Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery

posted by Sharon January 21, 2018 43 Comments

Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery has a mystic atmosphere all its own. The tombstones, dating from 1439 to the late 1700s, sit nestled in crowded, lopsided clumps. The inscriptions are worn or long gone. As you wind around the tree-lined paths of the tranquil cemetery, you’ll want to know that about 100,000 people are buried here. How is that possible? The Jews were restricted to burying their dead only within the ghetto walls, so for centuries, this was the only place for graves. When one layer of ground was full, dirt was added and another layer was made. It’s estimated that 12 layers of graves lie here. The resulting tangle of headstones is at once picturesque and absolutely haunting. Prague Pinkas SynagoguePrague Pinkas Synagogue

Prague Old Jewish CemeteryYou may also wonder how this plot of Jewish history survived WWII, when Jews living here were deported to camps. It’s said that Adolf Hitler kept the Old Jewish Cemetery as it is because he wanted it to be a museum of a race he would extinguish from the world. Prague Old Jewish Cemetery

Prague Old Jewish CemeteryPrague Old Jewish CemeteryNext to the Old Jewish Cemetery is one of the synagogues open to tour in the Jewish sector of Prague. The Pinkas Synagogue dates from 1479 and today is a memorial to the Jews persecuted by the Nazis.

On the walls of this small, almost home-like synagogue are the names of the 77,297 Jews from Bohemia and Moravia who did not survive their time in the Terezin Camp. Prague Pinkas SynagoguePrague Pinkas Synagogue

The names are arranged by family, in red letters, and include birthdates and dates of death or deportation. The sheer volume of names is overwhelming, and add to that the sound of the names being read over the speakers while music is played in the background. Prague Pinkas Synagogue

One wall displays the names of the camps that received Czech Jews during WWII. Prague Pinkas Synagogue

In one wing of the synagogue you’ll find a display of children’s art coming out of Terezin. Very few lived through the war, but their art survived to depict their view of life. This picture shows a city park closed to Jewish children. Prague Pinkas Synagogue

The Pinkas Synagogue memorial was started in the 1950s but languished during Communist rule. The memorial was finished and opened to the public in 1996. Prague Pinkas Synagogue

Prague Pinkas SynagogueAs you leave the Jewish Quarter and walk around Prague, you’ll see memorial plaques in the sidewalks, known as stolperstein. The inscriptions contain names and dates of Jews deported during WWII. These are another reminder – never forget. Prague stolperstein

Prague Old Jewish Cemetery

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43 Comments

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Tamar Strauss-Benjamin January 22, 2018 at 1:52 am

Wow. I got goosebumps. I so want to see this one day.

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Margaret Birding For Pleasure January 22, 2018 at 7:18 am

Prague is a plac i want to visit and now this is a plac you have shown us that I wil definitey visit. Thanks for sharing. it is very sad but good that there is this memmorial for allto remember about what happened to the Jews. HAve a good week ahead,

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Usha Sitaaraam January 22, 2018 at 8:15 am

Prague is on one of my places to visit. This really gives me goosebumps. I enjoy your writing style and the eye for catching the details. Happy travelling!!!!

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Esther January 22, 2018 at 8:23 am

Isn’t this place just fascinating? I have visited twice, but it hadn’t lost any of its magic. Even on a busy August morning, things were still peaceful there.
#MondayEscapes

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Jesh StG January 22, 2018 at 8:36 am

The numbers haunt me. This is indescribably tragic. Prague may not have been bombed in the world Wars, but certainly did not escape the horror of the wars. Thank you for telling All Seasons the must-know situation about the Jews back then:( Have a love-filled week, Sharon!

