Prague TV tower under fire as dark reminder of citys antisemitic past

Memorial should be built at site of tourist attraction erected over Jewish cemetery, say campaigners

It has been called one of the worlds ugliest structures, pointing above Prague like a jabbing metallic finger while offering visitors panoramic views of the Czech capitals more aesthetically pleasing sites.

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Now the citys looming 216-metre (709ft) television tower one of the most distinctive architectural legacies of communism is the subject of renewed complaints from the Prague Jewish community, which says it is a brooding reminder of the antisemitism of the regime that ruled the former Czechoslovakia for more than 40 years and whose dark history needs to be officially recognised.

Part of our community is still present under the ground here and people should know about it, said Pavel Vesely, a history and tourism coordinator with the Prague Jewish community. It reflects our history in the second half of the 20th century, when there was pressure part state-organised antisemitism, part anti-religion to erase the remnants of a Jewish presence in Prague. And the communists did a thorough job, because if you speak to people visiting the tower, they have no idea a Jewish cemetery was here.

The
The ancient Prague Jewish cemetery before the tower was built over it, involving the disinterment of human remains. Photograph: Archive of the City of Prague

Local officials are calling for a memorial acknowledging that the tower, believed to have been conceived partly as a cold-war gambit to block western TV and radio broadcasts, stands on what was once Pragues biggest Jewish cemetery, where rabbis, distinguished scholars and leading industrialists, among others, were laid to rest.

Graves in the former cemetery in the ikov neighbourhood were disturbed after workers began drilling in 1985 to lay the towers foundations. While some remains were reburied in other cemeteries, others were reportedly dumped in a landfill site outside Prague, in violation of Jewish law forbidding the disinterment of buried bodies.

The Jewish community sold the site, under pressure from the communist authorities, to the state broadcaster after it was deemed the ideal location for the tower. Most of the headstones in the once sprawling cemetery first established in 1680 and the burial place for about 40,000 people had previously been flattened and grassed over in the early 1960s to convert it into a park, also at the demand of the communist regime.

By the time the tower was completed in 1992, the cold war had ended after communist regimes in Czechoslovakia and other eastern bloc countries lost power. It is now marketed as a tourist attraction, boasting an observatory, a restaurant and even a one-bedroom hotel.

It stands at the centre of a square hosting a restaurant, an underground parking facility and a mini-golf course, part of which is said to be sited where the grandest tombstones once stood. There is also an ice rink in winter.

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The cemeterys oldest section survived the developments and remains in relative obscurity at one end of the square, Jewish community leaders having spent heavily to rescue it from the decay it had fallen into during the communist period.

However, they say a memorial is needed out of respect for the much larger, disappeared part of the cemetery, and as a reminder of what is seen as a state-sponsored effort to erase the last vestiges of Jewish identity after the Holocaust.

The
The construction site for the television tower. Photograph: Ceske Radiokumunikace

Some local schools have taken pupils on tours of the site to raise awareness. Magdalena Novotn, a teacher leading a group of nine-year-olds around the cemetery as part of a class project, said: The communist regime was not sensitive to spirituality or religious traditions. What touches me is that we know the Jewish belief that we cannot move bodies once they are in the soil, but they moved them completely. This is what we teach the children in the project.

Anna Tumova, a spokesperson for esk Radiokomunikace, the towers owners, said the company had not been approached, but that it would consider any proposal for a memorial. A plaque on the body of the tower itself would need permission from its architect, Vclav Aulick.

The structure already carries the figures of several sculpted babies designed by a Czech artist, David ern, copies of which were refitted earlier this year after the originals were removed.

The tower is the latest focal point of the Jewish communitys drive to restore scores of cemeteries, synagogues and other cultural sites destroyed or allowed to fall into ruin under communism. Some 105 synagogues were demolished during the communists reign compared with 70 during the Nazi occupation.

Stonework for many abandoned sites was sold and later reused for private gardens, car parks or pedestrianised streets. Prague city council recently agreed to allow Jewish community leaders to examine cobbled paving stones dug up for a forthcoming redevelopment of Wenceslas Square. Some stones are believed to have been taken from Jewish cemeteries and repurposed for the pedestrianisation of the area carried out by the communist regime in the 1980s.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific

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