The ongoing partnership between the CJA’s Architecture Section of the Index of Jewish Art and the Institut für Baugeschichte at the Technische Universtät Braunschweig under the leadership of Prof. Harmen Thies, has resulted in extensive architectural documentation in Lower Saxony, Sachsen-Anhalt, Saxony and Thüringia.
In spring of 2001, a joint expedition composed of German and Israeli architects Ivan Ceresnjes, Zoya Arshavsky, Simon Paulus, Katrin Kessler and Ulrich Knufinke, continued their work in Saxony where synagogues and cemeteries were documented. Of the synagogues which were researched, some are of particular interest.
One of them is the former Brody Synagogue in Leipzig (arch. Oscar Schade) which is still used by the Jewish community. The synagogue was called “Brody” since it was established by Jewish merchants from Brody who regularly came to the Leipzig fair. During the fair, they gathered in a “kloiz,” a room for prayer, and later acquired the existing residential building, remodelling the lower floor as a synagogue. The interior features a shallow cupola and is ornamented with Neo-Moorish elements.
The large old Jewish cemetery in Leipzig, established in 1864, is divided into five sections and is surrounded by a high brick wall. It numbers about 2,500 tombstones, dating from 1864 to 1901, a selection of which was documented because of interesting decorative motifs. Stone foundations of the 1864 cemetery chapel which was destroyed in an Allied air raid in 1943, also still exist.
The new Jewish cemetery in Leipzig was founded in 1901. The existing chapel, built in 1954, designed by the architect Walter Beyer, replaced an old chapel of 1928 by architect Wilhelm Haller which was burned down on Kristallnacht in 1938. Unlike the impressive chapel of Haller, topped by a 21.5 m high cupola, the chapel of Beyer is a simple one-storey building in a Neo-Classical style. Both Haller’s and Beyer’s chapel had an inscription stating: “Strong as death is love” (Song of Songs 8:6).
Moving eastward from Leipzig researchers arrived in Görlitz where a synagogue was built in 1909-1911 by architects William Lossow and Max Hans Kühne. It has an impressive monumental rectangular tower with cut off angles rising from the centre of the saddled roof. The circular prayer hall, spanned by a shallow cupola, was designed in Jugendstil. The modernity of the building was expressed not only in its style, but by its construction of reinforced concrete. It is said that the structure was so strong that the Nazis were incapable of demolishing it and eventually refrained from attempting to do so.
In Dresden the capital of Saxony, the old Jewish cemetery dates back to 1750 and was proclaimed full in 1869, housing about 1,250 tombstones. The new cemetery has about 4,000 tombstones dating from 1869. The cemetery chapel was completed in 1866 and reconstructed in 1949/50 when it was converted into a synagogue. In 2001, after the completion of a new synagogue, the building reverted to its original function as a cemetery chapel. The exterior is dominated by a Neo-Romanesque entrance, a triangular gable, and a shallow cupola on a slightly conical drum.