New Synagogue in Breslau: A Digital Reconstruction
Erected from 1865 to 1872, the New Synagogue was located almost at the very heart of nineteenth century Breslau [today's Wrocław]. The building was razed to the ground in 1938. The monumental synagogue was designed by Edwin Oppler, one of the first Jewish architects, and it reflected the emancipatory strivings of Breslau's Jewish community. The history of its construction reveals an intriguing yet virtually unexplored account of a rivalry that involved three major religious communities, each of which tried to outdo one another with a larger and more opulent place of worship. Catholics, Protestants and Jews took concurrent initiatives to build their impressive sacred buildings.
Carried out by the Institute of Architecture, Hochschule Mainz, the project "The New Synagogue in the Context of Three Religious Communities. Digital Reconstruction and Documentation of the Breslau/Wrocław Synagogue" offers a unique opportunity to explore this amazing temple and unique focal point in the city's skyline.
The project provides for a semantically saturated digital model of the synagogue that harnesses new research methodology, using the Virtual research environment (Virtuelle Forschungsumgebung, VFU). VRE enables the scientific analysis of the sources used for the reconstruction of the building and the development of links connecting different sets of data, namely corporate bodies, persons, objects, sources, historical events, research activities and places. The model also elaborates Breslau's spatial context in ca. 1872, when the synagogue opened; it is also embedded in the social and cultural context of that time, most notably in religious matters. For the purpose, an extended database was developed to provide information on Evangelical and Catholic communities in the city, and two respective churches they almost concurrently developed: St Salvator’s Church and St Michael's Church, which, together with the New Synagogue, were expected to act as vertical landmarks in Breslau's cityscape. The project also advances new methodology for the digital reconstruction of historic architecture which provides for an innovative recontextualisation of perished cultural heritage using vibrant and thriving Digital Humanities.
The project also involved a Polish-German workshop for architecture students from the Hochschule Mainz, Germany, and art history students from the University of Wrocław, Poland. The workshop was focused on nineteenth-century sacred architecture in Breslau, and explored five designs for St Salvator’s Church [Salvatorkirche] by C.J.Ch. Zimmermann (1831–1911), neither of which ever went beyond the conceptual stage. The project also involved a Polish-German workshop for architecture students from the Hochschule Mainz, Germany, and art history students from the University of Wrocław, Poland. The workshop was focused on nineteenth-century sacred architecture in Breslau, and explored five designs for St Salvator’s Church [Salvatorkirche] by C.J.Ch. Zimmermann (1831–1911), none of which ever went beyond the conceptual stage.
The night of 9 November 1938 witnessed the most harrowing pogrom of German Jewry since the Middle Ages. Synagogues and other Jewish property were desecrated and destroyed, including each and every synagogue designed by Edwin Oppler. November 2018 marked the 80th anniversary of these events, which we commemorated with an AR (Augmented Reality) app. Specially designed for the purpose, it visualises the perished New Synagogue in Breslau. The app "kARtka z synagogą" comes with a dedicated synagogue postcard, which we premièred during the annual March of Mutual Respect, commemorating the pogrom and covering the route from the White Stork Synagogue to where the New Synagogue used to be located. The citizens of today's Wrocław join the march as a living testimony to these harrowing events, which also served as a prelude to the Holocaust.
As such, the digital reconstruction project preserves memory and raises the awareness of Breslau's Jewish community and its complex history, a history that straddles two countries in time: pre-war Germany and today's Poland.
Team AI MAINZ
Project management and coordination
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Piotr Kuroczyński and Karolina Jara M.A.
Igor Bajena M.Sc., Julia Brandt M.A., Karolina Jara M.A., Kinga Wnęk M.Sc.
Maja Kwiecińska M.A., Sima Agajew B.Sc., Patrycja Stelmach B.Sc., Ewa Świć B.A., Marta Zielińska B.Sc.
Anna Preiss M.Sc., Kinga Wnęk M.Sc.
Virtual Research Environment
Peggy Grosse M.A.
Michael Sherman M.A.
App „kARtka z Synagogą“
Concept and coordination
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Piotr Kuroczyński, Karolina Jara M.A.
Dr. Daniel Dworak
Łukasz Walawender M.A., Kalina Zatorska M.A.
Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media" (BKM)
Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation
Institute of Art History, University of Wrocław
Dr. hab.-Ing. Agnieszka Zabłocka-Kos, Professor in the University of Wrocław, Dr. hab. Jerzy Krzysztof Kos
Bente Kahan Foundation
Bente Kahan and Dr. Marek Mielczarek
Museum of Architecture in Wrocław
Dr. Jerzy Ilkosz
City Museum of Wrocław
Dr. Maciel Łagiewski
March 2018 – November 2019