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Prague: A European capital cobbled with Jewish gravestones (bbc.com)
74 points by rmason 34 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments



Berlin has 10cm^2 brass memorials set into the pavements where (mostly) Jewish people, sometimes whole families, were killed during the Third Reich. Look down and you will see them everywhere there. It's a touching and present reminder, to give pause for perspective in everyday life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolperstein

[edited for accuracy]


These are also Pokemon Go stops, because Niantic ingested some global POI database without considering local contexts. It’s sort of funny, but also pretty offensive.

https://twitter.com/jlev/status/1026068175966928896?s=21


The Stolpersteine can be found in most German cities, not only in Berlin.


Also in a few places in Poland.


With the exception of Munich.


That's because the Jewish community in Munich had concerns about people walking over the memorials, so they asked them not to be placed there.


Which is strange, given that it's the place where WW2 could have been avoided.


So how could WW2 have been avoided?


They have those in Prague too, many European cities have them


100 cm² (10×10 cm), not 10 cm² (3.16×3.16 cm).


I'm never sure how appropriate memorials are on the ground, where people will walk on them, will be sick on them, dogs will go to the toilet on them, etc. I guess they also get worn down much more quickly.


Now that you mention it, it's kind of thought-provoking. These same streets where people now live their lives, walk the dog, party get drunk and puke on the streets, just "yesterday" there were horryfing things happening there. It's easy to forget, and we do forget, that those living nightmares can and did happen, when we today live so free and safe.


These stones have local patrons which clean and care for the stone regularly. If this isn't done, the stones do degrade quickly.

I understand the objection to people stepping on it, but at the same time, where else would you place something to have the same effect? These memorials are so effective exactly because it's a highly unconventional location for them. I've walked past hundreds of Holocaust memorials in my life and none have had the same effect on me as seeing one of these stones with a candle next to it in front of my house on the day of the "Night of Broken Glass"


Given that people these days will more likely stare into their phones, that is towards the ground, I guess it is.


What perspective is that? That humanity shouldn't go on mass killings of people or of jews? If it's the latter then lesson learned, if it's the former, the lesson is not even close to being learned thus rendering this whole thing pointless.


Coincidentally just minutes ago I came out of a “parents learning session” at my synagogue about the Czech Torah scrolls, ehich I didn’t know about previously.

During he Holocaust, thousands of Czech scrolls taken from scattered synagogues, to a main synagogue in Prague. An old rumour, though now thought to be inaccurate, was that Hitler wanted to document the culture of the race he eliminated.

Many of these scrolls have deterioated, some have been restored, and they are now distributed on-loan to many Jewish communities around the world, not just as working Torah’s but as part of the living story of persecution and perseverance.


Really confused why someone felt the need to downvote that comment.


The voting software can be very noisy early on, which is unfortunate in cases like these. But this comment is upvoted by a massive ratio—there's no question at all about how the community feels.


I feel a bit irritated by the fact that it gives us explicitly outdated information ("an old rumor now thought to be inacurrate") without mentioning the current thoughts behind it.


The latest idea to replace the “old rumour”, according the rabbi, is that some of the initial collecting of Torah scrolls came from Jews hoping to preserve the scrolls from their synagogues that were vandalised or destroyed by the nazis.

But after a collection of Jewish artefacts and treasures was started (which includes things like silver scroll crowns and plates and Yad pointers), the nazis themselves became interested in gathering the relics hoping to extract precious metals. So much of the silver is gone today, but amazingly the collection of scrolls themselves remained relatively intact.

My synagogue has one of the scrolls, very badly damaged, which the rabbi showed us this morning. There is something very powerful about seeing and feeling a religious artifact hundreds of years old, originally from a Czech Jewish community now destroyed and practically forgotten. Yet this Torah lives on a living and breathing Jewish community today, where some of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah students actually read from it.


Judging by the other early comments, this article seems to be triggering the dark underbelly of the HN community to make an appearance.


I feel the same (sorry dang about "you are not allowed to discuss downvoting here" policy).

The only explanation is that there is still some anti-Jewish sentiment and somehow it's present also among the HN folks, hopefully in a fraction of a promille.


Czech people don't have a lot of respect for graveyards in general, se this one in Turnov

https://cs.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soubor:Turnov-%C5%BEidovsk%C...


