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Synagogues as Museums and Galleries

 

synagog 1

 Synagogues as Museums and Galleries in East‐Central Europe 

Photo exhibition by Rudolf Klein

The Jewish population of Europe was decimated by the Holocaust, and the subsequent emigration of the surviving Jews reduced their number radically. Moreover, even Jews who remained in the countries of their birth moved to major urban centres, leaving behind hundreds of synagogues and prayer houses, which fell into decay after World War Two. 

 

Unlike in Germany and Austria, where the Nazis destroyed the vast majority of synagogues, in the countries of East‐Central Europe many synagogues survived the Holocaust. Dilapidated, they stood as mementos during communist times and even after the change of regimes. Some of them were destroyed in the intense urban development of the 1960s and 1970s, like the two great synagogues of Bratislava. Some crumbled because of negligence or the hostility of Communist party leadership, like the great synagogue in Debrecen or Szecheny (both in Hungary). Some were altered beyond recognition, as for instance the rare art nouveau synagogues in Vinogradov (Ukraine). In some major historic Jewish centres, like Prague‐Josefov or Krakow‐Kazimierz synagogues were more fortunate, being restored from the 1950s onwards, but these were the few exemptions and no the rule regarding synagogues that did not serve their original function. 

In the 1970s some abandoned synagogues were cared for by local municipalities, and over the course of the subsequent three decades many of them have been rescued and adapted to secular use. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia were in the forefront in Europe in renovating and restoring these monuments to their former Jewish life. This endeavour peaked after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when domestic efforts were complemented more and more frequently by support from abroad, mainly from private foundations in the US and later with the support of the EU. With the rise of new democracies, there were shifts not only in quantity, but in quality too: restoration became more appropriate in function and accurate in terms of spatial arrangement, structures and details. Synagogues were converted into Jewish museums, Holocaust museums and memorials, concert halls, municipal cultural centres, galleries. 

This exhibition presents a brief survey of synagogues converted into museums and galleries in Austria, Bosnia‐Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia. 

Prof. Rudolf KLEIN (1955), Dr. Eng., Dr. Phil., architect, is a theoretician and historian of 19th and 20th century architecture. His special interest is architecture created for or by Jews: Ashkenazi synagogues in Central and Eastern Europe, Jewish cemeteries, Jewish houses and quarters, Jewish/Judaic influence on architectural modernism, post-modernism and Deconstruction. 

He is author of nine and co-author of three books in the field of architectural history of modern times. He has published over 40 reviewed papers. He teaches at Szent István University, Ybl Miklós Faculty of Architecture, Budapest.

Opening: 29 November 

 

Date: 29 November 2018 – 13 January 2019 

Venue: Neumünster Abbey, 28, rue Münster, Luxembourg-Grund

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