Dispute over a Synagogue

A dispute has broken out concerning the ruins of a synagogue in Gross-Umstadt, near Darmstadt, south of Frankfurt. A plan to transfer the ruins of the building which was constructed in 1876 and destroyed during the “Kristallnacht,” along with other historical buildings still intact, to an outdoor museum in a park, has aroused strong public opposition.

Although the Association of Jewish Communities in the State of Hessen (in which Gross-Umstadt is located) previously agreed to the move, its chairman, Prof. Herbert Lewin, said the Association had changed its mind. In a letter to the Hessen Culture Minister and various other authorities he appealed for the ruin to be left where it is.

A resolution by the Social Democratic Party caucus in the Town Council, calling for the synagogue to be retained and restored, was defeated. Several citizens have signed a petition and announced their intention of setting up an association for the retention of the synagogue.

One of the signatories, Protestant priest Alexander Claar, said in an interview that there were no longer any Jewish residents in the town. They had either died in concentration camps or emigrated. It was “not fitting” for a “testimonial to the persecution and destruction of innumerable people” to be presented in the context of an open air museum, he said. Claar charged that the authorities were “scared to say publicly that they don’t want the synagogue any more” and wanted it in the park merely to “save face.” The damaged building is “an inseparable part” of the history of Gross-Umstadt, he said.

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