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Jewish Memorial in Liberec
ISJM, December 1, 2008

The Prague Daily Monitor has reported that a memorial to Holocaust victims was installed in the Czech town of Liberec, 90 kms NNE of Prague, on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht. The Renaissance-Revival style synagogue of Liberec, built in 1889 was set afire by the Nazis in 1938 and then demolished. Before the Holocaust 1600 Jews lived in Liberec. Only 37 survived.

The new memorial is located in the former ceremony hall of the Jewish cemetery, built in 1900 and used as a storage space until this restoration (which cost 7 million Czech crowns, about 250,000 euro). The cemetery, opened in 1865 and expanded in 1896, has also been restored in recent years. In addition to graves of local Jews, the cemetery also has graves of many World War I era refugees from Galicia, and a mass grave of 11 women prisoners from the labor camp in Bílý Kostel n. Nisou.

According to the Prague Daily Monitor, Czech Senate chairman Premysl Sobotka said such memorials must be built for people not to forget about the past and not to allow anything like this to repeat.  For the restoration of the cemetery hall and the creation of the memorial, the municipality contributed 4.75 million crowns, the regional authority provided 2.5 million crowns. The remainder came from private donors and the Holocaust victims foundation.

For more information on Czech Jewish sites, the best comprehensive source remains Jiří Fiedler's Jewish Sights of Bohemia and Moravia (Prague: Sefer, 1991).



Simhat Torah Celebration at Restored Synagogue
ISJM, October 23, 2008

Ruth Ellen Gruber reports that Simhat Torah was celebrated on October 22nd in the recently restored neo-Romanesque synagogue of Hermanuv Mestec (Czech Republic), designed by architect Frantisek Schmoranz and built in 1870.

The event was a joint celebration by Prague's liberal Bejt Simcha congregation and the Progressive Temple Sinai congregation from Wellington, New Zealand. Temple Sinai has a Torah scroll that comes from Hermanuv Mestec, which it received through the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust, of which I have written before.

Go to Simchat Torah in Hermanuv Mestec, CZ  for more information and photos of the synagogue.

Click here for more photos


Stolpersteine Project Memorializes Shoah Victims in Prague
ISJM, October 12, 2008

(Click here for this story with photos at Sam’s blog)

The Stolpersteine project ("Stones of the Vanished" or "Stumbling Stones") which began in Germany, and has now spread to the Czech Republic where it is being organized by the Czech Union of Jewish Students.  The first stones will be set in the Old Town, in the Jewish Quarter, but more stones will be put in Vinohrady where the majority of Prague's Jews lived before the Shoah.

The Stolpersteine project, originated in 1994 in Cologne by artist Gunter Demnig, embeds small stones resembling cobbles in the pavements near houses where Jews lived before their deportation out of Germany, or to their deaths. 

The stones are actually concrete cubes about 10cm each ( Four inches), with a thin sheet of brass on top inscribed with: 'here lived – the name of a person, the date of birth, the date of transport, where that person was deported and the place and date of that person's murder'. Each stone costs about 95 euro, paid for by contributions.  As of last year, 13,000 "stones" had been placed in 280 cities in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Holland. The largest numbers can be found in Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin.

The project is representative. It makes no attempt to identify and commemorate every deported Jew, homosexual or communist.  If it did, some German neighborhoods would be entirely paved with brass.

 See: "Holocaust victims remembered by new 'Stones of the Vanished' project".


Restitution: Jewish Museum of Prague to Return Art Collection
International Herald Tribune, September 24, 2008

The Associated Press has reported that the Jewish Museum of Prague is ready to return an art collection of 32 paintings that belonged to Emil Freund, a Jewish lawyer from Prague who died in the Lodz Ghetto in 1942 to Freund's relatives. The contested collection includes works by Signac, Derain and Utrillo. How the collection will be returned and when and where items can be sold remains unclear. Czech law requires that at least some of the most notable works remain in the Czech Republic. The claimants would like the right to sell works abroad.
Read the article in the International Herald Tribune here.


