Near the Kaiserslautern city center is a rather unique monument. It’s a virtual reality memorial to commemorate the Jewish synagogue that stood there until August 1938. At that time Kaiserslautern was slated to become a center of Nazi influence in the Palatinate part of Germany. Having a prominent Jewish synagogue in the city did not help the city’s desires to attract Nazi favor so the city elders decided a closer adherence to a local architectural code and a need for a parade field meant that the synagogue must come down. The last service at the Kaiserslautern synagogue was on 27 August and the demolition of the building began a few days later on 31 August 1938. This occurred just a few months before Kristallnacht (Crystal Night), the Night of Broken Glass, when Nazi led crowds in Germany and Austria attacked over 1600 synagogues, setting 267 on fire. Ninety-five synagogues were destroyed just in Vienna. When the Kaiserslautern synagogue was leveled it had a Jewish membership of 738, in 1945 less than 25 remained.
In 1994 when a synagogue in Lübeck, Germany was set aflame a professor at Technical University Darmstadt was so alarmed that this behavior would return to Germany that he and eight of his students began work on a means to save or recover the images of buildings that no longer existed. What they came up with is a system called 3d-cad-simulations. It allows a viewer to see a building, three dimensionally, which no longer exists, exterior and interior. Kaiserslautern would use this technology to create the memorial to its lost synagogue.
The city had placed a memorial plague and declared “The Synagogue Square” in October 1980. In September 2002, Kaiserslautern rebuilt a portion of the original synagogue’s archway and then encircled the area where the building had stood with 3d-cad-simulation view ports.
Jeff and I were recently in Kaiserslautern for the day and stopped by The Synagogue Square. The city really has done a nice job telling the story and showing where the synagogue stood and how it appeared.
These pillars are replicas of the original synagogues main entrance.
From behind the main entrance pillars you can see two of the stainless steel view ports. Lean over and look into the view port and you'll see the synagogue as it looked from that angle over 70 years ago.
A plaque at the memorial shows how the synagogue appeared and main entrance before final, complete demolition.
We took some pictures through a few of the view ports. You can see a reflection of the camera lense but also a pretty good image of what magic the view ports reveal, both outside and inside the synagogue.
For anyone in the Kaislautern area that might be interested in seeing The Synagogue Square, it's at the corner of Fischerstraße and Schubertstraße near the city center.