Friday, April 9, 2010 – Day 4


We spent most of our day in the Jewish Quarter of Prague today learning the history of this beautiful city, and especially the history of the Jews here. Shalmi and our Czech guide, Kamilla, educated us on the kingdom of Bohemia, which was ruled by the Holy Roman Empire Charles IV. Because of his desire to turn Prague into a capital fitting an empire, Charles utilized the Jews to finance the building of institutions like Charles University and the Charles Bridge. Another paradox presents itself: The Jews live in Prague, yet they simultaneously live completely on their own, enclosed in the world of the ghetto next to the central market square.

We toured four synagogues, including the Old New Synagogue, which was led by Rabbi Loew, creator of the legendary Golem. In the Maisel Synagogue, Shalmi told us that during the Holocaust, curators of the Jewish Museum of Prague asked the Nazis if they could collect the religious objects that the Jews would have to leave behind when transported to the camps. Surprisingly, the Nazis allowed this, and to this day, there are thousands of religious objects in rows and rows above the ceiling of the Maisel Synagogue, catalogued meticulously by curators who assumed that one day they would be returned to their rightful owners.

From here, we silently walked through the Pinkas Synagogue, which bears a memorial to the 80,000 Jews of Prague and nearby towns who were victims of the Holocaust. Each person’s name, date of birth and date of death is painted by hand on the interior walls of this synagogue and listed by the town they were from. The silence is deafening as one walks through the rooms of the synagogue and thinks about the people who were killed by the Nazis. Just outside is the old Jewish Cemetary, where we walked and learned about the several layers of people who were buried here due to the limited space permitted by the king. The last synagogue we visited was the Spanish Synagogue, with absolutely beautiful painted walls and ceilings done in an incredibly ornate, Moorish style.

Kayla writes:
Today I connected the life of the Jewish people in both Prague and Berlin by comparing the synagogues we visited in both locations. In each society, the elaborate synagogues made the most wealthy Jews more visible, but didn’t represent the economic level of most Jews. Their affluence was reflected in their synagogues and personal property. Each synagogue, specifically the Maisel, the Spanish and the New Synagogue in Berlin, was elaborately decorated and designed. The Maisel Synagogue contains thousands of Jewish possessions which are either gold, silver, or decorated with gems. During the Nazi era these possessions were collected, catalogued and stored, but never returned to the Jewish owners.

Matt Bachmann writes:
The Jews in Prague were not noticed as much in society as the Jews in Berlin. By building a synagogue in Berlin with a golden dome, the Germans noticed their efforts to be recognized. The Jews in Prague did not assimilate into society as fast. As we went from synagogue to synagogue in Prague, from old to new, the synagogues got more modern, to the point where they were completely modern. The assimilation for the Jews in Prague went a lot slower than the assimilation of Jews in Berlin.

**Please note, previously we posted the summary separately and then posted student reactions as comments.  Our posts will now include a summary of the day and student reactions.  We will leave the comment section open for anyone outside the tour who wishes to comment.

20 comments

  1. That's so amazing how everyone's name, date of birth, and date of death is hand painted on the wall of the Pinkas Synagogue. It must be astonishing to see all of this.

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  2. Wow, I can't beleive that the nazis would allow the curators to try to return the religious items back to their Jewish owners. It's kind of a good thing that they were allowed to, so now there's a museum for it. I wonder if any of those items will, or have, been returned to their owners

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  3. What you wrote about the Pinkas Synagogue memorial struck me the most. I can only imagine what it would be like to walk through something like that. It must have been moving and very emotional. It’s wonderful that they have memorials like that to honor the victims of the Holocaust.

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  4. It's shocking, but good, that the Nazis allowed the curators to collect religious objects. It's another memorial to honor the victims of the Holocaust. And as for the Jewish Cemetary, it must have been so hard to walk through that and think of how many innocent lives were lost.

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  5. It's suprising that the curators were allowed to keep the religious objects. Its good that the names, date of birth, and date of the Jews' deaths are painted in the Pinkas Synagogue, this way they can always be remembered.

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  6. I was shocked when reading that the Nazis allowed the collection of these religious objects. Additioally, I wouldn't be able to bear walking through the Jewish Cemetary if I was a student on the trip. Just thinking of doing so made me realize how much I take for granted and how much I do not think of what I would do if I went through something as painful and cruel.

