Haus der jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur von Baden

A lighthouse project for Bruchsal

In the meantime, the Förderverein Haus der Geschichte der Juden Badens e.V. (Association for the Promotion of the House of the History of the Jews of Baden) has given a great deal of in-depth thought to the realization of the planned House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden as well as to an honorary presentation of the synagogue foundations. These ideas and thoughts are to be conveyed here.
Part 1: Prologue

The planned Bruchsal lighthouse project, the House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden, sends a signal worldwide that Bruchsal is not just any of the many baroque towns or one of the many asparagus towns, but a "small, fine municipality", according to the new managing director of the BTMV, which can do just more than just asparagus and baroque. "A lot of good things are being done in Bruchsal, but there is still a lot to be done and a lot to be developed in order to make the town known beyond its borders"the new managing director continued. The History House is an excellent step towards making our city known nationally and internationally and integrating it into the circle of first-class historical museums or places of learning, with this museum that is unique in the world.

This History House, with its unique narrative, can reach people around the world who want to learn about the 1,200-year history of the Jews of Baden. Baden was one of the most important settlements of people of Jewish faith in the territory of today's Germany. They were a long-established group who, despite frequent persecution and expulsion, had lived here continuously since the 9th century, helping to build and shape our Baden homeland and contributing to its prosperity and well-being.

Many important Jewish personalities came from Baden or have Baden roots. We need only recall the banker Julius Bär from Heidelsheim, the founders of the Katzauer paint factory in Bruchsal, the German building historian, architect, pioneer of state monument preservation and honorary citizen of Bruchsal, Prof. Dr. Fritz Hirsch, the Reichstag members Dr. Ludwig Marum (SPD) from Bruchsal, Ludwig Haas (DFVP/DDP) from Freiburg or Ludwig Frank (SPD) from Mannheim. The national soccer players and German champions Gottfried Fuchs (Karlsruhe) and Julius Hirsch(Achern/Karlsruhe). The painters Gustav Wolf from Östringen and Leo Kahn from Bruchsal, the Karlsruhe writer Anna Ettlinger, the architect and composer Dr. Richard Fuchs, the publishing family of the New York Times, Sulzberger, or the Nobel Prize winner Richard Willstätter from Karlsruhe.

Part 2: The memory of our Baden history and culture must be preserved

The descendants of the Baden Jews who were persecuted under National Socialism now live all over the world after their displacement. Their parents and grandparents, who still came from Baden, are mostly no longer alive. However, the generations of descendants of these contemporary witnesses would like to learn more about their ancestors. The annual laying of Stolpersteine in Bruchsal clearly shows the extraordinary interest that these people have in the homeland of their ancestors. Especially in the USA this interest is very pronounced. A house of Jewish history and culture of Baden can reach this extremely large potential and satisfy the inquisitiveness of the descendants.

Very important: This history house is explicitly not a Holocaust memorial. The focus is on 1,200 years of history and culture of the Jews of Baden, from the beginnings to the present day. In this way, the Jewish guests of our city can be reached out across all the distortions of the past.

Almost like a mantra, it is said that at some point there must finally be peace. Baden Jewry should finally be forgotten. No, there must not be peace at some point. The history of the Jewish population in Baden is part of our history and has influenced it. James Baldwin once wrote: "History is not the past, history is the present. We carry our history within us, we are our history". And that is true. Especially today, with resurgent and manifesting racism and anti-Semitism, a time when synagogues and refugee shelters are attacked, people are threatened with death and also killed by right-wing extremists and racists, we should not simply go over to business as usual and declare ourselves "not responsible". As a city society, we are also challenged to set signs for the cosmopolitanism and tolerance of our city in the face of the current rampant xenophobia and hatred of Jews.

Part 3: Why Bruchsal?

In the 19th century, the synagogue community in Bruchsal was the largest in the Karlsruhe district.

