The Layered Dead

When we first visited Prague in the Summer of 2008, we were just awed by what this city had to show us. Every morning after breakfast, we would head out to explore, mostly on foot the various sections of the city from the Old Town Square (Stare Mesto) to its various tributaries and New Town (Nove Mesto), through Wenceslas Square and across the Charles River, through the Palace grounds, and back and around.

View of the Jewish Cemetery in Prague from above. Note the layered tombstones.  photo credit (c) Likeitiz

View of the Jewish Cemetery in Prague from above. Note the layered tombstones. photo credit (c) Likeitiz

On one of our walks, we joined a walking tour through Prague’s Jewish Quarters (Josefov). The architecture of the buildings was certainly something to be admired and celebrated. For years, the Jewish people were discriminated against in Europe, as we all know, most infamously during the Second World War.

But way before WWII, Jews were already strictly confined to a defined section of the city for centuries.  And so, people were born and people died in that small section of the city. What did they do with their dead?  They buried them, of course. But after several decades, space became a premium.  And so, we saw in the Jewish cemeteries, both the Old Cemetery and the New, that people were crammed shoulder to shoulder, so to speak, but not just side by side.  Many were buried one on top of another and their tombstones were layered!

We learned that as many as 100,000 people were buried in the small space that probably could only hold a few thousands. There are only 12,000 visible tombs because of the layers. In many graves, there were as many as 12 layers of graves.

It was such a spectacle. It was hard to believe that people could be so cruel to an entire group of fellow humans!

This post was inspired by the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers. Do go see what other WordPress bloggers have done with this challenge.

This entry was posted in BlogHer, Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge, YeahWrite and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Layered Dead

  1. sued51 says:

    Wow…12 layers…unbelievable! Interesting…


  2. Oh, wow! That is totally fascinating and unforgettable.


  3. bluebee says:

    This is amazing – so terrible, but also a necessary reminder to us humans of the terrible things we do to one another when we lose our humanity


  4. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers | beeblu blog

  5. catherinefr says:

    Amazing photo, and so sad. I am Jewish myself (and from Europe). I really feel for those people who lived there, confined to one part of the city, without even enough space to bury their dead, unless they layered the graves. It is really sad that people could be so cruel to an entire group of people, like you say. Although things are different now, the Roma people are still having a difficult time here in Europe. I wish we had learned more lessons from the past. Thanks for sharing this photo and a piece of history from Prague.


    • likeitiz says:

      Thanks. Btw, I keep trying to post comments on your blog and somehow my comments disappear when I click on “publish.”


      • catherinefr says:

        Sorry about the problems with my blog. Usually if people leave comments, they show up under my “awaiting moderation” section and I have to approve them. I just checked and I didn’t see any comments from you there, so I am not sure what went wrong. Thank you for letting me know about this problem – I’ll try to get it sorted out!


      • likeitiz says:

        Thanks. I’ll try again later.


  6. Aussa Lorens says:

    Very interesting– and that photo looks amazing. I was in Prague during the winter (brrrr) so I think I’m due for a visit during more moderate temps. It’s interesting that you talk about them stacking the graves like that… I wasn’t aware that that had gone on there. Also, extra interesting because I’ve spent my entire afternoon talking about burial practices with an archeologist 🙂


  7. Alicja Mann says:

    Great photo and a very interesting information about that cemetery. Thank you!


  8. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I love to learn new things, this is really interesting thanks.


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