Battle over ownership rights sends Prague Golem into hiding

Foto: autorka

Among the souvenirs that tourists bring back from a visit to Prague are little clay figures of the Golem – a giant linked to one of Prague’s best known legends. What few of them know is that there is a fierce battle underway for ownership rights, which has sent a much larger version of the clay monster into hiding.

Golem,  photo: Milena Štráfeldová
The history of the Golem goes back to the Talmud, which mentions several instances of rabbis creating a man-like creature and using him as a servant. The most famous Golem is that created by Rabbi Yehuda Loew, the Maharal of Prague, who used him to prevent a blood libel, and then reportedly hid him in the attic of Prague’s Old New Synagogue. Legend has it that the Golem is still hidden somewhere in the synagogue, which miraculously escaped destruction by the Nazis.

A statue of the Golem stands at the entrance to Prague’s Jewish quarter. However this representation of the Golem is not the one sold in Prague shops. That was created for a famous 1951 Czech film and presented the mythical servant as a huge clay monster. This golem captured people’s imaginations to such an extent that it has become THE Prague golem.

You’ll find a copy of him in the Prague Wax Museum and unbelievably there’s a huge statue of him in the storage rooms of the Czech Industry Ministry. Not that the ministry doesn’t need all the help it can get. But the Golem is there for a different reason. The ministry inherited the giant statue after the Brno design centre was forced to close down in 2008 and although it has offered the statue to other state institutions no one will have him. Due to a fierce battle over ownership rights, the Golem cannot be shown publicly and must remain in hiding.

The descendants of Jaroslav Horejc, who created the image, are suing the Prague Wax Museum for 100,000 crowns for displaying him and tourist shops selling little Golems could get into trouble as well. So the Prague Golem must remain in hiding at least until the court rules on ownership rights, and maybe for as long as 45 years before they expire.