On our Grand Walk tour we spent some time in the Jewish Quarter and were told of the early days when the Jews were restricted to this area and had an identification mark on their clothing. We saw the Synagogues which were built many hundreds of years ago, however some do not hold services anymore as the Jewish population pre World war 2 was 120,000 and during the war 80,000 were killed whilst most of the survivors migrated to other parts of the world. There are approximately 8,000 Jews in Prague today but they do not live in this area. We saw the elevated cemetry and other old buildings. This area also has many fine buildings.
We now will walk down Parizska Street, where we come to the JEWISH QUARTER, in the Josefov Section of Prague, with its Old-New Synagogue, Old Jewish Cemetery, the Jewish Museum, the Spanish Synagogue and statue of the famous Jewish writer Franz Kafka.
Prague's Jewish Community dates back to the 10th century and is the only Central European Jewish Town Quarter that survived the Holocaust.
The accompanying picture is of the beautiful Spanish Synagogue which was built in 1868 in a unique Moorish style and is located on Shiroka Street.
The two images provided indicate a map of the Jewish Quarter and a key to the featured locations.
Prague Jewish live has been characterized by repeated persecutions. Periodically, Jewish civil rights were severely and increasingly limited. They were forced to live in a swampy area near the Old Town Square, the first ghetto. In 1389, nearly the entire population of 3000 was killed. The 15th Century Hussite wars brought increasing business restrictions and payments for protection. During the 16th Century Prague Renaissance, certain limited rights were granted by the Hapsburgs as the Jewish population assumed a greater role in business. The population swelled as immigrants from other countries arrived. Twice in this century, the Jews were expelled from Prague but then allowed to return. In the early 18th Century Prague had the largest Jewish population in the world.
The tolerant Josef II issued the Edict of Toleration in 1781. Religious freedoms were granted and Jews were allowed to participate in all forms of business and culture. In gratitude, the Jewish ghetto was named Josefov. Jewish life prospered for a prolonged period. In the late 19th Century the overcrowded ghetto was demolished and new streets and buildings created. The only remaining structures are those synagogues and the cemetary forming the Jewish Museum today.
In March 1939, Germany occupied Czech lands. At least two thirds of the 55000 Prague Jews perished during the Holocaust. Life under the Communist regime was no better, with absence of freedom for all. In 1989, Czech reforms led to the fall of Communism. Today only 1700 Jews live in Prague and there is only one rabbi in the entire country.
Prague is filled with Jewish historical sites under the supervision of the Jewish Museum. Over 140000 documents and artifacts are on display. Many were gathered by the Nazis as part of a plan for a "Museum of an Extinct Race". Included are artifacts from Terezin, including the heartbreaking drawings of the children imprisoned there.
The Jewish Quarter or Josefov is a popular tourist destination in Prague due to its central location and unique history. Though much of the original town was redeveloped from 1893-1913, the key sites remain including 6 synagogues, the cemetery and the town hall. The Jewish Museum maintains the following sites: Maisel Synagogue, Pinkas Synagogue, Spanish Synagogue, Klausen Synagogue, the Old Jewish Cemetery, and the Ceremonial Hall. The confusingly named Old-New Synagogue is open to the public, but is run by the local Jewish community. The 6th Synagogue, called the High Synagogue, is an active synagogue, closed to the public.
The Old-New Synagogue was built in the 1200s and is the oldest preserved synagogue in central Europe. It is still in use today.
The Pinkas Synagogue was completed in 1535 next to the Jewish cemetery. This synagogue contains the names of some 80,000 Jews who were killed by the Nazis.
The Maisal Synagogue was built from 1590 to 1592. It was virtually destroyed by fire in 1689 but was rebuilt in its current style from 1893 to 1905.
The Klausen Synagogue was built in 1604 and houses an exhibition on Jewish customs and traditions.
The Spanish Synagogue was constructed in 1868 in a Moorish style and contains Islamic motifs throughout the interior. It was built by Spanish Jews who settled the area.