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Susanne Wahl January 22, 2018 at 10:20 am

Wunderbare Bilder und ein toller informativer Text. Ich werde öfter vorbeischauen und werde dir folgen.
Viele Grüße aus Hamburg
Susa

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Keri | Ladies What Travel January 22, 2018 at 11:18 am

I really enjoyed my trip here a few years back, it’s a fascinating area even with its sad stories. #MondayEscapes

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Allison January 22, 2018 at 2:06 pm

12 layers of graves? That is incredible there were so many and also terribly sad that the Jewish people didn’t have better conditions to bury their dead. I think it is so important to remember all of these tragic stories even though it can be an uncomfortable thing to do. Thank you for sharing! #MondayEscapes

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Jules ( shadesofcourage.com) January 22, 2018 at 2:29 pm

I have visited the Prague Jewish Cementery as a teenager and would love to go back. I remember that seeing all the names on the wall, was quiet emotional and I had the same feeling years later when walking through Yad Vashem in in Jerusalem. #mondayescapes

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Marie-OR January 22, 2018 at 5:10 pm

The cemetery is hauntingly beautiful but also heart-breaking! So many lives considered unworthy of life; so many lost during the War too, and the Synagogue is so overwhelming! The memorial is one I would visit. I don’t think I could get through Auschwitz or one of the camps, but this I would visit. I have been reading books about the way the Polish were treated, and particularly the Jews, by the Nazis and it is so horrifying! A part of our human history to never forget, as you say! Beautiful photos of this sad sad place.

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tanya breese January 22, 2018 at 7:06 pm

so beautiful, and so sad…thank you for sharing

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Carol January 22, 2018 at 7:45 pm

Haunting and incredibly sad, thank you for another beautiful post on tragedy that we must not forget.

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image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup January 22, 2018 at 8:44 pm

Heartbreaking to think of man’s inhumanity to man. I am glad this cemetery wasn’t destroyed by Hitler’s goons. It is well worth remembering those who suffered under his terrible reign.
Thank you for sharing at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2018/01/homemade-bagels.html

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Claire at Tin Box Traveller January 22, 2018 at 9:24 pm

What a heart-breaking picture by the child. Such a tragedy and an incredibly moving memorial. Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

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Felicia January 22, 2018 at 9:34 pm

Oh wow, how so very sad and yet fascinating.

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Fun60 January 22, 2018 at 9:35 pm

I found this synagogue and the nearby cemetery very moving when i visited.

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Lucy Corrander January 22, 2018 at 9:38 pm

A moving post. And always it’s worth reminding us of these things because the sheer numbers are so hard to grasp they seem almost impossible – so we need to be told over and over and over.

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betty - NZ January 22, 2018 at 10:50 pm

What a wonderful piece of history to find and share with us.

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Photo Cache January 23, 2018 at 12:37 am

Fascinating. Prague is an intriguing destination.

Worth a Thousand Words

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Angie January 23, 2018 at 1:30 am

Haunting and beautiful at the same time. We must hope and pray that we live in a more humane era.

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a spirit of simplicity January 23, 2018 at 11:48 am

Wow! I would like to visit there one day. It is haunting and beautiful. I pray that we may one day live in a world where such things as these do not happen. It’s unfathomable to imagine that kind of hatred…but it’s important to remember that people are able to turn their backs to such things. They can be apathetic and scared and justify looking away. That is what we must all see in ourselves in order to prevent atrocities to our fellow human beings. I think that is why reminders are so important. I like that they are on the sidewalks where every day people walk…because everyday people turn their backs every day. We need to recognize that in ourselves in order to change it forever.

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Molly January 23, 2018 at 2:00 pm

What an amazing piece of history. Definitely on my list of places I would love to visit

Mollyx

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Lisa | Handmade in Israel January 23, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Wow! This is on my list of places to visit. What a somber place. Glad you have been there. Your photos are wonderful.

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Brooke of Passport Couture January 24, 2018 at 3:09 am

It’s sad to think about the history of this cemetery, but places like these are reminders of what we can learn from. Your story as you walk through the cemetery was haunting, real, and emotional. I appreciate your honesty and hearing your story.

