Architecture and built heritage can transcend the specific and become potent symbols for society.
In light of the fire that has seriously damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, we recall the destruction — and the “virtual rebirth” — of the Great Synagogue in Warsaw, which was blown up by the Nazi occupiers on May 16, 1943 following the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and failure of the Ghetto Uprising.
Today the iconic “Blue Tower” – one of the first skyscrapers built in post-war Warsaw — stands on the spot, opposite the Jewish Historical Institute, housed in the surviving building that was once the Jewish library, built in 1928–1936.
We repost above the video of the stunning virtual reconstruction of the synagogue, first projected onto the Blue Tower to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising last year, on April 19, 2018. It was directed by Gabi von Seltmann and featured poetry by Irena Klepfisz.
This week — on the night of April 18 — the projection will again take place to mark the 76th anniversary.
The Jewish Historical Institute web site includes a history of the building, which served the acculturated reform community.
The synagogue was designed by Leandro Marconi, “who was at the time the best and the most expensive architect in Warsaw.” It could seat more than 2000 people and was richly decorated. Its design included many progressive features which, the web site notes, alienated many of the orthodox majority in the city.
What attracted to the new synagogue Christians and followers of moderate Reform Judaism, usually coming from the wealthiest and most assimilated Jewish communities, repelled from it other Jews. Hasidic and strictly orthodox Jews were struck by the fact that the language of the sermons had been changed from Hebrew to Polish. They did not like the idea of prayers being accompanied by choral and organ music. Controversial was the inscription painted on the arch of the vault in which the full name of God appeared twice. Although the synagogue in Tłomackie was the largest one in the city, it served only a very small part of the Warsaw Jews.