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Concerts in the Spanish Synagogue

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At the end of 2012, the Jewish Museum in Prague, together with the Academia publishing house, prepared another outstanding publication – a monograph on the museum’s history, written by the museum’s head of collections management, Magda Veselská, with an epilogue by the museum director Leo Pavlát. This is the very first book to deal systematically with the circumstances surrounding the existence of this unique institution.

The chronological story of the museum begins with the modest activities of the pre-war museum association which – thanks to the efforts of S. H. Lieben and August Stein and in spite of many difficulties – put together a unique and representative collection. Following on from this is a description of the efforts of the Prague Jewish community during the war; on the basis of an initiative from Karel Stein and under the supervision of Tobias Jakobovits and Josef Polák, the Jewish community managed to safe keep the confiscated property of Protectorate Jewish communities for the post-war period – under the cover name “museum”. The wartime museum has often been referred to in the literature as a “museum of an extinct race”, but there is no support for such a claim in the archival documents that have been preserved. This notion was a post-war interpretation, the development and establishment of which is detailed at the end of the second chapter. Of vital importance in the brief yet chaotic period immediately after the war – which is covered in chapter three – were the prudent approach and determination of the museum staff, particularly Hana Volavková, who managed to preserve the collection in its entirety and to defend the museum as a specialist institution. The history of the Jewish museum under the unfavourable circumstances of the anti-Semitic Communist regime – which is dealt with in the fourth and final chapter – was characterized by its constant struggle to defend its own existence. This book also describes the efforts of the museum staff to preserve the Jewish cultural heritage – material and spiritual – in the context of two totalitarian regimes – and deals with the museum’s contacts with the Czech Jewish community. To a large extent, the museum contributed to the preservation and defining of the latter’s identity throughout the twentieth century.

The text is based mainly on extant archival material, much of which has not previously been systematically examined. It is accompanied by a large number of often unique illustrations and also includes a name index and an index of institutions and organizations.
In Czech with an English and German résumé, 287 pp., 27 cm

ISBN 978-80-87366-21-9
Price: 850 CZK /37 EUR /45 USD
E-shop (E-shop)Price: 600 CZK /26 EUR /32 USD

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