A signpost in Černovice, a small town in southern Bohemia, leads to a Jewish cemetery founded in the 17th century, and a memorial to local victims of the Holocaust that strikingly personalizes the loss.
Jewish Heritage Europe Coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber visited it while on her current road trip to Jewish heritage sites in the Czech Republic and Poland. Traveling with the Jewish heritage scholars Samuel D. Gruber and (for the first part of the trip) David E. Kaufman, she is updating material on the status of sites she has visited over the past three decades, and also visiting sites she has not seen.
Following signs for a hotel in Černovice, we noticed a signpost pointing to the Jewish cemetery and, even though evening was just beginning to fall, we turned off the main road to follow that track. There are hundreds of Jewish cemeteries in the Czech Republic, and quite a few are signposted and well maintained.
The lane to the Černovice cemetery ended at a path leading to the cemetery gate, and the entire path had been transformed into a striking Holocaust memorial: A series of 53 irregular stones lining the path had been fitted with flat, polished surfaces that reflect the light and also bear the names, dates, and history of each of the people who had been deported from Černovice to Terezin and then Auschwitz.
On the left side of the path leading to the cemetery are arranged 43 stones — one for each of those who were killed. On the right side, 10 stones are arranged to honor the 10 people who survived the camps.
As I have noted in earlier posts, I find memorials like this that personalize the Shoah — giving names to the victims — especially powerful.
The memorial had been installed in November 2002, on the 60th anniversary of the deportation of the town’s Jews to Terezin. The memorial was designed and built by the sculptor Michael Deiml, working with a civic association called Jewish Memorial Černovice. An exhibition on the local Jewish community was installed in the pre-burial house (it can be visited by prior arrangement).
The names on the stones indicated that they belonged to a few extended families. Those killed and honored include:
Max Pešek; Max Mautner; Arnold Benesch; Filip Neumann; Eduard Synek; Dr. Emil Teller; Rudolf Schneider; Vilém Nagelstock; Pavlína & Josef Vogelovi; Anna, František & Ota Vesecký; Hedwig Weinsteinová roz. Windová; Hermína Lustigová roz. Metzlová; Robert & Gabriela Lašovi; Rudolf, Vally, Otto & Victor Lederer; Emil, Elsa & Věra Metzlovi; Anna Glücková roz. Pragerov; Oskar, Erwin & Rosa Winterovi; Zikmund, Martha & Emilie Kohnovi; Emma Hahnová roz. Arnsteinová; Clara Oppenheimerová roz. Arnsteinová; Olga, Artur, Otilie, Ota, Jindřich, Růžena, Lilly & Hana Winternitzovi
Those who survived:
Marta Fokshanerová roz. Windová; Ida Windová roz. Ledererová; Olga Krausová roz. Windová; Karla Windová; Ota Laš; Viktor Laš; Zikmund Laš; Marta Kottová roz. Lašová; Dr. Ing. Eduard Kohn; Helena Weinerová roz. Winternitzová.
The Jewish cemetery was founded in the 17th century, before 1695, for families from Černovice, Nové Včelnice and Kamenice nad Lipou. Today it includes around 300 gravestones from the 18th century until the 1930s.
By the mid-1990s it was in devastated condition, densely overgrown, with dozens of stones buried and the wall and pre-burial house seriously damaged.
Cleaning, restoration, and reconstruction began in 1996 and culminated with the dedication of the memorial.
Today — as we discovered — the site is well-maintained and plays a powerful, if off the beaten track, role in enriching — and personalizing — the local memoryscape.