DATES IN THE HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM
1906 Foundation of the Association for the Establishment of the Jewish
Museum. Among the founders were Dr Salomon Hugo Lieben, a historian,
and Dr Augustus Stein, Chairman of the Prague Jewish Community in Bohemia
1942 The Nazis establish a Central Jewish Museum which was not open
to the public.
1945 The Museum administration returned to the Federation of Jewish
1950 The Museum becomes the property of the state. Establishment of
the State Jewish Museum in Prague.
1994 The Museum buildings and collections returned to the Federation
of Jewish Communities and the Jewish Museum in Prague established.
THE MUSEUM COLLECTIONS
The collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague comprise some 35,000
artistic items (synagogue textiles dating back to the 16th century,
silver liturgical objects, glass, paintings, items documenting Jewish
customs and traditions and relics from time of the Nazi occupation,
especially drawings made at the Terezin concentration camp) and 100,000
books including several valuable manuscripts and prints.
The Jewish Museum is in charge of the Old Jewish Cemetery (since 1995
a national historical monument), the Pinkas Synagogue, the Ceremo-nial
Hall, the Klaus Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue
(currently closed for technical reasons).
There are two major foundations associated with the Jewish Museum in
Prague. The Foundation for the Renewal of the Pinkas Synagogue Memorial
(donations to this foundation may be sent to account number 01067-004
/ 2700, address: Creditanstalt a.s., Široká 5, 110 00 Praha 1), and
the Foundation of the Jewish Museum. Its object is to promote the Museum
and to restore objects of cultural value. Donations to this foundation
may be sent to account number 1669452-038 / 0800, address: Česká spořitelna
a.s., Rytířská 29, 110 00 Praha 1.
FOREIGN VISITORS TO THE MUSEUM
A number of prominent political personalities visited the Museum in
1995. They included the President of Portugal, Mario Soares; Luigi Scalfaro,
the President of Italy; the Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert; Israel’s
Minister of Education, Culture and Sport, Amnon Rubinstein; Israel’s
Minister of the Environment Yossi Sarid; the Director of Aliyah ha-no’ar,
Yehiel Leket; the new Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Raphael
Gvir; the German Minister of Transport, Matthias Wissmann and President
Clinton’s special advisor Morton Halperin.
ACTIVITIES OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM SINCE 1994
Structure of the Museum
The Jewish Museum is headed by a Director, appointed by a five-member
board (two representatives of the Prague Jewish Community, one representative
of the Ministry of Culture). Apart from a Secretariat the Museum has
five major departments: a department of collections which includes restorers
of textiles and metal, and a photo archive; a department of Judaism
and the holocaust, including a library; a public relations department
which also looks after commercial publicity work ; an economics department
and a reservation centre. The last-mentioned department is also responsible
for the computer-based sale of tickets, especially on the basis of previous
In connection with transfer of the collections to the Federation of
the Jewish Communities, stocktaking is now in the final stage, where,
for the first time since the war, an independent auditor compares the
actual inventory of objects with wartime and pre-war catalogues. Certain
measures were taken immediately after the collapse of the communist
regime in the autumn of 1989 towards making the protection of the collections
safer. The Museum is, moreover, making every effort to hasten the completion
of the projects started earlier. All pictures have been transferred
to new depositories. A textiles depository has been established in a
repaired historical synagogue outside Prague. An inventory is in progress
of the book collection which is mainly situated in the Spanish Synagogue.
There the books are being cleaned and stored in special metal compact
shelves. The systematic restoration of precious items and manuscripts
is a significant aspect of the museum’s care for its collections. This
requires an annual investment of 22,250 USD.
Appropriate technical equipment has been installed in the Museum to
protect the Museum against burglars or possible attacks. There is also
a 24-hour guard on duty. The standard of security will be greatly improved
between 1996 and 1998 when a new system, amounting to 230,000 USD, will
The Klaus Synagogue was closed in November 1995 and a new permanent
exhibition devoted to Jewish traditions and customs will open there
next May following repairs and reconstruction. The planned cost of the
reconstruction of the synagogue amounts to 190,000 USD. Following the
projected repair and reconstruction of the Spanish Synagogue by the
end of 1998, incurring a cost of 1,5 million USD, an exhibition will
open there devoted to the history of Czech and Moravian Jews between
the late 18th century and the end of World War II.
Further projects of the Museum
Two further projects will increase the quality of the Museum’s work
; the establishment of a standard database network (at a cost of 60,000
USD) and the introduction of a library programme (at a cost of 41,000
USD). In addition to these investment it is planned to establish an
educational and cultural centre which is due to start functioning in
September 1996. The estimated cost is 165,000 USD.
RESTORATION OF THE OLD JEWISH CEMETERY
The Old Jewish Cemetery was founded in the middle of the 15th century
and is a unique, historically priceless site. There are 12,000 tombstones,
including those belonging to some of the most eminent Jewish figures,
such as Rabbi Loew, Mordecai Maisel, Mayor of the Prague Jewish Community,
and the historian and astronomer David Gans. However, the badly polluted
atmosphere is causing increasing damage to the tombstones. In order
to combat this a commission of restorers was formed in 1993 and has
since developed a project for the restoration of the cemetery. As a
result some 100 tombstones are being totally restored every year. At
the same time, more than 4,000 stones are being conserved annually in
order to slow down their gradual decay. The cost of the cemetery’s restoration
amounts to approximately 38 000 USD a year.
