Monday, November 24, 2008

Czech Republic: Jewish Memorial in Liberec

Czech Republic: Jewish Memorial in Liberec

The Prague Daily Monitor has reported that a memorial to Holocaust victims was installed in the Czech town of Liberec, 90 kms NNE of Prague, on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht. The Renaissance-Revival style synagogue of Liberec, built in 1889 was set afire by the Nazis in 1938 and then demolished. Before the Holocaust 1600 Jews lived in Liberec. Only 37 survived.

The new memorial is located in the former ceremony hall of the Jewish cemetery, built in 1900 and used as a storage space until this restoration (which cost 7 million Czech crowns, about 250,000 euro). The cemetery, opened in 1865 and expanded in 1896, has also been restored in recent years. In addition to graves of local Jews, the cemetery also has graves of many World War I era refugees from Galicia, and a mass grave of 11 women prisoners from the labor camp in Bílý Kostel n. Nisou.

According to the Prague Daily Monitor, Czech Senate chairman Premysl Sobotka said such memorials must be built for people not to forget about the past and not to allow anything like this to repeat.

For the restoration of the cemetery hall and the creation of the memorial, the municipality contributed 4.75 million crowns, the regional authority provided 2.5 million crowns. The remainder came from private donors and the Holocaust victims foundation.

For more information on Czech Jewish sites, the best comprehensive source remains Jiří Fiedler's Jewish Sights of Bohemia and Moravia (Prague: Sefer, 1991). I hope that Jiří, who is curator of documentation at the Prague Jewish Museum, is considering publishing a new edition updated to include all of the important restoration and commemoration work done in the Czech Republic in the past 20 years. In my experience, the Czech Republic has led the way in the scope and quality of their work in protection, preserving and presenting Jewish heritage.

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