The 18th century former synagogue from the village of Allersheim, in south-central Germany near Würzburg, is being rebuilt stone by stone as part of the Franconian Open-Air Museum of the Middle Franconia District (Das Fränkische Freilandmuseum des Bezirk Mittelfranken) — and you can follow progress of the project on the Museum’s web site.
The reconstruction work began April 3, when ground was broken (see video below). The concrete foundations began to be laid in June.
The reconstructed synagogue is expected to be opened in 2022, forming part of the Museum’s collection of more than 100 cottages, barns, shops, and other buildings translocated from various areas of the Franconia part of Bavaria. It will stand between a school building and a barn, and, as in its original location in Allersheim, it will be somewhat on the edge of the village but still close to the village square.
The Museum said it was the first southern German open-air museum to include a synagogue.
The synagogue in its original form was a two-story half-timbered building with a steep peaked roof, standing above a stone basement, where there was a mikveh. The building also housed the rabbi’s apartment and other communal infrastructure. Dendrochronological dating suggests it was built in 1740-41, according to a history of the building on the museum web site. At that time, the 80 to 85 Jews made up around a quarter of the village’s population.
The synagogue was in use until the late 19th century, but only sporadically in later years because of the sharp decline in the local Jewish population after residency restrictions on Jews were lifted and they were able to move from villages into cities — by 1880, only eight Jews remained in the village. The building was sold in 1911 to a private owner, who converted it into a dwelling.
The condition of the building deteriorated to the point of collapse over the past decades, and it was dismantled in 2014-2015 in order to be rebuilt as part of the Open-Air Museum, located in Bad Windsheim, about 50 km away.
The synagogue, built in 1740, originally housed the mikveh in the basement, the Jewish ritual bath that was found during archaeological excavations. The rabbi’s or predecessor’s apartment was on the ground floor. And upstairs there was a prayer room with a wooden vaulted ceiling. As the number of Jews in the larger cities moved to the larger cities with the removal of the restrictions on the settlement of Jews in the big cities, the number of members of the Jewish community in Allersheim declined. Eventually the building was sold to a local farmer in 1911. He built the living room and chamber in the prayer room. When the building was dismantled, parts of the ceiling of the prayer room were reused in the false floor.
Watch a video from the Museum (in German) showing the ground-breaking for the reconstruction in April, as well as components from the dismantled building:
The museum web site also provides other information on the Jewish history of Allersheim, including profiles of local Jews. The museum states:
Allersheim not only housed the synagogue, but also the Jewish cemetery for the surrounding communities. A research project in the Franconian Open-Air Museum is now tracking the life of former community members.
A detailed architectural description of the synagogue can be found in the chapter “The Synagogue of Allersheim in Lower Franconia: An Example of Building Style that has almost been lost,” by Hans-Christof Haas, in the book: Jewish Architecture – New Sources and Approaches, edited by Katrin Keßler & Alexander von Kienlin (2015)