A project to rebuild a huge synagogue in Hamburg destroyed by Nazi thugs in 1938 has come up against some unlikely opposition.
The city’s Jewish leaders complained of “a terrible insult” after activists said reconstructing the synagogue was tantamount to “rewriting and erasing its history”.
Dedicated in 1906, the synagogue once held 1,200 people, making it the largest in northern Germany. It was burned during the Kristall-nacht pogrom, when Nazi militias attacked dozens of synagogues and Jewish properties.
The Hamburg Municipality later demanded the local Jewish community demolish the remains of the building at its own expense, before selling the land to the municipality for a nominal charge.
The synagogue was situated at Joseph Carlebach Platz, named after the city’s chief rabbi who was killed in the Holocaust, but it was originally known as Bornplatz in the Grindel neighbourhood, home to the city’s pre-Holocaust Jewish community.
A vote last year made rebuilding the Bornplatz synagogue official. Today, about 2,500 Jews live in Hamburg, where support for the project is supplemented by finance from local and national government, but some do not think reconstructing an early 20th century synagogue is a good idea.
Among them is historian Miriam Rurup, the former head of Hamburg’s German Jewish History Institute, who is now the head of the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European Jewish Studies in Potsdam. She signed a petition against the Bundestag decision to label the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement ‘antisemitic’, calling it a violation of free speech and Germany’s constitution.
Israeli Professor Moshe Zimmerman, a descendant of Hamburg Jews, said: “They are rebuilding here something that was in the past and erasing the traces [of Nazis crimes].”
However, Daniel Schaefer, an Israeli-born businessman and member of the Jewish community, called the remarks “absurd, vile, and an absolute insult”, saying the project had “the largest support for this kind of issue Germany has ever known”.
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