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  7. The fact that the Nazis allowed the collection of the religious items did seem surprising. And, walking through the various cemeteries and memorials must have been an extremely difficult and emotional experience. To think of the many innocent lives that were lost during this period of time and seeing the areas where they were buried must have been very upsetting and life-changing.

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  8. I think it is really spectacular how they hand painted everyone’s name, date of birth and death on the wall of the Synagogue. I wish I could see that in person. When is read that the Nazis allowed the collection of religious items I was really surprised.

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  9. I was shocked to hear that the Nazis allowed the curators of the Jewish Museum of Prague to collect any religious objects the Jews were forced to leave behind. I think you guys are pretty brave to walk across the memorials because the thought of all the innocent deaths must have been floating in your mind. At least, there are many memorials to honor the victims of the Nazis.

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  10. It surprised me when I read about how the Nazis allowed the curators to collect the religious objects. Having everyone’s name, date of birth, and date of the death is a way we can all remember those who passed away during the Holocaust. I wouldn’t have been able to walk through the Jewish Crematories; therefore, it must have been very emotional thinking about how many innocent lives were lost.

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  11. It is amazing that so many of the Jews have their names on the wall. It must be shocking just to walk through and read so many names, and to think of how many of them suffered. I also cannot believe that the Nazis allowed the curators to collect religious objects. It is all so surprising and just so sad to me.

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  12. Walking through the Pinkas Synagogue in complete silence must have been a breath-taking experience. Just knowing every single one of those 80,000 memorials were victims of the Holocaust, and not even all of them, seems crazy and only has a person think of the cruel times. But knowing each of those 80,000 memorials had facts hand painted on them only shows that each of the memorials were individually appreciated, and are still respected as of today.

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  13. Walking through the Pinkas Synagogue must have been an unforgettable experience. The name, date of birth, and date of death is hand painted on the wall to ensure the Jews of Prague and nearby towns, will never be forgotten. It's important to recognize the Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust.

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  14. It is somewhat surprising that the Nazis allowed the Jewish Museum of Prague to keep the religious objects that the Jews would have to leave behind. The Nazis seemed to be all about the destruction of anything and everything that was associated with the Jews. However, maybe the reason the Nazis allowed this was because they knew something that the curators at the museum did not know at the time; these religious objects would never be returned to their rightful owners. Perhaps the Nazis allowed this just to amuse their sick selves.It must have been completely overwhelming to walk through the Pinkas Synagogue. Just like Nisha said, it's probably an experience that is truly unforgettable. It is certainly upsetting to think about 80,000 innocent people being killed by the masses, and I'm sure that's what comes to mind when walking through the synagogue. However, it is very comforting to know that all 80,000 of these people are remembered and honored every single day and for as long as this synagogue exists.

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  15. I'm suprised that the curators were allowed to keep the religious items. The walk through the Pinkas Synagogue must have been really mind blowing. I can't even imagine what would be going through my mind if I had to do that. It's good that everyone's name, date of birth, and date of death it written. These people deserve to be remembered.

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  16. I am amazed that the Nazis allowed the religious items to stay behind. I can't even imagine how amazing and moving it is to see all of those things left there!

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  17. Marty Bloyer: The Pinkas Synagogue is what really stood out to me in your blog about your journies today. To hear that at this synagogue there are 80,000 names handpainted on walls to remember the lives of Jewish people in the Holocaust. The process of painting the names must have been painstacking, but it only showed the dedication of many people who will show that they will not forget about the suffering millions of people went through. I wish I could be there to see this image in real life. I cannot picture it inside of my head. Also when you wrote about the silence at the synagogue reminded me of the Hall of Rememberance at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This was my favorite spot at the Memorial because of the silence. Silence makes me think even more about the pain and the hardships people in the Holocaust went through every day and it reminds me of how lucky I am. Thanks for sharing.

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  18. replicas relogiosanimation web design tutorials I wish I could be there to see this image in real life. I cannot picture it inside of my head. Also when you wrote about the silence at the synagogue reminded me of the Hall of Rememberance at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This was my favorite spot at the Memorial because of the silence. Silence makes me think even more about the pain and the hardships people in the Holocaust went through every day and it reminds me of how lucky I am. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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