September 14th, 2014


Synagogue - Now

Synagogue – Now

The synagogue of Reichenbach represents a piece of Jewish-German-Polish religi­ous and cultural history that appears to be totally unknown outside Dzierżoniów and its surrounding area. Our Beiteinu Chaj-2004 Foundation has begun its work of rescue of this historic building and with the raising of awareness among the public in Germany, Poland and other countries of its existence and its history of more than 150 years of rich Jewish cultural and religious life in this small town.

The restoration of the synagogue is important for the preservati­on of the history of the building, but also for its future. In addition to serving as house of worship for the small congregation, the building will serve as a center of educati­on for the younger generation, in order to preserve the history of Reichenbach’s Jewish citizens, who after being expelled from the town in the late Middle Ages, returned around 1815 to live again in a thri­ving community, until the Hitler regime drove them out of town, the fortunate ones able to leave Germany, but all others taken to concentration camps where most — six millions, among them more than one million of children, were murdered, just because they were Jews!

The past of the synagogue, its present and its future

After the end of World War II, thousands of surviving Jewish men, women, and children were liberated from the concentrati­on camps in the area of Dzierżoniów and other parts of Poland, as well as others who had fled to the Soviet Union during the war und were fortunate to survive there, and still others who had fought as partisans in Polish forests, they streamed to Reichenbach, bringing new life to the synagogue which had escaped destruction during the Hitler years because of the courage of a non-Jewish citizen. Photographs from these years bear witness to the thousands who crowded the synagogue during Shabat.


Synagogue - 1905

Synagogue – 1905

In the summer of 1945, Reichen­bach became the Polish-Jewish city of Rychbach. A  few years la­ter, when Jewish citizens began to emigrate to Israel, South Ameri­ca, and to the USA, Rychbach was given its new, permanent name of Dzier?oniów. The synagogue was again closed in the late 1980s when it was no longer possible to get a “minyan,” i.e. ten Jewish men to hold a “tefillah,” a prayer.

Since the beginning of the1980s, this historic buil­ding stands unused on its original site, awaiting a new purpose. One says that next to the Stork Synagogue in Wrocław / Breslau and the former synagogue – now a storage house – in Ziębice / Münsterberg, the syna­gogue of Dzierżoniów remains the only Jewish house of worship in Si­lesia that was not burned down by the Nazis during the Kristallnacht. It also survived the devastations of World War II. But now, the syna­gogue is in an endangered condi­tion waiting urgently for its rescue.

© John Koch 2009

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