Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Prague: Remembrance

Today we toured Prague's Jewish Quarter neighborhood, which has a very interesting collection of Jewish sights all crammed together (for obvious reasons) and easy to explore. 
 We got these special "all inclusive tickets" that were scanned at each place.
 Not wasting any time, we jumped right into the first sight, Pinkas Synagogue. This 1535 synagogue has become a memorial for the 77, 297 Czech Jews who were sent from here to the gas chambers at Auschwitz and other camps. There names, organized by home town and last names, are written over every single wall. You can see where whole families died together. A cantor sings names, which echoes around unadorned white stone walls.

In an upstairs gallery, where photos were forbidden, one of the most devastatingly poignant experiences of my life. A little art gallery of children's drawings and paintings done at Terezín, a concentration camp about an hour outside of Prague. Terezín was used by the Nazis for propaganda, as a "model" community that they could show the rest of the world to hide what was going on in other places. One of the prisoners was Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, a leader in the Bauhaus art movement, who found purpose at Terezín by teaching the children held there to express their emotions about their situation through art. I can't describe the difference of learning about the Holocaust through the eyes of children, in these small and incredibly expressive drawings. Dicker-Brandeis died at Auschwitz in 1944.

 Of the 15,000 children who passed through Terezín from 1942 to 1944, fewer than 100 survived.

I stepped out of the gallery into a hall. Snow had begun to fall outside a glass window, with iron bars across, protecting the precious contents, the memories, the records. Not to be forgotten.

 Outside, the Old Jewish Cemetery, crammed with 12,000 tombstones (and 100,000 tombs). From 1439 to 1787, this was the only place Jews could bury their dead, so tombs are layered 7 to 8 deep.

 There were many other interesting synagogues on the tour, but I'll just include one other, the Old-New Synagogue, which has been the most important synagogue in Prague's Jewish Quarter for over 700 years. This synagogue survived the Nazis because it was intended to be part of their "Museum of the Extinct Jewish Race."
 On to happier times, with this Czech goulash soup (which I enjoyed more than the Hungarian original) that came with a pretzel!
 Children on stage at the Christmas Market doing their best to remember their choreography...
 For laughs (and sheer terror, as those who know me know I do not enjoy mannequins) I popped into the Prague House of Wax. That's Jan Hus there.  And don't worry Madame Tussaud, you're definitely the master of the craft...
 Communist all stars!
 They stuck Hitler in a glass box and made him look like this!
 Tell me why they put Einstein in a swing and hung him from the ceiling...
 Princess Diana, with a head as large as a beach ball.
 Bill Clinton and Ivana Trump are besties.
 Arnold managed to lose a hand...
 Tina Turner took a turn for the worst...
 This one's for Marquita!
 Back on the square, another band has taken the stage!

 I took an elevator up the Old Clock Tower!

 You can see some of the mechanisms for the clock.
A late night snack of fried cheese and jam! Too bad I dropped half of it...or is that a good thing? :-)

Afterwards, Mike and I went and saw the new movie Anna Karenina at a cinema near our hotel. It was wonderful, and I also enjoyed the Czech subtitles, especially when I recognized a word!

Tomorrow is our last day in Prague, so we're going to make it a full one! Off to bed with great gratitude for my comfortable, blessed life.

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