Thursday, August 6, 2009

Germany: Former Mikveh and Shammas House Restored in Schwedt / Oder in Brandenburg

Schwedt / Oder, Germany. Views of Reconstructed Mikveh
Photos Courtesy of City of Schwedt / Oder

Germany: Former Mikveh and Shammas House Restored in Schwedt / Oder in Brandenburg
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) Last month the town of Schwedt / Oder in Brandenburg, close to the Polish border, announced the completion of the reconstruction of the former mikveh complex (Jewish ritual bath), including the former house for the shammas of the synagogue, which was situated on the sourthern part of the site until its destruction in the 1930s.. The property is at "Gartenstraße 8 and Louis Harlan Street 1" on the western edge of Old Town. The restoration is one of an increasing number of Jewish heritage projects that have developed in towns and cities of the former East GermanyUntil German reunification twenty years ago, much of the Jewish history of the region and most Jewish sites were ignored or misrepresented.

The rectangular-plan synagogue, designed by master mason G. Michaelis, was built in 1862 and destroyed on Kristallnacht in November 1938.

According to published reports, the shammas’s house was built in two phases. First, a one-story roughly square structure with a pyramidal timber roof on a roughly square plan as erected – this may have previously been a garden shed or work building owned by the previous owner of the land between the late 18th and the mid-19th century when the site was acquired by the Jewish community, at which time the structure was expanded to the east.

Schwedt / Oder, Germany. Shammas's House before Reconstruction

Photo courtesy of City of Schwest / Oder

Oder, and an exhibition on the Jewish history of the town will be installed.

The project was sponsored by the Office of Construction and Transportation of the State of Brandenburg in the framework of the Federal program "Urban redevelopment and development activities" within the redevelopment area "Old Town / Lindenallee" by the German Foundation for Monument, from the television lottery "spiral of happiness” and by donations of the Rotary Club of Schwedt. According to the Infrastructure Ministry the project cost was about 320,000 euro. Other reports put the cost closer to 500,000 euro.

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