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Purges Hitting Jewish Community

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Purges by the Czech Communist regime of personalities connected with the Dubcek “spring era” of four years ago are starting to reach members of the small Jewish community in Prague, it was reported here from the Czech capital.

Dr. Vilem Benda, director of the State Jewish Museum in Prague for more than ten years, has been ousted. Dr. Benda, who had been an outstanding member of the Communist Party had contributed greatly to making the Jewish collections of Prague a main attraction for tourists. Sources said he was ousted when he refused to redecorate exhibits to give them a “political flavor.”

Erik Klima was named Benda’s successor. His first job, it was reported, will be to remove Jewish staff members excluded from the Communist Party in the post-Dubcek purges. The museum includes six synagogues, the oldest dating from the 13th century, as well as the 16th century Town Hall and the old Jewish cemeteries from the first half of the 15th century.

The Pinkas synagogue has been transformed into a memorial to the 80,000 Czech Jews slaughtered by the Nazis but it is the Klaus synagogue, housing a permanent collection, which seems to be most annoying to the present Communist leaders. There has been an intensive anti-Zionist campaign with strong anti-Semitic undertones in Czechoslovakia recently, aimed mainly at Jewish backers of Dubcek, many of them now living in exile.

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