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U.S. Accord with Prague to Protect Synagogues and Jewish Cemeteries

March 18, 1992
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The United States and Czechoslovakia have signed an agreement to protect and preserve monuments, historic buildings and other sites representing the cultural heritage of both countries, including damaged synagogues and abandoned Jewish cemeteries.

The agreement, initialed Tuesday at a State Department ceremony, was the first of a series of similar compacts with Central and Eastern European states currently being negotiated.

Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and Rita Klimova, Prague’s ambassador to Washington, represented the United States and the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic.

They were joined by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, chairman of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, who worked out the agreement with Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry officials in Prague last October.

It calls for creation of a joint commission to help identify, protect and preserve sites in Czechoslovakia associated with the heritage of Americans and similar locations in the United States linked to Czech and Slovak traditions.

Schneier said the agreement is “of particular importance to the Jewish people because so many of our religious and cultural institutions and cemeteries in Central and Eastern Europe were destroyed or damaged during the war and because so little has been done to save them.

“These historic sites are part of the collective memory of the Jewish people,” he said, noting that since the Holocaust, few Jews remain to look after them.

Ambassador Klimova said that the Holocaust reduced her country’s Jewish population from 350,000 to 8,000.

“The Jewish communities, which now have a very high average age, are by themselves not capable of caring for all of the monuments and relics that need preservation,” she said.

“These should and must be preserved to serve the new small but growing Jewish community, and also because the Jewish heritage is an indivisible component of our Czechoslovak culture” going back more than 1,000 years, the ambassador said.

Schneier said a group called the Associates of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad has been formed to raise funds needed to repair the institutions covered under the agreement with Czechoslovakia and others expected to be signed in the future.

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