Old Synagogue Erfurt
After more than 650 years in hiding, Erfurt's Alte Synagogue has been rediscovered and restored as a monument to the city's ancient Jewish community.
From: Erfurt, Germany
Nearly a thousand years ago, in the 11th Century, Erfurt's Jewish community built a synagogue. The building was improved and enlarged over the next 250 years, and by 1300 the synagogue was several stories high with a stone façade and an annex that may have been used as a women's synagogue or a Hebrew school for boys.
In 1349, Erfurt's Jews were killed or driven from the city during the pogroms that had begun in France a year earlier and spread to other European cities. The synagogue in Erfurt was converted into a storehouse, and over the centuries, it was altered repeatedly and surrounded by other buildings.
(According to the synagogue's official history, the building was used as restaurant and a pair of bowling alleys by the late 19th Century.)
The synagogue's fortunes began to change in the late 1980s, when preservations began researching and documenting the building's origins. A researcher descended between the old synagogue and a neighboring building by rope and found the west façade of the Alte Synagogue, which was nearly intact after more than 600 years.
The city of Erfurt acquired the building in 1998, and restoration began. In 2009, the Alte Synagogue reopened as a museum.
The museum is interesting not only as an historic and architectural monument, but also for the objects that are on display:
Other Jewish sites in Erfurt include the Small Synagogue (built in 1840), the New Synagogue (opened in 1952), the Mikwe or ritual bath, and several cemeteries.
For more information on these, visit the English-language Jewish Life in Erfurt Web site, which also has a section on the Old Synagogue.
The Old Synagogue is at Waagegasse 8 in Erfurt's historic center.
For admission prices, or to inquire about guided tours, see Erfurt Tourist Information's Old Synagogue page.
To check current hours, phone +49 (0)361 655 16 08, e-mail altesynagogue (at) erfurt.de, or ask at the tourist office when you're in Erfurt.
Inset photo: Papenfuss / Atelier für Gestaltung.
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