We have just returned from a long trip that was bookended by time in Prague and Dachau: Prague for the first couple of days, followed much later by Dachau on our last day. I have plenty to say about that–but I need some time and space to get my head around a place like Dachau, or even around the Jewish Quarter of Prague and the history there– so today’s offering is short and mostly visual.
The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague rises above street level and offers over 10,000 gravestones crowded into a small space. But there’s more– much more– than meets the eye. There may be nearly 100,000 graves below this top layer.
These graves date from the 1400’s to the 1700’s, and the graveyard is overcrowded because of the Jewish Community’s enforced isolation in the ghetto here. There simply wasn’t more space for these graves, so they built up instead of out. (And this long before the atrocities of World War II.) While life here was replete with difficulties, it was also abundant with art, tradition, and literature. The legend of the Golem traces back to Prague, and Franz Kafka (in more recent times) was born in the Jewish Quarter.
The cemetery is haunting, but also beautiful. Here are a few photos from our visit.