Proof Found That Czech Communist Regime Used Looted Jewish Gravestones to Pave Prague City Square
The Prague Jewish community has finally found proof that the Czech Republic’s former communist regime looted Jewish cemeteries in order to build one of its iconic tourist sites.
The Guardian reported on Tuesday that, at the request of the Jewish community, during renovations at Wenceslas Square workers searched for and found dozens of tombstones taken from the city’s Jewish cemeteries that had been broken into paving stones.
Although only surviving in fragments with the names of the dead rendered illegible, the paving stones still revealed Hebrew writing, Jewish symbols and dates of birth and death.
Prague’s Jews had long suspected that their cemeteries had been desecrated for building materials when the square was renovated in the 1980s, but had no proof until now.
Rabbi Chaim Kočí of the city’s rabbinate, who supervised the retrieval of the stones, said, “We feel this is a victory for us because until now this was just a rumor. Maybe there were Jewish stones here, but nobody knew.”
“It’s important because it’s a matter of truth,” he stated. “We are making something right for the historical record.”
“These are stones from the graves of people who were dead for maybe 100 years and now they are lying here. It’s not nice,” he added.
The Czech communist regime, like its counterparts in Russia and Eastern Europe, was hostile to religion in general and toward Judaism and Jews in particular, propagating antisemitism until it fell in 1989.
František Bányai, chairman of Prague’s Jewish community, commented, “More Jewish synagogues were destroyed in the area of the current Czech Republic during communist times than under the Nazis.”
This was because of the communists’ “special approach to religion,” he said.
“Anti-Judaism was official policy and all the Jewish committees were supervised and managed by control of the secret police,” Bányai explained. “To be Jewish was negative from any point of view — but it was the same for the Christian church.”
The Jewish community is planning to move the recovered stones to a special memorial at Prague’s old Jewish cemetery, which was itself desecrated by the communist regime.