In a plot of land between a kindergarten and a car park, archaeologists in Wrocław, in southwestern Poland, have revealed parts of the foundations of the monumental New Synagogue that was destroyed on Kristallnacht in 1938.
“The overgrown plot of land concealed the temple’s foundations: several wall sections and the foundations of a column standing in the center of the building,” writes the Wrocław city web site.
The synagogue, designed by Edwin Oppler, a Jewish architect from Hanover, was built in 1865-72 at a time when Wrocław was the German city of Breslau — in 1920, its Jewish population of more than 23,000 made it the third largest Jewish city in Germany. The city was a center of Reform Judaism, and the New Synagogue, the second largest in Germany, served the Reform community. Located on today’s ulica Łąkowa, the synagogue had four towers, a seventy-metre dome, and a big rose window on its facade.
Excavations took place this spring, as a project of the Bente Kahan Foundation and the Jewish community of Wroclaw, which have staged memorial commemorations on the site, where there is a monument, for years.
“The archaeologists are not groping in the dark,” writes the Wrocław city web site.
Detailed accounts have survived in the archives in Wrocław and elsewhere. Several trial excavations have been made so far. The main entrance was located […]. “We have unearthed the remains of terracotta floor tiles. The tiles are green-and-blue with black corners,” says archaeologist Radosław Gliński.
”A section of massive hewn granite foundations was also unearthed,” says Anna Kościuk, an architect and a Wrocław Jewish community collaborator.
The work was financed through the Foundation by German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has family roots in Wrocław. Steinmeier was recently awarded the the Ignatz Bubis Prize, named in honor of the influential head of Central Council of Jews in Germany in the 1990s, who was born in Wrocław and died in 1999. Steinmeier allocated part of the prize money for the archaeological work (and another part to support the Jewish Studies program at Heidelberg University.)
To date the scope of future excavations and research is not known. Nor is it known what commemorative or other plans there are to develop the site.
“The place is like a monument. In my view, the area should not only commemorate the atrocities of the Kristallnacht, but is should be a living place, too,” Wrocław’s Rabbi David Basok was quoted by the city web site as saying. “The place should serve and promote the community of Wrocław.”