The Jews of Baden were an old-established group who, despite persecution and expulsion, had lived here continuously since the 9th century. In 1925, the Baden statistics counted 24,064 Jews. They were distributed among 123 communities. The largest Jewish communities in Baden in 1925 were in Mannheim (6972), Karlsruhe (3386), Heidelberg (1412), Freiburg (1399) and Pforzheim (886). In the late 19th century, the synagogue community in Bruchsal, Baden, was the largest in the Karlsruhe district, with over 740 congregants (5.5% of the total population).

In 1925, for example, 603 Jews lived in Bruchsal, 72 in Weingarten, 435 in Baden-Baden, 155 in Bretten, 111 in Bühl, 60 in Durlach, 71 in Eppingen, 62 in Ettlingen, 83 in Flehingen, 86 in Hemsbach, 162 in Königsbach-Stein, 90 in Ladenburg, Malsch near Heidelberg 52, Malsch near Karlsruhe 101, Mosbach 159, Odenheim 36, Pforzheim 886, Philippsburg 50, Rastatt 197, Schwetzingen 73, Sinsheim 79, Untergrombach 56, Walldorf 67, Weinheim 157, Wiesloch 103. This non-exhaustive list alone names another 3,403 people of Jewish faith who lived in the catchment area of Bruchsal in 1925. This means that about 2/3 of all Baden residents of Jewish faith lived and worked in North Baden, in the immediate vicinity of Bruchsal.

The cities in North Baden with the highest percentage of Jews, both in absolute and percentage terms, were Mannheim, Karlsruhe and Bruchsal. So what better location for this museum than the historic site of the former Bruchsal synagogue with its prime inner-city location? The chairman of the Jewish Religious Community in Baden, Mr. Rami Suliman, recognized this very well when he suggested this location.

Bruchsal is excellently connected to the national traffic and the history museum can be reached excellently. Fast trains stop at the Bruchsal train station, only a few meters away from the History House, and regional trains are connected deep into the Baden region but also into the Palatinate. Bruchsal has its own highway connection, two federal highways lead directly to the city center. Baden-Airpark and Frankfurt Airport are not far from Bruchsal.

Part 4: Plus points and opportunities for Bruchsal

In recent years and decades, Bruchsal has had a lively culture of dealing with Jewish history: the renaming of the former Adolf Hitler Square as Otto Oppenheimer Square, the securing and preservation of gravestones of the Jewish Association Cemetery near Obergrombach, the regular maintenance of both Bruchsal Jewish cemeteries, the placement of commemorative plaques, e.g. for Dr. Ludwig Marum, the annual laying of Stolpersteine, the Otto Oppenheimer Monument, the planned conversion of the Tahara House into a memorial site, the annual public commemoration of the deportation to Gurs and the Night of Broken Glass. This culture of remembrance, which is not so self-evident, finds interest and recognition worldwide.

In Bruchsal, there is now a unique opportunity to lend authenticity to a House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden with the synagogue site, the old fire station located on it and the still existing foundation walls of the Synagogue. Other places in Baden or Württemberg can also plan a similar history house, but only Bruchsal has this deep credibility of the location. The History House will be unique and will have a signal effect for a broad target group due to its great charisma.

The House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden has great tourist potential. New groups of visitors will not only visit the House of History and the memorial garden located next to it, but will also find their way to the city center. For descendants of German Jews from all over the world, people interested in history in general, school classes and students, e.g. of the College of Jewish Studies in Heidelberg (Hochschule für Jüdische Studien), theologians of all denominations, students of history or theology, historians, companies, in order to give their own events a worthy setting, visitors of university and scientific symposia, Bruchsal will be an important point of contact.

It is important in the implementation and later operation of the History House to involve the city marketing, because beyond asparagus and castle, there is now a worldwide unique, exciting, further narrative in our city: The House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden, the historic synagogue foundations, the Otto Oppenheimer monument, the two Jewish cemeteries, Stolpersteine (stumbling stones), the Jewish memorial in the Tahara House.

Part 5: Our city needs a future

A House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden is a not inconsiderable investment for the state of Baden-Württemberg, for which the city of Bruchsal would have to provide the land. Is it worth it at all?

People like to point out that Bruchsal is a poor city and has no money "for something" like a history house. Another objection is that there must be peace at some point, that now, after so many years, we don't want to hear anything more about our former neighbors of the Jewish faith. May we adopt these arguments as our own?

