The History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia, 19th–20th Centuries

The exhibition is on the ground floor and in the upper-floor gallery of the Spanish Synagogue.

From the Reforms of Joseph II to the Granting of Equality to Jews in 1867

The Bohemian lands were part of the Habsburg Empire at the end of the 18th century. The gradual development of Jewish emancipation is reflected mainly in the archival documents and small period prints that are on display in the exhibition. Portraits of prominent figures, together with examples of their works, highlight traditional Jewish learning, enlightenment, education and science.

A separate display case focuses on attempts at reforming religious services. In the 1830s, these attempts centred around the Old Shul, where some of the most prominent representatives of Jewish enlightenment and science were active as preachers. The composer of the Czech national anthem, František Škroup, was choirmaster here between 1836 and 1845.

Assimilation and Zionism

For a considerable portion of the Jewish population, the culmination of the emancipation process meant complete assimilation. In the Bohemian lands, this involved German assimilation at the outset, both in terms of language and culture. In the exhibition, this is illustrated primarily by the books produced by Moses Israel Landau and the Pascheles and Brandeis publishing houses. The issues of Czech assimilation are reflected in a display case focusing on the Czech Jewish Movement.

A wave of anti-Semitism at the end of the 19th century put in doubt the possibility of settling the Jewish question by means of assimilation. It was at this time that the Jewish national movement – Zionism – was formed. The exhibition provides information about the cultural, social and sporting activities of Zionist associations and organizations. The contribution of the Jews to the development of industry is represented by a number of prominent, and still thriving, enterprises, which were founded by Jewish entrepreneurs (for example, a match factory in Sušice, Moser Glass Works in Karlovy Vary, ČKD Factory in Prague).

The Czechoslovak Republic (1918–1938)

The next part of the exhibition is in the west gallery. Czechoslovakia acknowledged Jewish nationhood and Jews played a major role in the political and economic life of the country. The exhibition features prominent Jewish figures – writers and poets who wrote in German and Czech, as well as artists and scientists.

The Holocaust of Bohemian and Moravian Jews (1939–1945) and the History of Jews in Czechoslovakia after 1945

Archival sources and photographs from the Museum’s collections document the persecution of the Jews in the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the mass deportations, and life in the Terezín ghetto. The last two display cases contain a brief outline of the history of Jews in Czechoslovakia after 1945 and a look at the country's relations with Israel.

The Prague Ghetto, Jewish Sites and Jewish Museums in Bohemia and Moravia

In the south gallery you can become acquainted with the history and clearance of the Prague ghetto and with the preserved Jewish sites of Bohemia and Moravia. The remaining part of the exhibition includes a brief introduction to the history of the Jewish museums in Prague and Mikulov in the period before the Second World War, the war-time Central Jewish Museum and the related activities of the Jewish Museum in Prague from 1945 until the present day.

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