The High Synagogue was originally built in 1568 but was rebuilt in 1883 after being destroyed by fire. It is not open to the public.
Ceremonial Hall was completed in 1912 and was once the mortuary for the Jewish Cemetery.
The Jewish Cemetery contains the graves of about 100,000 people buried in as many as 12 layers!
The Jewish Town Hall was built in 1765 and is the center of Prague's Jewish community today.
During my visit I wanted to view the temples, but the exorbitant entrance fees turned me away. To visit all the areas of the Jewish Museum cost 300 CZK per person (13 USD) and the Old-New Synagogue attempts to charge 200 CZK per person (9 USD).
Prague's first Jewish ghetto began in the 10th century. They hung on through the centuries, despite vicious persecution. In the late 18th century, the Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II restored the Jewish Quarter and allowed the people to live in peace. So this area was named the Josefov, in his honor. The Jews were finally granted full civil rights in 1848.
The Nazis murdered about 90 percent of the Jews in Prague. They intended to turn the ghetto into an open-air museum. So despite everything that happened, the buildings survived. Today, the Josefov has been re-opened to visitors.
Its most outstanding feature is the historic Jewish Town Hall, an impressive Renaissance building from the late 16th century. Be sure to visit the Old Jewish cemetery, with its roughly 20,000 grave stones packed into a tiny space. The synagogues also remain intact.
The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) in Prague used to be one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. The history of the area dates back to the 11th century. It contains many interesting buildings, synagoges and one of Europe's oldest Jewish cemeteries (1478).
Like most cities, Prague has a Jewish quarter. Many Jews moved into the area in the 13th Century although they had been in various locations around the city for hundreds of years
There are many historical synagogues and an old Jewish cemetery full of ancient, crumbling and fallen headstones and you can get a ticket to allow you to visit them all
Josefov this is the old Jewish Quarter in Prague. This is the Jewish Town Hall (Zidovske radnice) built by Maisel in 1586. The rococo facade is added in XVIII century. There are two clocks. Very interesting is the Jewish Clock whose hands run backwards becouse Hebrer reads from right to left.
Josefov is a very small district of Prague that the large Jewish population of the city was confined to because of the extreme prejudice inflicted upon them by the Christian population. In Josefov and throughout Europe, the Jewish people were forced to live in very crowded conditions because of the unreasonably small space alloted to them. Josefov was established and the original synagogue was built nearly 1000 years ago. Soon thereafter many of Josefov's residents were massacred by Christians on their way to fight the Crusades. Their houses and Synagogue were destroyed.
A new synagogue was built at the site of the original one in the year 1270. That synagogue known as Staranova ( old-new ) is perfectly preserved, and looks almost exactly as it did 700 years ago. Prague's few remaining Jews worship there. Other synagogues were built in later years, including the Pinkas synagogue shown in photo #1. The 550 year old Pinkas synagogue is located only about 50 meters down the cobblestone lane from Staranova. The courtyard of Pinkas synagogue houses the Jewish cemetary. The small cemetary is completely filled with headstones. Bodies were buried up to 12 layers deep in what has to be the world's most crowded cemetary. This was Josefov's only cemetary from 1478 until about 1780.
Pinkas synagogue now houses one of the six museums of Josefov. It is also a memorial to the 80,000 Bohemian Jews murdered during the Nazi holocaust. The name of each, including dates of birth and demise, are inscribed on the walls. Even more heartbreaking is the upstairs exhibition featuring pictures drawn by children interred in the nearby Terezin concentration camp prior to their perishing in the gas chambers. It is not possible to leave Pinkas synagogue with a dry eye. Be prepared for a highly emotional experience.
Click on the weblink below for updated hours of operation and admission price. The admission price is good for all six museums and the cemetary. Those not wishing to purchase a ticket can look over the wall to see the cemetary.
