Židovské muzeum v Praze

  • Jewish Museum in Prague

History

Established in 1906, the Jewish Museum in Prague is one of the oldest Jewish museums in Europe. Its founders were the historian Salomon Hugo Lieben and the representative of the Czech-Jewish movement and city councillor August Stein. At the core of its collection were items from synagogues that had been demolished as a result of the clearance of the Prague Jewish ghetto at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Jewish Museum Association was abolished in the autumn of 1939 following the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Its collection was taken over by the Prague Jewish community which, on the basis of an initiative from Karel Stein (head of the department for rural affairs), prompted the founding of the Central Jewish Museum in 1942. The Nazis approved of the project after lengthy negotiations, although they had completely different aims than the founders. Under the cover name 'museum', the Central Jewish Museum became a safe haven for liturgical objects, books and archival documents from the defunct Jewish communities for the duration of the war. Thanks to the efforts of the art historian and chief curator Josef Polák and his colleagues, this institution operated on a completely professional level, creating the basis for the work of the present-day museum.

After the war, the museum was placed under national administration. The conditions laid down by the state meant that the Council of Jewish Religious Communities in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia – as the legal successor to the disbanded Jewish communities – was unable to take effective control of the museum before the Communist coup of February 1948.

In 1950 the museum was nationalized, including its extensive collections. Its subsequent work was affected by ideological pressure, which considerably restricted the range of permissible topics and the way they could be dealt with. In addition, the Communist state made it impossible for the museum to develop its specialist research activities.

The museum's research did not resume until 1994, when its buildings were returned to the Prague Jewish community and the bulk of its collections were returned by the state to the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic. On 1 October 1994 the museum regained its independence from the state, marking the start of a new chapter in its more than hundred-year history.

History of the Museum's Archives

A small collection of valuable older documents acquired through purchases or donations was put together by the Museum before the Second World War. Most of the archival records were transferred to the Museum during the war as part of the wartime shipment of material from the disbanded Jewish communities of Bohemia and Moravia. This is why, apart from individual documents, the Museum has few records from the archives of Jewish communities in the annexed border area. Materials from other communities, too, have not always been sufficiently preserved; in some cases, only fragments of documents have survived. For many years, the archives only contained material from a particular historical period with only a few preserved documents dating from after 1945. It was not until 2006 – having been transferred to a modern air-conditioned depository with ample space capacity – that the archives began to collect more recent material, in particular the extant records of Jewish communities that were re-established after the Second World War.

Building(s)

The Jewish Museum in Prague and its Shoah Documentation Department are located at:

U Staré školy 1
110 00 Prague 1

The Jewish Museum's Archives, however, are located in the Smíchov Synagogue Building at:

Stroupežnického 32
150 00 Prague 5

Archival and Other Holdings

The Archives of the Jewish Museum in Prague currently contain more than 600 linear metres of archival records. The main portion comprises the archives of the individual Jewish religious communities of Bohemia and Moravia. Also kept here are the holdings of certain Jewish associations and organizations, as well as personal papers. The archives also includes a small collection of patents, circulars, ordinances and decrees, a collection of seals and stamps, a collection of sheet music and a collection of miscellaneous items.

The archives also contain documents relating to individual Jewish communities, which contain photographs of synagogues, ghettoes and cemeteries, reports on surveys into these sites and references to literature and other sources on the history of Jewish settlement in specific areas.

The oldest document dates from 1454 (the Charter of Ladislaus the Posthumous). Archival materials that have been preserved in a systematic way, however, date from the mid-eighteenth century onwards.

The archives of individual Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia provide a valuable source for the history of the Jews in the Bohemian lands. The most important part of the archives is the Prague Jewish Religious Community collection. Among the most interesting items in the collection of personal papers are the T. Jakobovits, H. Flesch, S. H. Lieben and E. Kolben papers.

Archive of the Shoah Documentation Department

The Shoah Documentation Department collects and makes available various materials on the history of the "final solution of the Jewish question" in Bohemia and Moravia. This section is responsible for the administration of the Terezín Archive Collection, which contains official documents associated with the activities of the Jewish Council of Elders and their offices in the Terezín ghetto, the estates of Terezín prisoners (literary works, music scores, theatre plays, diaries, albums, magazines) and personal narratives of Holocaust survivors. The second archive collection - Persecution Documents - contains various archive documents and estates from the Holocaust period, which did not originate in the Terezín ghetto, and personal narratives concerning the period of Nazi persecution. The work of this department also involves the administration of a photography collection from the Holocaust period and of a series of tape-recorded narratives of Holocaust survivors; the latter is an ongoing project that was launched in 1990. This section has at its disposal records - in the form of card indexes, registers and a special computer programme - of Holocaust victims from the territory of the former Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and of Jewish victims from Germany, Austria, Holland and Slovakia who passed through the Terezín ghetto. The Department also provides access to the collection of more than one thousand interviews with Holocaust survivors and to a new oral history collection on the life of Jews in post-WWII Czechoslovakia. A subsection of the Photo Collection related to the WWII is also taken care of here.

Finding Aids, Guides, and Publication

Researchers can find lists of collections and archival aids to the Museum's Archives at the following web address:

https://www.jewishmuseum.cz/en/collection-research/collections-funds/archives-collections/

The archive of the Shoah Documentation Department is fully digitised and, following a detailed inspection, will be made available online. Currently, mainly an extensive collection of documents about Jews in Ostrava and a prevailing part of the Terezín (Theresienstadt) collection are published online.

Archival records throughout the Czech Republic are also searchable in a nationwide database:

http://aplikace.mvcr.cz/archivni-fondy-cr/default.aspx?lang=en

Opening Times

Museum
Winter time 1 January–29 March 9 am–4.30 pm
Summer time 31 March–25 October 9 am–6 pm
Winter time 27 October–31 December 9 am–4.30 pm

The Museum is open every day except Saturdays and Jewish holidays.

The Shoah Documentation Centre is open on Monday and Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The Archives' reading room is open on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Sources

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