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Wednesday, August 12, 1998 Published at 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK


Virtual synagogues on Net rise from Nazi ashes

Draft for Frankfurt's Börneplatz synagogue

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
Architecture students in Germany are rebuilding synagogues destroyed by the Nazis, in a virtual project viewable over the Internet.

The re-creation of up to 15 synagogues is in part a protest at the rise in violence against foreigners in Germany. The idea came to Marc Grellert, a student turned lecturer at Darmstadt Technical University, after an arson attack on one of Germany's remaining synagogues in the town of Lübeck in 1994.

[ image: Haupt synagogue - CAD]
Haupt synagogue - CAD
"I wanted to do something to remind people that Jews were very much a part of German society before the Nazis," he says.

Rebuilding from plans and memories

More than a thousand synagogues were destroyed in 1938 alone, but three in Frankfurt have now been rebuilt with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) in a pilot project for the scheme.

They are highly-detailed three-dimensional renderings put together from blueprints, photos and the descriptions of those who had worshipped inside.

Already the models have provoked responses from around the world, including an American who said he was moved to see the synagogue his father had visited.

In search of sponsorship

The Federal Education Ministry has made a grant equivalent to more than $50,000 for the first three synagogues to be "rebuilt" by students as part of their course work in the coming academic year.

Synagogues have been chosen for their distinctive architectural styles, a Moorish look in Cologne, a Bauhaus style in Plauen and the very Germanic neo-Romanic style of one in Hanover, which emphasised how the Jewish community was once tightly-knit with German society.

[ image: Blue dome in Haupt synagogue]
Blue dome in Haupt synagogue
With many such communities now having disappeared and the sites built over, it is unlikely the synagogues will ever be reconstructed in reality.

But the city of Nuremberg has agreed to sponsor the project and pay for one of its old synagogues to be revived on computer.

Dortmund is also considering this and other cities may also provide sponsorship. The team at Darmstadt University hopes that enough money will be pledged to finance CAD models of 15 synagogues.

Marc Grellert has the support of Jewish groups, but does not want them to contribute any money. He says non-Jews among Germans should pay for the virtual reconstruction of synagogues destroyed by the Nazis.

The CAD models may also be used in films educating people about the culture that was destroyed.

"Hopefully the project will remind people that synagogues were once part of the skyline in nearly every major German city," he says.

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