The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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4:08pm on Thursday, 27th June, 2013:
This morning we went to Prague's Old New Synagogue for a look around. We got there fairly early and had the place pretty much to ourselves. I had to wear some kind of paper skull cap, officially out of respect but actually because I couldn't see the inside of the building if I didn't. It was quite interesting.
We were just about to leave when this little old lady showed up. She was 90 years old and showed people round the synagogue for free. After establishing that we were non-Jewish people from England, she spent around 45 minutes going into details about the history of the place. It was ar more fascinating than the guide books made out. This particular synagogue is one of the oldest in Europe, if not the oldest, and was in danger of being demolished in the second world war like scores of synagogues in Vienna, but the Prague Jews managed to save it. They basically went to the SS and said OK, we know what you're planning to do to us, but you probably should try to preserve some of our culture for the education of your future generations, so this is the synogogue you should preserve as a museum. The SS bought the idea and saved the building. They still came after the Jews of Prague, though...
The woman who was showing us around casually mentioned that she'd been in Trablinka. All her family were dead. She didn't make a big deal of it, she was just explaining how she knew so much about the synagogue.
My daughters had never met a Holocaust survivor before, and probably won't meet another. They're dying out through thankfully natural causes. She was really impressive, though: all she wanted was for people to appreciate the history of the synagogue.
Unfortunately for us, a group of Spanish-speaking Jewish schoolkids arrived and the teacher had to speak really loudly to be heard over them. That rather put an end to our tour. I think we probably got more out of it than they did...
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