QUARTER . .
For centuries, not just World War II, Czech Jews suffered oppressive
laws.. They were heavily taxed, restricted
in the kind of employment allowed, allowed only certain neighborhoods
to live, and required to wear distinctive yellow circles as a mark
Conditions were relaxed
some by Joseph II's Edict of Toleration in 1781 so the Jewish Quarter
is named in honor of him..
In 1850 the quarter was
incorporated as a part of Prague, but it was still a slum with an
inadequate water supply.
In the 1890's it was decided to raze the ghetto slums because it was
a health hazard.. It may have been medieval
and sound picturesque, but it was a decaying health hazard with the
highest death rate in the city.. Fortunately,
this renovation happened between 1895 and 1915 when Art Nouveau was
the style of the day.. Six hundred two
houses were destroyed, leaving only eight churches, five synagogues,
the Jewish Town Hall, and the Old Jewish Cemetery..
With this make-over, Josefov is simply amazing to stroll.
tour had some especially moving aspects..
Inside the Pinkas Synagogue (1479), the walls are lined with the names
of the 77,297 Jewish victims of the Holocaust from Bohemia and Moravia..
All the names along with their cities and dates line the walls; hometowns
in gold, family names in red, dates of birth and deportation in black..
At one point during Communist rule, the names were painted over..
And after the Israeli Six-Day War in 1967, the place was "closed"
for renovation.. However, it was reopened
in 1991 and everything has been painstakingly restored..
These victims were sent to Terezin concentration camp before later
deportation to various death camps..
It's horrible to imagine this happening to anyone, but it's even worse
to imagine it happening to children..
And, in the upper floor of the synagogue is an exhibit of children's
art from Terezin..
Old Jewish Cemetery isn't very big, but it was about the only place
on the tour that you could photograph..
From 1429 to 1787, it was the only place that Prague Jews were allowed
to bury their dead.. The oldest grave
is that of Avigdor Karo in 1439.. The
last burial was Moses Beck in 1787..
Burials stopped when Joseph II banned any more within the walls of
the city as a health precaution.. Because
of the lack of space, people were buried on top of other people, sometimes
12 layers deep.. It is estimated that
over 100,000 people were buried there..
The ground has shifted over the years as the earth settled, so the
12,000 gravestones that still stand point in many different directions..
Many are worn and impossible to read..
Upon a closer inspection, many of the gravestones have small pebbles
resting on them.. Jews don't take flowers
to the cemetery.. They place pebbles
on the tombstones to remind them of their travels in the desert where
rocks were put on the graves to protect the bodies from wild animals..
In spite of the hoards of tourists, there is a sense of dignity and
calm that reigns over the scene.