Hamburg synagogue rebuild ‘will hide Nazi crimes’

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Hamburg synagogue rebuild ‘will hide Nazi crimes’

Concern raised by German city's Jewish community saying the proposals are a 'terrible insult' to victims of the Shoah and constitute 'rewriting and erasing its history'

Bornplatz synagogue, destroyed on Kristallnacht
Bornplatz synagogue, destroyed on Kristallnacht

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”.


Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: