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The Jewish cemetery at Šafov as the ‘House of Life for Eternity’


When in 1670 the Jews had to again leave Vienna and Lower Austria, following the order of Emperor Leopold I, they emigrated especially to the more tolerant Moravia, which was considered a refuge for Jewish piety. People knew each other for many generations, regardless of which side of the border they were on. Sometimes the dead were also buried in the neighbouring country when there was a lack of space. Some noble patrons were shared across borders. The Jews arranged for luxury items to be delivered to them, and thanks to the trade levies, the nobles filled their coffers. This is one reason why all along the Austro-Moravian border Jewish communities lined up like a string of pearls.

Until the construction of the railways in the 19th century, trade in commodities such as cloth, flax, linen, leather, or sheep’s wool was largely in the hands of Jews from Šafov (Schaffa). In 1850 around 650 Jews lived in Šafov, while at the time of the German occupation there were only 52. By 1943 there was not even a Jewish cemetery any more. Today 900 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery evoke memories of a once large Jewish population.

Currently the tombstones are looked after by a company hired by the Jewish community, while the cemetery is managed by the municipality. For forty years the ‘House of Life’ was located in the immediate vicinity of the death zone of the Iron Curtain.

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