Long-forgotten foundations of Łódź Great Synagogue found by builders
The foundations of Łódź’s Great Synagogue which was destroyed during WWII by marauding Germans has been uncovered by builders.
The find came during construction work on an ambitious mainline tunnel under the city centre that will link the Fabryczna and Kaliska railway stations.
One of the most important buildings in Łódź before the war, the Great Synagogue was used by the city’s community of reformed Jews.
Following the outbreak of WWII, it was burnt to the ground by the Germans shortly after they annexed the city into the Third Reich in 1939.
A year later, what was left of the synagogue was demolished. The building was never rebuilt. Over 20 years ago, the Jewish community sold the site.
A market operated there for a while and later a petrol station, though during its construction, the foundations were not found. Until recently, the site was used as a car park.
The discovery was made in the very heart of the city at the corner of Kościuszki avenue and Zielona street just yards from the city’s main thoroughfare Piotrkowska.
All work that could affect the foundations has now stopped and there are fears that the discovery could delay the completion of the tunnel.
Mirosław Siemieniec, spokesman for PKP Polskie Linii Kolejowych, said: “In accordance with the regulations on the protection of historical monuments, work that may affect the remains of the Great Synagogue have been stopped.
“The site has been properly secured by the contractor. Archaeological work is being conducted by the provincial heritage conservation office using all available means,” said
Though the discovery has electrified the local historical community in Łódź, it has also caused controversy. The city’s Jewish Community feels it has not been adequately informed.
Józef Weininger, the President of the Jewish Community in Łódź said: “We are told that we are not a party in this matter because years ago we sold the plot of land. This is true, but if this place is important for the multiculturalism of Łódź, we would like to take part in the dialogue.”
The synagogue goes back to the mid-nineteenth century, when a group of progressive Jews appeared in Łódź. They broke with orthodox traditions in terms of customs and dress, as well as in the way they practised their religion.
Relations between the Orthodox Jewish population and the progressive Jews were difficult and even hostile. Eventually, it was decided to build and new synagogue.
The impressive Great Synagogue was built in 1881-1887 on Spacerowa street, today Kościuszki avenue, with financial support from factory owners in Łódź, including Izrael Poznański and Karol Scheibler.
A description of the building at the time read: “It is indeed a magnificent edifice, both in its impressive exterior and in its harmonious interior, full of taste and ornamentation. The whole has a Moorish character, with a touch of Byzantine and Renaissance.”
The interior of the synagogue was also richly decorated. It had an oriental character with many polychromes. The walls and the vaults were decorated with mosaics.
This synagogue was intended for wealthy Jews and those who had assimilated with Polish culture.
Orthodox Jews did not go there. Prayers were held in Polish, and on Polish national holidays patriotic celebrations were held. If poorer Jews from the city wanted to attend, they had to buy a ticket.
The Germans burned the synagogue down on the night of 10 November, destroying the sacred Torah scrolls and the lush fittings of the interior.
The only reminders of the former building are a stone memorial and a huge banner with an image of the former building on the wall of a neighbouring tenement.