Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 5 - Prague

After a late night of Skyping with New Milford High School, we slept soundly, and woke up to our first full day in the beautiful city of Prague. We began the day with our guide Kamila and Shalmi walking with us to the Jewish Quarter, located just off of the Old Town Square.

Shalmi told us about the Old New Synagogue, built in the thirteenth century.

Once the synagogue of the famous Rabbi Loew, which shows the gothic architecture, and to this day has the remains of the legendary Golem in the attic.

After learning about the Jewish culture of Prague in the Jewish Museum, Shalmi talked to us about the entry of the Nazis into Prague. One of their first acts was to make all Jews register. Unknowingly, they were aiding the Nazis in making lists in order to round them up to deport them at a later date.

Following this, we entered the Pinkas Synagogue, which today is a memorial to the 88,000 Jews from Bohemia and Moravia who were murdered in the Holocaust. The walls of this moving memorial are covered with the names of each of the victims. Each of the towns in which Jews lived are listed, alphabetically, and then the names of the victims from each town are listed, with their date of birth and date of death. All of the names have been painstakingly hand-painted and cover the walls on the three floors of the museum.

After leaving the Pinkas cemetery, we entered the old Jewish cemetery where Jews had been buried from the 14th century through the 18th century. As was the custom, given the limited space for burials, graves were dug one on top of another so that the Jewish cemetery has between twelve and fourteen layers of graves, which explains why the headstones are so close together and appear to be placed haphazardly and askew.

For lunch, we ate pizza and salads near the Jewish Quarter, then continued with our tour in the Spanish Synagogue. Built in 1868, one year after the Jews of Prague became citizens, this ornate synagogue reflects their pride in their elevated economic and social status.

Since we were not allowed to photograph inside, click this link for photos.

After a lovely pasta dinner, we returned to the hotel to debrief, and plan to get a good night's sleep to prepare for our very special day with Holocaust survivor Pavel Stransky.


  1. Sounds like a fantastic day. Sleep well!

  2. It was a busy week at NMHS; we were ALL looking forward to hearing from you on Thursday evening. I realize that it is past 2 am there, but I had to respond to last night's Skype session. You may not have been able to tell through the camera, but we had a wonderful turn out in the auditorium. The majority of them were there to hear from all of you! (Maybe a few were trying to win the Ipad, hehe). Your presence was powerful! Your tired and passionate eyes revealed a tenderness that your voices alone couldn't have done, moving, telling, emotional, just awesome. Tonight, I came home and shared your blog with my 9 year old daughter. She hasn't learned about the Holocaust in school yet, but she, too, is very intrigued with your blog and the history. We look forward to following you on the rest of your journey, and reading more from you tomorrow. Sleep well. Take care of each other; you will be forever connected by this experience.

  3. It was great to see you for the skype session. Your posting are providing a wonderful overview of what you are experiencing. Tomorrow should be a very meaningful day with Pavel Stransky. It is so important that a new generation learns not just what happened but how and why. Your blog has been great way for us to share in the experience. Have fun too!!

  4. I keep looking back at the picture of Pinkas cemetary. It's an awesome photo. 12 to 14 layers of graves? It's hard to fathom. Enjoy your time in Prague. Imagine living in one of the beautiful castles! Take lot's of pictures everyone( especially Ash)

  5. A very informative journey , great pictures, and expressions on students.
    Thank you for sharing. Keep up the good work.

    Missing you ,

  6. Hi everybody!
    You were a hit on the Skype session Thursday night!
    So glad that you've been enjoying Prague and getting ready to meet another survivor. I can only imagine how moving that experience will be.
    I will be thinking of you this week as I, too, will be in Europe, just a bit away in Italy. Wish we could meet somewhere in the middle!
    Keep learning and growing! Can't wait to see you all when we return.
    Mrs. D.

  7. What an awesome experience for all 22 of you to be going through together, As Mrs. T always says where else would you put such a diverse set of students together and have them become close friends in such a short peiod of time. Diane and I are proud of all of you. You have some incredible chaperones and the most knowledgable and caring guides.
    At a recent BOE meeting we had the book Salvaged Pages on our agenda for approval and on the same night we had a presentation on the new bullying legislation that was just passed in New Jersey. It really got me thinking how Hitler and the Nazi's bullied the rest of the world for quite some time before anyone stood up to him and said STOP this is not right. We all have the power to stop a bully by standing up and letting them know that we are not going to just watch it happen. When you see something tht just isnt right you must help others to correct the wrongs, if you dont then in effect you will be aiding the bullies, Inaction is as bad negative action.
    I am glad you are all well.
    Your expressions show that you "get it" you are all "feeling" this thip and this will now be a living part of you.
    I am a proud that you are repesenting your schools and communities so well.
    Love you the most CC
    Take care and talk soon!!

  8. The memorial synagogue was really cool, it's amazing that they were able to put the towns where the Jews lived, their date of birth, and date of death on the wall. Sounds like you guys are having fun!

  9. I'm so surprised about the cemetery. Who knew that they would place that many people in one place. It makes it seem as if no one is special. Then again this is something that happened long ago. And by the way it sounds like you guys are eating a lot. Hope you're enjoying it!!

  10. It was wonderful to see all of you on Skype (especially Brenton) Dani missed you lots. The pictures tell a beautiful and sad story. The cemetary pictures were the most moving for me. Keep soaking in the knowledge, keep taking pictures (B) we miss you all . Love you pal.

  11. Sounds like the trip is going great! The synagogue with the Gothic architecture sounds very fascinating. I can't believe that in the Old Jewish Cemetery graves were dug on top of each other. That's crazy that there are up to 14 layers of graves in some areas! Have fun the rest of the trip!

  12. After going to Prague on HST2009, it became my favorite city in the world. I returned last summer and I still can't get enough of the city, and especially the Jewish history. Last semester at Ithaca I actually did a research project on ghost stories and legends of Prague, including the Jewish Quarter, and learned a bunch of more cool things about the Jewish Quarter that I didn't learn on the trip. I am glad to see that everything is going well.

  13. I think it is amazing that people wouldn't just bury relatives outside of the city instead of layering them in a graveyard. Today that would not be at all acceptable and would probably lead to many problems and arguments. The pictures are very interesting but very sad because the cemetaries look like no one cares for them. Was it possible for wealthier Jews to get a plot where they did not have to layer the bodies?

  14. When you saw all of those names in the Pinkas Synagogue on the walls with their city and date of birth and death, that must have been an amazing sight. It took up 3 floors of the museum to put up all of the names. Those were just the Jews that were murdered in Bohemia and Moravia. That gives you an idea about how many people were murdered in just two cities. I wonder how long it took to hand paint all of those names.

    It was also interesting to read and see pictures of the Jewish cemetery. It looks like a mess with the grave stones so close together. But it is really old plus they were in layers so it is understandable.

    -Dashawn Harden

  15. I think the pictures with all the headstones is the most interesting. It amazes me how they are so close together and how are all stacked on top of one another. I remember seeing this picture in one of the movies we watched in class. Just by looking at the picture I can see the blatant disregard that they had for the Jews and their memories in the headstones. It's hard to imagine that this occurred in cemataries back then when now days the headstones ate separated and neat.