What was Lost

The derelict synagogue in Rychnov – 1984

The derelict synagogue in Rychnov – 1984

Jews had lived in Bohemia and Moravia for more than a thousand years, and over that time a rich Jewish culture had developed.

It was centred on Prague and spread across a large number of communities in towns throughout the country.  Following the Nazi invasion in 1939, historical congregations were closed down and their synagogues destroyed or deserted.

According to the 1930 census, there were 117,551 Jews in Bohemia and Moravia (356,830 in all of Czechoslovakia).  By 1943 some 26,000 had managed to emigrate.  Some 81,000 Jews were deported to Terezin and other camps, of whom about 10,500 survived.  Today, the population of the Czech Republic is ten million, including 4,000 Jews.

It is estimated that in the Holocaust 80,000 Jewish lives were lost.  There were at least 350 synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia, but by the end of the War more than sixty had been destroyed.  In November 1938 during a vicious pogrom, fifty of them were attacked and the majority of their contents were lost.  The remaining 300 were abandoned and left to decay, and when the Communists came to power eighty of these were demolished.

Jewish schoolchildren in Ostrava - Photo: Yehuda Bacon

Jewish schoolchildren in Ostrava – Photo: Yehuda Bacon

Jews in Kladno - Photo: The Kladno Museum

Jews in Kladno – Photo: The Kladno Museum