Countries, Culture, Europe

Digging up Germany’s Jewish past

It is an uncomfortable subject but for all its horrors some heartening tales have emerged from digging up Germany’s Jewish past.

Erfurt, capital of the central German state of Thuringia, is home to the oldest synagogue in Europe at 900 years old.

And it houses the Erfurt Treasure of coins and jewellery which the Jews hid during the Black Death pogrons.

The Erfurt Treasure

The centrepiece of it is a golden wedding ring.

And it displays an engraved gothic tower and six Hebrew letters spelling out ‘good fate’.

A cellar of secrets

So where do we start. Well, the unrivalled collection was discovered under the wall of a cellar entry (I’m away to look at mine).

And moneychanger Kalman von Wiehe had the foresight to ferret it away.

It’s just as well too as the 1349 pogron befell the Jews with the Erfurt Massacre.

Window to the past

So where to display it then?

How about the Old Synagogue museum, the prayer house they revived and restored.

Now if only those walls could talk.

Strike one

They would surely tell a history of a warehouse, a ballroom, a restaurant and even two bowling alleys.

And it was to be their saving grace too as it evaded the eyes of the Nazis.

There is nothing to hide now though, and plenty to see, at the Old Synagogue Museum, opened as a museum in 2009.

The currency of the past

Now you’re asking why are we shining the spotlight on it now?

Well, because this is the year when the good people of Erfurt believe their application to be granted World Heritage Site status will be green-lighted.

On the right track

We are indebted too to Thuringia’s Carolina for opening up this unknown world to us during our Meet Travel Media digital fair.

And pointing out to us that Erfurt is only an hour and a half to two hours on the high-speed train from Berlin.

Berlin too is revealing more of Germany’s Jewish past.

We have the upcoming exhibition, tbe Yael Bartana: Redemption Now at the Jewish Museum Berlin ahead.

The exhibition will run from Monday, April 26, to September 5.

And it will showcase more than 50 of Yael’s works including video installations, photographs and neon works.

Berlin exhibition

If you don’t know Yael’s works, her masterpiece is her And Europe Will Be Stunned video trilogy.

That will be the one which represented Poland at the Venice Biennale in 2011.

Stirring, it imagines the return of three million Jews to Poland.

I first recall hearing of the Jewish story in Europe through Sir Lawrence Olivier’s epic The World At War series in the Seventies.

All of which I am devouring again over these lockdown days.

Dachau days

I had my first experience too of seeing a concentration camp site when I visited Dachau.

During, of course, a sombre break from my bus booze trip to the Munich Beer Festival.

Ich bin Berliner

I have since sought out the Jewish contributions to European life.

And the atrocities brought on them wherever I have travelled…

Pictures of Amsterdam, Hamburgers and ships,



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