When Czechoslovakia was established in 1918, most of Josefov had been redeveloped, but Jewish life continued, centering around the synagogues, most notably the Old New Synagogue (see).
Perversely, the Nazis preserved Josefov because Hitler intended it to become “an exotic museum of an extinct race”, as Jewish artifacts were brought from all over Central Europe and housed in the Maisel Synagogue.
Today, five of the synagogues are open to the public and make up the Jewish Museum, a vivid and moving introduction to Jewish life in Prague. Particularly poignant is the Pinkas Synagogue, which lists the names of the 77,297 Holocaust victims of Bohemia and Moravia.
It also houses an incredibly moving series of children’s drawings from the Terezín transit camp. The synagogue overlooks the ancient Old Jewish cemetery, dating from 15th century and one of Prague’s most memorable sights. The graves are piled 12 layers deep in some places, and the haphazard gravestones are carved with symbols representing the trades of the deceased. For more information about the Jewish Museum see www.jewishmuseum.cz.
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