exhibition organised by the Jewish Museum
On 5 May 1997 the exhibition Children’s Drawings from Terezín 1942-1944
was opened to the public by the Jewish Museum in the Memorial to the
Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the Pinkas Synagogue. Following the
exhibitions The History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia in the Maisel
Synagogue and Jewish Traditions and Customs in the Klaus Synagogue this
is the third exhibition prepared for visitors to the Jewish Museum.
It replaces the original more broadly conceived exhibition held in the
Ceremonial Hall – Drawings from the Terezín ghetto. The Ceremonial Hall
is temporarily closed but next year, after the completion of repairs,
is to house an exhibition on the Burial Society.
The exhibition Children’s Drawings from Terezín 1942-1944 which is installed
on the first floor of the Pinkas Synagogue conceptually differs from
the exhibition held in the Ceremonial Hall. Visitors can become acquainted
with the project for the preservation of the children’s drawings in
the ante-room where the main part of the exhibition is installed.
In the main hall visitors have the opportunity to see a completely new
collection of children’s drawings, or rather their high quality reproductions.
Various techniques are represented in the collection, e.g. drawings
in pencil, pastels, coloured chalk , pen-and-ink , water-colours, distemper
and collages. The selected collection of drawings provides an insight
into the absurdity of everyday life in the ghetto and into the inner
world of the children, as reflected by the individual themes into which
the collection is divided: Life before deportation – transports – topography
of Terezín – everyday life in the ghetto – accommodation in children’s
homes – the world around us – festivals – biblical motifs – the Terezín
Theatre – memories of home – fairy tales: good and evil – through the
looking glass – dreams about Palestine – dream about returning – history
– the present – transports into darkness – Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and
art lessons in Terezín – some of us.
These moving drawings were done by children from 8 to 15 years of age,
most of whom died during the war (from about 6,000 Czech Jewish children
only a few hundred were to return from Terezín). Included in the exhibition
is a collection of photographs taken of the children whose drawings
are displayed. Special attention is devoted to the prominent Viennese
painter and Bauhaus graduate, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who along with
other teachers gave art lessons to the children in the ghetto. The children’s
drawings are accompanied by documentary photographs (transports to Terezín,
scenes from everyday ghetto life) and actual objects from the ghetto
– transport luggage, a ghettowachmann puppet (a member of the Jewish
police in the Terezín ghetto), a child’s doll, a Red Indian puppet,
a pendant bearing a transport number, an unknown girl’s diary.
The exhibition provides a dignified complement to the memorial (reopened
in April 1996) to the nearly 80,000 Czech and Moravian Jewish victims
of the Genocide whose names are inscribed on the walls of the Pinkas
Synagogue. The curator of the exhibition is Michaela Hájková.
The Jewish Museum is responsible for looking after almost 4,500 original
drawings by children from Terezín. The project to preserve these drawings
(see Newsletter 4/96) is currently taking place. At present the drawings
are being stored in a newly designed depository to provide the best
possible storage conditions.
Restoration of tombstones in the Old Jewish
The Jewish Museum in Prague is continuing with its extensive preservation
of the Old Jewish Cemetery, which is one of the most important historic
sites of the Jewish Town in Prague. Its history dates back to the first
half of the 15th century – the oldest surviving gravestone, belonging
to the scholar and poet Avigdor Kara, dates back to 1439. A wide range
of factors has affected the overall state of the cemetery, in addition
to the natural ageing of the tombstones – especially the unsuitable
climatic conditions such as the generally warmer temperatures, frequent
rainfall and mists, and the high level of noxious substances in the
atmosphere. As a result of such hostile environmental conditions the
gravestones are in danger of decay and fragmentation, and the ornament
reliefs and texts are gradually disintegrating. Thanks to the systematic
care taken by the Jewish Museum, which is collaborating with a team
of external restoration specialists, extensive preservation work was
carried out on tombstones during 1994–1996. Alongside these emergency
measures the museum has secured and is still securing the systematic
conservation and restoration of tombstones (of which there are about
12,000) in selected areas of the cemetery. Conservation work mainly
involves cleaning the stones and removing dirt, the aim of which is
to fix the preserved state and prevent further decay. The restoration
work ensures the return of the gravestones to their original form and
slows down the process of decay.
Only last year 88 gravestones were restored at an overall cost of 19,270
US$. The photograph shows one of the tombstones that was originally
seriously damaged and successfully restored in 1996. This is the tombstone
of Samuel Lichtenstadt (d. 1752) who was rabbi at the Klaus Synagogue.
The Jewish Museum will continue to devote its attention to the Old Jewish
Cemetery in the years to come. After the completion of the conservation
and restoration work the focus will be on preservation measures.
From the art collection of the Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum’s extensive art collection includes a. o. drawings,
prints and sculptures from the 17th century to the present. Thematically
it contains works connected to Judaism, a collection of mostly 19th
century portraits, and a collection of period photographs recording
the Jewish Town of Prague before the slum clearance, i.e. from the turn
of the century. As part of its documenting of the Holocaust the museum
looks after the collection of works by Jewish artists and of children’s
drawings created in Terezín. Included in the Jewish Museum’s art collection
are works by Jewish modern painters from the inter-war period (e.g.
Alfréd Justitz, Bedřich Feigl).
Among the prominent artists represented in this collection is Jiří (Georg)
Kars who is considered to be one of the most significant Czech Jewish
20th century artists. He was born in Kralupy nad Vltavou in 1880 and
graduated in 1905 from the Munich Academy of Art. His work was exhibited
in the 1920s and 30s in a number of European cities. The first collective
exhibition of Kars’s work was held in Paris in 1937, where he mostly
lived before the second world war. Following the capture of France by
the Nazis he moved to Lyon for a short while from where he also had
to make a hasty retreat. He left for Switzerland where he tragically
died in Geneva in January 1945. Jiří Kars’s work is dispersed across
private and public collections in the Czech Republic and abroad. Since
the end of the war there has only been one minor exhibition of his work
which was arranged in 1965 in the Gallery of Vincenc Kramář in Prague.
