Dispatch From Prague–Where’d the Yids Go?

As Hatbox Louie said, we spent most of the day musically in 1985. Yes, what the French inexplicably have for Jerry Lewis, the Czechs seem to have for Lionel Ritchie. All day, in multiple places, Lionel Ritchie.

I think we are over it now, but if you’re looking to feel good about Europe, I can’t recommend Prague’s former Jewish quarter, which was a walled Jewish ghetto for hundreds of years. I say former because all of Prague’s 120,000 Jews were sent to camps to die in 1942.

What’s left is a neighborhood empty of Jews, but filled with tacky remembrances–a kind of sick Jewish theme park. One—no longer functioning–synagogue is a museum with displays of prayer books, silver items, Torah scrolls, yarmulkes and the like, under glass. It’s all presented seemingly without irony, and has a natural history museum quality—as if to say, “look what used to live here! Can you believe it?”

Another synagogue serves admittedly as a moving monument to the region’s murdered Jews. The inner walls are filled with their painted names. Tiny script, floor to ceiling on every wall on multiple levels, it gives a sense of the scope of the tragedy. There are also drawings by children made while they waited in Czech concentration camps nearby before being shipped off to Poland. The old Jewish cemetery is here too, and packed 15 bodies deep since it was the only place in the city where Jews could be buried.

Jewish Cemetery

Little kiosks and stores in the neighborhood sell dancing rabbis and other tasteful memorabilia, but this utility company clothing store sign just across the way truly seemed too bad to be true:

Across from the museum commemorating the 120,000 slaughtered Czech Jews

Also disquieting, on the way back we passed Prague’s actual working synagogue which serves the 3000 Jews left in the city. It is fronted by anti-truckbomb barricades, and two police officers. as anti-Semitic acts of violence are on the rise in Europe.

So I think I can be forgiven for later asking Hatbox Louie, after watching a McDonald’s add in German, if she thought that if we went there we could Ubersize our Arbeit Macht Frei’s.

Prague is a great city and we are having a very nice time. We just need to focus on beer and puppets and stay away from synagogues.

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Published in: on December 21, 2006 at 4:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

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