German Museum to rebuild ancient synagogue as part of open-air Museum

An open air museum in Bavaria is rebuilding a 18th century village synagogue that closed for worship more than a century ago and was dismantled in 2014-2015 when on the point of collapse.

The 18th century former synagogue from the village of Allersheim, in south-central Germany near Würzburg, is being rebuilt stone by stone as part of the Franconian Open-Air Museum of the Middle Franconia District (Das Fränkische Freilandmuseum des Bezirk Mittelfranken).

The reconstruction work began April 3, when ground was broken (see video below). The concrete foundations began to be laid in June.

The reconstructed synagogue is expected to be opened in 2022, forming part of the Museum’s collection of more than 100 cottages, barns, shops, and other buildings translocated from various areas of the Franconia part of Bavaria. It will stand between a school building and a barn, and, as in its original location in Allersheim, it will be somewhat on the edge of the village but still close to the village square.

The Museum said it was the first southern German open-air museum to include a synagogue.

The synagogue in its original form was a two-story half-timbered building with a steep peaked roof, standing above a stone basement, where there was a mikveh. The building also housed the rabbi’s apartment and other communal infrastructure. Dendrochronological dating suggests it was built in 1740-41, according to a history of the building on the museum web site. At that time, the 80 to 85 Jews made up around a quarter of the village’s population.

The synagogue was in use until the late 19th century, but only sporadically in later years because of the sharp decline in the local Jewish population after residency restrictions on Jews were lifted and they were able to move from villages into cities — by 1880, only eight Jews remained in the village. The building was sold in 1911 to a private owner, who converted it into a dwelling.

The condition of the building deteriorated to the point of collapse over the past decades, and it was dismantled in 2014-2015 in order to be rebuilt as part of the Open-Air Museum, located in Bad Windsheim, about 50 km away.

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