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Alter Synagogenplatz, Altstadt, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, fotoeins.com

My Heidelberg: Synagogue Square and Pogromnacht

It happens every time without fail.

My spirit breaks a little more every time I see a memorial, another example of the depths to which our species have plumbed.

Does feeling this way make me weak? Or am I resembling a human being after all?

Broken Glass

On 9-10 November 1938, Kristallnacht (“the night of broken glass”) was a well-organized “pogrom”, a series of violent attacks by Nazis against Jews and their property in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslavakia’s Sudetenland. “Pogromnacht” is a more apt description; the “prettier sounding” Kristallnacht hides the brutality of “the night of (broken) crystal” referring to broken shattered glass from windows to synagogues, homes, and stores owned by Jews.

The numbers were appalling: at least 90 dead, 30000 arrested and detained in camps, over 200 synagogues burned, and over 7000 Jewish businesses damaged or destroyed. The outbreak of coordinated actions against Jews marked the beginning of state-sanctioned violence. With the Pogromnacht, the state opened the door to undisguised escalation of savagery: a turning point leading to the Holocaust.

Heidelberg’s Old Synagogue

In the university town of Heidelberg, the earliest recorded presence of Jews dates back to the 13th-century. Jews gathered in what is now the Old Town and converted the building they were using into a synagogue in the early 18th-century; the community built a new synagogue at the same site in the late 19th-century.

The synagogue did not escape violence and was burned to the ground. Alter Synagogenplatz or Old Synagogue Square is all that remains today with memorial plaques; the names of people arrested, deported, and killed; the outline of the synagogue’s walls in white marble; the entrance and windows marked in grey granite; and twelve sandstone cubes representing pews and the twelve tribes of Israel.

Alter Synagogenplatz, Heidelberg, Germany

A memorial at the square is dedicated to the Jewish community who once thrived in Heidelberg’s Old Town. Information at the “Site of the Heidelberg synagogue, 1714-1938” provided by the City of Heidelberg reads:

Jews have lived in Heidelberg since the 13th century, in spite of having been subject to oppression and persecution time and again. In 1714, the “Blue Lily” house situated on this site was converted to a synagogue. In 1878, the community built a new synagogue in contemporary style.

On the night of 9-10 November 1938, Nazi storm troopers set fire to the synagogue. In 1939, the Jewish community was ordered to pay for the demolition of its ruined synagogue.

On 22 October 1940, the Jews of Baden and the Palatinate were deported to Gurs camp in Southern France. Only few of them survived the Shoah. Between 1941 and 1945, more Jews from the area were deported straight to the death camps.

After the end of the war in April 1945, a Jewish community was re-established in Heidelberg. The present-day synagogue is situated in the Weststadt city district, at 10-12 Häusserstrasse. It was inaugruated in 1994.

During the renovation of this square in 2001, white marble cobbles were used to mark the outline of the synagogue. The memorial stone marks the location of the Ark.

A new Jewish community centre and synagogue were inaugurated in Heidelberg’s Weststadt in 1994. There are now brass “Stolpersteine” or “stumbling stones” with names acknowledging Jews who once lived in Heidelberg.

Alter Synagogenplatz, Heidelberg, Germany

“Here on 10 November 1938 the Heidelberg synagogue was destroyed by criminal hands.”

Alter Synagogenplatz (Old Synagogue Square) is located in Heidelberg’s Altstadt (Old Town) at the corner of Lauerstrasse and Grosse Mantelgasse.

I made all of the photos above on 26 November 2006 with a Canon Powershot A510. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-3Ze.

Postscript:

•   A number of German historians set up the website, 9nov38.de, to highlight events before, during, and after the pogroms of 9-10 November 1938; the website is in German.

•   Thanks to Enchanted Seashells for their post.

•   2013 marked the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, and BBC News posed the question of whether anti-Semitism was on the rise in Europe. Holocaust survivor Margot Friedlander recently returned to her hometown of Berlin, where she has her own “Stolperstein”; she spoke to NPR about remembering Kristallnacht.

13 Responses to “My Heidelberg: Synagogue Square and Pogromnacht”

  1. smilecalm

    It’s commendable to remember horrible deeds from a place of inner peace and stability, thus truly find healing and happiness with what is offered to us in the present moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • fotoeins

      I can’t even pretend what it was like. It’s absolutely true I’m privileged to have been born and raised in a relatively free environment. It’s within this environment and the choice to (truly) understand history that the appreciation of what we have in the present allows us the privilege and freedom to remember the past. In my mind, “never again” has lessons for us to learn, especially now. Thanks for reading and for your comment!

      Like

    • fotoeins

      Hi and you’re welcome, Elena. With well-deserved attention in North America to Remembrance Day and Veterans Day in Canada and the US, respectively, as well as the fall of the (Berlin) Wall in Germany, it can be easy to forget the “dubious” anniversary and, quite frankly, the ugliness surrounding Kristallnacht. I’ve written about Remembrance Day and the Berlin Wall, and it was time I wrote about Kristallnacht. Thanks again for reading and for your comment.

      Like

    • fotoeins

      Hi, Bronwyn. Thank you for reading and for writing. There’s much to remember this weekend, and I didn’t want Kristallnacht to fall too far below the radar.

      Like

  2. ptmurray

    I visited this spot several years ago from my Australian home, staying at the quiet residential hotel opposite. It is hard to imagine the horror perpetrated by those bullying, arrogant and ignorant Nazi murderers, hard to sit in this very spot and contemplate the fears of peaceful Jewish parents for themselves and their kids, fears which proved justified as they were taken to their executions through disease or gas chambers. Are there lessons to be learned still? How can a civilized and cultured society be reduced by one man and his disciples to such depravity so quickly? Lest We Forget. Those good folk died for us, so that we would remember what happened, say never again and rise up against another Hitler.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Stacey McDonald

    Thank you, Henry. I enjoy reading your posts. My spirit , too, seems to keep breaking with with the brutality and inhumane actions of our species that has been ongoing since WWII. Thank you for the visible reminder. Take care. I hope you are well. -Stacey

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • fotoeins

      Hi, Stacey. It’s great to hear from you, and thank you very much for your comment. I keep going to Germany because frankly, I love being there, and secondly, I’m trying to understand not only the lessons from the 20th-century but also the nation’s and people’s history from centuries before. Everybody and every nation forge and follow their own different paths, and yet as human beings, we seem to be susceptible to similar patterns of motivation and action throughout time. Thanks again for stopping by!

      Like

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