To conclude from the several articles in the Fränkischer Tag both before and after the start of construction, the project enjoyed a lively interest in Bamberg..
On 9 January 2003, the Bausenat (a Committee of the City Council concerned with Buildings and construction, approved the project unanimously.
Construction officially started on Monday 28 April. The Fränkischer Tag of 29 April reported the event under the heading “A great day for Bamberg”, quoting a private remark by Professor Reinhard Böttcher, the recently retired head of the Superior Land Court in Bamberg, with the subheading
“The foundation stone has been laid for the seventh synagoge - an encouraging sign for a new beginning”
The Rathaus Journal Nr.10/2003 (9 May), the offical Gazette of the city, too, carried a sympathetic report.
The event in the open air was well attended by the Bamberg “Prominenz”. Lord Mayor Lauer spoke of the signifcance of the event and rated the new synagoge as a new beginning. Mr. Olmer did not want to dwell too long on the past, he rather directed his thoughts to the future. The building would not only serve the Jewish community as a house of prayer and its communal needs, it was intended to become a meeting place for all races and people from all ethnic backgrounds, as well as a place of Learning.
The Deans of the Catholic and Protestant churches and Cantor Rudolph jointly prayed for the blessing of the project by the Allmighty.
Mr. Olmer, as well as Lord Mayor Lauer had asked me to be present, but as I felt unable to make the journey for the sake of a single event, I wrote an address, which Mr. Olmer read out. It was reported in the article in the Fränkischer Tag referred to above.
The newspaper quoted my remark, that
“after the ocean of suffering experienced by Jews in the years 1938 to 1945, the construction of the synagogue was a matter of satisfaction and pleasure”.
The reporter of the newspaper found the Hebrew songs performed by the recentlyformed choir of the Community very moving, especially the last one, which pleaded for peace for all people on earth.
Jürgen Rebhan, the architect for the project explained the aims of the reconstruction of the former silk-thread factory of Kupfer & Heßlein and the building measures necessary to achieve them.
During the weeks and days leading up to the start of construction, the Fränkischer Tag reported several times.
On 12 April, the newspaper described a visit by Christian Social Union members (CSU) of the Bavarian Land Parliament to the building site, under heading“Zuschuß ist moralische Pflicht” (A financial contribution is a moral obligation), countering voices in the Bamberg City Council, who considered the need for a contribution by the City to the building costs (about 20%) unfortunate, given the dire state of the city’s finances.
In order to put the City’s contribution into perspective and to answer the question “What happened to the real estate of the Bamberg community”? for my next year’s talk to the Society for the Promotion of Jewish Culture and History of the Jews of Bamberg, I have done some research on any compensation the Community might have received for our beautiful Synagoge, destroyed on the orders of Lord Mayor and Nazi District boss Laurence Zahneisen.
I have so far found, that the City twice compensated the Community for the land on which the Synagogue stood on the same basis on which the Community bought it in 1908, i.e. for about 2 x 15,000 Marks, but I have not so far discovered any compensation for the building itself and I have some reasons to believe that there was none.
The Choir on its own sang Ma Towu (How beautiful are thy tents, oh Jacob), followed by other liturgy and songs jointly with Cantor Martin Rudolph.
Both the Lord Mayor and Mr. Olmer spoke very well. Olmer emphasised, that the remembrance of the pogrom of 9 November 1938 was not an “unnecesary luxury”, but a task for the whole of society to ensure that it will not recur again. Lauer praised the many citizens who contributed money to the project. The city itself, in spite of its difficult financial situation, contributed 400000 Euros to the cost of 2.7 Million Euros. Architect Jürgen Rebhan announced that the Centre and Synagogue are expected to be completed by the autumn of 2004. Olmer thanked all the workmen who had taken part in the building so far.
Before the end, Cantor Rudolph, accompanied by the choir, recited the El Mole Rachamim (Prayer for the dead), and I was invited to recite the Kaddish, in memory of our victims, which I did slowly and in a loud voice.
Afterwards, Mr. Olmer and the Architect led a conducted tour through the ground floor of the building, which is on a larger scale than I imagined.
An engraved tablet remembering the ceremony was shown, and two steel tubes, which shall contain the newspaper reports of the event and shall be sealed and buried underneath the ground floor.
Finally, Mr. Olmer invited everyone to a stand-up reception with coffee and cakes, which were much appreciated after the emotional event in the cold building.
The Fränkischer Tag reported the combined memorial for the 9 November and the topping out ceremony the next day, 10 November, under the heading “Zeichen gegen Extremismus (a signal against extremism), as did the next issue of the Rathaus Journal 24/2003 of 21 November under the heading “Ein gutes Zeichen für das Mitein- ander” (A good sign for togetherness).
It had been understood from the beginning, that the conversion of the old silk factory, which was finally closed in 1962 and had been rotting away ever since, would not be an easy task. The experience up to the topping-out ceremony showed that this was in fact the case.
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