Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. I, No. 2 / Summer 1997
Wroclaw Synagogue Returned to Community

Wroclaw Synagogue Returned to Jewish Community

In 1945, all property in the former German area of Wroclaw (formerly Breslau), Poland was nationalized by the communist Polish government. This property included the famous White Stork (German name is Zum Weißem Storch) Synagogue, built in 1827-29 following designs by Karl Ferdinand Langhans, Jr.

The three-story neoclassical building is notable for its giant Corinthian pilasters on the east and west facades and other exterior classical detailing. Inside, there are two levels of galleries to the north and south (see C.H. Krinsky, Synagogues of Europe, 1985, 1996, pp. 325-27 for photos and fuller description) and a single gallery on the east (ark) wall.

The synagogue served as a prayer house until 1968 and as early as 1966, Wroclaw's Jewish community requested the formal transfer of rights. The request was denied, and the synagogue was deeded to the University of Wroclaw in 1974. In 1989, it was given to the Academy of Music which sold the building in 1992 to a private firm.. The Jewish community officially informed the government in the spring of 1992 that it wished to regain control of the synagogue as provided by general restitution laws of Poland regarding religious property seized by the communist government. Not until April 21, 1995, after long and difficult negotiations legal action and input from international supporters, did the Council of Ministers in Warsaw issue a decision that returned the synagogue to the Jewish Community of Wroclaw. This year’s restitution law should formalize that decision.

A grant for the renovation of the Synagogue was awarded in 1995 by the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation, but could not be used until title was clarified. Restoration work has now begun. The original wooden ark is partly preserved in the Museum of the History of Wroclaw and ISJM member Eleonora Bergman reports that the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw has a wonderful photo (c. 1930) of the synagogue's interior, showing this ark and other fittings. ISJM members with other documentation about this synagogue are urged to share it with ISJM and the restoration team.

For more information write Jerzy Kichler, ul. Wlodkowica 9, 50-072 Wroclaw, or Union of Polish Jewish Communities Warsaw, ul. Twarda 6, 00-105 Warsaw.

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