The Jewish cemetery in Prague goes digital

Post date: Jan 10, 2017 2:10:5 PM

The Jewish cemetery in Prague goes digital 

The Jewish cemetery in Prague is considered to be amongst the oldest in Europe and one of the most important and prominent in the continent. The cemetery was even selected by the Forbes Traveler Magazine as one of the ten most famous cemeteries in the world. The cemetery, which is maintained by the Jewish community in Prague, is located within the Josefov neighborhood in Prague 1 which was once the Jewish quarter of the city. The popularity of the cemetery has drawn much interest and it will soon be adapting how it presents itself to the twenty first century.

More is hidden than is apparent

Recorded burial on the site began as early as the year 1439 and it was in continuous use for new burials until 1787. However, it is possible that the cemetery had been used earlier for it contains 12 layers of graves. Burial in layers was carried out due to lack of space on the site and the number of graves at the site can only be estimated: out of 100,000 estimated gravesites, only 12,000 can be seen and are accessible to the eye.

Popularity and healing properties

In the year 1995, the Jewish cemetery in Prague was recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The cemetery attracts thousands of visitors each year and is considered one of the most popular cemeteries in Europe. One of the famous graves in it is the grave of the Maharal (Our Great Teacher the Rabbi of Liva) of Prague that is associated with healing properties. For this reason, many people light candles on the grave and press notes with requests between its cracks.

In the present day, the Jewish cemetery is part of the Jewish museum compound in the City of Prague and entry into it is solely on a payment for entry basis. However, It is not possible to purchase a separate entry ticket to the cemetery- one can only enter it with a ticket for the entire Jewish museum compound. The cemetery is open to visitors every day from 0900 until 1800 (aside from Saturdays and holidays) and has two walking routes: one route is adapted for winter and the other route is adapted for summer.

The cemetery has been “honored” by a citation in the well-known anti-Semitic tract “Protocols of the elders of Zion”. According to this book, the elders of Zion gathered at the site in a nefarious conclave to plot the Jewish takeover of the world. A real, rather than fictious visitor to this site was Albert Einstein who would come to this spot in order to find inspiration in the solitude of the graveyard. Who knows? Perhaps the theory of relativity was conceived in this place, a site strongly linked to death and the questions it raises.

The past comes to life – the graveyard goes online

Soon it will be possible to visit this place online as well as physically thanks to a digital online database. This database will concentrate the names of all those buried on the site and will enable those to peruse it to know who is buried there. In fact, due to the layered burial sites, many Jews around the world do not even know that their families are buried at the site. Furthermore, the database will provide genealogical and community history data, because much information and family history is linked to many of the gravesites in the graveyard.

Setting up this digital database will enable the most ancient Jewish cemetery in Europe to return to life. The hope is that this database will assist in revealing the hidden layers of the cemetery and solve its remaining mysteries: and in particular, the exact age of the oldest cemetery in Europe and the number of people buried within it. In this manner it is hoped the 300 years, and perhaps even more, of the history of the Jewish community in Prague can be reconstructed. 

Click the attached link for information regarding the location and recovery of property confiscated / taken by the Czech authorities