Built as a replacement for Dresden’s original main synagogue, which burnt to the ground in 1938, the city’s New Synagogue is a tribute to those who lost their lives in the Second World War.
The Old Synagogue
Built by German master-architect Gottfried Semper, Dresden’s main synagogue was constructed between 1838 and 1840. The beautiful building, which served as the primary worship location for Dresden’s Jews, lasted for nearly one hundred years before the night when it was burnt to the ground.
Known as Kristallnacht, the evening of November 9-10, 1938, saw the destruction of hundreds of buildings in Dresden, including the city’s synagogues. Nazi arsonists saw to it that any properties owned by Dresden’s Jews were destroyed in a night of terror that many would never forget during their lifetimes.
The New Synagogue
During World War II and the reign of Hitler and his regime, Dresden’s Jewish population was reduced from 6,000 to about 50. It was decades before Jews would return to the embattled city. However, by the last decade of the twentieth century, the Jewish population began growing once again in Dresden, with many of these new residents being immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
On November 9th, 2001, exactly 63 years after Kristallnacht, Dresden’s revitalized Jewish community dedicated a new synagogue, situated at the site of the main synagogue, which burned on that fateful evening. It is said that one can still observe the glass shards in the ground at the new site, left from the destruction of the original synagogue.
The new building, designed by architectural firm Wandel, Hoefer, Lorch, and Hirsch, is a cubic structure with no windows; its architectural form is based on the first Israelite temples. The project cost in excess of $10 million.
The sanctuary houses 300 worshipers, nearly all of the approximately 350 individuals who now make up the Dresden Jewish community. The crowning glory at the New Synagogue is a Star of David that was rescued from the original synagogue by a firefighter in 1938. He hid the star in his home until after the war and then returned it to Jewish spiritual leaders.