(This Guide is from Rav Moshe Dovid Spiro, Gateshead, England – All rights belong him)
1) Places of Jewish Interest:
a) All 7 Shuls: 1) Maisel 2) Pinkas 3) Klausen 4) Spanish, and 5) Altneu-Shul. 6) Hoch-Shul, which is not part of the tour. It is used for Tefillos, but also 500 years old 7) Jubilee Shul, in Jeruzalemska Str. which is open for tourists only in the summer but worthwhile to see the outside. (All the six Shuls are within 5 min. of each other but the last one is somewhat further away.)
b) Clock with Hebrew Letters.
c) Beis Hakevoros of the Maharal
d) House of Chevroh Kedishoh
e) Charles Bridge with “Kodosh…” (Third figure on right) and apologetic inscription. All the above are near each other.
f) Beis Hakevoros of the Nodah Biyehudoh
[This Beis Hakevoros is further away, yet easily reachable by Metro. Get off at -the green line, B- station “Jiriho Podebrad”. The Beis Hakvoros is only open officially on Tues. and Thurs. 9-13.00. [Entrance 20 CK per person. At other times entry is possible by enlisting assistance of Schwab or Dushi, but will cost extra money.]
It is often not realized that behind the Noda Biyehudo, not so much further, is the Kever of his Talmid, Haga’on Reb Elizer Fleckelesh, the Ba’al Tshuvo Me’ahavo [large Matzevo, Ohel].
The nearby television tower is unfortunately standing on the ground of the Beis Hakevoros. The communist regime notified the Kehillo of their intention to build and they had to be mefane this part of the Beis Hakevoros. Worthwhile to go up, see the town. 150 CK, students & ‘seniors’=over 60, only 30 CK.
[The director of the firm, a Non-Jew, has a Yiddish grandson – via the mother – who is a Ba’al Tshuvo!]
2) Places of General Interest:
a) Climb up 140 steps of tower at beginning of Charles Bridge for stunning view. Open from 9 a.m.
b) Take Tram 22. Be very careful of pickpockets!, which goes up through center of town and up the hill past the palace until White Mountain [site of battle to decide the next 300 years of Prag with great importance for Yiden i.e. Catholics won and Wien etc. ruled rather than Prag itself].
c) Ship on River with stunning views.
d) Museum of Communism depicting the communist area. Is located in town center in same building as McDonald’s. Open in evening after Shuls etc. are closed until 21.00.
On top of the hill overlooking Charles Bridge used to be the biggest statue of Stalin in the world. 30 m. high. No one could get away from it, it could be seen all over Prague. The sculptor (Otakar Svec) killed himself before it was unveiled. A year later, the Russian prime minister Krushchev, denounced Stalin. In 1962 it was blown up by order of Moscow. (Connaught)
About one hour from Prag. You can hire guide, see above, or get there quite efficiently with public transport bus. Journey takes about 1 hour and buses leave roughly every hour from main bus station Florenc (sounds: Florentz). Bus arrives next to Jewish Museum. Train can take longer than bus and only arrives 3 km away from where you need to be.
Main sights in Theresienstadt:
a) Jewish Museum with detailed exposition of Nazi Politics and barbarities, mainly in Theresienstadt but to a small extent also in other K.Z.
Tourist Guide Yakov: 5 Secret Shuls. Also the centre of religious activity i.e. notices of ותחזנה עינינו .etc. The Nazis regarded the political activities with even greater suspicion than the religious activities. It remained secret because the Germans did not normally enter the Getto himself. For psychological reasons they intimated that they were too high for that. If they wanted to speak to somebody they sent for him.
Shul which is still preserved [and was never discovered by SS]. What about davening a Tefillo in a place where Achenu Bnei Yisro’el were moser nefesh for Tefillo! The official guide for the Shul is the owner of the house. He is well-meaning but totally useless and hardly speaks anything but Czesh.
b) Gigantic Mass Graves of Yiden and Goyim outside the Small Fortress. 26 000 bodies! The “Matzevos” are meaningless.
c) Perhaps most impressive and saddest is the Small Fortress (Kleine Festung). This became one of the worst concentration camps. It is about 1 km. from Museum [there is a bus-stop there]. The guides are knowledgeable and it gives a vivid picture of what went on.
It took over prisoners from the Prag Gestapo. Or they were brought in from Teresienstadt for breaking camp regulations. The terror was such that only 3 people ever escaped [when all guards but one were drunk] and even after the SS escaped upon approach of Russian army the inmates did not dare out. The 3 Sarajevo assassinations of the Kronprinz Franz Ferdinand were kept there. They were too young to get a death sentence. Two lasted out their “life” sentence for a mere few months, the third one (Principe) lasted for c. 3 years which surprised everybody. In the end he too succumbed to bone Tuberculosis due to the humid conditions and being chained. A “Life”- sentence indeed.
Interesting Comment about the Czech civilian’s attitude to Jewish inmates:
“The march … was marked by suffering and torment. We traveled from Upper Silesia [Oberschlesien in Germany] through the mountainous region until we reached Czechoslovakia…. From our experience we saw that the common citizens hated us no less than the SS guards did.
