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Jewish Sites in the Czech Republic
There are 334 Jewish cemeteries in the Czech Republic*, plus an additional 25 "Jewish sections" of municipal cemeteries. Approximately 70 cemeteries were destroyed during the German occupation, and after the war.
Of more than 400 synagogues, only 200 remain, although almost half of these are completely changed by later reconstruction. Approximately 35 synagogues were destroyed on "Kristallnacht" from 8th to 9th of November 1938. 25 more synagogues were destroyed during the war. During the communist regime, almost 1oo more were demolished.
Almost all Jewish sites in the Czech Republic are owned by the Jewish community responsible for the region in which they are located. There are currently 10 Jewish Communities in Czech Republic. They are in Prague, Brno, Plzen (Pilsen), Olomouc, Ostrava, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), Decin, Usti nad Labem, Teplice, and Liberec.
The Prague Jewish Community is the largest in the Czech Republic. It owns and administers the majority of sites - totaling 180 cemeteries, if we include small "Jewish sections" of municipal cemeteries and cemeteries without any grave stones. This includes cemeteries outside of the territory of the Prague Jewish Community. Of these 180, approximately 170 require maintenance from Matana a.s. (A corporation owned by the Prague Jewish Community with the sole purpose of the administration of Jewish sites in its jurisdiction).
Under a new project, responsibility for approximately 100 Jewish cemeteries is being transferred to the Federation of Jewish Communities of Czech Republic, and these too will be administered by Matana a.s.
The Jewish Community of Brno is the second largest of the Czech Jewish communities, and it owns 46 cemeteries and 10 synagogues.
While the territory of Czech Republic is small, the size of South Carolina, and is just under two-thirds of the former Czechoslovakia, and its pre-WWII Jewish population is cited at approximately 300,000, more than 334 Jewish cemeteries (plus an additional 25 Jewish sections of municipal cemeteries) remain. We see how remarkable this number is when we compare it with Poland, for example. I do not have precise statistics, but I read that there were once about 1,000 Jewish cemeteries on the present territory of Poland, which is 4 times greater than the territory of Czech Republic and where once lived approximately 3 million Jews. Only 400 cemeteries still contain any gravestones, and only approximately 150 cemeteries have more than 100 grave stones each. Of all the Jewish cemeteries in Czech Republic, only around 5% - 8% are without any gravestones.
With its exceptional number of Jewish sites and its proven determination to preserve and restore them, the Czech Republic offers a unique opportunity to explore and preserve Jewish history that is unparalleled anywhere else in Central and Eastern Europe. A full-time, dependable and professional infrastructure is solidly in place, but this critical work is constantly restricted by financial limitations. Please join us in saving these sites before it is too late.
*There is some variation between reports from different sources listing the number of Jewish cemeteries and Jewish sections of municipal cemeteries in the Czech Republic.
©Lisa Feder, Czech Heritage Action Initiative