US & UK Synagogues Research Kladno (Czech Rep.) Torah Scrolls
By Samuel Gruber
ISJM, July 18, 2008

More than forty years after the establishment of the Czech Scrolls Memorial Trust in London, congregations holding these survivors of the Holocaust continue to learn about the scrolls and the history and fate of the communities that owned and used them. These investigations can lead to close ties between Jews and Czech (non-Jewish) communities.
Since they were "rescued" in the early 1960s, the Trust has successfully restored and distributed over 1500 Torah scrolls collected in Prague during the Nazi occupation. In recent months, two congregations in the US and the UK have collaborated with a Christian community in Kladno, Czech Republic, to learn more about the history of two scrolls which came from that town, and to commemorate the hundreds of Jews of Kladno who were murdered.

Congregation Beth El in Fairfield, Connecticut has one of the memorial scrolls. The Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue (NPLS) in Northwood, Middlesex, UK has a portion of another scroll, as well as Torahs from Kolin and Trebon. Rabbi Andrew Goldstein (who is retiring this year as Rabbi of NPLS) initiated the NPLS connection with (then) Czechoslovak Jewry in 1974 and has led many visits by to the Czech and Slovak Republics (See, for example: http://www.bjbe.org/spirit/kolin.htm). He and his congregation have been active in efforts to restore Jewish sites in Kolin and elsewhere.

However, as described in a recent article by NPLS member Michel Heppner, the Kladno Scroll at NPLS never quite got its due, and connections with that town were not made by congregation.

But this year, Dr. Ellin Yassky (known perhaps to my readers for the beautiful Jewish art books she has edited for publisher Hugh Lauter Levin), a member of Congregation Beth El in Fairfild, Connecticut (USA), took the leadership role in researching her congregation's Kladno Scroll. Fairfield and Middlesex congregations are working together, and they have linked with the Hussite congregation in Kladno, which owns and uses the former synagogue as its church.  The synagogue, erected in 1884 in a loose Neo-Renaissance style, still retains many of its original features.  It survives because the Jewish community of Kladno transferred ownership of the building to the Hussite congregation in 1939, in order to save it.

[In all, forty Czech synagogues are now churches; mostly Hussite. For a list see: Survey of Historic Jewish Monuments in the Czech Republic by Samuel Gruber and Phyllis Myers (eds.), 39-40, (under "reports")]

Together the three congregations have pieced together something of the history of the scrolls – and more importantly have begun joint commemorative and education programs about the Kladno Jewish community, its history and its fate. A commemorative service was held at the Hussite Church (former synagogue) in Kladno last Christmas, when members of the Fairfield Congregation visited on their way to Israel. On June 6th, 2006, the Fairfield scroll was re-dedicated in a ceremony attended by Czech diplomats, American elected officials, the mayor and archivist of Kladno, and the secretary of the Kladno Hussite Church. The guest speaker was Ela Weissberger, a Terezin survivor and a Holocaust education advocate. The Fairfield County Children's Chorale sang songs by Czech composer and Holocaust survivor Franticek Domazlicky.

For further information, please contact Congregation Beth El, 1200 Fairfield Woods Road, Fairfield, CT. 203-374-5544, or Ellin Yassky, Director of the Kladno Torah Research and Restoration Project.

Also see Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust


    
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Friday, June 20, 2008
Restoration of Baroque Synagogue in Jičín (Czech Republic) complete
by Samuel D. Gruber
ISJM
Following nearly eight years (2001-2008) the restoration of the magnificent Baroque synagogue in Jičín, North Bohemia (Czech Republic) is complete. The Prague Jewish Community will officially open the building to the public on Thursday, June 19, 2008.  The restoration project is part of a continuing effort by the Czech Jewish Community to reclaim, protect and preserver its historic, cultural and artistic heritage.

 read more ...


Friday, June 13, 2008
Restored Synagogue Reopened as a Museum in Straznice, Czech Republic.
By Samuel Gruber
ISJM
The Prague Monitor reports that the former synagogue in Straznice, Moravia (Czech Republic) was recently reopened after a long restoration process that took 15 years to complete.  The 1804 synagogue had been in a state of ruin since the Germans occupied the town in 1941.  The restoration was sponsored by the Brno Jewish Community and was overseen by architect Jaroslav Klenovsky.  The community and architect had previously successfully organized the restoration of the synagogue in Boskovice.  The former synagogue will be used by the town museum for exhibitions.


