The Upper Silesian Jews House of Remembrance in Gliwice, Poland held a celebration this week to mark the 120th anniversary of the building in which it is housed — the pre-burial hall of the city’s New Jewish Cemetery.
The festive event on Wednesday (Nov. 15) began with a reading of the speech that the then-Rabbi Wilhelm Münz gave at the ceremonial opening of the building in 1903. It was read out by Sławomir Pastuszka, a member of the Jewish Community and Chevra Kadisha Funeral Brotherhood in Katowice.
As we posted in 2015, the neo-Gothic, red brick building, with vaulted interiors and facade marked by a large central stained glass arched window arrangement, was constructed in 1902-1903 and designed by the noted Vienna architect Max Fleischer, who among other things also designed four synagogues and the City Hall (Rathaus) in Vienna. (At that time Gliwice, then known as Gleiwitz, was part of Germany.)
The building consisted of three main parts: the central prayer hall, which led directly to the cemetery; the mortuary, where the deceased were prepared for burial; and the guard’s residence.
The Jewish cemetery, which has about 600 grave markers and a large monument to Jewish soldiers who fell in World War I, forms part of the complex.
The building was devastated during World War II and used as a German military storehouse. It was partially transformed into apartments after the war, but its condition deteriorated over the years. It was listed as a cultural monument in 2003, and in 2007 the Jewish Community of Katowice donated the building to the city of Gliwice.
Apart from repair of the roof, however, little was done to safeguard the building, pending concrete plans for its use — and despite years of lobbying for it to be converted into a cultural space highlighting Jewish history and culture.
Finally, thanks to the efforts of the ”Brama Cukermana” Foundation, and as a project of the city and its mayor that was was fully financed by the city budget, the Hall was restored and opened in 2016 as a Jewish museum, the Upper Silesian Jews House of Remembrance. It operates as a branch of the Gliwice City Museum.