The Great Synagogue

  ul. Bogusławskiego, Gdańsk ,   Old Town         21 Sep 2023
Built between 1885 and 1887 on what was Reitbahnstraße (today's ul. Bogusławskiego) by the Berlin architects Ende and Boeckman, Gdańsk's spectacular neo-Renaissance Great Synagogue was the largest synagogue ever built in the city. The huge rectangular building featuring a large dome flanked by two impressive towers was capable of holding up to 2,000 people (the main chamber holding 1,600 and a women's area for a further 400), boasted impressive stained glass made up of several Stars of David, huge chandeliers, tables of the Decalogue set on two stone lions, a huge organ and, rarely, electric heating and lighting.

Financed by five kehillas (Jewish communities) from Winnica, Wrzeszcz, Szopy, Stare Szkoty and ul. Szeroka the Great Synagogue was formally opened on September 15, 1887, with the first service taking place on December 8 of the same year. By the start of the 20th century the Great Synagogue was an important centre of Reformed Judaism, a fact that made it a magnet for Rabbis from around the world and exemplified by the opening inside of a Museum of Judaica, containing many rare and ancient artifacts.

In 1933 the Nazis took over the City Government leading to several unsuccessful arson attacks on the building, including in August 1938 an assault that led to the damaging of its Torah scrolls. Soon after the building's most precious items were sent away for safekeeping to Jerusalem, Vilnius, Kraków and the United States. The last ever service held in the Great Synagogue took place on April 15, 1939 immediately after a banner was hung on the building proclaiming 'Come, lovely May, and free us from the Jews'.

Sold to the senate of Danzig, the Great Synagogue was demolished by the Nazis on May 2, 1939. There are no remaining traces of the building left at all.


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