Haus der jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur von Baden

The Bruchsal Synagogue 1881 to 1938

The Bruchsal Synagogue around 1900. Photo: private

After the Bruchsal Jewish community had grown to over 700 members in the 1870s, the construction of a new synagogue became unavoidable.

In September 1881, the Jewish community celebrated the consecration of the synagogue in a building constructed from its own funds for 140,000 Marks.

Contemporary newspaper report: "This building [doing credit] is just as much a joy to the Israelite community as it is to the whole city".

The striking building was renovated between 1926 and 1928. The interior was repainted by the Bruchsal-born painter Leo Kahn (1894 - 1983), a much-noticed "unheard-of undertaking".


Wilhelm Sedlmayer, art historian, 1929: "For decades, even centuries, Leo Kahn has made his name imperishable here, and later local art history will never be able to silently get over this work".

After completion of the renovation work, the synagogue was consecrated again in April 1928 with the great participation of the population.

In the night from November 9 to November 10, 1938, synagogues burst into flames in many German cities. Fanatics were also found in Bruchsal, who desecrated the synagogue and set it on fire.

Interior view of the Bruchsal Synagogue after the renovation in 1927/28 with the new murals by Leo Kahn. Photo: Bruchsal City Archive

Ernest W. Michel, Holocaust survivor: "The whole building was surrounded by the flames. The brown shirts of the SA had taken everything they could find and thrown it on a pile in the street. 'Burn the Jews! Burn the Jews!' they sang. After a few minutes the fire brigade arrived. But they made no effort to extinguish the synagogue."

Hans Schmitt, 1938 altar boy in Bruchsal: "When we came [to the synagogue] we saw that it was ablaze. We were standing near a hydrant where a firefighter was tampering with. From the house next to the synagogue [...] the rabbi came running. He went to the fireman and begged with a pleading voice: 'They're finally splashing! He answered: 'We have no water! But that wasn't true."

Unknown contemporary witness: "I was at the scene of the fire then. The SA men standing around were all in uniform. The Jew Aron Kahn, who stood next to me, said: 'This will be rebuilt!'".

The terrible events of the following years are known to all of us and led to the persecution, deportation and murder of our Jewish fellow citizens. In 1939, the Second World War, which cost the lives of 80 million people, was unleashed by Nazi Germany. On March 1, 1945, about 1,000 people died in Bruchsal in an air raid.

Already in September 1939 the city acquired the synagogue property and blew up the ruin. At the beginning of the 1950s, the property was legally transferred to the city of Bruchsal through a contract with the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO).

The Bruchsal Synagogue after its destruction in November 1938. Photo: City Archive Bruchsal

Shortly afterwards a fire station was built on this site and moved into in November 1953. This is the only case known to this day that a fire station was later built on the site of a synagogue whose fire was not extinguished by the fire brigade.

Rainer Kaufmann, book author and journalist: "Paul Schrag, book author with Jewish roots in Bruchsal, told me that he had been in Bruchsal again for the first time since he emigrated, had of course searched for the site of the former synagogue and found a fire station there. For a long time, he looked at me in silence and with a reproachful, almost desperate look, only to say: "Don't you know that you can't do that!" Don't you know you can't do that? I have not forgotten this sentence to this day. And what you are not allowed to do is still reality in Bruchsal today. Without any discussion. It is just like that."

© Rolf Schmitt, Bruchsal