Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Visit to the Prague Ghetto

Tuesday, we decided to explore Prague by ourselves rather than to take a group tour. I have always believed that learning about other cultures enriches our lives and teaches us respect for and acceptance of others' beliefs.  When I was teaching, I especially enjoyed reading multicultural stories to children. Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Polish-born American whose works are translated from Yiddish, adapted traditional Jewish stories for children. My favourite children's book about Prague specifically is The Golem, a picture book by David Wisniewski

We decided that a visit to the Prague Ghetto would be interesting to us. The Jewish settlement in Prague dates from the 11th century. Today, six synagogues, the Old Jewish Cemetery, and a museum can be visited on a single ticket. We were not allowed to take photos except outside in the cemetery. It is ironic that Jewish religious items were stockpiled in Prague to create a museum of an "extinct race."

The Pinkas Synagogue is a memorial to the 80,000 Jewish residents of Bohemia and Moravia who were killed by the Nazis. Both my sister and I were moved by the seemingly endless list of names. Young people, old people, families...Family names and prénoms repeating over and over.

Another heart-wrenching display was the artwork of the children of Terezin, the "model" ghetto. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis taught art to the children while they were awaiting their final deportation. Materfamilias wrote a few days ago about the art of her grand-daughter. The art of these children with their rainbows, flowers and hair bows contrasts with the physical setting of the camp.  Dicker-Brandeis and 550 of the 660 children were killed. Fireflies in the Dark, a book by Susan Goldman Rubin tells the story of the Terezin children.

The visit taught us both a lot about Jewish ritual and ceremony and about the magnitude of the Shoah.







1 comment:

  1. Important to witness again and still to the magnitude of the horrors suffered by the Jews through the Holocaust. Often we grasp magnitude contrarily, through the small things, as you suggestion here. The art of children, simple stories, people's names. . . Sobering to be reminded that precious small children like my Nola could be so tragically eradicated.
    You and your sister must have been very quiet by the end of your day. Take care.

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