The Berlin Wall came down 26 years ago, on November 9, 1989 — a day that also marked the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of Nov. 9-10 1938 when the Nazis launched coordinated violent attacks on Jews, Jewish property and Jewish places of worship all over Germany and German-occupied territory: more than 1,000 synagogues were torched that night; at least 7,000 Jewish businesses were devastated; nearly 100 Jews were killed and tens of thousands of Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. In the following years, hundreds more synagogues and prayer houses were destroyed during World War II, and even after the War ended, hundreds more were either destroyed, left derelict and abandoned or converted for other use that totally obscured their original identity.
The fall of the Wall enabled a sea change in the recovery, recognition and reconstruction of Jewish heritage sites, particularly in post-communist Europe. It is a process that is still going on, often slowly, but one that has seen the restoration and revitalization of scores of synagogues across the region — and elsewhere in Europe — as well as the documentation, clean-up, and preservation of scores of long-abandoned Jewish cemeteries.
Two years ago, we felt the best way to mark the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht was to post images of some of the glorious synagogues that still stand in Europe — or have been renovated and refurbished — or have been newly built. You can click here to see that selection of photos. Last year, we continued this tradition — and this year we are doing it again, with more photos.
Most of the reconstructed synagogues are used today as cultural spaces, but an increasing number are used by revitalized Jewish communities.