
1840s the Porges brothers and their partner Moses Jerusalem
had been ennobled by the Kaiser and were among the leaders of Pragues
new bourgeois society.
Virtually all the great Bohemian trading and banking firms opened
offices in Vienna. In the 1840s the Prague manufacturers followed
suit, first opening factory outlets, then building new factories
in the capital suburbs.
The bourgeois successes of the Prague Jewish industrialists had
noxious effects for the whole of bohemian Jewry, because they awoke
jealousies, and above all those of the citys workers.
A main reason for the Prague worker Judeophobia of this period was
a singularly direct relation between bad work conditions and Jews.
In Prague the strikes began in 1844, because the Porges brothers
introduced the perrotin at their factory in Smichow, and then arbitrarily
(Indiana University Press,