Friday, July 11, 2014

The Hidden Synagogue of Theresienstadt

Our knowledgeable guide Martina -- film maker, tour guide and Czech historian -- informed us that from 1940 to 1945 there were eight synagogues inTheresienstadt (also known as Terezin).

Today, one hidden synagogue remained for us to bear witness.

When I think "synagogue," I think Holy Ark, Sefer Torah, Eternal Light, pulpit, pews, and a menorah.

When the sign outside the "synagogue" read "Eight people only can enter at one time," my reality shifted to adjust to this Nazi model concentration camp.

This "synagogue" was a former horse stable under the house upstairs. The grooves that separated the horses from each other were evident when you walked in.

This stable/synagogue with a wigwam-like ceiling was hand-painted by the Rabbi of this ill-fated community. Hebrew verses from the Psalms decorated this unusual place of worship in blues and reds and yellows. The Rabbi’s calligraphic hand graced the short curved walls.

Instead of a menorah, two Shabbat candlesticks were painted onto the walls and the color blue was still visible.

Yes, we could stand and, if necessary, we could pray.

But what did the Jews of Thereisenstadt pray for?

Could they foresee that towards the end of the war they would be transported to Auschwitz and perish there?

And, if they did not know their future fate, were their prayers also hidden under houses where stables used to be?

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