Unsichtbare Synagogen

A photographic project by Štěpán Bartoš about the Jewish places of worship in Bohemia that disappeared during the Protectorate period, the post-war period 1945-1948 and the long period of communist totalitarianism until 1989.

About the project

On the territory where today the state entity Czech Republic is located, during certain period of the last century two criminal regimes ruled, which caused immeasurable personal and material damage. Since 1938 it was the German National Socialism and in the post-war period the communism imported from the Soviet Union. Both totalitarian systems had several things in common. One of them was anti-Semitism – whether loudly vulgarly declared in Germany or partially disguised as a fight against Zionism in Stalinist Czechoslovakia.

The tragedies it caused for millions are now common knowledge. In addition to wasted lives, this period also brought great damage to Jewish material culture.

Since the Middle Ages, synagogues have been at the center of the religious, educational and social life of Jewish communities. The 19th century, in particular, brought considerable emancipation, which manifested itself outwardly in remarkable architectural achievements, often inspired by the diverse architectural styles of the past.

The synagogue thus became an unmissable part of the urban design of many Czech towns and villages. Sometimes as a stately temple at a prestigious address, elsewhere and more often as a more modest building in the Jewish quarter of the village.

However, already the first half of the 20th century brought a certain decline. Some Jewish communities disappeared, religious life was concentrated in larger congregations, and many synagogues no longer served religious purposes or were used only sporadically. A decisive turning point was the Nazi pogrom in November 1938, known as “Kristallnacht,” which in an instant caused irreparable damage to the buildings and especially to the interior furnishings, which were desecrated and destroyed in the territory of Czechoslovakia, which had already been separated at that time.

The whole subsequent period – the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the post-war period 1945-1948 and the long period of communist totalitarianism until 1989 completed the work of destruction. The synagogues without their mostly murdered visitors fell into disrepair, were rebuilt and devalued. The regime, with no regard for history and no sense of beauty, redeveloped entire neighborhoods for the construction of soulless housing developments, oversized parking lots, or ostentatious communist palaces.

In the photos we see the places where synagogues used to stand. Most of them disappeared between 1938 and 1989. Sometimes it is obvious that “something is missing” in the picture – only the synagogue has disappeared and other buildings in similar architectural style have remained. This is especially true of the aftermath of Kristallnacht in the Sudetenland. Mostly, however, it is difficult to imagine the original urban situation of a place through which the so-called construction of socialism swept. It was sometimes quite difficult for the author to find the right place for the creation of the picture…

Exhibitions

In addition to a website that shows all the photographed locations, several photo exhibitions with a selection of the locations will be presented in the Czech Republic and Germany. In the exhibition objects, the surface of the photographs will be mechanically or thermally processed to suggest the outlines of the synagogues that previously stood there.

Kreismusikschule Dreiländereck, Zittau
29.09.2021 - 15.10.2021

Galerie nEUROPA, Dresden
15.10.2021 - 01.12.2021
Vernissage 15. Oktober 2021, 20:00 Uhr

Unsichtbare Synagogen – Neviditelné synagogy

A photographic project by Štěpán Bartoš about the Jewish places of worship in Bohemia that disappeared during the Protectorate period, the post-war period 1945-1948 and the long period of communist totalitarianism until 1989.

Zeitraum
07.2021 – 12.2021

Projektträger
Art Space NOV, Pardubice, Tschechien

Projektbeteiligte Art Space NOV
Štěpán Bartoš, Fotograf, Autor und Projektkoordinator
Mgr. Renáta Růžičková, SOA Pardubice, Historikerin, Forscherin
Anna Vavrečková, Webmaster
Ing. Jan Sláma, Consultant

Projektbeteiligte Kultur Aktiv
Simon Wolf, Ausstellungskurator

Gefördert durch