German architecture students rebuild synagogues on Internet

LONDON, Aug. 16 (JTA) — Synagogues that were destroyed by the Nazis are being rebuilt by German architecture students — on the Internet. The recreation of up to 15 synagogues is the brainchild of Marc Grellert, a lecturer at Darmstadt Technical University, who launched the project after an arson attack on one of Germany’s remaining synagogues in Lubeck in 1994. “I wanted to do something to remind people that Jews were very much a part of German society before the Nazis,” he said. A pilot project has led to the “virtual construction” of three synagogues in Frankfurt using computer-aided design. The virtual synagogues are highly detailed, three-dimensional renderings put together from blueprints, photos and descriptions by people who worshiped at them. The German Education Ministry has provided a grant of more than $50,000 for these three “synagogues” to be recreated by students as part of their course work in the upcoming academic year. The city of Nuremberg has agreed to pay for one of its old synagogues to be revived on computer, while Dortmund and other German cities are considering following suit. Grellert hopes that enough money will be pledged to finance the 15 “virtual synagogues.” He said he does not want Jewish groups to contribute. Non-Jewish Germans should pay for the “virtual reconstruction” of synagogues destroyed by the Nazis, he said. “Hopefully the project will remind people that synagogues were once part of the skyline in nearly every major German city,” he said. Synagogues slated for “reconstruction” have been chosen for their distinctive architectural styles — for example, a Moorish shul in Cologne, a Bauhaus synagogue in Plauen and the Germanic, neo-Romanesque style of a synagogue in Hanover.

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