85 years after Kristallnacht, Germany is set to begin rebuilding the grand synagogue in Hamburg

More than 80 years after one of Germany’s most prominent synagogues was destroyed on Kristallnacht, the Jewish community of Hamburg has taken ownership of the building’s site and is set to begin rebuilding it.

The site of the Bornplatz Synagogue, a neo-Romanesque building dedicated in 1906 that had a 1,200-seat sanctuary and was once the largest synagogue in northern Germany, was officially handed over to leaders of the city’s Jewish community.

At the ceremony marking that restitution, officials from the city of Hamburg cut up a copy of the Nazi-era Aryanization document that ordered the demolition of the synagogue.

“We apologise for coming to the decision so late to give them back their property,” Dirk Kienscherf, a local official said to representatives of the Jewish community at the ceremony.

The synagogue was burned during Kristallnacht, the series of pogroms in 1938 when Nazis destroyed synagogues and Jewish-owned stores across Germany. Its remains were later forcibly sold to the city and demolished, and an air raid bunker, for use only by Aryans, was built next door.

At present, the empty site features a mosaic outlining the synagogue’s architecture, including its vaulted ceilings, that was laid in 1988 by artist Margrit Kahl.


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