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Culture

Virtual Visits to Germany's Lost Synagogues

The destruction of synagogues by the Nazis left architectural wounds in Germany's cities. Now some of the buildings have risen again in cyberspace, giving people an opportunity to tour them virtually.

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Hanover's synagogue is one of 19 that have been recreated so far

Nov. 9, 1938 went down in history as one of Germany's darkest days: During the so-called Reichskristall n acht, members of the Nazi SA militia across the country torched hundreds of synagogues and destroyed Jewish stores, ringing in the Nazis' brutal persecution of Jews that would eventually end in the murder of millions of people.

Fifty-five years later, on March 25, 1994, neo-Nazis set fire to the synagogue in the northern German town of Lübeck. It was this anti-Semitic attack that got Marc Grellert, an architecture student at Darmstadt University thinking about reconstructing Germany's synagogues -- at least on the computer.

Virtuelle Rekonstruktion von Synagogen: Dresden

Reconstructing Dresden's synagogue

He figured that by using computer aided design (CAD), Germany's eradicated Jewish heritage could virtually be saved for posterity.

Grellert and his colleagues soon found sponsors for the project and received the backing of Germany's Jewish community.

"These students, who reconstruct what their fathers destroyed, exhibit some of the finer traits of German history," Salomon Korn of the Central Council of Jews in Germany told Fra n kfurter Allgemei n e So n n tagszeitu n g.

Pai n staki n g reco n strucio n

During the past decade, Grellert and his team have recreated 19 synagogues on the computer.

Virtuelle Rekonstruktion von Synagogen: Kaiserslautern

Inside the synagogue in Kaiserlautern

Using blueprints, pictures, drawings and text documents, the group produced three-dimensional images of the interior and exterior of the buildings. They used color and pattern samples as well as light effects to give the virtual structures a realistic touch.

Several of them, including synagogues in Berlin, Munich, Cologne and Frankfurt, can be viewed on the project's Web site, which also serves as an open data bank for information on the 2,200 synagogues that existed in Germany and Austria. A 22-minute DVD has also been produced that allows viewers to virtually visit the synagogues.

And starting this week, the archive also contains information about 240 medieval synagogues in the region.

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