Discovery of ruins of Munich synagogue destroyed by Hitler

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Discovery of ruins of Munich synagogue destroyed by Hitler

Construction workers have discovered building stones from the city's main synagogue, demolished 85 years ago on the orders of the Nazis

Pic: Jewish Museum, Munich
Pic: Jewish Museum, Munich

Rubble from a German synagogue destroyed by Hitler in June 1938 has been discovered.

Construction workers found remains of Munich’s main synagogue during the renovation of a weir on the Isar river, uncovering columns and a stone tablet showing some of the Ten Commandments.

Hitler ordered the destruction of Munich’s main synagogue in 1938. Pic credit: Alamy.

The Nazi dictator ordered the building’s destruction in 1938, claiming it was an ‘eyesore’. The event was a prelude to Kristallnacht five months later, when Jewish buildings and businesses were destroyed in a violent pogrom.

Pic: Jewish Museum, Munich

The rubble from the synagogue discovered in the water is thought to have been part of the 150 tonnes from various buildings demolished during the war used to reconstruct the Grosshesseloher Weir (river dam) in 1956.

Bernhard Purin, head of Munich’s Jewish museum said: “We never thought we would find anything from it.” Speaking to the BBC, Purin added: “Yesterday I saw [the remains] for the first time and it was one of the most moving moments in 30 years of working in Jewish museums, especially seeing the plaque of the Ten Commandments not seen since 1938.”

Charlotte Knobloch, the 90-year old president of the Jewish community in Munich who grew up alongside the original synagogue, told local newspaper Münchner Merkur that she is looking forward to the fragments “returning to the community and showing us a piece of our own history.”

AJR (Association of Jewish Refugees) member Rolf Penzias (now 100 years old) was a Jewish child living in Munich at the time. He helped empty the synagogue before it was bulldozed.

As part of his testimony, captured as part of the archive AJR Refugee Voices, he said:

“The biggest synagogue in Munich was a beautiful building, right behind the places in Munich where all the government places were. Hitler said, ‘I want that down’.  I was in the Jewish vocational school then, being taught for emigrating. Hitler gave us time to go over the synagogue, take all the Sefer Torah & books out, take some of the beautiful things inside.  The synagogue was very beautiful, like those synagogues in Budapest & Berlin. In the Herzogstraße, where now there’s a plaque of remembrance.

“We dismantled as much as possible.  But it didn’t really matter, because later on it was just—but anyhow. June ’38, before Kristallnacht. They were going to take it away because Hitler didn’t like it.

“He even said—they said, ‘I don’t want that there. Take it away’. We took the Sefer Torah out & they stored them somewhere, I don’t know. They may have been destroyed, most likely, in the end.  But at that stage, we took them out.  They dismantled the synagogue, they didn’t burn it. They just put bulldozers in it & took it away. That was before Kristallnacht, they dismantled that synagogue, because Hitler wanted it as a parking place.”

To watch the full testimony of Rolf Penzias, click here.

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