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József Zwack, was born 200 years ago – Part 1.

“József Zwack, was born 200 years ago, who was the founder of the factory of the liqueur specialties called Zwack J. and partners.”


Exactly two hundred years ago, on April 1, 1821, Zwak Wolf, was born in the Czech Kingdom of the Austrian Empire in today’s Batelov, i.e. the imperial and royal court supplier, trader and manufacturer of the Hungarian liqueur industry, founder of Zwack Unicum.

Today, the small town of almost 2,000 people is located in the Jihlava district of southern Bohemia, where Jews have lived since the Middle Ages. The first written records of the Jews are from 1426. The Jewish community has been active in the town since the end of the 18th century. The newly built Jewish Quarter after the Great Fire of 1790 still forms a well-preserved unit with its small square and several narrow streets. The synagogue which is still standing in the city was built in 1794 on the site of the old synagoge that was destroyed in the Great Fire. People were buried in a Jewish cemetery from the end of the 17th century, where today there are about 300 tombstones. The oldest tombstone dates back to 1715. The old cemetery is protected as a cultural heritage monument in the Czech Republic. The ancestors of the Zwack family also rest here. The geneology  can be traced back to the grandparents of the founder, who lived here in the settlement. The grandparents were Adam Zwak (circa 1744 – October 20, 1817) and his wife Rozália (1752 – 1839).

Their grandchild, Zwak Wolf (זְאֵב זוואק), i.e. the dynasty founder József Zwack, Zwak Caspar i.e. Gáspár (April 17, 1862) and Leonore Löwy or Eleonóra (February 14, 1792 – February 14, 187) was born in this small Czech settlement in a populous family. Back in the days when the industry of the Austrian Empire was just beginning to unfold. According to the geneology, Wolf had a total of 12, i.e. 7 brothers and 5 sisters. According to the recollections, “he was already engaged in the spirits industry at the age of 19 and was already working with Görebei (?) with some foresight, and began to enforce the principle that beverages should not be made from essences but from substances that give the drink its name; after all, this principle has earned him the reputation he left behind after 75 years of work. ”

The development of the Hungarian alcohol and liqueur industry can also be traced back to the youth of József Zwack. The merchant (family) migrating from the Czech Republic to Hungary, seeing the business and economic opportunity in Hungary, founded his shop and factory in 1840 in the center of Pest, in the Moroccan courtyard. (Immigration from the Czech Republic was also characteristic of several other later-known merchant families. The settlement was also due to changes in the law in 1840: this allowed Jews free migration, free trade, the creation of crafts, and manufacturing.) It stood on the site of today’s Erzsébet Square. The Moroccan house was in the prime location for business. The proximity of the Danube shore of Pest, the commercial routes and the shopping streets (the former Rak market, Váci utca, Király utca) also seemed suitable for the transportation of goods. In addition, there were many wholesalers in the Moroccan house, including the colonial merchant company that was founded by József Hoffmann in 1804. According to sources, József Zwack did not come to Pest alone and was followed by his brothers, who were also engaged in brandy brewing or the spirits trade. (Zwack Max, ie Miksa the later partner of József Zwack, Mór Zwack, Dávid Zwack also settled in Pest.)

Spirits and liqueur companies initially evolved from royal leases into so-called regals. The pro-industrial movements and political advances of the 1830s and 1840s, and the emergence of commercial and industrial laws, also helped the domestic spirits industry to advance, develop, and actually emerge. From the Middle Ages onwards, the Jews played a displaced role in Europe, but they were also traders and, due to their legal status, engaged in finance and trade, as well as in dealings. Such an occupation, also practiced by the Jews, was the right to pub and the right to cook brandy or spirits, both in a landlord’s or even a market town or a free royal urban setting. Thanks to the changes in the law, Jews could already establish a factory and factory in Hungary. And the emancipation of 1867 also made it easier for Jewish merchants and craftsmen to integrate, settle down, and do business more freely.

source: Török Róbert, Honismeret, A Honismereti szövetség folyóirata, XLIX. Évfolyam.


1095 Budapest, Dandár utca 1.

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