Who Saved the Scrolls: Prague


In the years after the War a legend grew up that the Nazis had planned to create a ‘museum to an extinct race’.  This has little foundation in fact.  We do know, however, that a devout band of Jews from Prague’s Jewish community worked to bring artefacts and Jewish possessions of all kinds to what had become the Central Jewish Museum in Prague.  Here they laboured under appalling conditions to preserve what little remained of Jewish communities, previously at the mercy of vandals and plunderers.  This Jewish initiative was directly responsible for the subsequent conservation of the Scrolls.

See:  The Jewish Museum in Prague During the Second World War, Leo Pavlat, in ‘European Judaism’, Vol 41, No. 1, Spring 2008, pp. 124-130, Berghahn Jounals

It was hoped by the Jewish community that these treasures would be protected and might one day return to their original homes.  All the curators at the Museum were eventually transported to Terezin and Auschwitz.  Only two survived, and the Czech Jewish community after the war was too depleted to be able to care for them.  Their legacy was the catalogue of the vast collection in the Museum, eventually to become the Jewish Museum of Prague.

This first initiative in keeping safe 1,564 Scrolls of the Law was taken  by London Jews who purchased them from the Communist government and took them back into Jewish hands at Westminster Synagogue.