The Jewish quarter is a small area known as Josefov between the
Old Town Square and the Vltava River. Most of it can be walked through
and around in a single day but any detailed explorations needs time.
The Jewish cemetery, Old-new synagogue, Klausen Synagogue and the
Pinkas synagogue are the most worthwhile sights. Be prepared for
entrance fees at several of the sights.
The history of the area dates back to the 11th
Century. Though the Jews of this time prospered and coexisted in
relative peace with their neighbours, the crusades of the 11th century
were to bring a tidal wave of sorrow.
While en-rout to the Holy Land, the crusaders massacred the Czech
Jews and plundered their properties. Those who survived were forcibly
converted to Christianity. In this period, several significant changes
were imposed on the remaining Jewish communities. Their synagogues
were burned to the ground, their civil rights were severely limited
and they were forced to build their community on the right bank
of the Vltava only, thus limiting their movements and clearly identifying
their minority group. This was the beginning of what later came
to be known as the Jewish ghetto, an area which
today is frequented by tourists.
Among the many atrocities through the
centuries committed on the Jews that, of the Nazi era was to have
the most devastating effect. At this time there were an estimated
56,000 Jews residing in Prague alone. Only 10% of the country’s
entire Jewish population would survive the German occupation. Most
were first sent to the prison camp of Terezin (60 km North West
of Prague) which today stands as a memorial museum and is open to
The size of the Jewish community
left in the Czech Republic and Prague today is difficult to estimate.
After having been one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe,
they are now among the smallest. The history of the Czech Jews has
been unique and tragic, leaving behind proof of their historical
significance to this part of Europe, which can be visited to this
day. Since the collapse of Communism the Synagogues of the old town
seem to have been re-awakened and new activity by the local Jewish
community growing. Several Jewish organisations have been formed,
buildings renovated and kosher restaurants reopened.A sign, we hope,
of the comeback of a people.
Note: Avoid this quarter on Saturdays, because of the Sabbath on