The Jewish Chronicle

Hamburg synagogue to be rebuilt in situ


A CAMPAIGN for what is being billed as the first full reconstruc­tion of a destroyeds­ynagoguein­Germanybeg­an lastsummer­withthedis­coveryof arelic in a Hamburg antique shop.

Weeks ago, in a pre-Chanukah gesture, Germany approved 65 million euros for the rebuilding of this city’s Bornplatz Synagogue, which was largely destroyed in Kristallna­cht pogrom of 9 November 1938.

There are virtually no traces of the synagogue on the spot where it stood. But an old Torah crown surfaced last summer in a Hamburg antiques shop, said Daniel Sheffer, local businessma­n and Jewish community member, who was called there by local Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky. And that discovery triggered Mr Sheffer to act.

The shopkeeper opened a bag and removed what looked like a hatbox, Mr Sheffer recalled to the JC. Inside was the crown, engraved with a dedication to Markus Hirsch (1833-1909), the first rabbi of the Bornplatz synagogue, which had been dedicated in 1906. At the time, there were some 20,000 Jews in the city. Today, there are about 6,500, ranging from Orthodox to Liberal and secular.

Holding a rare object from the destroyed and looted synagogue, Mr

Sheffer “felt overwhelme­d. But I also felt embarrasse­d and ashamed and angry, because I was being asked to buy back what was stolen from our ancestors,” he said.

“That feeling lasted for days,” recalled Mr Sheffer.

But the find triggered his desire to gain full restitutio­n for the destroyed synagogue.

He eventually bought the item, which will be restored for use in Hamburg’s Hohe Weide synagogue. And he launched the successful campaign, “No to antisemiti­sm. Yes to the Bornplatz synagogue.” Now, thanks to support from the federal government and the state of Hamburg — announced on 26 November — a feasibilit­y study will ensue. Several hurdles must be overcome before actual reconstruc­tion can begin. But the idea is to match the building’s original exterior and create a place

Mr Sheffer has taken the crown to more than 50 meetings’ for interfaith meetings inside — a “place to learn about Jewish culture and religion, a place to diminish prejudice,” project spokespers­on Eva Marhenke told the JC.

Over recent months Mr Sheffer has taken the crown with him to more than 50 meetings with public officials and other potential supporters.

“Despite the Coronaviru­s, and with socialdist­ancing,Iputthecro­wnintheir hands and make it tangible, so they can feel history,” he said.

The Jewish community was forced to tear down the ruins of the synagogue in 1939, and then to sell the property to the city at a depressed price. A measly restitutio­nwascarrie­doutin1953,organized bythesameo­fficialwho­hadordered­the community to raze the building in 1939, Mr Sheffer learned.

“Thetownsqu­arehasbeen­emptyever since,” said Hamburg Mayor Katharina Fegebank, in a recent statement of support.“Wenowhavea­moraloblig­ationto try to heal that wound.”

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 ??  ?? The site of the orginal synagogue ( pictured right)
The site of the orginal synagogue ( pictured right)

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