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Czech Leaders Help Observe Jewish Museum’s Anniversary

The Jewish Museum in Prague observed its 90th anniversary last week, affirming the resurgence of the Czech Jewish community.

Czech President Vaclav Havel and other Czech officials were on hand when museum Director Leo Pavlat unveiled a plaque recognizing the history of the museum at the Aug. 29 ceremony.

The plaque states — in Czech, English and Hebrew — that the building now designated as the museum’s administrative center housed a Jewish elementary school between 1920 and 1942, and that its teachers and pupils perished in the Holocaust.

Havel opened the museum’s new educational and cultural center, which will provide in-depth historical information about the Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia.

The museum was established at the turn of the century in an effort to preserve artifacts from two synagogues that had been destroyed during a renovation of Prague’s Jewish Quarter.

During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, local Jews proposed that precious Jewish artifacts be added to the museum’s collection.

Nazi authorities approved of their suggestion, intending to build a museum of “an extinct race.”

Nearly all the museum’s workers were deported to concentration camps.

Some 80,000 Czechoslovakian Jews died in the Holocaust.

The Council of Jewish Communities administered the museum from the end of World War II until 1950, when it was nationalized by the Communist regime.

Both its buildings and its collections were returned to the Jewish community in September 1994.

Today, the museum, which includes two historic synagogues and the old Jewish cemetery, houses 40,000 artifacts and is the most visited museum in the Czech Republic.

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