Parts of dozens of Jewish headstones were used as pavement during renovations in Prague, Czech Republic, it was discovered.
On Tuesday, the Prague municipality began renovating a central square, to the tune of 12 million euro.
In the Czech capital, Wenceslas Square was renovated and it was found that the pavement stones were actually gravestones stolen from the Jewish cemetery during communist rule.
Rabbi Chaim Kočí, a senior Prague rabbi, passed the square to look at the impressive renovations and was shocked to discover that the old paving stones had been ripped out by the workers, and included on their undersides Hebrew lettering stating dates of death, names, and even Stars of David.
The work was stopped immediately, and the headstones were transferred to the Prague rabbinate.
For several years, Jewish leaders in the Czech Republic have said that during the Communist period, Jewish cemeteries were routinely desecrated in order to provide paving stones for beautiful squares paved with marble.
The suspicion that Jewish headstones were used as pavement was first raised by Leo Pablet, the director of the Jewish museum in Prague, who remembered that he had seen similar renovations in which the pavement had been found to be made of headstones.
Following the discovery, the Prague City Council approved a request from the Jewish community to inspect each paving stone from the site.
"We feel that this is a victory for us, because until now there were suspicions on this issue," Rabbi Kočí said. "We are doing what is important in order to preserve our history."
Some of the headstones are unidentifiable, since the marble was hewn off in various ways. On one of the headstones, the year 1877 appears, while on another, a date from the 70s appears and it is clear that they were taken from two different cemeteries.
At a special meeting, the Jewish communities decided to use the headstone pieces to create a large monument in the old Jewish cemetery in Prague, which was partly desecrated during the Communist period.