‘Synagogue Monument’ on Bornplatz and murals in the ‘Pferdestall’
The synagogue that once stood on Bornplatz was inaugurated in 1906. It was Hamburg’s main synagogue and the first in the city to openly face a public street. It seated 1,200 worshippers and had a 40-metre-high cupola. On account of its location and size, it became a symbol of the self-assurance and legal equality of Hamburg’s Jewish community.
Destruction of the synagogue
During the pogroms against Jewish establishments on the night of 9 November 1938 and two days later, the synagogue was desecrated and damaged, but it was not burned down like the Jewish houses of worship in other cities. In the spring of 1939, the Jewish community was forced to sell the property to the city of Hamburg for far below its market value. The city subsequently had the building torn down between June 1939 and January 1940 and forced the Jewish community to pay for the demolition.
During the war, a high-rise bunker was built next to the site. Only the ‘Aryan’ population of the Grindel quarter was allowed to take shelter in the bunker during air raids. Jewish residents of the neighbourhood had to shelter in the cellar of the neighbouring ‘Pferdestall’ (horse stable) building, which offered little protection. After 1945, the university took over the grounds and used the converted bunker as an office building and the rest of the site as a car park.
Creation of a memorial
On 9 November 1988, the 50th anniversary of the pogroms of November 1938, the Synagogue Monument designed by Margrit Kahl (born 1942) was dedicated on the site. A mosaic in the ground outlines the floor plan and vaulted ceiling of the synagogue at their original scale.
On the same day, the square was renamed Joseph-Carlebach-Platz in honour of Hamburg’s last chief rabbi during the Nazi period. A memorial plaque is located on the side of the bunker facing the Synagogue Monument. The inscription on it ends with the following appeal: ‘May the future save the descendants from injustice.’
On 29 September 2004, another panel was dedicated next to Joseph-Carlebach-Platz thanks to efforts by the Grindelhof Civic Initiative. This freestanding panel with text on both sides was financed by the company JC Decaux and recounts the history of the synagogue and the memorial site.
Between 1985 and 1988, the artist Constantin Hahm (born 1948) painted six murals in the ‘Pferdestall’ building of the University of Hamburg on behalf of the Hamburg Cultural Authority. The murals reference the history of the building. The painting in the second-floor stairway is particularly striking, with its bright, high-contrast colours. It shows the city burning and bombs falling, while stick figures painted in the red and black of the swastika flag take shelter in the high-rise bunker. Two other stick figures painted in the yellow of the ‘Jewish star’ are hunched in the cellar of the ‘Pferdestall’ in the background.