PRAGUE – Fragments of looted Jewish gravestones which had been used as cobblestones in the streets of Prague will be preserved in one the city’s Jewish cemeteries.
The three stones, each about 10 centimeters in size, were desecrated during the communist era of what was then Czechoslovakia.
Prague’s Jewish community has been campaigning for years for the return of headstones, which were supposedly been used to pave the streets of the capital city.
Frantisek Banyai, president of the Jewish Community of Prague, told EFE that pieces of tombs from cemeteries were used indiscriminately as cobblestones, especially during subway works near Wenceslas Square, one of the city’s main boulevards, in the late 1970s.
He said the fragments were not found during recent works, but came loose because of traffic driving over them.
“We expect that there are some more stones so it’s good to find these three, but we are expecting more stones,” he added.
They will be taken to the city’s Old Jewish Cemetery to be preserved there, he said.
An agreement has been signed with Prague City Council so that in the future construction workers have to notify the authorities if they find articles which could have come from Jewish graves, Banyai added.
There are around 2,000 people in the city’s Jewish community after the Nazis deported and killed 10,000s of its members during World War II.
Synagogues and cemeteries abandoned after the Holocaust were looted during the following four decades of communist regime.
One of the worst acts of vandalism was the desecration of graves and the indiscriminate use of headstones as construction material for private homes and public works.
Banyai said some of the acts were institutional, but others were simple theft.
Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery was totally devastated and its graves were used for construction material.
The granite and dark colored stones were cut into squares, a layer of cement was added to form them into uniform cobblestones and then they were arranged in geometric shapes to decorate the city’s streets.
Barbora Liškova, spokeswoman for Prague’s Technical Road Administration, said it is impossible to predict when finds will be made, but that they normally happen in specific places in the city.
The Jewish community has chosen not to put commemorative plaques in these places to inform people they may be stepping on pieces of tombs.
Instead, they prefer to return the pieces to the cemetery in Prague’s Zizkov district.