Situated at the foot of the Harz Mountains, Halberstadt is a town adorned by beautiful religious architecture and traditional timber constructions. It is also well known as being the seat of a historical Jewish community which became the epicentre for the development of Jewish Neo-Orthodoxy. These ideas enabled the preservation of Jewish laws and customs within communities that at the same time were keen to embrace modernity, secular society and the modern world.
Since at least the 13th century, a Jewish community has existed in Halberstadt. Around the year 1700 the famous royal resident of Poland and agent of the Saxon court, Berend Lehmann (1661 – 1730), established here a house of learning, the so called Klaussynagogue. The community grew in importance attracting learned scholars and those interested in learning from them. The Jewish community in Halberstadt became characterised by eruditeness and developed from the middle of the 19th century on into one of the centres of the Jewish Neo-Orthodoxy. Distinguished rabbis such as Eger, Auerbach, Hildesheimer and Hirsch are intrinsically connected with Halberstadt’s history, and transformed it into one of the most important Jewish communities in Middle Germany.
In 1712, a splendid Baroque synagogue, built by the Court Jew Berend Lehmann, was inaugurated. Hidden from view behind the buildings of the streets Bakenstrasse and Judenstrasse, the cupola of the synagogue surmounted the height of those buildings twice. The synagogue building was the first one in Germany built following a defined architectural concept. At the end of the 19th century, the entrepreneurial Hirsch family decided to invest in the modernisation of the building, extending it by erecting an entrance hall. During the “Night of Broken Glass” – the Pogrom Night – on November 9th, 1938, the synagogue was plundered, and all Torah scrolls were burnt in the street. On November 18th, the building inspection ordered the demolition of the synagogue, which was initiated the next day. The Jewish community of Halberstadt had to bear its costs. The remaining wall which still stands is the outer wall of the former entrance hall. Of the rest of the structure, only the foundations and the flouring have remained. Not a single object from the splendid interior is preserved.
The building complex enshrining the ruins also houses the Moses Mendelssohn Academy with the Berend Lehman Museum. In the vicinity, it can also be found the Klaussynagogue which was established around 1700. Following its traditional purpose, the house became in 1998 again a seat of study and science, a place of encounter and exchange for Judaic knowledge. The synagogue is now a place of remembrance, where a contemporary art installation stands as a reminder of the destroyed place of prayer.
The training course
The 2023 European Heritage Training Course is the continuation of courses and projects following the theme of Jewish heritage in Halberstadt which had taken place yearly from 2018 to 2022. This engagement is an important collaboration between European Heritage Volunteers and the Moses Mendelssohn Academy both to raise awareness about the importance of Jewish heritage in Halberstadt as well as to promote its documentation and conservation for posterity.
In this sense, the training course is focused on the protection of the remaining ruins of the Baroque synagogue which was destroyed in 1938/39, a task which had already begun with the training courses that took place in the years 2021 and 2022. During those previous European Heritage Training Courses, the structures and damages of the remains of the former synagogue had been documented, and urgent interventions on the main structure have already begun, thus laying the groundwork for the interventions that will take place in 2023.
The 2023 training course is focused on conservation and restoration interventions on the remaining wall of the former entrance hall as well as at another remaining decorated wall fragment in the garden. The work will begin by examining and securing the top of the wall, reviewing the current status of the interventions carried out during the training course in 2022. The joints will be renewed, the colour retouching of the stone additions will be performed and the damaged masonry joints will be completed. The heavily weathered stone surfaces will be also strengthened by adding stone supplements. The fragments of painted surfaces will be secured of any lose parts and lime slurry was applied to fill in any damaged parts.
The participants will experience the complete process from the preparation of mortars, the manufacturing of the stone supplementary compounds and colour matching with pigments to the adjacent stone surfaces, up to mixing the glazes for retouching the various stone surfaces.
In addition, other necessary works will also be carried out by the participants, such as removing moss and vegetation that pose a threat to the stability of the surfaces and explored coloured surfaces with the purpose of documentation and future research and conservation works.
The training course will be guided by a certified restorer with a specialisation in the restoration of plaster, stucco, and wall paintings.
In the frame of the educational part, various lectures and guided tours as well as an excursion will be organised in order to provide the participants with comprehensive and detailed knowledge about the Jewish history and heritage in Halberstadt and other regions of Germany. The visits will also contexualise the training course by providing an overview of the rich history and the high valuable heritage of Halberstadt in general.
The training course will take place from August 18th to August 26, 2023, and is organised by European Heritage Volunteers in cooperation with Moses Mendelssohn Academy Halberstadt.