Jewish life is omnipresent in Freiburg. During his city tour, Leakatzev shows how Judaism shapes the urban landscape and speaks to people about Jewish daily life in Germany.
Editorial note: This text was studied and written by a student as part of the BZ newspaper project at school.
You all know Freiburg as a predominantly Catholic city. But did you know that Freiburg also has many Jewish traces? Do you really know all these tracks? I will take you on a short tour of the city of Freiburg and show you some of these tracks.
Let’s start with the Freiburg Cathedral. The first thing you think of is a purely Catholic church, but if you look closely you will find many Jewish features in the cathedral, such as the contrasts of synagogue and ecclesia in the windows, or even the famous Edith Stein window at the back of the minister. (Editor’s note: Edith Stein was a German philosopher and women’s rights activist with Jewish roots. She was later baptized and joined a Catholic order. She died in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1942 and is now revered as a saint and martyr. )
We continue towards the new synagogue, which is located a few meters from the cathedral. Here I spoke with a Jew from Freiburg, Nikita Karavaev, about his attitude towards the Jewish religion:
hiss: What fascinates you about the Jewish religion?
Karavaev: I am fascinated by the consistency, tradition and specific rules of our religion, which have lasted for centuries. It is also important to me that the holidays and commandments have a real connection with our current life.
“We in the Jewish community have been waiting for a so-called security barrier from the city of Freiburg for ten years and are only now seeing progress. There have been many problems in the past, but the situation is improving.” Nikita Karavaev
hiss: Do you experience Freiburg as a friendly city of Jews? What would you like to see in Freiburg in terms of Judaism?
Karavaev: Freiburg is beautiful and there are much more problematic areas. But in my opinion there are some construction sites in Freiburg. An example of this is security. We in the Jewish community have been waiting for a so-called security barrier from the city of Freiburg for ten years and are only now seeing progress. There have been a lot of problems in the past, but the situation is improving. In recent years, communication with the city has improved significantly, so much so that the number of problems in everyday life has decreased. In my opinion, situational awareness just isn’t there. This is one thing we really want: that people become more aware of this.
hiss: What message do you want to give to people on their way?
Karavaev: I think the idea that you should treat others the way you would like to be treated is very right and important.
Continuing with the tour: Then we arrive in the historic center of Freiburg and pass some former Jewish department stores, for example the Knopf department store. The Jewish department stores were all sold at a ridiculous price after the November pogroms of 1938, to be more precise, the owners were forced to sell. (Editor’s note: On the night of November 9, 1938, thousands of shops, synagogues and Jewish homes in Germany were robbed and destroyed. Hundreds of Jews were killed by the Nazis and thousands were taken to concentration camps.) The business is an exceptional case that many Freiburg residents know: the Rees leather shop. This belonged to the Jewish Mayer family, who were able to sell their business to their employee, Mr. Rees, at a good price. Finally we arrive at the square of the Old Synagogue. Here you can see all the shallow black fountain, which traces the outline of the ancient synagogue and forms the monument to the ancient synagogue. The old synagogue was also destroyed on the night of the pogroms in November 1938. I hope you enjoyed the little imaginary city tour and perhaps you found yourself fascinated by the Jewish history of Freiburg. I can only motivate you to go out and discover the Jewish traces for yourself.
Finally, I will ask a few more questions to Frank Hack, a history and ethics teacher at the Franco-German high school. Hack also dealt with Jewish history and founded a working group (AG) to train students to become city guides on Jewish history.
“On the other hand, the enormous importance of education in Jewish culture, which since the 19th century has meant that a small minority of less than one percent of the population has made a huge contribution to German intellectual history.” Frank Hack
hiss: What fascinates you about Jewish history?
Hack: There are three things: on the one hand, the unifying power of religion, which allowed Jewish culture not to die for 2000 years, although Jews had been dispersed around the world since 70 AD On the other hand, the enormous importance education in Jewish culture, which since the 19th century has meant that a small minority of less than one percent of the population has made a huge contribution to German intellectual history. Just think of names like Albert Einstein, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg and many others. I am also fascinated by the complexity that makes simple answers difficult. On the one hand, there has been a growing emancipation for Jews in Germany since the 1800s, so that, for example, since 1862 the Jews of Baden have been allowed to return to the cities. And on the other hand, the new racist anti-Semitism, which the Nazis then took up again. But the Israeli-Palestinian affair is also particularly exciting for me because there is no clear definition of good and evil, but unfortunately there are no easy solutions either.
hiss: How did the idea of founding an AG came about?
Hack: I have been doing larger historical projects for years. I also work with the planners of the NS Documentation Center in Freiburg. They came up with the idea of developing digital learning games about Jewish history with schoolchildren. In order to have a sufficient number of interested parties, I founded the AG. Before they took part in the first workshops with the documentation center, I wanted to get them technically in shape.