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The Fruankirche (Church of Our lady) in the central market square in the old city of Nuremberg which is on the site of a synagogue destroyed in 1349
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

The Star of David on the "bimah" of the Frauenkirche church in the central market square of Nuremberg.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Ed Murray, June 1, 2016




[Editor's note: Readers of this publication may remember that in 2013 I traveled to Nuremberg Germany and went inside the Frauenkirche church in Nuremberg which was built on the remains of what used to be a synagogue of the Jewish ghetto of the Middle Ages. The Jewish community of Nuremberg, which became the centre of the Nazi party, was completely destroyed and going into the Frankenkirche I spotted a Star of David near the alter, but I could not figure out why it was there. My 2013 article can be accessed here . ]


Recently, some three years later, I received an answer to this question from Edward Murray, who was stationed in Nuremberg with the US Army who has some fascinating information relating to Nuremberg in general and its Jewish history, which is set out below].


I am in the middle of trying to track down a practice that was in effect at the Frauenkirche in Nuremberg in the 1960s which was a special ringing of the churches bells at 6 p.m. in atonement for the treatment of Jews going back to the 1200's when I ran across your 2013 article on Frauenkirche where you ask questions about the origin of the Star of David near the altar.

It was added at the time of restoration of the church following WWII and my guess is that the practice of ringing the bells in atonement was added at the same time, More detail on this here.

My understanding of the ringing of the bells was this was symbolic of notice given to the Jews of Nurnberg to return to the ghetto where they were required to be after 6pm, but I have found nothing on the web to even confirm that this was/is being done so don't know to what extent this is true.

You indicate in your article that you were going to do a follow up article on Nuremberg so I used your search function and ran across a more recent article that you wrote about the Stadium. Readers can access this article
here .

I was in Nuremberg from 1967-69 in the US Army and stationed at what had been the SS facility adjacent to the Stadium known as Sud Kaserne. At one point, I met an older German who had worked there during WWII who indicated that my offices were in a section where the SS prepared propaganda used to indoctrinate German soldiers in the glories of the Third Reich.

We had nominal authority over the Stadium and Hall of Nations and in either 1968 or 1969 decided that we needed to demolish the columns that rose behind the reviewing stand because they were in danger of falling down. My unit which was a combat engineer company was given the assignment of blowing these up. The plan was to say nothing to the Germans and just blow them all in one day starting early in the morning. However, just about everything went wrong in this job since our training was in blowing things up, not carefully demolishing structures like this so after one fiasco after another, the project was halted and a contract was awarded to a German demolition company. The columns were still standing when I left Nuremberg in June of 1969, but I know at that point, the contract had been awarded to a company and the only hold up was that now that this was public, various local and federal government offices wanted to weigh in on the necessity of doing this or possibly blowing up the entire structure along with the Hall of Nations building.

One other aspect of this came to light while I was there. We had an Atomic Demolitions Munitions unit as part of our company. Because they had nuclear weapons, the security was extremely high.

During a physical security inspection of the unit which was in the basement of our building, it was discovered that what was thought to be a solid brick wall was in fact an entrance to a massive underground structure that likely provided a direct underground link to the Hall or Nations and/or the Stadium.

The facility included tanks and other vehicles and massive weapons storage areas. It was decided that it was unsafe for further exploration and sealed off.

I have a burning curiosity about another aspect of Nuremberg's Jewish quarter from the 1350's.

My wife's grandfather was dying of cancer and for the first time spoke with his wife and children about the loss of his family during the Shoah. He had migrated to Israel as a part of a youth group shortly before the Nazis occupied the little shtetl where he was born.

He had met only a single survivor from Shereshevo. I decided to do some research on the shtetl and the fate of the 3,000 or so inhabitants at the beginning of WWII. I was able to find 6 of 14 survivors and considerable information about the history of the shtetl which suggested that it was settled around 1350, a date I was very familiar with because of what had happened in Nuremberg. My wife's grandfather was able to speak with each of the survivors by phone including a Canadian who had been a boyfriend of his sister.

There is a story, though I have no idea how much of it is historical fact, that the grand synagogue in Shereshevo which was described as "in the Italian style" was a gift of Bona Sforza, daughter of the Duke of Milan and queen of Poland. The story is that she was visiting various royal estates and was stung by a swarm of bees and taken to Shereshevo to be treated by a doctor there. As a gift, she gave the shtetl which at the time probably didn't have more than a few hundred people a magnificent synagogue.

Destroyed even before the Nazis arrived in Shereshevo in a fire, I found several pictures of the synagogue before its destruction and it struck me that it was nearly identical to pictures I had seen of the Great Synagogue in Nuremberg which was destroyed in 1349.

Since the synagogue was the gift of an Italian, perhaps the similarity is simply that she hired an Italian architect to design the synagogue. It is also not surprising that the Great Synagogue in Nuremberg would also be described as being "in the Italian style" since Nuremberg in the 1200-1300's was the northern terminus of trade with the northern duchies of Italy including Milan and Vicenza.

But, it has peaked my curiosity over the possibility that the original Jewish settlers of Shereshevo might have been refugees from the pogrom of 1349 in Nuremberg given both the chronological coincidence and the similarities of the synagogues, especially given that the one in Shereshevo was grand far beyond the size of the population of the shtetl when it was built.

Die! Enough!


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