Attached you find an offcial statement of the Jewish Community of Prague which proves that there is no any reason to be worried about the Old-Jewish Cemetery of Prague.
Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague
The Jewish Community in Prague and its Chief Rabbi consider it their duty to correct certain misinformation spread outside the Czech Republic in the course of a campaign to save the preserved sections of a Jewish cemetery in Prague which had been abolished more than five hundred years ago. The Jewish Community in Prague and its Chief Rabbi wish to provide true information to the Jewish and Non-Jewish public, above all outside the Czech Republic, about the true state of affairs.
First of all, we must stress that the Jewish cemetery whose parts were unearthed by the Ceska Pojistovna (Czech Insurance Company) during the construction of an underground parking lot far beyond the limits of the former Jewish Quarter had been abolished in the 15th century of the common era and is by no means identical with the world-famous Jewish cemetery located within the former Jewish Quarter. The latter, commonly known as the Old Jewish Cemetery, is a burial ground founded in the 15th century within the walls of the Jewish Quarter (it contains, among others, the grave of Maharal). This existing (never abolished) Old Jewish Cemetery is owned by the Jewish Community in Prague and is administered by the Jewish Museum. The Old Jewish Cemetery is accessible daily except Shabbat and other Jewish holidays to hundreds of visitors from all over the world; we consider the allegation that the Jewish Community would give its consent to the construction of an underground parking lot under a cemetery owned by the Jewish Community to be an inexcusable defamation.
The Jewish cemetery in question (not identical with the existing Old Jewish Cemetery located in a completely different part of Prague) was abolished in 1478 by the Czech sovereign Ladislas Jagiello (Vladislav Jagelonský). In the course of following five centuries, buildings were erected on the territory of this abolished cemetery; any skeletal remains of our ancestors found during the construction work performed there within half a millenium had been exhumed and reburied at the still existing Old Jewish Cemetery within Prague's Jewish Quarter; understandably, after such a prolonged period of construction activities in a densely populated urban area, neither the Jewish Community nor any historians or archeologists could foresee the existence of any preserved parts of the former cemetery including those discovered at the present construction site of the Czech Insurance Company.
Immediately upon the abolishment of the cemetery in the 15th century, all property rights of the Jewish community to the entire area became null and void; parcels of land located on the territory of the former cemetery or houses built on such lots became either State (or Crown) property or private property. Naturally, such development also applied to the lot owned by the Czech Insurance Company; presently, the respective lot is entered in the Land Register as the property of the Czech Insurance Company.
However, property rights in the Czech Republic can be restricted in the interest of protecting cultural monuments. Precisely on such grounds, the Jewish Community in Prague, upon the request of its Chief Rabbi, has taken steps to ensure the legal protection of these and other preserved parts of the abolished cemetery within the zones unaffected by construction. In cooperation with the Jewish Museum in Prague, the Jewish Community immediately addressed the respective institutions, i. e. the Czech Insurance Company, the Czech Ministry of Culture, the Municipal Council of the Capital Prague, the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, the Monument Protection Authority, and the Archeology Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in order to prevent the imminent destruction of the part of the cemetery discovered on the construction site of the Czech Insurance Company. The result of the ensuing complicated negotiations was the proposal to catalogue all the interconnected segments of the abolished cemetery (at the present time, most of those segments are not immediately endangered) in order to ensure their lasting protection against damage and/or destruction by declaring them a cultural monument.
A separate issue within the entire problem area represented the question how to save the part of the cemetery located within the existing construction pit.
The first possible scenario was to halt all construction activities and alter the respective construction project. The construction work performed so far on the respective construction site has been executed on the basis of a valid construction permit; therefore, the Czech Insurance Company would be entitled to receive a commensurate indemnification if it were forced to abandon its ongoing project. According to the Czech Insurance Company, interrupting the construction work and altering the project would entail a loss amounting to ten million US dollars; the Ministry of Culture (representing the Czech state) is unable to pay such an indemnification; it is conceivable that no one else would provide the Czech Insurance Company with such a sum.