Friday, May 02, 2008
Jewish Museum in Prague Most Visited Museum in the Czech Republic
jewishmuseum.cz 2008 Newsletter
Each year, the Czech Ministry of Culture provides a statistical overview of the activities of museums and galleries in the Czech Republic with information, for example, on visitor numbers and the amount of cultural and educational events and exhibitions held. We have just received data on the activities of the 478 institutions surveyed in 2006. Attracting 629,383 visitors, the Jewish Museum in Prague retained its position as the most visited museum in the country and came second overall for the number of cultural and educational events held.

read more ...

 
Friday, May 02, 2008
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities Available @ Prague Jewish Museum Website
jewishmuseum.cz 2008 Newsletter
Among the Jewish Museum’s important activities is the gathering of information on the development and history of Jewish settlement in the Czech lands. For several years, this information has been available in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Settlements and Memorial Sites in the Czech Republic, which can be accessed on the website www.jewishmuseum.cz/en/adokuzo.htm. This encyclopedia is being compiled on an ongoing basis due to the increasing amount of data involved. 700 of the more than 1,300 entries that are being put together are now available to order, although these too are continually being supplemented and updated.

read more ...

 

Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Czech police find all plates stolen from Terezin cemetery
ČeskéNoviny
Terezin- The Czech police have found all of the more than 800 bronze plates that unknown thieves stole from the National Cemetery in Terezin recently at a salvage point, but all of them broken, the regional supplement to Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes today.
"The police have advised us that they have found 580 kilograms of bronze pieces that corresponds to the about 800 lost bronze plates," Stanislav Krejny, from the National Memorial in Terezin, told the paper.

read more ...

 
Friday, April 11, 2008
WW2 tyrannicide to have a monument in Prague
By Hana Pražáková
Aktuálně
Prague - The Prague 8 municipal authorities are going to announce a public bid next week for a memorial of the Second World War Operation Anthropoid. The monument is supposed to be aimed not only at commemorating the operation that resulted in the assassination of the Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia Reinhard Heydrich, but also at serving as a reminder of military honor in general. The memorial is expected to be located at the spot where the tyrannicide - or the assassination of a tyrant - took place. And this is going to be in spite of the road curve in Kobylisy where Heydrich was slain no longer exists.

read more ...

 
Exhibition in the Robert Guttmann Gallery at the Jewish Museum in Prague – “Hope Is on the Next Page” 100 Years of the Library of the Jewish Museum in Prague
ISJM, October 29, 2007
9 August – 21 October 2007 Open daily 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., except Saturdays and Jewish holidays
U Staré školy 3, Prague 1 (rear tract of the Spanish Synagogue), tel. 221 711 553
The story of the museum’s library begins in 1858 with the founding of the Library of the Prague Jewish Religious Community, which opened in 1874 under the supervision of Nathan Grün. This now constitutes the historic core of the museum’s book collection. The Jewish Museum in Prague (1906–1940) was founded in 1906 in connection with the clearance of the Prague ghetto, and books formed an integral part of its collections.

link to article
 


    
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Mountain Synagogue Hartmanice
Visitors to Prague may want to schedule a side trip to the mountain town of Hartmanice to visit the recently restored 1884 synagogue, which now houses a history exhibition.  For those that cannot make the trip, the private Hartmanice Memorial Association, established in 2002, has created a very accessible website documenting the history of the building and its restoration and the Memorial to the Coexistence of Czechs, Germans and Jews in Šumava they have created there. This website is an excellent example of how a single small and relatively isolated project can present itself to the world.

The Jewish Museum in Prague
Attracting between 500,000 to 600,000 visitors each year, their institution is consistently the most frequented museum in the Czech Republic.

The Catalogue of the Jewish Cemetery in Znojmo
The catalogue includes a list
of preserved gravestones in alphabetical order.
A plan of the cemetery is also available.


    
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