Jewish History in Prague

July 12, 2012 by

Free Things to Do, Sightseeing, Things To Do

Jewish Ceremonial Hall in the Jewish Quarter of Prague. Photo courtesy of Jim Linwood via Flickr.

Jewish Ceremonial Hall in the Jewish Quarter of Prague. Photo courtesy of Jim Linwood via Flickr.

The history of Jews in Prague is a vibrant and intermittently tragic one. More Jews lived in Prague than anywhere else in the world in the early 18th century, for instance, but both before and after, purges, exploitation, pogroms, atrocities and periods of expulsion plagued Jews in Czech lands off and on for centuries. At the beginning of WWII, more than 90,000 Jews called Prague home. By the end of the war, fewer than 15,000 remained in the entire country.

Today, Jewish heritage and culture has become celebrated, and Jewish heritage sites have become a major tourist draw.

Among the many noteworthy related sites worth visiting are the offices of the Jewish Community Federation of the Czech Republic and the Jewish Town Hall, which are adorned with beautiful Hebrew and Roman faced clocks, (the clock with the Hebrew letters turns counterclockwise).

The center of Jewish culture, history and tourism in Prague is the Jewish Museum in Prague 1. It houses a collection of approximately 40,000 artistic artifacts and 100,000 items of printed material. It is also your entry point for access to various historic synagogues, halls, educational institutions and the Old Jewish Cemetery.

Visitors interested in the last generation of Jewish writers, artists and intellectuals who lived in Prague before the outbreak of WWII (Franz Kafka, Max Brod and Franz Werfel, etc.) should visit the Franz Kafka Museum in Prague’s Mala Strana neighborhood. The museum houses a collection of Kafka’s correspondence, diaries, first editions, photographs and other personal items. Laid out as a linear narrative, the collection is rich with historical context and provides an intimate glimpse into life and literature in Prague during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

-John Reality

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