Tombstone fragments from Prague pedestrian zone to be used in new Jewish monument

Prague Jewish Community has launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance a monument made of fragments of Jewish tombstones removed from the city’s pavements. The tombstones from derelict Jewish cemeteries were used under Communism to repair pedestrian zones at the base of Wenceslas Square, and they are now being returned to the Jewish community.

The lower part of the Wenceslas Square | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

I discussed the project with Petra Schwarz Koutská, PR manager of the campaign:

“So far there have been seven tonnes returned to the Jewish community. They were found in 2020. They are from the lower part of the Wenceslas Square. They were found during the reconstruction of the square.”

As far as I know the reconstruction of the lower part of Wenceslas Square is still going on. Does it mean that you will receive more of these fragments in the future?

“We are expecting that there might be some more cobblestones in the future but we are not sure of that.”

And have you succeeded in identifying the origin of these fragments?

There are some indications that some of these cobblestone might come from North Bohemia, but most of them have not been identified.”

The Jewish Community plans to use some of the cobblestones to create a monument. Whose idea was it?

The Jewish cemetery in Žižkov near the TV Power | Photo: Michal Kmínek,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

“The project was initiated by František Bánayi, the head of the Jewish community, together with the sculptor Jaroslav Róna. So they came up with the idea and they are have already started working on it.”

Can you tell as a little bit more about the monument?

“It’s going to be in the Jewish cemetery in Žižkov near the TV Power. The cemetery used to be much bigger but it was partly destroyed because of the construction of the tower.

“So the monument will stand on the remnants of the Jewish cemetery in Fibichova Street. It will look like a lens made of cobblestones and it will to symbolize the Holy Creator or an eye.”

When do you plan to unveil the monument?

“The ceremony will take place on September 7, so there are still three months to go.”

Why has the Jewish community decided to finance the project through a crowdfunding campaign?

Photo: Úřad městské části Praha 1

“The costs are actually much higher than the target amount of the crowdfunding campaign, so the monument will be partly financed by private donors.

“According to Mr Bányai, it symbolizes that fact that citizens of Prague and people coming to Prague were unknowingly walking on these cobblestones.

“So it’s a symbol of some lost dignity that will be regained, hopefully, with the help of the people who used to walk on these stones.”

The cost of the monument, called Return of the Tombstones, is estimated at CZK 750,000. The crowdfunding campaign, which was launched on Thursday, aims to collect CZK 150,000. By Friday noon, people had already sent more than two thirds of the total sum.