Jewish Life at Haigerloch
Part 2 - Research and Restoration of the Old Synagogue
In the 1980's, there was a growing interest in the study of both the lost Jewish life and culture, and the injustices Jews suffered in Germany. The second and third generations of post-war Germans organised small groups that made efforts to overcome the difficulties and learn the true facts. The study of Haigerloch's Jewish past was one of their remarkable achievements.
The Haigerloch research and Synagogue restoration initiative was formed on 9th November 1988, marking the 50th anniversary of the "Crystal Night" pogrom. The people of Haigerloch discussed the history of the old Synagogue and resolved to rescue the dilapidated building and open it to the public as a memorial of Jewish life.
On 16th June 1993, a large crowd dedicated a memorial stone for the "Old Haigerloch Synagogue" in front of the Synagogue building. It commemorates Jewish life in the past and serves as the first visible sign of the change in public attitude towards the future memorial. The inscription on the stone reads as follows:
"Prior to the destruction of its interior and the extermination of the Jewish community by the Nazis, the Old Synagogue was the centre of the Jewish quarter of the Haag. This stone is to remind future generations of the historical heritage and of their duties."
Many contacts were established with survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, who provided testimonies and helped in finding suitable materials. The project was assisted financially by other initiatives and institutions, such as the memorial initiatives of the districts of Rottweil and Zollernalb.
A leaflet was published on "Possibilities of Remembrance" - locations of Jewish life and Nazi atrocities in these districts. It provides basic information and serves as a guide for schools, groups and individual visitors.
This report is too brief for giving credit to all the project's members and sponsors. Yet two of the central figures must be mentioned. Klaus Schubert, the association's first chairman, and his deputy Helmut Gabeli, are both residents of Haigerloch who were among the group's founders and are still highly active. The growing circle of sponsors facilitated many of the developments, such as the purchase of the Synagogue building by the city of Haigerloch from a private owner, shortly before Christmas 1999. Mr. Rolan Trojan, the Mayor of Haigerloch, supported the transition from a discussion group to a formal charitable society that ensured that future planing, financial and construction responsibilities would remain in the hands of the original founders. The charitable organisation "Old Synagogue" was officially registered in November 2000.
The Haigerloch Synagogue Reopening
On 9th November 2003, the renovation project was completed, and the old Synagogue was opened to the public, exactly 65 years after the "Crystal Night" pogrom that destroyed it.
Twelve former Jewish residents of Haigerloch arrived with their relatives from Israel, Southern and Northern America to attend the ceremony. Before the main event, Haigerloch Mayor Roland Trojan officially welcomed the Jewish guests and on 6th November 2003, they were invited to a speech at the community centre by Dr. Uri Kaufmann of the College for Jewish culture at Freiburg. On Saturday 8th November, we held a "storytelling afternoon". Former residents of Haigereloch, Elsa Gideon (92) and Norbert Baer (94), both now US citizens, spoke about their youth in Haigerloch, and Sophie Trenkle (102) recited two Haigerloch poems. The "Laupheimer Singkreis" ended the evening with much-applauded traditional Jewish and Hebrew songs.
The ceremony of 9th November 2003 started with a historic presentation and a Bat Mitzva celebration at the Synagogue.
A Jewish Service after 65 years
The Bat-Mitzva of Carly Wolf from Glenview, USA took place at the Synagogue of Haigerloch exactly 65 years after the building had been destroyed. The military Rabbi Kenneth Leinwand from Heidelberg, who is a US officer and chaplain for all American-Jewish soldiers in southern Germany, led the morning prayer. Rabbi Leinwand brought a Torah scroll and prayer books in English and Hebrew. The service was attended by representatives of the city and members of the Synagogue. The highlight was the first reading of the Torah by the youth, after 65 years.
Carly's father, Tom Wolf, thanked the city and the Synagogue and said: "we are all Haigerloch people." He said that he met "wonderful people" in Haigerloch and all the Jewish visitors would remember this historical day for the rest of their lives.
Carly's grandmother, Alice Wolf, nee Weil, was the only survivor who had been deported to Riga. She returned to Haigerloch on 16th June 1945 from the concentration camp of Stutthof and later emigrated to the USA. It was the desire of the family that the Bat-Mitzva of the granddaughter should be the first service at the restored Synagogue.
After the Jewish service, Abraham Frank from Jerusalem, explained the contents of the Torah and Tom Wolf remembered all ancestors and all the victims of the Holocaust.
The ceremony was attended by a large crowd (see photograph) that almost exceeded the Synagogue's capacity, yet the author of this report was given a seat among the Jewish guests since she had to use two walking sticks as a result of recent surgery.
After 65 years, the reopening of the Synagogue generated much public joy and interest. Mayor Roland Trojan said that he hoped that it would become a place to meet, learn and reflect on the past, especially for the young generation. Moreover, the former Jewish citizens would now have another 'good place' in Haigerloch.
Chairman Klaus Schubert also reminded the audience of the destruction and thanked the Jewish guests, the city of Haigerloch and all the friends and sponsors for their contribution. He also mentioned the tragic accident of February 2002, when the Jewish glazier from Hechingen, Artur Fause, who had been working on the Synagogue windows, fell to his death from the scaffolding.
Mrs. Barbara Traub, a spokesperson of the Israelite congregation of Stuttgart, conveyed greetings. She reflected on the destructive, inhuman forces, which were unleashed during the Pogrom Night, and reminded the audience that the reopening of the Synagogue should not be the end of the reflections on the Jewish past of the town. This museum and Synagogue should be a "house of education, remembrance and understanding", she said.
Report by Uta Hentsch, Bisingen, Germany
Read about Hechingen: Where Dreams Come True
Read about the Christian Declaration of Berlin, 11/September/2004.
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