As I reported last year, the Bamberg City fathers considered the creation of a large space for at least one supermarket and other larger shops in the centre of the City as absolutely essential for the economic well-being of Bamberg, as the present drift of large stores to the periphery of the City is seen as endangering its future as a commercial centre.
The original plans were unacceptable to the inspectors from the United Nations, whose report threatened the loss of the very important inclusion of Bamberg among the small number of German places listed as “World Cultural Heritage Centres”.
The plans have now been revised, but they still involve the destruction of some fine old buildings by the swathe to be cut between the Promenade and the Hellerstraße (see also below under “Dr. Karin Dengler-Schreiber’s talks to SPCHJB and the City Council “An Extraordinary Find”).
A fierce debate is now in progress between those who find the project absolutely essential and a once-for-all opportunity, and those who, for good reasons, are against it. The destruction of evidence of part of old Bamberg apart, some have raised the problem of access for large delivery vehicles to the stores, which in their opinion has not been solved in the revised proposals.
Under the heading “The Jewish Quarter as a Focus of Interest”, the Fränkischer Tag of 18 February explained why the discussions about the planned City Passage had created a new interest in the quarter around the Hellerstraße where the Bamberg Jews lived in the 15th century and where their synagogue was located.
The piece contained an invitation by the SPCHJB to attend a lecture on the topic by Dr. Karin Dengler-Schreiber, the well-known Heimatpflegerin (a voluntary carer for heritage) on 25 February about the changing history of the quarter in the Jewish community House.
The Fränkischer Tag of 27 February reported Dr. Dengler-Schreiber’s talk under the heading “ Von der Synagoge zum Müllplatz” (From Synagogue to Garbage Dump”). Her reputation ensured that the large room at the Jewish community house was full to bursting.
The speaker traced Jewish settlement back to the 14th century, when Jews lived in the area at the foot of the Kaulberg. The persecution as a result of the Black Death led to their flight and later resettlement in the hintere Keßler- and Hellerstraße. 331 Jews were crowded into the small area. A Talmud Academy was established behind the houses Nr. 13 & 15. The buildings are now in a very unkempt condition.
The speaker illustrated her talk by means of maps and answered questions.
The fact that the revised plan for the City Passage shows a garbage collection point on the site of the old synagoge did not please either the speaker or the audience.
The Fränkischer Tag of 13 Mai reported the first digs under the heading “Spannender Blick ins 12. Jahrhundert”, (Exciting Look into the 12th Century).
The search for the synagogue behind Nr. 15 Hellerstraße was suspended for financial reasons before anything was found, but a relatively well-preserved Mikve (ritual bath) was uncovered behind the house Nr. 13.
This caused something of a sensation, because no other physical evidence of Jewish life in Bamberg going back 550 years exists. I wrote a letter to the Lord Mayor, pleading for the preservation of the Mikve and for ma- king it accessible. I suggested, that the planners should look at a similar situation in Regensburg, for which a satisfactory solution is said to have been found.
While the revised plans for the City Passage do indeed provide for the preservation of the Mikve, it is not going to be made accessible. Its entrance will however be visible under a sheet of glass.
Dr. Karen Dengler-Schreiber illuminated another aspect of the problem under the revised plans for the City Passage in an address to the City Council. She agreed the revised plan was an improvement, but that it was still necessary to criticise it in important respects. She could not find it acceptable to have the Mikve underneath a grocery superstore and called the proposal “more than tactless”. (Report in the Fränkischer Tag of 11 November, headed “Es gibt noch viele Ösen und Haken (There are still many snags).
In her presentation to the City Council, she repeated the criticism she expressed in her lecture of 25 February to the to the SPHCJB about placing a garbage dump on the site of the old synagogue, as the revised plan for the City Passage provides.
I asked the Mayor whether anything can be done to preserve it, as it was associated with Jewish life in Bamberg for 120 years.
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© by Thomas Starz