The Corona pandemic will leave temporary gaps in business tax revenues. The allocation of income tax shares may be somewhat lower. However, this current situation should not be an argument to omit necessary measures for our city, because Corona, just like the flourishing internet trade, will negatively change the middle center of Bruchsal. The reopening of Karlsruhe's pedestrian zone will also have a considerable impact on Bruchsal's city center - people will go to Karlsruhe for shopping.

It is to be feared that the Corona pandemic and Internet trade will further thin out the store mix in Bruchsal's pedestrian zone. The attractiveness of the pedestrian zone has already suffered greatly in recent years. Permanent vacancies in Obere Kaiserstraße and Wörthstraße, considerable vacancies in Hoheneggerstraße. Meanwhile, hairdressers, manicure and cell phone stores, betting offices, gambling halls, 1-euro stores and tattoo studios dominate the city center. How many more stores will have to give up, caused by lockdown and the prospering internet trade? How many chain stores will withdraw from Bruchsal? Bruchsal must now set the course for the next 20 or 30 years. And not just start discussing when it's too late. Long-term thinking, ideas and visions are necessary: How can the attractiveness and quality of stay of the city center be sustainably increased? The city must also be attractive to visitors from outside and invite them to linger. What could be more obvious than to build a House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden and the Memorial Garden close to the city center? Very close to the pedestrian zone, where people can stroll, shop and drink coffee after visiting the museum.

Part 6: In conflict. Old fire station or new building?

In the context of the municipal ideas competition for the subsequent use of the "Old Fire Station / Synagogue Bruchsal", the preservation of the Old Fire Station was suggested several times, because the building's structural fabric is impeccable. Likewise, many of the designs refer to the importance of preserving and presenting the synagogue foundations.

The Bruchsal City History Commission (Kommission für Stadtgeschichte) also sees the importance of preserving the Old Fire Station and suggests as a compromise:

"The front of the fire station, which is itself again a document of contemporary history, should be documented and, if possible, integrated in some form into new buildings. In any case, demolition of the firehouse should not occur until documentation is complete and a decision is made on the form of integration into new construction."

A preservation, all at least of the facade, would be right, important and good, but the Old Fire Station with the history of the destruction of the Bruchsal synagogue in 1938 is of elementary importance and historical uniqueness throughout Germany. After World War II, synagogues elsewhere were converted into fire stations, but only in Bruchsal was a fire station rebuilt on the site of a burned synagogue - only 15 years after the Synagogue was shamefully abandoned to the flames.

The suggestions of the Förderverein (friends' asociation) could be realized in the Old Fire Station as well as in a new building. The Förderverein can support the suggestion of the District Office (Landratsamt) to establish an assembly hall for the commercial school at this location, which could also be available for other events. In addition, the House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden as well as the Municipal Museum, previously housed in the Prince-Bishop's Palace - in a new, inner-city, attractive location. According to this proposal, a new building would also be three-story. The school auditorium with approx. 400 square meters would be realized on the first floor, today the vehicle hall, and on the upper floors, each 300 square meters in size, the History House and the Municipal Museum with a focus on the city's history from 976 to the present day. The building complex is crowned by a roof terrace.

Part 7: The design - Section A

Conversion of the old fire station or a new building? Both would be possible. The old fire station has three floors. On the first floor is the vehicle hall with just under 400 square meters, and above it are two additional floors, each with about 300 square meters. Here are the ideas for the vehicle hall, 1st and 2nd floor.

The vehicle hall

The design of the district office (Landratsamt) (competition entry TN 08, page 87 ff.) proposes to build a school auditorium (multifunctional rooms / intercultural center) for the commercial school on the synagogue grounds. The plan is for 430 square meters. This proposal is also feasible in the Old Fire Station. It should be noted, however, that the Old Fire Station partially covers the synagogue foundations, which according to the design are to be preserved in their entirety and integrated into the overall complex as a "Bürgerpark Synagoge". The synagogue foundations are probably subject to monument protection. According to the opinion of rabbis, they are to be regarded as "holy". If the old fire station were to be preserved, an architecturally sensible solution would have to be found to integrate these foundation walls into the school auditorium (by means of a glass floor?). In the case of a possible new building with an integrated facade, the synagogue foundations would not be built over, as the building would be realized closer to the street.