THE MEMORIAL IN THE PINKAS SYNAGOGUE
The Memorial to the victims of Nazi genocide of the Jews from the war-time
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia at the Pinkas Synagogue was first
opened in the late 1950’s but was closed down in 1968. The necessary
reconstruction was being deliberately delayed throughout the 1970’s
and 1980’s due to the reluctance of the communist regime to re-open
It was only after the collapse of the totalitarian regime in November
1989 that work was properly got under way. Following essential construction
work a team of artists began the calligraphic work in earnest in 1992.
The inscriptions of the roughly 80,000 Jewish victims of Nazism are
placed in groups according to the victim’s last place of residence prior
to his or her arrest or deportation in a transport. Individual persons
or ascertained members of their families are then listed in alphabetical
order. The main nave contains the names of victims from Prague, the
names of murdered Jews from other Bohemian and Moravian towns and communities
are inscribed on the walls of the entrance hall and the galleries on
the ground floor. The cost of renewing the Memorial which is to be re-opened
in the spring of 1996 will be 120,000 USD.
THE ‘PROJECT CONTEMPORARIES’
Ever since the end of World War II the Jewish Museum in Prague has been
collecting reminiscences of the Holocaust period. These, however, were
in the form of written recollections and were compiled on an ad hoc
basis. During the communist regime those working in the Museum were
not permitted to take any initiative in this respect. In 1990 efforts
were made to find contemporaries who were still alive. Our external
collaborators, specialists in the history of the Holocaust as well as
former inmates of Nazi concentration camps, have been locating former
Jewish prisoners and former fighters in the resistance movement, as
well as those who helped their Jewish fellow citizens. Interviews are
recorded on tape which are then transcribed and, together with photographs
and other acquired documentation, are stored and clearly arranged in
the Jewish Museum. At the moment, more than 500 such recollections have
been compiled and the work continues. In this project the Jewish Museum
collaborates also with foreign institutions.
These archives are mainly for the use of researchers. A minor section
has been published and some of them have been used for other purposes
(e.g. for the Memorial at Bergen-Belsen, for historical conferences
at Hannover and Terezin and others). One of the major tasks in the future
will be to store all gathered information on computer.
RESTORING COLLECTIONS OF BOOKS
Alongside restoring real estate, memorials and collections of the Jewish
Museum, work has been going on for several years to restore Hebrew manuscripts
which are among the precious collections at the Museum library.
This includes, first and foremost, the cleaning and conservation of
paper and parchment, flattening out sheets and binding. Between 1994
and 1995 external collaborators have thus treated 33 manuscripts, works
of traditional rabbinical literature. Furthermore, facsimiles of Hebrew
manuscripts and ancient prints are being gradually prepared for exhibitions.
This work is done by leading specialists who, using original material,
are creating exact copies of valuable written relics dating back to
the 14th to 19th centuries. As of 1982 when the Jewish Museum began
to produce facsimiles, 33 reproductions of Hebrew manuscripts and ancient
Prague prints have been made; five copies of manuscripts were made in
the course of last year.
The latest exhibition of the Museum, opened at the Maisel Synagogue
in May, includes a total of 15 facsimiles of prints and manuscripts
of which eight were produced especially for this exhibition.
PERMANENT EXHIBITION IN THE MAISEL SYNAGOGUE
The current permanent exhibition of the Jewish Museum, inaugurated on
May 29th, 1995, shows a cross-section of the history of Bohemian and
Moravian Jews between the 10th and the late 18th centuries. Main emphasis
is placed on the Renaissance period, described as the Golden Age of
Bohemian and Moravian Jews and as the climax of the social and cultural
advancement of local Jewish communities. The exhibition characterises
this era by relics and documents connected with the actual construction
of the synagogue and with the personality of its founder, the Mayor
of the Prague Jewish Community, Mordecai Maisel. Traditional Jewish
culture and education are represented by works by two eminent scholars,
including Rabbi Loew, whose printed works also exemplify the production
of Prague Hebrew book printers.
This is the first exhibition on such a scale since the establishment
of the Jewish Museum in 1906. The few long-term exhibitions devoted
to historical themes which were staged between the 1950’s to 1970’s
related either only to the Prague ghetto or to a more limited theme
of Jewish culture with special emphasis on literature and its major
protagonists. The permanent exhibition now installed in the main nave
and the two side naves of the Maisel Synagogue provides a wider but
also deeper image of the history of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia.
An international symposium was held in Prague on September 4th to 14th,
1995 on the theme of Jewish Art in Bohemia and Moravia. It was arranged
by the Centre for Jewish Culture of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem
in collaboration with the Jewish Museum in Prague and the Charles University
From the 2nd to the 7th of July, 1995 representatives of the Jewish
Museum attended an international conference in Prague on the subject
of Planning the Future of European Jewry, organized by the Institute
for Jewish Affairs in London.