(JHE) — The ceremonial hall and other parts of the historic Ohlsdorf Jewish cemetery in Hamburg will undergo a multi-million-euro renovation starting this summer, thanks to substantial grants from the city of Hamburg and the German federal government.
The city’s Senate announced in December that it had allocated €1.5 million from the economic stabilization program toward the restoration of the hall and grounds of the cemetery. It said the total costs of the restoration would amount to €4.9 million, to which “the federal government will contribute accordingly.”
Work is to begin in July, and take at least two years. In addition to the restoration of the Ceremonial Hall, the area of the Jewish cemetery will be expanded, graves will be digitized, and an information center will open.
The cemetery — the Jewish section of the sprawling municipal cemetery — opened in 1883 and has been in use since then except for the years 1943-45. It is still used by the Jewish community today.
The ceremonial hall was built in 1883-1884 and is a large brick building with a tall dome, four slim side turrets, and a distinctive arched central section, designed by the architect Friedrich Wilhelm August Pieper in a neo-Romanesque style.
The building underwent some renovation in the mid-2000s, but the city’s announcement said there was an “an urgent need for action” now because of further damage. It said “the upcoming and necessary renovation begins with short-term measures to save” it. Among other things, it will get a new drainage system and heating.
The heavy rains of recent years have shown that the existing dome structure and the rain drainage system can no longer cope with them. The walls are very damp and there are already signs of damage to the facade and inside the mourning hall.
In the long term, it said, “a comprehensive concept for the building is required in order to fundamentally avoid this damage caused by the weather and to restore the original substance from 1884 that is still preserved, or to make it visible again.”
In addition, it said, the digitalization of the cemetery’s burials will move forward, and an information center will be built.
The outdoor area is also to be comprehensively redesigned and again more closely adapted to the religious usage concept. This includes restoring the historic spatial concept and better protecting the trees and park.
Mika Harari, chair of the Hamburg Jewish community Chevra Kadisha and cemetery officer of the Jewish community welcomed the news of the grants and restoration plans.
Very few people in Hamburg know what cultural treasure they have right on their doorstep. Our common goal will be to make the cemetery even better known, to make it a place of encounter and remembrance and to preserve the valuable historical building fabric and the monuments for future generations. The necessary expansion of the cemetery will also serve this purpose. My special thanks go to the Finance Senator Dr. Andreas Dressel, who is committed to this project and the expansion of the cemetery in Hamburg.
NOTE: The cemetery restoration is one of three major Jewish heritage projects recently announced in Hamburg. We are writing separate pieces on them — see our earlier article on the city’s purchase of the ruins of the 19th century Reform synagogue on Poostrasse. (Funds have also been allocated for the replacement of the synagogue on Bornplatz that was destroyed on Kristallnacht.)