Home......World......Europe......Czech Republic......Murals......E-mail


Different views of the Church of Our Lady before Tyn

TYN CHURCH . . 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 of shame.. 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.

The 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..

The 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.


Inside Tyn Church
Tycho Brahe
Copyright 2007 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.