PRAGUE (Jul. 3)
An aide to the prime minister of the Czech republic of Czechoslovakia has urged the state to restore Jewish religious and cultural artifacts plundered by the Nazis to the communities from which they were stolen or their heirs.
Petr Prihoda, a spokesman for Prime Minister Petr Pithard, observed in an article Monday in the daily Lidove Noviny that nearly 200,000 items seized from Jewish households and synagogues as stored at the state-owned Jewish Museum in Prague, which was expropriated by the Communist authorities in the 1950s.
Most of these items were robbed from Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia, whose members died in the Holocaust. But a few survived and are still living in Czechoslovakia, Israel or some other country, said Prihoda.
According to the writer, the collection includes about 4,000 Torah mantles, 2,500 Torah curtains, 360 valences, 1,500 binders, 600 Torah shields, 200 silver crowns and 1,000 pointers.
There are 175,000 items in all, most originally from the 153 Czech Jewish communities annihilated by the Nazis, Prihoda wrote.
The problem of religious articles expropriated by the state under the former Communist regime is under consideration.
Prihoda recalled a session of the federal Parliament held in February at which two members, Klara Samkova and Rostislav Senjuk, objected to the return of religious relics to the Jewish community because of “the danger that moveable cultural treasures may be exported from the country.”
Prihoda compared their attitude to that of a child who finds a toy shovel in the sand and refuses to return it to its owner.
He differentiated between memorabilia of historic value that are property of the museum and religious objects looted by the Nazis.
An Israeli organization meanwhile has demanded that Jewish religious objects not presently in use in Czechoslovakia be handed over to Israel.