Jewish Heritage

Saxony’s history has substantially been influenced by members of the Jewish communities. After all Jews had been expelled in the 15th century and were only welcome as participants of the Leipzig trade fairs, Elector Augustus the Strong appointed Behrend Lehmann as his Court Jew in 1696. Without his help, Augustus would not have ascended to the Polish throne one year later. In the 19th century, synagogues were re-established and, in 1869, Jews were awarded all civic rights. The Jewish communities grew and prospered und Jewish personalities left a strong imprint on economics, culture and politics. Before the Nazis‘ rise to power, more than 20.000 Jews lived in Saxony, not only in the three large cities of Leipzig, Dresden and Chemnitz, but also in Plauen, Zwickau, Freiberg, Aue, Döbeln and Görlitz, part of Silesia at that time.

After the Holocaust, the difficult times of the GDR and the German Reunification, a formal treaty between the state of Saxony and the Jewish community was signed in 1994. New synagogues were erected in Dresden and Chemnitz and the former synagogue of Görlitz was re-opened as a cultural center in 2021. The Jewish communities in Leipzig, Dresden and Chemnitz have more than 2.500 members today and Jewish culture is celebrated in various festivals throughout the year.

Jewish heritage in Görlitz

  • Since Görlitz was part of the Prussian province of Silesia before World War II, having been taken away from Saxony in 1815, Jewish families were allowed to settle in Görlitz from 1847, earlier than in Saxony.

  • Mikwa: There had been Jewish life in the Middle Ages and a mikwa in the cellar of today’s hotel „Paul Otto“ is witness to the Jewish quarter from that time

  • Old Synagogue: A synagogue was dedicated in 1853, which now serves as a house of literature, helping to preserve the Jewish heritage of Görlitz.

  • New Synagogue: The new Jewish community prospered and built a larger synagogue, which was completed in 1911. A highly modern building designed by star architects Lossow & Kühne, it is one of only 12 synagogues in Germany which survived the destruction during Nazi times. It has recently been fully restored and re-opened as a cultural center. It is also equipped in such a way that Jewish services can take place again.

  • Jewish cemetery: Sadly, the Jewish population either fled from the Nazi regime or was killed. The Jewish cemetery is a reminder of the past, and unlike others, it is open to the public almost every day.

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