The second possible scenario was to exhume the bones and rebury them at a protected Jewish cemetery; besides irreversible damage to the respective section of the cemetery, accepting this scenario would create a dangerous precedent. Following this pattern - considering the lack of scruples on the part of some building contractors and the deficiency of the present Czech legislation in the field of protection of cultural monuments - could spell future destruction of further Jewish cemeteries which might still not revert to the Jewish Communities or whose existence is presently unknown.
Under these circumstances, the Czech Insurance Company, the Ministry of Culture, and the Jewish Community in Prague lead by their effort to find a satisfactory solution to the problem concluded a trilateral agreement involving the following components:
1) The Ministry of Culture will declare the locality owned by the Czech Insurance Company and all other parts of the cemetery in its original extent a cultural monument;
2) The Czech Insurance Company will, under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate, protect the graves against damage; it will lower the entire part of the burial ground (encased in concrete, without damaging any of the individual graves) to the bottom of the construction site; a separate consecrated space will be created there; this space will be accessible to visitors upon demand.
3) The Czech Insurance Company and the Ministry of Culture will jointly establish the Ministry's contribution to cover a part of the cost of the entire operation.
After certain doubts regarding the suitability of the above described decision were voiced outside the Czech Republic, Prague's Chief Rabbinate consulted members of the respective Rabbinical Court in Israel whereupon the Court approved of the position of Prague's Rabbinate. In a situation where some influential Jewish institutions have expressed their objections regarding the aforesaid approach (thus placing the Jewish Community in Prague into a second-rate position within its own area of competency) the Chief Rabbi of Prague has asked the Chief Rabbi of Israel to present his final opinion. Should the Chief Rabbi of Israel express disapproval of the above mentioned preliminary agreement, the Jewish Community in Prague and its Chief Rabbinate will feel obliged to leave the representation of the right of our ancestors to rest in peace to those who assume they stand the chance to reach a better solution.
As a conclusion we can state that the graves located at the part of the cemetery discovered in the building pit remained intact. No bones were excavated and stored in 36 bags in a neighboring store-house without guarding as Mr. Moshe Stern from London says in an article published on January 13, 2000 in the Jerusalem Post. On the contrary, activities of the Prague Jewish Community resulted in stopping the construction work and archaeological research above the graves´ layer.
Prague, January 13, 2000
Efraim Sidon, Chief Rabbi of Prague and Land Rabbi
Jiri Danícek, Chairman of the Jewish Community in Prague
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Michel G.: Risk of destruction of Prague Jewish Cemetery - 6.2.00
The Jewish community in Prague is being pressured by the Czech Government to allow the construction of residential properties on the site of the old Jewish cemetery in the Jewish Quarter there. The 800-year-old cemetery, which survived the Nazi destruction of Jewish religious sites in Central and Eastern Europe, is the last of its kind, and contains the grave of the Maharal of Prague (R. Yehudah Loewy, 17th century scholar) and other Torah greats. Prague's Chief Rabbi Efraim Sidon has asked for Jews worldwide to take urgent action to prevent the desecration of the cemetery. Czech Minister of Culture Mr. Pavel Dorstal may be e-mailed at email@example.com Below is a sample letter which you can send. Simply copy and paste it, And fill in your name and country at the bottom. Please copy and forward this letter to all you know.
Dear Mr. Dorstal,
I am writing to you to protest the pressure being placed on Prague's
Jewish community by the Czech government, to allow construction of residential properties on the site of the Jewish cemetery in the Jewish Quarter of Prague.
This ancient cemetery, which survived the Nazi destruction of Jewish
religious sites in Central and Eastern Europe, is the last of its kind, and contains the graves of many important Jewish scholars.
As the Minister of Culture in Czechoslovakia, I appeal to you to act immediately to prevent the desecration of the cemetery.
Your name, Your country
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