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Sara January 24, 2018 at 2:30 pm

This was absolutely one of the most haunting experiences I’ve had. We were in Prague in April 2016 and visiting Pinkas reminded me of how important it was that we didn’t tolerate bigotry… unfortunately November 2016 did not go our way, but the feelings I had of seeing those names – so many names – and dates – has stuck with me. The cemetery was so peaceful – it’s hard to believe that it’s in the middle of Prague! #citytripping

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Bryna | Dotted Line Travels January 25, 2018 at 2:37 am

Haunting photos. I can’t imagine 12 layers of graves. I think it’s so important to visit these sorts of places to remember the injustices that happened, and hope that they don’t happen again.

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Urska January 25, 2018 at 11:23 am

This seems such an interesting place to visit – especially when you learn about the history behind it. #FarawayFiles

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California Globetrotter January 25, 2018 at 12:24 pm

We sadly only walked by and took pictures from the outside. There were just massive lines to get in, and I have a hard time in general visiting graves. It’s incredibly impressive that there are so many layers though! #FarawayFiles

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Shelley Jarvis January 25, 2018 at 3:16 pm

On my first visit to Prague we went to an exhibit of the art from the children of Terezin. It was heart breaking. They also had these horrible marionette puppets depicting Nazis, Hitler and Jews as if the children wanted to see puppet shows of the horrors they were living. The cemetery is equally haunting and beautiful.

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Hilary January 25, 2018 at 6:00 pm

A very powerful post. I”m so glad you’ve shared it. #citytripping

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Cathy (Mummytravels) January 25, 2018 at 7:21 pm

What an incredibly moving place – the sheer number of names in the Pinkas Synagogue are terrifying. I am glad of all the memorials in Prague, from the enduring cemetery to the solpersteine, and that horrific though this part of history was, we remember it that it might never happen again. Thank you for linking up with #citytripping

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Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) January 26, 2018 at 6:25 pm

What a heartbreaking place this must have been to visit – but an important one nevertheless. Thanks for sharing it with us on #FarawayFies

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Deborah Regen January 27, 2018 at 12:29 am

I am aware of this place but have never been there. I did not know about the graves being piled on top of another due to limited space. No words, so sad. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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Corey at fifi + hop January 27, 2018 at 2:11 am

12 layers of graves is astonishing. Just as haunting is the child’s picture of the playground closed to the Jewish. After all these years it’s still so hard to believe that this actually happened. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

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Sandra January 27, 2018 at 8:49 am

This cemetery is one the most moving places I’ve ever visited. Great post!
#TheWeeklyPostcard

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annette charlton January 27, 2018 at 11:59 am

Reading inscriptions on tomb stones and plaques has always fascinated but saddned me. I would love to see this cemetery to honour the dead. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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Tracy January 27, 2018 at 7:40 pm

We saw the cemetery when we visited Prague – I couldn’t get over the sheer number of headstones. I think it’s a very moving place.

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Anda January 28, 2018 at 8:47 am

Prague’s Jewish Cemetery is indeed very atmospheric. I remember having a feeling of sadness when I saw that pile of headstones laying there in disorder. It’s a place of remembrance that every young person should visit. The atrocities of war may seem unbelievable to those who were born in times of piece and abundance.

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Yvette Benhamou January 28, 2018 at 9:18 pm

Haunting is the perfect word. What a beautiful tribute to an emotionally – charged subject matter. Your pictures are stunning as well.

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Jill January 29, 2018 at 12:30 am

Heartbreaking and moving. Fantastic photos!

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City Tripping #104 - Wander Mum January 30, 2018 at 7:00 am

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Rachel January 30, 2018 at 11:19 am

Fascinating, heartbreaking, beautiful, important. Thank you for sharing this place, and whilst obviously I wish none of it had happened, I’m glad the victims are being remembered in such beautiful ways. Thanks for sharing these pictures and the stories behind them.

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TEN THINGS TO DO IN PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – Travel Barbie February 3, 2018 at 8:09 am

[…] important synagogues and a cemetery with more than 12,000 visible graves. for more info check out sharon’s post on prague’s old jewish […]

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