No visit to Prague is complete without going to the old Jewish quarter, Josefov. Here you can some of the oldest Jewish institutes in Europe. Like the synagogue (shown below) and the cemetery. You can follow the history of the Jews in Prague until the tragic end in WWII.
I am afraid we did not had time enough to explore this neighborough, there is so much to visit that we only stopped in a few places, next time we will visit in more detail. Because there will be a next time from Prague for sure….
Anyway lets come back to the itinerary, we had only chance to see the synagogues and cemetery from outside as it was Sabbath (Saturday).
Some places you should not forget to visit are:
Old Jewish cemetery
Jewish Town hall
From Staromestske Namesti (Old town sqaure) get into Parizska Street pass Maisel synagogue and then turn right in Brehova to see from outside some of the gravestones. At the end of the street you can see the Klausen Synagogue. If you come back to Parizska Street you can see the Jewish Town hall, the High Synagogue and the Old-new Synagogue.
I missed the Spanish Synagogue that has Moorish influences in its construction, making it completely different to the standard ones.
We spent most of the second day of our trip exploring Josefov, Prague's Jewish quarter. It was freezing cold outside at the time so we were lucky that most of our time was spent inside the synagogues rather than wandering the streets.
Josefov is a small area above between Stare Mesto (Old Town) and the river. Most of the sights are clustered around a small area near around Siroka and Maiselova. There are a number of synagogues worth visiting and seeing them all takes the best part of a day. We bought one ticket which covered entry into all the synagogues (except the Old-New one) as well as the Jewish cemetery and the Ceremonial Hall for 300 Koruny (about 10 Euro).
The first we visited, the Pinkas Synagogue, contains a chilling memorial to the 80,000 Czech Jews killed in the holocaust. The names of each victim, their date of birth and the day they died (or were taken away), is written on the walls of each room in the building. Upstairs there is an exhibition of pictures drawn by children in the ghetto of Terzin. Most of these children would later die in concentration camps.
A walk through the cemetery is perhaps not the best thing to do after the Pinkas synagogue but it adjoins the synagogue and leads to the Klaus synagogue. The exhibition in here was, for me, the least interesting one we saw, concentrating on Jewish religious practices. Next door is the ceremonial hall which contains an exhibiton on Jewish burial and death.
The Spanish synagogue and the Maisel synagogue were the most interesting with the Spanish being my favourite on account of the amazing Moorish design of the interior, a desing not too common in synagogues I would imagine. The history of the Czech Jewish community is covered in exhibitions within the synagogues with the Maisel concentrating on history up to 1848 while the Spanish synagogue takes you from there up to the present day.
Josefov is Prague's former Jewish ghetto and was named after the emperor Josef II, whose reforms helped to ease living conditions for the Jewish. It is located between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River.
This quarter in Prague contains the most well-preserved Jewish historical monuments in Europe. Wandering along this part of town you will come across six synagogues, a Jewish Town Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery, which is considered one of the most remarkable burial grounds of its kind in Europe.
The medieval Jewish quarter of Prague was one of the densely populated and historic in all of Europe - but it was subjected to "slum clearance" in the late nineteenth century, and all that was left were a few synagogues, the old town hall and the Jewish cemetery. Miraculously, these remnants then survived the dark years of Nazi occupation, 1938-1945: Hitler wanted to preserve the ghetto as an "Exotic Museum of an Extinct Race." Sixty years later, there are still Orthodox Jews walking the streets of Josefov, although they are far outnumbered by the tourist swarms. All the same, it's impossible here not to be aware of the tremendous weight of history.
This part of Prague is dominated by synagogues, jewish cemetery, museum and other Jewish buildings. To be exact, you can visit Prague Jewish Museum, Old-New Synagogue, Maisel Synagogue and Old Jewish Cemetery. There are walking tours covering this part of Prague or you may choose to set your own pace. The admission fees are highly exaggerated and if you compare with the castle tickets, you see less and you pay more. However, in order to know more about Jewish way of life, it is a good way to get some impressions. The buildings around this area are also impressive and worth taking some pictures.