Visiting Prague’s Jewish Quarter is an Emotional and Educational Journey

| 10/18/2017 9:17:00 AM

Marilyn Jones 

When I entered the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague’s Jewish Quarter, I was not prepared for what I saw. On the walls are painted the names of nearly 80,000 Czech and Moravian Jews; victims of Shoah concentration camp during Nazi occupation.

Prague's Jewish Quarter

Prague's Jewish Quarter

Founded in 1479 by Rabbi Pinkas — one of the Jewish community’s wealthy members — it now serves as a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The synagogue was converted into this moving monument between 1955 and 1960 by painters Václav Boštík and Jiří John. After the Soviet invasion of 1968, the memorial was closed for more than 20 years. It was fully renovated and opened again in 1995.

As emotional as the site of all those names is, on the second floor are children’s drawings from Terezin concentration camp where the Jewish children were imprisoned during World War II. The drawings tell of the persecution of Jews in the Czech lands between 1939 and 1945. It’s hard to look at the pictures knowing most of the children were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Březinka extermination camp. The paintings illustrate the transports to Terezin and everyday life in the ghetto as well as dreams of returning home.