The 6th Festival In the Centre of Europe is to take place in Bavaria,
Saxony and the Czech Republic (Euroregion Egrensis) from 13.7. – 31.8.1997
and will focus on cultural relations of Czechs, Jews and Germans from
this area. Part of this rich cultural programme is the first monographic
exhibition of Kars’s work since his death and only the second show of
such scale since 1937. It will take place from 24. 7. – 24. 8. 97 in
the State Gallery of Visual Art in Cheb (Western Bohemia). The Jewish
Museum in Prague is contributing to this major cultural event by loaning
several of Kars‘s works from its collection.
The Genizah Project
Genizah (Hebr. „hiding place“) applies to a place in the synagogue in
which mostly discarded sacred writings and Torah scrolls were deposited
before being buried. The Genizah later served as a storehouse for other
written material (legal documents, court rulings) and for other ritual
objects such as prayer straps (tefillin), tallits and Mezuzahs.
Genizahs can be found in a number of localities in Bohemia and Moravia.
In 1995 employees of the Jewish Museum made partial finds in connection
with repairs and reconstructions of synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia.
On the basis of these findings the Jewish Museum decided to focus more
systematically on Genizahs. In 1996 a group of specialist employees
from the museum under Dr. A. Pařík , and in collaboration with the Federation
of Jewish Communities in Prague, initiated a systematic survey of synagogues
and other buildings in selected localities. This long-term project has
been divided into several stages. At present museum employees are surveying
separate localities and protecting finds (including their registration).
In this connection a space is being prepared for their hygienic storage.
After necessary treatment (esp. microbiological examination, cleaning),
or restoration, the material will be stored and subject to detailed
study. The public will be informed of the results in specialist publications.
The Spanish Synagogue – preparatory repair
In spring 1997 initial building work was carried out in the Spanish
Synagogue by removing part of the floor from the main nave. The purpose
of this work is to enable an archaeological survey of the building before
actual repairs are carried out to the synagogue. The synagogue is situated
on the site where, according to the records, the oldest house of prayer
in the Jewish Town of Prague, the „Old School“, was based in the 11th
or 12th century. Whether remnants of the original building will be found,
as was the case with the Klaus Synagogue (where part of the original
bimah – tribune was revealed during repairs) will be seen after the
completion of the survey work . The Jewish Museum in Prague welcomes
any kind of financial support for the repairs to the Spanish Synagogue.
Donations can be sent to the Jewish Museum in Prague Foundation,
account number 1669452-038/0800, address: Česká spořitelna, a.s. Rytířská
29, 110 00 Paraha 1 or through the American Friends of the Jewish Museum
in Prague, address: Project Judaica Foundation, 900 Second Street, NE,
Suite 205, Washington D.C. 20002, fax: 001/202/3710898 (such donations
Visits to the Jewish Museum
On 25 May 97 the Jewish Museum was visited by a group of 90 prominent
representatives from The International Council of the New York Museum
of Modern Art led by the president of the organisation, Mrs. Jo Carol
Lauder. The guests looked round the historical buildings of the Jewish
Museum with great interest.
The Jewish Museum was also visited by Mrs. Lauder’s husband, Mr. Ronald
S. Lauder. In 1987 Mr. Lauder established the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation
whose aim is to support Jewish communities in Central and Eastern European
countries in the field of Jewish education. The Foundation has contributed
to the establishment of Jewish schools, kindergartens and other educational
institutions in for example Poland, Belorussia, Hungary and Slovakia.
The Foundation also financially supports the activities of the Jewish
Museum’s Educational and Cultural Center.
The main reason for Mr. Lauder’s visit to Prague, however, was to attend
an important event that was to take place on the grounds of the Jewish
Community in Prague. With financial support from the Foundation, the
Jewish Community in Prague will open the Jewish Elementary School in
September 1997. It was in this connection that 26 May witnessed the
ceremonial unveiling of the tablet bearing the inscription Lauder Prague
Elementary School „Gur Arieh.“ The ceremony was attended by Mr. Lauder
From the production of the Jewish Museum
A new issue of the Jewish Museum periodical – Judaica Bohemiae came
out in April. Included are the following interesting contributions:
Leo Pavlát: Activities of the Jewish Museum since October 1994
Alexander Putík : The Hebrew Inscription on the Crucifix at Charles
Bridge in Prague. The Case of Elias Backoffen and Berl Tabor Appellation
Lenka Matušíková: Konskription der Juden in der Herrschaft Veselí
nad Moravou im Jahr 1727
Jiří Kuděla: Zeitgenössische Reaktionen auf die josefinische
Toleranz der Juden in Böhmen und Mähren. Prager und Wiener Diskussion
über die Toleranz der Juden zwischen 1781 und 1782
David Chaloupka: Buchillustrationen von Alfred Justitz
Anna Hyndráková – Anna Lorencová: Systematic Collection of Memories
Organized by the Jewish Museum in Prague – IV
Daniel Polakovič: The Jewish Museum in Prague (A Selective Bibliography).
Price of copy – 7 US$
On the occasion of the opening of the new exhibition
in the memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the Pinkas
Synagogue the Jewish Museum commissioned a poster (designed by Hana
Pavlátová) which is available at 2 US$. It is also possible to acquire
the beautiful publication I have not seen a butterfly around here (children’s
drawings and poems from Terezín) at the museum (cost – 9 US$).
More information on any of the museum publications
can be obtained by contacting:
The Jewish Museum in Prague,
110 00, Praha 1,