Construction Uncovers The Remains Of A Munich Synagogue Destroyed By The Nazis In The 1930s

Published July 7, 2023

Described by a newspaper upon its completion in 1887 as the "ornament of the city," Hitler would later call the Great Synagogue an "eyesore."

Munich Synagogue

Mordechai BernsteinThe Munich synagogue before its destruction in 1938.

Construction workers in Munich, Germany, just discovered the wreckage of a synagogue that the Nazi regime had destroyed in 1938.

They were working on a dam on the Isar River on June 28 when they stumbled across columns from a Torah shrine and a stone tablet inscribed with the ten commandments.

The team broke the news to Munich’s Jewish Museum a day later, telling director Bernhard Purin that they may have stumbled on the remains of Munich’s former synagogue.

“I never thought we would find anything from the old synagogue,” Purin told CNN. “I felt happy and sad at the same time about this extraordinary find.”

Munich Synagogue Ruins

Jewish Museum MunichRemnants of the Munich synagogue found in the river.

The synagogue, designed to fit Munich’s specific architectural style, was finished in 1887. According to the New York Times, a local newspaper called the synagogue an “ornament of the city.”

The building once was the city’s main synagogue before Adolf Hitler ordered its destruction in June 1938. It was one of the first synagogues destroyed in Nazi Germany’s long reign of terror against its Jewish citizens.

According to Purin, Hitler despised looking at the synagogue, calling it an “eyesore.”

“The synagogue was very close to a main art gallery with a restaurant where Hitler liked to have dinner when he was in Munich,” Purin told NPR. “He had to look out at the synagogue, [which] he disliked.”

After the synagogue’s destruction, the demolition company responsible for the operation stored the debris at a site west of the city. Construction workers later used this debris in the 1950s to construct a dam.

Purin stated to CNN that there is still “a good chance” that other pieces of the synagogue are there, but he added that “there are trees growing on the hills now and it won’t be possible to dig the stones out.”

Munich Synagogue Rubble

Jewish Museum MunichInscriptions found among the rubble.

Despite this unfortunate news, Munich is still celebrating the remarkable find.

“Today, we are as much amazed to see fragments of the old main synagogue turn up again as we are in shock at the lack of respect with which they were treated even after 1945,” Charlotte Knobloch, the president of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, wrote to the New York Times in an email.

Munich’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, also commented on the find. In a statement, Reiter said the destruction of the Munich synagogue was the “beginning of exclusion, persecution and destruction” of German Jews.

“The fact that today we find remains of the once cityscape-defining magnificent building is a stroke of luck and moves me very deeply,” Mayor Reiter stated, as reported by the New York Times.

Currently, the city has plans to excavate an estimated 150 tons of debris from the waters of the Isar River. Workers will transfer the debris to a city yard, so researchers and historians can properly examine and record any significant findings.

After reading about the Munich synagogue, discover the story of Kristallnacht, Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish pogrom of November 1938. Then, dive into the story of Irena Sandler, a German woman who risked her life saving 2,500 children during the Holocaust.

Amber Breese
Amber Breese is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
Matt Crabtree
Matt Crabtree is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. A writer and editor based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Matt has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Utah State University and a passion for idiosyncratic news and stories that offer unique perspectives on the world, film, politics, and more.
Cite This Article
Breese, Amber. "Construction Uncovers The Remains Of A Munich Synagogue Destroyed By The Nazis In The 1930s.", July 7, 2023, Accessed April 21, 2024.