Fair Lawn shul commemorates the Jews of Pacov, Czechoslovakia
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Fair Lawn shul commemorates the Jews of Pacov, Czechoslovakia

Nelly Gutman, one of the few survivors from Pacov, is on the right, in the middle row. The photo was taken in Pacov in 1937. (Photos courtesy FLJC/CBI)
Nelly Gutman, one of the few survivors from Pacov, is on the right, in the middle row. The photo was taken in Pacov in 1937. (Photos courtesy FLJC/CBI)

The Fair Lawn Jewish Center /Congregation B’nai Israel held a program last week to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Nazis’ deportation of the Jews of Pacov, in what was then Czechoslovakia, in November 1942. The Fair Lawn program was held just before the anniversary of Kristallnacht, when the Nazis launched an organized attack on Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues in 1938. It was held on Shabbat and was built on a special relationship between the Fair Lawn Jewish Center and the Jews from Pacov (pronounced Pats-off) that started 44 years ago, when Fair Lawn became home to a Torah scroll from that once-thriving Jewish community.

Nelly Gutman Prezman in 2017.

Rabbi emeritus Ronald Roth, who spoke last week, said that Jews had lived in Pacov and the surrounding villages around Prague since the middle of the 16th century. When the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939, it declared the area the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and began implementing antisemitic policies. A year and a half later, the Nazis began the mass deportation of Jews from Prague to Theresienstadt as the first stop in a journey that mostly ended with murder. A year later, the Nazis turned their attention to the Jews in the surrounding area, including Pacov.

By the time the war ended in 1945, the Nazis had sent approximately 140,000 Jews to Theresienstadt, nearly 90,000 of whom were deported to points further east and almost certain death. Roughly 33,000 died in Theresienstadt.

Rabbi Roth, who is working on a revised edition of “The Jews of Pacov Remembered in Fair Lawn, NJ,” has compiled details about nearly 110 Jewish residents of Pacov who were victims of the Nazis. Only seven survived the Holocaust. One of those survivors, Nelly Prezman, the daughter of the last rabbi of Pacov, is still alive in Israel. Just before the Kaddish was recited as part of the commemoration, congregants read the names of Jews from Pacov murdered during the Holocaust. Photographs also served to draw attention to the Jews who once lived in the town.

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