I am not surprised this monstrosity was build only one year after the Velvet Revolution (meani g it must was planned and approved during the communism era). Still, there was a very bitter public debate recently, before a Roma concentration camp was expropriated and turned into a memorial (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lety_concentration_camp).

Needless to say, since the outbreak of Russia sponsored fake news and propaganda, the Czech society is increasingly divided, with racism and xenophobia on the raise.


In Thessaloniki, second largest Greek city, one can still find entire tombstones embedded in houses' yards:

http://valiacaldadog.blogspot.com/2009/02/blog-post_3356.htm...

The blog post above explains that the Jewish year 5676 on one of the stones is ~1915 AD.

Thessaloniki was once the city with the largest Jewish population in Europe, and the one with the largest Jewish cemetary (300,000 - 500,000 tombs) in the world [1].

During the Nazi occupation, after the Nazis abducted the members of the community and sent them to Auschwitz (with the collusion of the puppet authorities and the Greek Orthodox church), the people of the city took the tombstones from the cemetary and used them in their houses. They were also used to line the cobbled streets of the city, but I couldn't find any pictures online showing this clearly. Worse, it seems like the city's Aristoteleion university was built on top of the cemetary grounds [1].

The story of the Jewish community's treatment by the Greek citizens of Thessaloniki during the occupation fills me with shame, as a Greek woman. I prefer to remember the actions of the Archbishop of Zakynthos, Chrystostome: asked by the Nazis, in 1943, to provide a list with the names of all the Jewish Zakynthians, the archbishop delivered a list with only two names: his own and that of the mayor of the city. The two men had previously worked together to help the Jewish inhabitants to escape, by providing them with forged papers, etc [2,3].

________

[1] https://abravanel.wordpress.com/2010/05/15/jewish-cemetery-o...

From the English version:

Of course the city of Salonica (Thessaloniki) has a long tradition in desecrating Jewish tombs – one needs only to visit many of its churches and public squares which are paved with looted tombstones by the old Jewish Cemetery. That particular cemetery, the largest Jewish cemetery in the world with an area over 350 acres and tombs from the 2nd century CE, was destroyed by the Municipality of Salonica in 1942 while his Jewish citizens were rounded in the Baron Hirsch Ghetto before being sent to Auschwitz to be murdered there. Or one can dig inside the campus of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki to find the bones of 300/500.000 Jews who are still buried there in the grounds the University desecrated to build its buildings.

[2] http://www.kathimerini.gr/832170/article/politismos/vivlio/t... (Greek)

[3] http://www.aish.com/ho/p/The-Jews-of-Zakynthos.html


Can the Czech afford to have decency and replace the stones? How much could it possibly cost? How are they not disgusted walking on those streets?

It's funny how stories like this are cause for some to be upset at being reminded of the Holocaust. Yet the headstones are walked on daily. They Jews are certainly reminded every day.


There aren’t that many Jews left there to be reminded.


Good point.


It's just a stone.


Modern people spend so little time thinking about death that they often are incensed when they hear stories like these. For example, graveyard real estate is at a premium. More people die than can be fit in them. When you die, your corpse lies in the ground for a few years up to a decade at best. Then the gravedigger digs up your remains, put them in the trash and the next corpse is put in the hole. This is why grave digging requires a strong stomach -- it is far from certain that the corpse has fully decomposed. The trash is hopefully incinerated, providing energy for the living. Literally from Dust to Dust.

Same thing with tombstones which are recycled all the time. All larger cemeteries have huge stacks of stones waiting to get crushed into gravel. I cannot say if the practice in Communist countries specifically targeted Jewish cemeteries and if it was therefore antisemitic. Now whether the antisemitic part is not scrubbing the stones clean from inscriptions. Perhaps a large number of Jewish cemeteries were derelict due to the dwindling number of communities and it was easier to take stones from these?


> When you die, your corpse lies in the ground for a few years up to a decade at best.

This isn't true for anyone I know of.

Those that can afford it have effectively permanent plots (until the descendents die off, at least).

Those that can't, or choose not to, opt for cremation.


Mea culpa. Apparently it depends a lot on the jurisdiction with more densely populated countries offering shorter leases than sparsely populated ones. In Europe, one to two decades seem common with options for relatives to extend the lease. http://www.talkdeath.com/cemetery-overcrowding-leading-europ...




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