"The Old Synagogue" Berlin Off The Beaten Path Tip by nicolaitan

Berlin Off The Beaten Path: 459 reviews and 690 photos


Jews moving north from oppression in southern Germany reached the Berlin area in the 13th Century, only to find more of the same. Blamed for everything from the Black Plague to host desecration, they were persecuted frequently and expelled completely on several occasions over the next several hundred years. Between expulsions, they were primarily lenders of money and small businessmen living in the area that today centers on the northern Mitte area. After a 100 year exile, in 1663, a single court Jew was invited back to Berlin to be followed by 50 families from Vienna in 1671. By paying heavy taxes they were allowed to run businesses and gradually built a cemetary, hospital, and ritual bath. In 1714, this synagogue was built on Heitereutergasse in Mitte. Paricipating in banking, jewelry and precious stones, and merchants, the Jews prospered and numbered over 2000 by 1750.

The synagogue was not allowed to exceed the heights of the adjacent Christian-occupied buildings -- to accomodate the religious requirement of separating the sexes during prayer, the ground floor was lowered below street level. When the new synagogue was built on Oranienburger Strasse, it became known as the Old Synagogue. In use for over 200 years and surviving Kristallnacht essentially intact, the building was destroyed in 1945 by bombs. In 2000, the brick ruins below ground level were uncovered as pictured here. Location is just south of the Hackescher Markt S bahn station.

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Feb 29, 2008
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