Council of Europe says the Holocaust ‘orphaned’ European synagogues

Council of Europe says the Holocaust ‘orphaned’ European synagogues

France-based organisation releases statement urging members to 'recognise the special vulnerability of Jewish heritage'

Belgrade's synagogue (Wikipedia/Matija /cc-by-sa-2.5)
Belgrade's synagogue (Wikipedia/Matija /cc-by-sa-2.5)

The Council of Europe called on its 47 member states to consider the Holocaust’s effects on their Jewish populations when devising policies about buildings that serve or used to serve as synagogues.

The call by the council, a France-based pan-European intergovernmental organisation that is unrelated to the European Union with no executive powers, is “significant progress” because its the first statement of its kind by a major international platform, according to a statement made earlier this month by the London-based Foundation for Jewish Heritage, which helped prepare the report.

In the resolutions based on the report from September titled “The situation of Synagogues in Europe,” the council called on governments and institutions to “recognise the special vulnerability of Jewish heritage as ‘orphaned’ heritage, without a community of users, to be considered in shaping heritage policies and programs.”

The report explains that the Nazis and thier collaborators in some countries murdered more than 90 percent of large Jewish minorities, resulting in countless properties decaying into disuse.

“This ancient heritage has been under attack through neglect, natural forces, and human actions and today remains in many places in crisis,” it says.

Europe had some 17,000 synagogues before World War II, according to the Foundation for Jewish Heritage. It has located only 3,318 structures that have been known to function as synagogues, and just 762 are used as such today.

Some of the structures became residential homes, churches, post offices, hair parlors, body shops, funeral parlors and even swimming pools, as in Poznan, Poland.

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