The Synagogue with the Golden Dome | DocFilm | DW | 07.11.2019
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DocFilm

The Synagogue with the Golden Dome

A film about the eventful history of the New Synagogue in Berlin. It was damaged in the pogrom night of 1938 and by bombing during the war. Now animations and photographs make it possible to experience the building’s former beauty.

Watch video 42:36

When the New Synagogue was inaugurated in 1866, the Prussian Prime Minister, and later German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, was impressed by the building and its golden dome. The synagogue, which was quite deliberately modeled on the Spanish Alhambra, was a miracle of architecture and politics. The New Synagogue was a visible sign of tolerance and acceptance towards Jews and a symbol of the self-confidence of the Jewish community. Yet it was at the same time a provocation for anti-Semites, who finally shattered the hopes of ultimate acceptance in the pogrom of 9 November 1938, the Night of Broken Glass. It was not until the 1990s that the synagogue was rebuilt as the Centrum Judaicum, with its restored façade and a newly built dome - but still without its heart, the large main synagogue. Mysterious and little known tales still lurk behind the glassed-in ruins of the old building. The long-time director of the Centrum Judaicum, Hermann Simon, and Ruth Winkelmann, former pupil at the nearby girls' school, tell us all about them. The film also looks at a missing art collection, newly discovered inscriptions made by prisoners of the Nazis, a secret Bar Mitzvah under the eyes of the Nazis and the chutzpah of the East German Jews and far-sighted communist functionaries who prevented the synagogue’s complete demolition.