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Joachim Astel

(Przemyśl 1901 - Auschwitz 1942)

In contrast to handwritten ownership notes, it is not uncommon that we can find name stamps in several places in a book for the sake of more practical handling. This is also the case in an edition of the "Kusari", in which there is a stamp on the title page and the same again at the end of the index.

According to the stamp, the owner of the book was Dr. Joachim Astel, who also appears in official documents of the First Czechoslovak Republic as Dr. Jáchym Astel. However, Astel was born in Poland, in Przemyśl, Galicia. In the birth register, Mojzesz/Moses Astel and Mirla Astel, née Goldberger, who were also born there, are named as his parents.

In Przemyśl, Astel attended elementary school and high school, from which he graduated in 1920 - the past events of the war delayed his graduation by one year. In the fall of 1920, he enrolled at the University of Vienna. After eight semesters he completed his "philosophical studies from the history of the Middle Ages and modern times in connection with geography" with the dissertation "Oliver Cromwell im Urteile der Deutschen" (Oliver Cromwell in the Judgment of the Germans), which was accepted by the professors Dr. Alfred Francis Přibram and Dr. Alfons Dopsch.

At the same time, there is a record for the period of his first semester, according to which Astel had also enrolled at the Hochschule für Welthandel in Vienna. Unfortunately, there is no reliable data on Astel's course of studies there and on the years following his studies at the university. According to different statements, Astel also studied at the University of Oxford, but a corresponding request there was negative. It is possible that he worked at another British institution, either for educational purposes or for gainful employment. Probably at this time he also obtained his qualification for the office of rabbi, perhaps in Vienna or in Bratislava. At an as yet unknown date, Joachim Astel married Frima Melzer (daughter of Moses David Melzer and Mirjam Melzer, née Rapoport), who was born in 1904 in Skala-Podilska, Ukraine. Their first child, Jonathan, was born in Vienna in 1931. In the same year Astel took over the office of rabbi in the Bohemian town of Tachov/Tachau. Two years later he and his family changed their place of residence due to his appointment to the Moravian town of Kroměříž/Kremsier. In 1935, Schmarjahu was born, the second son of the couple. On the occasion of the birth, a donation of trees by the parents for the "CSR forest" in Palestine is documented.  At this time it can be proved that Joachim Astel must have been the owner of a property in Berlin (Senefelder Straße 33). This is so far the only trace of the family that leads to the German Reich - to what extent family connections existed here, for example, is unclear. In Kroměříž, Astel taught Jewish religion at school and he was active in the local "Maccabi" association. There he appears as a speaker and lecturer, among other things, with the topic "On anti-Semitism" on the occasion of a debate evening. For the year 1927 we find Joachim Astel listed alongside Hugo Stránský as a military rabbi of the Czechoslovak reserve.

The German occupation of Czechoslovakia initiated not only the extermination of the Astel family, but also the extermination of most of the Jewish population of Kroměříž, which amounted to 300-400 people in the late 1930s.

According to local reports, Astel was detained by the Gestapo in the early summer of 1942 for forbidden poultry keeping and deported directly to Auschwitz. The date of death is recorded as June 24, 1942. Together with other Jews from Kroměříž, Frima, Jonathan and Schmarjahu were taken to Theresienstadt four days later. In December 1943, they too were sent to the death camp at Auschwitz.

In the holdings of the Prague Jewish Museum there are two children's drawings from Theresienstadt to which the name Astel is added. Since no other persons with this name are documented in Theresienstadt, we can conjecture that the drawings were made by Jonathan and Shmarjahu.

Likewise, we can only conjecture regarding the "Kusari". It is very likely that Frima and her children had taken the book with them to Theresienstadt. Since they certainly knew nothing about the exact whereabouts of Joachim, they could wrongly assume that Joachim was expecting them in Theresienstadt and would be pleased with the reading material they had brought with them. This is one possibility - a second would be the concentration of household effects from liquidated apartments in the "Protectorate" in Prague, among which could have been the books from the Astel family household.

We gave the book to the family of one of the surviving brothers of Joachim Astel in Israel in spring 2023. The research also made it possible to establish contact between the relatives and the town of Kroměříž, where four Stolpersteine had already been laid in 2017 in front of the former (rabbi's) home of the Astel family.


We would like to thank Shulamit Rosenthaler of Magen David Adom, the team of the archives of the University of Vienna, Dr. Šárka Kašpárková of the Municipal Library in Kroměříž for sharing research results, as well as the members of the Astel family for their trustful contact.

Selected sources

Link to the "Kusari" at the Looted Cultural Assets databaase

Genealogical records, especially via, and

Data on persecution, among others, in the Arolsen Archives and in the Yad VaShem Archives

Two (children's) drawings from Theresienstadt, signed "Astel":

Polish Roots in Israel: Michael Astel about his family from Przemyśl (2008):

Article about the Stoplerstein laying: Poslední kroměřížský rabín a jeho blízcí mají své "kameny zmizelých":

Joachim Astel (1901-1942) (there also further literature)

Birth record: Archiwum Państwowe w Przemyślu, Zespół 1924: Akta stanu cywilnego Izraelickiej Gminy Wyznaniowej w Przemyślu, Sygnatura 56/1924/0/13, Akta 565, (scan 302)

Gold, Hugo: Židé a židovské obce v Čechách v minulosti a v přítomnosti, Brno 1934, p. 638.

Listed as military rabbi:

Photo of the "General Citizen's Legitimation" from the Protectorate period:

Record as owner of the property Senefelder Straße 33 in Berlin, Berlin address book from 1935:

Register of students at the Hochschule für Welthandel in Vienna:

Doctoral records of the University of Vienna: Archives of the University of Vienna, PH RA 5898

Record in the database "Auschwitz Prisoner Photos": or

Frima Astelová, geb. Melzer (wife, 1904-1943)

Birth record:

Jonathan Astel (son, 1931-1943)

Schmarjahu Astel (son, 1935-1943)

Wilhelm (WIllek) Klemens Zeev Astel (brother, 1906-1971)

Birth record: State Archive in Przemyśl, Complex 1924: Civil Status Records of the Israelite Religious Community in Przemyśl, Ref. 56/1924/0/29, File 316, (Scan 256)

Hilary/Hilarius (Chillek/Chiel) Astel (brother, 1896-?)

Birth record: State Archive in Przemyśl, Complex 1924: Civil Status Records of the Israelite Religious Community in Przemyśl, Ref. 56/1924/0/11, File 639, (Scan 266)

Registry of students at the Hochschule für Welthandel in Wien:

Leo(n) Astel (brother)

Congratiulations on the engagement 1919:

Israel Astel (brother, 1897-1899)   

Birth record: State Archive in Przemyśl, Complex 1924: Civil Status Records of the Israelite Religious Community in Przemyśl, Ref. 56/1924/0/11, File 506, (Scan 418)

Death record: State Archives in Przemyśl, Complex 1924: Civil Status Records of the Israelite Religious Community in Przemyśl, Ref. 56/1924/0/25, Akta 61, (Scan 231)

Leib/Leiba Dawid Astel (brother, 1893-?)

Birth record: State Archive in Przemyśl, Complex 1924: Civil Status Records of the Israelite Religious Community in Przemyśl, Ref. 56/1924/0/10, Akta 248, (Scan 56)

(Text: Ph. Zschommler)