In Prague, we went on this incredible tour of the Jewish Quarter and the Old Town Square. The city has so much Jewish history as well as WWII history. It was fascinating. Our tour guide pointed out that on some of the buildings, you see a small patch of the wall that does not match the color of rest of the wall. The reason for this is that those discolored patches cover up the bullet holes from WWII. The tour guide would show us pictures of the exact same place we were currently standing, from the times of the war and you were able to see how different things were back then. It was pretty frightening to be exactly where the Nazi’s and their tanks once stood. It all became a little too real for me at the moment. I got very anxious and scared. In all the pictures I have seen of WWII, people are wearing long black coats with hats in the snow. The day we took he tour it was snowing so everyone was wearing long black coats and hats to keep warm. Although the war has thankfully been over for many years, as a Jew, standing there and seeing this around me gave me the chills and scared me. I momentarily felt like I was living in the war. I was very disgusted by the fact that my people were stripped of their clothes and forced to go around naked during the war. I have learned that the conditions they lived through in the war were very cold but experiencing it first hand, I was finally able to really comprehend just how cold the weather was back then. I was beyond freezing with 4 long sleeves on and a huge coat, with gloves, a scarf and a hat. I truly have no idea how the people that were tortured in the war survived the brutal winter. It is beyond horrifying and disgusting that people could ever treat other human beings with such little respect and treat them as if they were animals.
Our tour guide took us on an underground tour within the clock tower building that has a great amount of war history. I learned that a good portion of the clock tower was destroyed in the war. Before the war, there used to be a large building attached to the clock tower. However, during the war, this building was bombed.
We walked from the Old Town Square into the Jewish Quarter of Prague. This part of the tour was very moving for me. We got to see some of the oldest Synagogues in Europe and some of the only remaining, original synagogues from before the war. During WWII, Hitler destroyed synagogues and anything else that was associated with the Jewish Race all around Europe. However, Hitler did not destroy any of the Jewish artifacts in Prague because after the war, he was going to make a large Jewish museum in Prague to show what he had accomplished and how he wiped out an entire race. We went to the oldest, active synagogue in all of Europe. It was built in the 1200s. This synagogue looks nothing like the ones today. It was so great to see something that old still existing from my people. Europe is filled with a countless amount of churches. While they are beautiful and fascinating to look at, I was really happy to finally see something from my own religion. I felt so good to go into the Synagogues and reconnect with what I identify with. It was a very comforting feeling.
We visited the Old Jewish Cemetery dating back to 1439-1787 that is still intact. All the headstones were written in Hebrew. This was extremely cool for me to see that my language dates back that far and that my ancestors spoke Hebrew even in Prague. I learned that before the war, Prague had a huge Jewish population. Although, after the war, the Jewish population is now extremely small and this is devastating to me. So many Jewish people were killed in the war. It is disgusting and horrifying that this occurred.
We went into this museum that contains children’s artwork from the Terezin Concentration Camp. This was so sad. The wallpaper of the museum is composed of all the Jewish people’s names that perished during WWII from Prague. The amount of names that were listed was hard to comprehend. It was so scary to see the last names of so many of my friend’s families up on that wall. Their ancestors were once here and then were so quickly taken away and then gone forever. It is just so tragic and unforgiving that so many innocent people were tortured and killed. When I was in the museum, I met some people who were from Israel. We exchanged a few words of Hebrew and then continued the conversation in English. This moment for me was extremely touching and meaningful because here we are as Jews, years later after the war, still alive and showing that Hitler did not win the war. We did because we are the ones still here and making sure that history is to never ever repeat itself again. We will never let this happen to the Jewish people ever again or any other race for that matter. All these people, Jewish as well as other religions, come from all over the world to pay their respects to those that were killed in Prague and they educated themselves on WWII. It was just so emotional to be speaking the language of the Jewish people in a place that remembers all that were killed during a war that was known for trying to wipe our the Jewish Race as a whole.
This day for me in particular was something I will never forget. It really hit home. Also sharing this experience with my parents made it that much more special for me. I am so passionate about my religion and my people’s history.
May the Jewish people and all the others killed during WWII never be forgotten. RIP. We must make sure that something like WWII NEVER happens ever again. Do not idly stand by and watch something this inhumane occur.