The New Synagogue on Oranienburger Straße was the main synagogue of the Berlin Jewish community. An important architectural monument of late 19th century Berlin, it is now home to the Centrum Judaicum.
The New Synagogue (Neue Synagoge), along with the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust memorial is one of Berlin's most significant Jewish landmarks. Built in 1866, to seat 3200 people as the largest Jewish place of worship in Germany, the Neue Synagogue was literally a symbol of the thriving Jewish community. With 160,000 Jewish citizens in 1933, Berlin was the centre of Liberal Judaism.
Today the building houses the Centrum Judaicum foundation which opened in 1995, an institution for the preservation of Jewish memory and tradition, a community congregation centre for study and teaching. The museum and information centre houses exhibits including Torahs and scrolls which were excavated as late as 1989 during the restoration phase. Only one prayer room remains in use today, with mixed seating in the reformed Judaism tradition. A guided tour is available here to see the open space which lies behind the restored facade of the building where the former huge, main Synagogue room once was. A glass and steel structure secures the remaining fragments of masonry of the former synagogue. The original ground plan dimensions can be seen by a traced perimeter which give an idea of the size of the destroyed sections.
New Synagogue: Planned by Knoblauch, completed by Stüler
The Synagogue was the project of Eduard Knoblauch who has gone down in history as the first successful private architect after the Schinkel era which was dominated by the grand projects of state-commissioned buildings. He did not live to see the finished building and the work was completed by August Stüler. It was consecrated in 1866. The magnificent Moorish dome, visible from a long distance, its ornate gold-plated ribbed lattice and the oriental motifs on the façade were inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
New Synagogue reflected Liberal Judaism in Berlin before WW II
Until the infamous Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938 when the Synagogue was attacked by Nazi thugs and heavily damaged, Jewish citizens had enjoyed full equality and civic rights, enshrined in the 1850 Prussian constitution. The official founding of a Jewish community in Berlin dates back to 1671 under the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm (1640-1688) and it thrived until the Weimar Republic. By and large in the 19th century belief in Jewish assimilation remained strong and Jewish citizens enjoyed civic rights. As the centre of the so-called Jewish enlightenment or Haskalah which advocated equality and secularism Berlin was home to personalities such as Max Reinha, Arnold Schoneberg Kurt Weill, Albert Einstein and Max Liebermann who enjoyed social prestige and acclaim. Liturgically, social assimilation was reflected in the relaxing of religious rites and a more liberal approach to religious practices which included the installation of an organ, a choir and services in German in the New Synagogue. Services were held here until 1940 when the building was confiscated by the Nazis and almost completely destroyed by Allied bombings in 1943.
Reconstruction of the New Synagogue
The subsequent GDR governments only kept the main façade as a memorial – as this was the only structurally intact part of the building - but the main Hall had to be demolished in 1958. The front of the building was rebuilt in 1988-91 with Federal Government financial support and the Dome was reconstructed in 1991 and is open to visitors.
The Centrum Judaicum offers guided tours. Individual visitors can explore the permanent exhibition with an audio guide.
April to September: Mon-Fri 10:00-18:00, Sun 10:00-19:00 October-March: Sun-Thu 10:00-18:00, Fri 10:00-15:00
7 Euro, red. 4.50 Euro, family ticket 20 Euro
The Centrum Judaicum offers guided tours of the permanent exhibition "Open Ye Gates" as well as of the neighbourhood around the Neue Synagoge. These tours can be booked in German, English, Italian, French and Hebrew per mail: firstname.lastname@example.org