Prcice

Over the phone Hanna repeats in her Czech accent:
"PREH-CHÉE-TZEH, PREH-CHÉE-TZEH!" carefully rolling the 'R'.

Finally, information about Prcice and its Jewish community. Carefully reading the microprint double columned pages, I find that the arrival of the Jews in Prcice parallels that of most other towns and villages in Central Europe. Also meticulously recorded are the dates of the destruction of these same communities only now they fall within the range of a few years rather than a few centuries.

I catch amusement in Hanna's voice as she teaches me to pronounce Prcice so I ask her, "Is there something funny about the town?"

"Yes, in Prague where I lived, when someone got angry at you they told you to ‘Go to Prcice!'"

One can easily visit the town today which is located sixty kilometers south of Prague. In fact, there is a yearly walk-a-thon from Prague to Prcice with thousands of participants. The old synagogue is still on the town square only now it houses a small bustling factory turning out sports equipment. Not even a commemorative plaque recounts the building's past. Perhaps a careful check of the doorjambs of the synagogue and houses around it may turn up an overlooked mezuzah or, at least, the nail holes. The discovery of such artifacts in the town would be the only proof that Jews ever lived there. ... The mourner as archaeologist.

Located in a field somewhere beyond the town is the old Jewish cemetery. There are still said to be a small number of gravestones hidden in the overgrowth. In 1984 the Czech government gave permission to destroy the cemetery and use the plot for farming. Because of a shortage of labor and equipment this hasn't happened yet. When it does, however, Prcice will truly be "Judenrein" — free of Jews.

With the Jews gone, Prcice had lost shopkeepers and carpenters, tailors and tanners. But much more has been lost — a centuries old interdependent community slowly built up and enriched by diverse connections, perspectives and attitudes which created a wholeness and continuity between the physical and the spiritual. That was destroyed one September morning in 1942 (exactly one year after my birth) when eight families, twenty-six Jews, were herded from the town into cattlecars. Destination: Auschwitz.

There are carpenters, tailors and shopkeepers in Prcice now and flowers still bloom, trees bud, fields produce crops. But there is not even one Jew to acknowledge these delights by pronouncing the blessings for smelling fragrant flowers or upon seeing a beautiful tree or field.

Such a beautiful Torah, so tall and stately. And the century old lettering of the scribe is so elegant and clear. I stroke these Atzei Chayim —Trees of Life — smooth uncomplicated lathe turnings of Carpathian elm.

How can I tell Hanna I've gone to Prcice and will never return?

— Arthur S. Block ז״ל