“When we crossed the border into Czechoslovakia, we sensed an immediate change in the atmosphere. The civilians here showered us with various food items from their Windows and so too did passersby who met us on the way. They gave us bread and cakes accompanied by words of encouragement, which were no less vital to us than the food. Although they walked about freely, these civilians had suffered the oppression of the occupying German forces in other ways and therefore we were their comrades, bound by our common suffering, and they related to us accordingly.” (Your Rod and Your Staff by R. Sinai Adler p. 78-83)
The last Rov was Rav Shimon Adler. His youngest son had Bar Mitzva in the Hochshul in 1941. He was called Sinai Adler. He survived, learned in Chevron Yeshivo and became a Rosh Yeshivo. He wrote a book about his experiences. As he arrived in Auschwitz he worked together with an old man. The old man asked him: Why does it say twice “hope” in קוה אל ה' חזק ואמץ לבבך וקוה אל ה'. There are times, he explained, when a person is placed in a situation in which he is liable to lose his faith in Hashem’s abilitiy to save him from the hardship, which is threatening him. Therefore, after the Posuk states “Place your hope in the Almighty”, the next verse repeates again the first Posuk’s message. Even in seemingly hopeless situations, a Yid must be courageous and believe in Hashem’s ability to save him. (verbatim from “Your Rod and Your Staff” by R. Sinai Adler, p. 69)
When the Red Cross were going to come, the Nazis had to get rid of all the urns of cremated Yiden. So they commanded the Yiden to throw 25 000 ashes into the river!
R. Pesach Krohn:
Reb Meir was doiresh Shemos. He did not entrust the money to the innkeeper. His name was כידור Kidor. And the Posuk says: כי דור תהפוכות המה. This town is called after Maria Theresia. The town of Theresia. Theresia was a great anti-semite. 60000 were kept in barracks made for 7000. For every normal place for one person 8 people had to subsist. Don’t let anybody tell that they did not die here. True most were sent away. 117000 passed through here. And 75000 died here. 15000 children went through here. Only 15 (fifteen) survived!
Let us think about Hashem’s telling off: קול דמי אחיך Explains Rashi that the plural refers to the blood of the descendants. So 15000 means 115000! We see even from those that survived who had children and grandchildren. We have to make a commitment in our life: To take with a Limud. What: This was the place of deception. They used to bring the Red Cross here. They made a concert and a play. They used to tell the meshugene Welt: This is a holiday resort. Deception goes from a small lie to a bigger lie to the ultimate lie. Perhaps we should make a commitment to Midas Ho’emes. The Chofetz Chaim got up before Ne’iloh: We don’t want to be Gazlonim. In Ne’iloh we say: אתה נותן יד לפושעים כו' למען נחדל מעושק ידינו.
There are many people who borrow. Then they excuse themselves: We don’t have the money. But we have the money for a trip. For day-camp. We daven every day: אלקי כו' ושפתי מדבר מרמה. Many time in our business practices we are literally killing off the business of others. See יבמות דף ס"ג. Rav told off his son: לימדו לשונם לדבר שקר על אלה לא אפקוד בם נאום ה'. Many times things are happening in our life. One of the answers is: We are not ehrlich, we are not honest in business, with our co-workers, our family members. Once Rav Schwob wrote: The New York Times complains about Orthodox Jews who are dishonest in business. And R. Schwob wrote. The New York Times is wrong. “We must conclude that those who transgress on trickery, dishonesty and fraud גזל שקר ואונאת ממון while they sometimes have the outward appearances of being G’d-fearing Jews in fact they are irreligious.” It is the inside which matters. We must make a commitment to Ehrlichkeit.
They tried to keep Seder-night. But while having Moror they had not Matzos etc. so one artist made a picture of a Seder-plate. Everybody copied it. And that is what they had in front of them. To tell them what it should look like.
There was a woman here who was dying. She asked for a bit of water. They thought she wanted it for drinking. She wanted it to wash her fingers to say Shema before her death! And then she said Shema and was niftar.
Chanukoh they stole some wax from somewhere and just lit it. And we are worried that my father-in-law did not buy me a big silver Menoroh. That there is not enough money. Ridiculous! After the commitment to Mitzvos that these people did in the worse times.
פ' ויגש: ויאמר ישראל רב עוד יוסף בני חי כו'. מדרש: "רב" כוחו של יוסף בני שכמה צרות הגיעו ועדיין עומד בצדקו. שאל אביך ויגדך, זקינך [הזקן שלך] ויאמרו לך [דיכולים להביא לך חיזוק אפי' כבר אינם בעולם].
These people here lived lives of Mesirus Nefesh. These people here died על קידוש ה'. We have to live על קידוש ה'. Reb Matisyohu Salomon once explained: Nefesh means desire. We have to take our desires and be mevatel them to the desires of הקב"ה. If we can learn that lesson from this trip it will be truly a trip of Derhoibenkeit.
4) Countryside Outside Prag:
National Park with hills and woods near German Border. Takes about 2 hours. In winter often full of snow. Sessellift over border in Rehedorf near Althausen. [In Germany they do not accept Czech Kronen.]
(sounds: Holleshof, known in Yiddish as Holleshoy) R. Shabtai Kohen, the Shach’s Kever and his old Shul & Beys-Medresh. It is a day tour, which will include also Mikuov (=Nikolsburg) and Lipnik (=Laaypnik). See below for details. If time allows, more shuls & cemeteries.
Ask Dushinski about details. & about many other Gedoylim of the past from Bohemia & Moravia (Yiddish: Baymen & Mayren. German: Boehmen & Mehren)
(NikolShburg), South-Moravia, [73 km from Wien] capital of Moehren/ r M. Banet - “Bi’ur Mordechai”; R. M. Krochmal the “Tzemach Tzedek Hakadmon” R. Shmu’el-Shmelke HaLeyvi Horovitz, the one & only Chossid in this area, and the old Shul, museum now. Worthwhile visit.
Old & new cemeteries with Chasam Soyfer & other Gedoylim. A day tour from Prague.
In Beis Hakevoros (which is huge) called “Tor 4”: Reb Yosef Engel. Tshortkover Rebbe. Underground Museum with excavated Shul from days of late Rishonim. Jewish Museum with countless silver items e.g. Tachshitei Sifrei Torah etc.