If you’ve been on a river cruise on the Seine, you had a glimpse of how beautiful the architecture is in Europe. Another sight to see is the neo-Renaissance synagogue in Liberec, the local called the Old, which stood north of town hall and theater. Its 39 meter high tower was the highest tower in the city, and the building itself was one of its dominants. The synagogue fell victim to the anti-Semitic hysteria, when the Liberec-based Germans fired at the Crystal Night from 9th to 10th November 1938. In its place today is the Liberec Library and the so-called New Synagogue.
Architectural Plan by Architect Karel König
Rare Jewish families lived on the territory of modern Liberec in the 14th and 15th centuries, but they were not allowed to live permanently until the beginning of the 19th century (in 1799 even Jews from the entire Liberec estate were denounced). The flowering of the Jewish community in Liberec occurred only at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, when Jewish traders quickly caught on the local textile market. In 1823 six Jewish families settled in Liberec, and the number (especially after 1848) increased steadily, in 1869 there were 314 persons of Jewish religion (1% of inhabitants), in 1930the number of Jewish inhabitants reporting their origin increased to 1392 (3%). However, it may be assumed that there were more, but in the census they stated “Czech nationality” or “German”, or in the column of religion “without religion”.
The Religious Association was established in 1863 (1861 the first church was founded, a separate NGO was established in 1872. After World War II the village was restored and in 1946 there were 1211 persons of Jewish religion (37 old-fashioned survivors and 1174 post-war camps settlers – among them 182 members of MS. foreign troops). In the 80s of the 20th century Jewish community changed to a synagogue congregation since 1989, this once again transformed into an independent municipality.
Today’s Jewish community in Liberec has about 100 members, mostly survivors of Shoah.
Compared with other municipalities of the same size and importance, the Liberec synagogue was built relatively late, until 1899. Previously, the congregation had met in three residential homes arranged for worship. The first official rise to the status of a synagogue gave in his treatise of 1875 member municipalities Wilhelm Winterberg, but not until 1883 was the occasion of the annual meeting of the representatives of the Jewish Community set up a preparatory committee for the status of a synagogue.
Year after year, 1884, was at the committee meeting adopted a resolution on buying plots north of the square with an area of 8746 m 2, which was to serve not only to build a synagogue, but also to build a representative ornamental garden. An architectural competition was announced, to which were mentioned, among others, two very important architects of that time, Max Fleischer and prof. Karl König from Vienna.
As reported by server holocaust.cz:
“After the Munich Agreement, Liberec became the capital of the new Sudetenland County and the seat of Konrad Henlein. From available sources, it is clear that the “arization” of Jewish property and the expulsion of the Jews took place very quickly here. Even before the “Crystal Night”, much of the local Jews fled to the interior, the synagogue was closed.
On November 11, 1938, a synagogue built in neo-Renaissance style was burned in a very representative place in the center of the recently rebuilt Liberec in 1887-88. Photos show a crowd of watchers watching the synagogue fire. The ruins of the synagogue were pulled down in 1939, a parking lot was built on its site.
At present, a modern synagogue is situated on the site of the former synagogue. It houses a small synagogue serving the present Jewish community in Liberec. It reminds of the former significance of the Jewish community in this city and, last but not least, of the “Crystal Night” event. You can include this place in your itinerary in a kosher travel plan.