Concerts, exhibitions, films mark "Year of Jewish Culture"
2006 is the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Prague's Jewish Museum, and to mark the event, exhibitions, concerts, films and theatre performances will be held across the country. The festival, dubbed The Year of Jewish Culture, will aim to reflect the huge cultural contribution made by the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia over the centuries.
"I wouldn't say it's a dead culture because any museum is a dead culture. Of course we present objects which have are no longer in use in synagogues, but at the same time they are very eloquent. They speak about the history of Czech Jews and at the same time they symbolise people who were killed during the war. Knowing that we can say a lot about contemporary life in this world, and of course we can use all these documents and objects in projects and programmes which actually speak about contemporary life."
Tomas Kraus, chairman of the federation of Czech Jewish communities, says the history of the Jews and the history of the Czech Lands are very much interlinked.
How vibrant is that community today?
"The community is very vibrant. It's very small, and as you just mentioned it was decimated by the Holocaust, but unfortunately this was not the end of the story. We had to face another 40 years of Communism which almost completed the work of the Nazis, because there was substantial emigration from the country and of course out of the community as such."
We're standing in the magnificent Spanish Synagogue, a beautifully restored building, and Prague is home to many unique Jewish monuments, but are these buildings simply tourist attractions or are they part of a living, vibrant culture?
There is something of a historical irony, because Hitler is rumoured to have wanted to create a Museum of an Extinct Race in Prague. He wanted to collect all the Jewish artefacts and monuments of the community that he had annihilated and build this museum in Prague. And as a result, Prague is so rich in Jewish artefacts.
"Probably not. I was invited to Jerusalem, and they recorded an eight-hour interview with me, and right at the beginning I said - I'm a Czech writer rather than a Jewish writer. And they said - for us you are a Jewish writer! I was not educated in Jewish tradition, but I shared the Jewish fate during the occupation, during the war. And of course I used my strongest life experiences in some of my short stories and short parts of my novels. So that's my connection with the Jewish."
"This is a question which would need at least an hour's lecture. But to be short, I think Jews have contributed in every sense to Czech culture. The mixture of Jewish, Czech and German culture produced wonderful results, such as Franz Kafka, Gustav Mahler, Rilke and lots of others. I of course, as a survivor of the Holocaust, deeply regret that this period was so violently stopped, and often think about how it would have been, or could have been, if many of those children had survived and contributed to Czech culture."