Tobias Jakobovits sorting books from confiscated Jewish libraries under orders from the Nazis, Prague, ca. 1942. (Jewish Museum in Prague)

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Jakobovits, Tobias

(1887–1944), historian, librarian, and rabbi. Tobias Jakobovits was born in Lakompak (Lackenback), in the Hungarian part of the Habsburg monarchy. He studied at the yeshiva in Bratislava (Pressburg), and continued at a rabbinical seminary in Berlin and in the philosophical faculty at the German University in Prague.


Jakobovits’s 1920 doctoral dissertation examined the messianic idea in the Talmud. He also wrote a number of articles on medieval Jewish history in the Czech lands; topics included Jewish badges in Bohemia, Jewish guilds in Prague, the history of Jewish communities in Kolín and Náchod, and the genealogy of the Spira-Wedeles and Bondy families. Most of these studies were published in the Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Juden in der Čechoslovakischen Republik (Yearbook of the Society for the History of the Jews in the Czechoslovak Republic) or in the Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums (Monthly for the History and Science of Judaism). Jakobovits was also active in the Rabbinerverband in Böhmen (Association of Rabbis in Bohemia) and became a rabbi and a teacher of religion in Uhlířské Janovice in 1930.


During the interwar period, Jakobovits worked as a librarian for the Jewish religious community in Prague. He described the history of this library in his Entstehungsgeschichte der Bibliothek der israelitischen Kultusgemeinde in Prag (The Origin of the Library of the Jewish Religious Community in Prague; 1927). The library became a spiritual center for hundreds of Jewish refugees fleeing Germany during the 1930s.


In 1942, Jakobovits worked for the Central Jewish Museum in Prague, which the Nazis had designated as the future museum of the “extinct Jewish race.” He was the curator of the first exhibition of the museum under the Nazis, which was held in November 1942 at Vysoká Synagoga (High Synagogue). The exhibit was based on a project carried out by Jakobovits in 1927, which included Hebraica and Judaica, rare prints, and manuscripts. SS Sturmbannführer Hans Günther of the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung (Central Office for Jewish Emigration), who supervised the museum’s activities, refused to include those parts of the prewar exhibition that showed the peaceful coexistence of Jews in the Czech and German nations.


In 1942–1944, Jakobovits intervened in discussions concerning the reconstruction of the Prague’s Altneuschul and its adaptation for museological purposes. He demanded that no object belonging to the synagogue be removed from the building. In the summer of 1943, Jakobovits was the coauthor of a guide to the Central Jewish Museum; in it, he described in detail the history of the synagogues used by the museum. Jakobovits remained optimistic about the fate of deported Jews and expressed hope that the museum’s aim would be to preserve valuable Jewish artifacts during the war until such time that they could be returned to the Jewish communities throughout the Czech lands. Jakobovits was deported to Auschwitz in October 1944.

Suggested Reading

Tobiáš Jakobovits, “Jüdisches Gemeindeleben in Kolin, 1763–1768,” Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Juden in der Čechoslovakischen Republik 1 (1929): 332–368; Tobiáš Jakobovits, “Die Judenabzeichnen in Böhmen,” Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Juden in der Čechoslovakischen Republik 3 (1931): 145–184; Tobiáš Jakobovits, “Die Erlebnisse des Oberrabiners Simon Spira-Wedeles in Prag, 1640–1679,” Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Juden in der Čechoslovakischen Republik 4 (1932): 240–290; Tobiáš Jakobovits, “Die jüdische Zünfte in Prag,” Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Juden in der Čechoslovakischen Republik 8 (1936): 57–145; Vladimír Sadek, “A Survey of Dr. Tobias Jakobovits’s Scientific Work [on Czech Jewish History], 1887–1944,” Judaica bohemiae 18.1 (1982): 17–21.

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