Row over medieval Jewish cemetery continues

04-08-2000

The row over the medieval Jewish cemetery in Prague's Vladislavova Street is still making the headlines. After coming to an agreement with the insurance company Ceska Pojistovna, which wants to build its new headquarters on the site, the Jewish Committee for the Preservation of Cemeteries in Europe has complained to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, claiming that the insurance company is not respecting the terms of the agreement. Radio Prague's Beatrice Cady has more.

The row over the oldest Jewish cemetery in Prague - not to be confused with the more famous larger cemetery in the Old Jewish Town - has been dragging on for months, ever since human remains were uncovered while foundations for the new building were being dug. An agreement was reached in March under which the remains of the cemetery would be preserved in a concrete casing under the building, but recently another row broke out over how much access should be given for a representative of Prague's Jewish Community to inspect the site during building work. The Jewish Committee for the Preservation of Cemeteries in Europe has now taken things a step further, by turning to the European Court of Human Rights. I spoke with their lawyer, Simona Maskova, who told me she felt the case to be an important precedent.

But as the cemetery was abandoned five hundred years ago, and there have since been several generations of buildings put up on the site, why is the cemetery so important? Simona Maskova again:
During the row, work on the Vladislavova Street site has been interrupted, at considerable expense to the Ceska Pojistovna insurance company. So, does the Jewish committee intend to give the insurance company any compensation, and if not, can the company expect anything from the Czech state?
We'll now have a while to wait for the European Court's decision. Whatever conclusion it reaches, the debate over a few square metres of a street in downtown Prague, looks set to run and run.

04-08-2000