Pinkas Synagogue is the second oldest building in the Prague ghetto. It began in 1535 as a private house of prayer. In the 17th century, the synagogue expanded to include a women’s gallery and was used for worship by the local congregation. Today its importance lies in its role as a memorial to the 80,000 victims of the Holocaust from Bohemia and Moravia, whose names are hand-painted on the walls. The list for the inscriptions was compiled from sources which include extant transport papers and registration lists. Pinkas Synagogue also houses a poignant exhibition of children’s drawings from Terezin concentration camp.
The synagogue was fully restored and reopened
The synagogue was closed for several decades after World War II due to its poor condition. After the collapse of the Communist regime it was reopened to the public following completion of renovation work. Floods in 2002 affected the basement and main halls, again forcing closure. Approximately one-fourth of the hand-painted names suffered extensive damage. Although insurance covered the majority of the structural damage, it did not include the repainting of the main hall or the names washed away by floodwaters. With the support of World Monuments Fund, however, the synagogue was fully restored, and reopened to the public at the end of 2003. Information and photographs of the flood damage and subsequent repair became part of its exhibition program, thereby acknowledging the international assistance and cooperation received. WMF and local partners carried out a second restoration project in 2004 by documenting contents and condition of the upper floor, repairing the roof and insulation, and installing climate control and fire safety systems.
Pinkas Synagogue is a reminder of the Jewish community that once flourished in Prague. The building’s role today as a Holocaust memorial provides a space in which the public can learn about Jewish history in Prague and remember those lost during World War II.