Europe

Prague: Jewish gravestones used as cobblestones to be returned

Prague cobblestones made of gravestones cut into squares
Image caption The cobblestones are made of Jewish gravestones cut into squares

Fragments of Jewish gravestones found during future excavation work in the Czech capital Prague will be given to the city's Old Jewish Cemetery.

An agreement was reached between City Hall and the Jewish community after fragments were found in some of the city's pedestrian zones.

Czech Jews have for years been calling for the removal of the stones.

Fragments taken from a derelict 19th Century Jewish cemetery were used as cobbles during works in 1987.

Most of the stones - made from gravestones that were cut into squares - are believed to be located at the base of Wenceslas Square, one of the city's main squares, and on Na Prikope, a popular shopping street.

The Jewish Community will return any fragments to the Old Jewish Cemetery in the Zizkov district.

Before World War Two, Czechoslovakia's Jewish population was about 350,000. In 1946, that number was about 50,000. By the late 1980s - around the time the gravestone fragments were used to cobble streets - the country's Jewish population barely numbered 8,000.

Earlier this year, Leo Pavlat - director of the Jewish Museum in Prague - told the BBC "it wasn't easy being Jewish back then", referring to the Communist era.

"There were no publications, no education," he said. "I think the regime just wanted the Jewish community to slowly die."

Now a project called "Finding the Lost Face of Jewish Cemeteries" is under way to identify the gravestone fragments, according to Radio Prague International.

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