Old Jewish Cemetery in Josefov

Tombstones in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

One of the most impressive sights in Prague is the Old Jewish cemetery in Josefov, the former Jewish ghetto. This cemetery was used from 1439 to 1787 and it is the oldest existing Jewish cemetery in Europe. The Nazis made it a policy to destroy Jewish cemeteries, sometimes using the tombstones for target practice, but Hitler ordered that this cemetery be left intact, since he was planning to build a Jewish museum in Prague after all the Jews in Europe had been exterminated according to his diabolical plan.

There are more than 100,000 Jews buried in this small plot, the graves being layered 12 deep in some places. This is not unusual for European cemeteries where space is at a premium. In Germany where the graves are also 12 layers deep, the tombstones mark only the top layer of the buried coffins. In the Old Jewish Cemetery in Josefov, there are around 12,000 tombstones, crowded closely together with almost no grass between them. Some of the tombstones look like beds, like the one on the left in the photograph below.

Some of the tombstones in the Old Cemetery look like beds