Alexander Dettmar · Painting to Remember
The Destroyed Synagogues of Germany
Distributed for Hirmer Publishers
On the evening of November 9, 1938 the synagogues in almost all of Germany’s towns and cities went up in flames. The artist Alexander Dettmar has made it his task to save this lost cultural heritage from total oblivion by capturing the burnt-down buildings in his paintings.
In reality Alexander Dettmar (b. 1953 in Freiburg) is a restless artist, always on the move, whose studio is the public space: streets and squares. In his pictures he captures the architecture of those old buildings which have survived. For his series of destroyed German synagogues, of course, he has had to break with this working method. For what was destroyed and annihilated by the collapse of civilized life in Germany cannot now be viewed from close up. In the space of just one night, more than 2,500 synagogues and other centers of Jewish life were destroyed and razed.
Alexander Dettmar’s contribution to the cultural legacy starts with these irretrievably lost sites. Using photographs, construction blueprints, and reports of those who knew the buildings, he paints the vanished synagogues and thus restores them to our imagination. After being shown in New York, the pictures will now be on show in the Preussen-Museum Nordrhein-Westfalen and in the Jüdisches Museum Westfalen, among other places. The book has reproductions of all 99 synagogue pictures by Alexander Dettmar; only very few of their subjects are still extant. Articles by historians, eye-witnesses, and leading representatives of Jewish cultural life give personal views of Alexander Dettmar’s work, placing the synagogues in their historical context. An appendix provides historical data on each of the buildings depicted.