Obj. ID: 46512 Holocaust Memorial in Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, Czech Republic, 1959
Memorial for the Victims of the Shoah from the Czech Lands
Who is Commemorated?
Jews from Bohemia and Moravia killed in the Holocaust
The Pinkas Synagogue is dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust from Bohemia and Moravia. Their names are inscribed on the walls of the nave and other areas. The text of the inscriptions was compiled from transport documents, registration lists, and testimonies of the survivors. The inscriptions include names of the victims, his/her place of birth and his/her place of his death. In cases the date of death is unknown, the date of the deportation to ghettos and camps is written. The names are grouped by cities and towns in which they lived before deportation or arrest. The names are listed alphabetically. In the nave, appear the names of Jews from Prague; the rest of the interior space commemorates the victims outside the city.
The memorial also included permanent exhibitions - Children's Drawings from the Terezín Ghetto; Journeys with No Return: The Deportation of Jews from the Czech Lands, 1939-1945; The Faces of the Victims of the Shoah.
The walls of the synagogues are inscribed with almost 80,000 names of Jews from Czechoslovakia killed in the Holocaust.
| Široká St.
A digital version of the exhibition is available via a web interface.
In 1950 the Czechoslovak Communist state nationalized the Jewish Museum in Prague and placed the Pinkas Synagogue into its care. An exhibition on the Second World War was to be installed in the synagogue, but the art historian and museum director, Hana Volavková (1904–1985), wanted first of all to ascertain the actual age and architectural history of the building. The idea then emerged to turn the interior of the synagogue into a memorial – a symbolic gravestone – for all the Jewish victims of the Shoah from the Czech lands. More than 78,000 of them vanished without a trace during the war.
When selecting a design for the memorial, Hana Volavková was inspired by similar works at home and abroad. She consulted a number of colleagues as well. In 1954, Professor Josef Kaplický (1899–1962) at the Prague Academy of Art suggested giving the commission to his pupil, the painter Jiří John (1923–1972) and to the latter’s friend, the painter Václav Boštík (1913–2005). Jiří John and Václav Boštík were among the leading representatives of Czech modern art.
The interior space was laid out so that the names of all the Shoah victims from the Czech lands could be inscribed on the walls. After several years’ work, the memorial was completed in 1959 and opened to the public a year later. The Czechoslovak state declared it to be its own accomplishment, although it was not otherwise interested in commemorating the Jewish victims of the Second World War.
The problem of groundwater rising up through the walls first appeared as early as 1965, which is why the synagogue was closed to the public a year later. After the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Communist regime was not interested in restoring the memorial. It was not until the Velvet Revolution in November 1989 that the memorial could reopen. By then, however, most of the original inscriptions had been destroyed. The restoration of the inscriptions was based on the original design by Jiří John and Václav Boštík and was completed in 1995. Additional repairs had to be made as a result of catastrophic flood damage in 2002.
"Memorial to the Victims of the Shoah from the Czech Lands," Jewish Museum in Prague, https://www.jewishmuseum.cz/en/explore/permanent-exhibitions/monument-of-shoah-victims/ (accessed February 1, 2023)
"Pinkas Synagogue Memorial for the Victims of the Shoah," Jewish Museum in Prague, http://pinkas.jewishmuseum.cz/ (accessed February 8, 2023)