Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ukraine: Zhovkva Historic Photos

Ukraine: Zhovkva Historic Photos

(ISJM) Sergey Kravtsov of the Center for Jewish Art has sent these historic photos of the synagogue of Zhovkva. The two interior photos of the
Aron-ha Kodesh wall provide a reminder of how richly sculpted and painted the interiors of the synagogue was - although much of the decoration including the musical instruments and the view of Jerusalem probably date to the late 19th or first decades of the 20th century. Such motifs were common - almost ubiquitous in Polish synagogues (and synagogues founded by Polish immigrants in America and elsewhere) of the time. The view of the Ark, however, shows it in all of its Baroque splendor.

The photo of the destruction of the synagogue raises the issue of exactly how and when the synagogue was destroyed. Was it set afire (as we see here) or was it blown up? Both fates are possible. Many synagogues went through multiple destructions during the German occupation. First they were pillaged and burned, and then later, when empty, if no other use was apparent, they were blown up. Many of the big masonry synagogues, however, were so strongly built, with walls often more than a meter thick, that even when exploded much of the original structure remained. Wooden synagogues, of course, were burned, and therefore we have few of those left.

There is disagreement over whether Germans or Ukrainians burned the Zhovkva synagogue. I don't know the details, but it is possible that some of the local population helped set the synagogue afire under the protection, and possibly the direction of the Germans, who are shown in this photo.

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