Jewish Journal

How to mark anniversary of Kristallnacht? With glorious synagogues

by Ruth Ellen Gruber

November 9, 2013 | 6:06 am

Entryway, Jubilee synagogue, Prague. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

(This post also appears on my Jewish Heritage Travel blog)

This weekend marks the 75th anniversary of what we call Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, the night of violent coordinated Nazi attacks against Jews, Jewish property, and Jewish places of worship which saw some 7,000 Jewish businesses trashed and more than 1,000 synagogues put to the torch all over Germany and German-occupied lands. Some 30,000 Jews were imprisoned and more than 90 were killed.

The destruction wrought on the night of November 9-10, 1938 foreshadowed the mass destruction of the Holocaust that followed a few years later.

To mark this anniversary, rather than dwell on the destruction, I thought I would focus on rebirth and survival, in particular the survival of synagogues whose restoration over the past two decades has been a symbol of Jewish rebirth in Germany and elsewhere in central and eastern Europe.

Here, then, just a few photographs of synagogues, still used by Jewish communities, that stand now as enduring monuments to the glory of what was destroyed -- and offer hope that the still somewhat fragile renewal of Jewish life in Europe may continue to strengthen. This is only a very small sample of the synagogue buildings that have been restored in Europe (most of them now used for cultural or other purposes).


Tempel synagogue, Krakow. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber


Interior, Tempel synagogue, Krakow. Photo © JCC Krakow

                                                                             Interior, Tempel Synagogue, Krakow. Photo © JCC Krakow


Synagogue, Pilsen, Czech Republic.Photo @ Ruth Ellen Gruber

Facade, Pilsen synagogue, Czech Republic. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber


Dohany st. synagogue, Budapest. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Dohany st. Synagogue, Budapest. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Dohany st. Synagogue, Budapest. Restored in the 1990s


Dohany st. Synagogue, Budapest. Restored in the 1990s


Kazinczy st synagogue, Budapest


Ark, Kazinczy st synagogue, Budapest


Ceiling, Kazinczy st. Synagogue, Budapest


Orthodox synagogue, Presov, Slovakia. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber


Orthodox synagogue, Presov, Slovakia. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber


And here are pictures of a couple of synagogues that were built in recent years. The use of glass makes a powerful statement, no?

Ohel Jakob synagogue, Munich. Built 2004-2006.


New synagogue in Graz, Austria, dedicated in 2000 on the site of the magnificent synagogue destroyed on Kristallnacht. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Glass dome of the Graz synagogue. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber





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The award-winning American writer Ruth Ellen Gruber has chronicled contemporary Jewish developments in Europe for more than two decades. As the author of National Geographic...

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