Jewish History Blog

Turning Jewish Cemeteries Into Soccer Fields

Although Bratislava’s ancient Jewish cemetery was dug up and paved over, the tomb of its legendary rabbi, Moses Sofer, was not dug up and remains buried in a catacomb underneath that highway. There is a stairway that one can descend under the highway, as cars drive overhead, to see his grave.

If one wants to see what happened to the Jewish world in Europe visit its Jewish cemeteries – if they exist. In general there are very few Jewish cemeteries extant in Europe. Judenrein is meant to include dead Jews as well.

Witnessing of the concerted effort to erase any Jewish presence or memory is troublesome. In Spain, the great Olympic village and stadiums in Barcelona are built over ancient Jewish cemeteries. In Eastern Europe, most Jewish cemeteries were made into soccer fields by the progressive, peace-loving, classless society of the Communists. In Vilna, the ancient Jewish cemetery was leveled for a park and soccer field. Through the intervention of Rabbi Pinchas Teitz of Elizabeth, New Jersey, the bodies of the Gaon of Vilna and other great scholars were reinterred, but since Vilna was in its totality a vast Jewish graveyard the remembrance of what Vilna was to the Jewish people was systematically eradicated by the Communists.

In Bratislava, which used to be called Pressburg, the great Rabbi Moses Sofer (the Chasam Sofer) established a renowned yeshiva, which produced scholars and Jewish communal leaders who revolutionized Jewish life in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 19th century. Today, the Jewish cemetery in Pressburg is gone. They built a superhighway over it.

Interestingly, the legend of Rabbi Moses Sofer was so great that his grave, as well as the grave of his son and a few other graves, was not dug up and remain buried in a catacomb underneath that highway. There is a stairway that one can descend under the highway, as cars drive overhead, to see the grave of Rabbi Moses Sofer and a monument.

Other than that, most remnants of Jewish Pressburg are gone. Yet, Pressburg in its day was like Brooklyn today. In a sad-tragic way, this gives one an appreciation of what the exile of the Jewish people is, the temporary nature of even 1,000 years of Jewish life; how it can all be gone very quickly.

 

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Posted in:
European Jewish History
by
Rabbi Berel Wein
  • Comments Off on Turning Jewish Cemeteries Into Soccer Fields
  • June 10, 2012

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