Torah crown looted from shul during Kristallnacht discovered in German antique shop

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Torah crown looted from shul during Kristallnacht discovered in German antique shop

The crown of the Bornplatz Synagogue now has pride of place in Hamburg Jewish community's temporary shul ahead of its £113million planned reconstruction

Daniel Sheffer with Hamburg's Chief Rabbi Bistritzky,right
Daniel Sheffer with Hamburg's Chief Rabbi Bistritzky,right

An exquisite silver crown that once adorned a Torah scroll in a synagogue destroyed during Kristallnacht has been rescued from an antique shop in Hamburg.

The Keter Torah was the crown of the Bornplatz Synagogue, inaugurated in 1906 and once the largest synagogue in northern Europe. It was looted during the infamous night of Jewish desecration by the Nazis in 1938.

It was discovered by chance four years ago by Hamburg’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky and Daniel Sheffer, honorary chairman of the Bornplatz Synagogue reconstruction foundation and now has pride of place in the community’s temporary Hohe Weide synagogue.

Father of three Sheffer, told Jewish News: “Until Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky and I freed the ‘Crown of the Bornplatz Synagogue’ from an antique shop in Hamburg, we have never seen one single piece of the Bornplatz Synagogue. Every valuable item was looted during the Reichskristallnacht. I purchased this crown and donated it to the Jewish community.”

Bornplatz synagogue

He adds that “unveiling this silent witness of history was a small miracle” but held  an even deeper significance. “The fact that I had to purchase this crown, even though it had been plundered from our forefathers, the synagogue destroyed, and the entire property seized during the dark days of aryanization, stirred a sense of indignation.”

Whilst not revealing the exact price paid, Sheffer is keen to emphasise that he would “have paid any price in the world to reclaim the only piece of our ancestors and the silent witness of the barbarism of the Reichkristallnacht. I can confirm that the total cost of acquisition and restoration is less than 10,000 Euros.”

The antique shop closed its business in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Sheffer says he felt it was his call to initiate the synagogue’s reconstruction. As such, the crown now proudly stands in front of the Aron Hakodesh in the community’s temporary dwelling, awaiting its return to the Bornplatz Synagogue.

The Hamburg Bornplatz synagogue before Kristallnacht.

“I believed in a better society, one that had evolved beyond 1938. With the help of dedicated allies, we founded an initiative that successfully raised 130 million euros for the reconstruction of the Bornplatz Synagogue.

Members of the Jewish congregation after the historic decision in the townhouse of Hamburg.

“Hamburg today stands as a testament to change, where Jewish life can flourish without forgetting the past. The new Bornplatz Synagogue will become a place of remembrance and documentation, a hub for Jewish and non-Jewish dialogue and above all, a vibrant centre of Jewish life—a triumph over the Nazis’ barbarism.”

On 27 September, the Hamburg Parliament, known as the Hamburgische Bürgerschaft, made an historic decision. In a joint motion by democratic parties, it decreed the immediate return of the synagogue land to Hamburg’s Jewish community.


Standing together on the grounds of the former shul, before both Jewish and non-Jewish students, the faction leaders from across all parties publicly shredded a copy of the aryanisation order.

Sheffer told Jewish News the Jewish community is now “acknowledged as the rightful successor, rectifying not only the expropriation of 1938/39 but also addressing the morally questionable post-war compensation agreement. After 84 years, the state of Hamburg is restoring the land and pledging support for the reconstruction project.”

Downplaying his own involvement, he says that “the restitution, reconstruction and the future of Bornplatz Synagogue are far greater than any individual. They symbolize the triumph of justice and Am Y’Israel over barbarism. We are Bornplatz Synagogue!”

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