These multi-functional rooms or the intercultural center could of course also be used as another venue in Bruchsal, especially for meetings of young people from Germany and abroad or as an attractive place for scientific congresses and lectures. In this context, a privately operated hostel on the Steakhouse / dm (drug store) building row could also be considered, in addition to, for example, social housing or apartments for older people. The local environment should also include existing or newly built gastronomy, which would provide individual catering, but also catering for events.

The design of the two museums

Today's interactive digital possibilities give the two museums a high potential for exciting displays. In modern museums, one has long since ceased to just have to look at pages and pages of text and marvel at any finds. This could serve as a basis for the Bruchsal Municipal Museum for a reorientation, since above all the available space can be used in a more compressed and informative way with considerably increased attractiveness, especially for younger people. Thematic special events could also be planned and realized here.

Part 7: The design - Section B

The 1st upper floor

The 1st floor of the Old Fire Station or a new building could be used to move the Municipal Museum from its current hidden peripheral location in the Baroque Castle to the center of our city. The current unattractive location under the roof of the castle, accessible only by a lateral, remote staircase, would be replaced by a valuable, attractive location if it were relocated to the city center.

The current total area of the Municipal Museum is approximately 550 square meters. These are used as follows: Prehistoric Topics 147 sqm, Early Historic Excavations 90 sqm, Mineral Collection 18 sqm. Thus, the actual Municipal Museum with the topics of interest and relevance to the city's history currently occupies only about 295 square meters.

Here it is suggested that prehistoric, early historic as well as the mineral collection - these three topics have nothing to do with the actual city history. The oldest settlement, which can still be proved today, was only established in the year 640 near today's St. Peter's Church. The place was mentioned for the first time as "Bruohsella" in an imperial document of 976. The parts of the exhibition that are not relevant to the history of the city could remain in the castle and be co-managed, for example, by "Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg". These prehistoric topics could easily be dealt with here outside of the city history.

Part 7: The design - Section C

The 2nd upper floor

The 2nd upper floor of the Old Fire Station in turn offers space for the "House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden" (Haus der jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur von Baden). On 300 square meters of space, this Baden (!) museum can meaningfully present the Jewish history of this region. Here is Dr. Uri-Robert Kaufmann's proposal for the thematic arrangement of the History House. Mr Kaufmann is the managing director of the museum Alte Synagoge - Haus jüdischer Kultur in Essen.

"1. Middle Ages: "Ashkenaz", Hebrew manuscript Lake Constance region: (possibly image of the Jews in Christian art: Freiburg Cathedral) 2. early modern period: displacement to the countryside: rural Jewry: peddlers and cattle dealers, rural cemeteries (Obergrombach) 3. court factors: New foundations of urban communities: Mannheim 1655, Karlsruhe 1719, etc. 4. struggle for equal rights 1800-1862: (synagogue construction in Baden: touch screen) 5. Internal debates 1830-1880: dispute over liturgy and organ: "doctor rabbis", leaving orthodoxy Karlsruhe (1868 ff.) 6. Social advancement, urbanization 1862-1914: selected company histories (textile trade, department stores, professionals) (Bruchsal: tobacco industry, malt houses, Falk stove factory, Gebr. Katzauer paint factory). 7. first world war and Weimar period: Ludwig Marum, Nathan Stein: Oberrat der Israeliten 8. persecution, deportation Gurs October 1940, emigration: selected biographies (listening station? Oskar Althausen?) 9. reconstruction after 1945 (Levinson), immigration from the former USSR, new foundations of communities: Short statements by Jewish community members: What does tradition mean to me? How do I relate to Germany, to Israel?"

Dr. Uri-Robert Kaufmann, who directs the House of Jewish Culture located in the Old Synagogue in Essen, considers an area of 300 square meters to be sufficient for the History House, because, according to Dr. Kaufmann, "today you can "package" information in interactive stations, i.e., you don't have to present everything on panels with long texts like in the past." 

