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Alexander Dettmar · Painting to Remember

The Destroyed Synagogues of Germany

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.

200 pages | 108 color plates, 21 halftones | 9 1/2 x 11 | © 2010

Art: European Art

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Table of Contents

Combined German/English Edition

     Dr. Jürgen Wilhelm and Harry K. Voigtsberger
Stones and Traces
     Hellmut Seemann
Painting to Remember
     Carol Kahn Strauss
The Destroyed Synagogues of Germany
     Ismar Schorsch
Sorrow at the Loss
     Alexander Bergmann
1938—Destroyed German Synagogues
    Bernd Kauffmann
Painting from Forgottenness
     Horst Dahlhaus
"And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them."
     Benjamin David Soussan

Paintings and Main Text
The Synagogue—The Pivot of Jewish Life
     Thomas Ridder
German Synagogues Across Three Centuries: Symbols of Self-Assertion and a Desire for Integration
     Veit Veltzke

Dates and Facts—The Synagogues Painted by Alexander Dettmar
Picture Credits

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