Mr. Uri Kaufmann further suggests that the history of the Jewish population of Bruchsal be given an appropriate setting in this history house, which in turn would establish a connection to the municipal museum.

Part 8: The interlocking

If it were indeed possible to relocate the Städtisches Museum Municipal Museum) to this site, additional positive savings effects would result. For example, both museums could be operated largely with the existing staff; the rental costs for the rented rooms in the castle would be eliminated.

The relocation of the Municipal Museum (Städtisches Museum) to the Old Fire Station has even more advantages. The thematic part "Judaism in Bruchsal" can be presented in the History House and the two museums (places of learning) could be "linked" via Bruchsal's Jewish fellow citizens. Their importance for a city society could be exemplified (Ludwig Marum, the Schrag family, the regional company foundations such as the Oppenheimer cloth trade or the malt factories and tobacco shops, the honorary citizen and city planner Dr. Fritz Hirsch). By focusing the Städtisches Museum on the actual history of the city, other important urban topics can be presented prominently in interactive worlds of experience that take up less space.

As a result, more exhibition space can be available in the Städtisches Museum for other important Bruchsal topics. For example, Bruchsal is "the prison metropolis" (Gefängnismetropole) in Baden. This could be done by prominently including the topics of psycha (prison for mentally disturbed), women's penal institution, but also place of execution under the heading "Penal system in Baden" ("Strafvollzug in Baden". In addition, Bruchsal and the surrounding area have repeatedly set the course for today's democracy over the centuries: Peasants' War, Revolution 1848/49, Soldiers' and Workers' Council 1919, but also Kislau, Ludwig Marum and Guillotine. This under the heading: "Resistance, revolution and freedom for Baden and Bruchsal - on the way to democracy" (Widerstand, Revolution und Freiheit für Baden und Bruchsal - auf dem Weg zur Demokratie).

Should two attractive museums, one of them with a Baden theme, be relocated directly to the city center, this will bring guests and tourists to the center of our city.

Part 9: The memorial garden

The memorial garden proposed by the architect of the district office and also by some descendants of the former Bruchsalers significantly enhances the synagogue foundation walls. This would be another attraction that would change the inner-city image and the external image of our city decisively in a positive way.

Part 10: The funding

This is a Baden or rather Baden-Württemberg project, as the name component "von Baden" in the designation "House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden" already reveals. Therefore, the state government is the first to focus on the financing of this unique project.

Should the political will exist to embark on the path to a prosperous future for our city and to an open approach to our Baden history, in addition to the acquisition of appropriate funds from the state government by the city of Bruchsal, appropriate financial support could also be obtained from sponsors, donors and benefactors. A cooperation with the district administration (Landratsamt) or the district of Karlsruhe (Landkreis) should be strived for. This could result in a win-win situation for both the district and the city, which would be to the benefit of both sides.

There are foundations in the immediate vicinity of Bruchsal and throughout Baden that support educational and research institutions, including those with a historical background. A foundation in Ludwigshafen, for example, is expressly committed to combating anti-Semitism and protecting minorities. This commitment strengthens our democracy. Precisely because the History House will not be a Holocaust memorial, it will be interesting for sponsors with such a background to get involved.

The basis for the acquisition of sponsorships and state funds should be an overall concept that includes the essential elements of the new building, as well as the plans for the Intercultural Center and the museums. The circle of friends (Förderverein) will actively participate in the acquisition of donors and sponsors after positive approval of the project.

In addition, the Friends (Förderverein) will work to spread the idea of a House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden beyond Bruchsal. In the meantime, the sponsoring association has established a circle of friends, which includes, among others, descendants, relatives and friends of former Bruchsal residents, whose parents, grandparents, meanwhile also great-grandparents, had to leave their hometown at the time of National Socialism. With their membership in the circle of friends they want to show their friendship to our city and our country as well as their interest in the idea of a Baden History House. From the ranks of the descendants of former Bruchsalers of Jewish faith there are already promises to support the project financially if it is realized.