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Unearthed and Buried again – the Remains of Verden’s Synagogue

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Verden Synagogue site, Johanniswall, 2011

Verden Synagogue site, Johanniswall, 2011

This used to be the site of Verden’s synagogue, from 1858 to 1938, before it was burnt down in the “Night of Broken Glass”. The place has been car dealer’s parking lot since early after the end of the war. In summer, the bulldozers were back. A shopping center will be built here, soon.

My guess about the future: one eighth of Verdeners may continue to add stolpersteine memorials to their city, and people will continue to traipse across them (literally, stolperstein means stumbling stone, but these won’t make you stumble), and try to put a Reichsbahn waggon next to the train station to remind people of the concentration camp transports, another quarter of Verdeners may continue to oppose  Reichsbahn waggons, and all other Verdeners will be shopping on this site, and listen to the sermons in church on christmas eve.

A small town in Germany – or: how to avoid remembering a real bit of the past.

Oh, and the foundations and underground facilities (including the mikveh, I seem to understand) were unearthed in summer, and then returned to the underground.

The Kreiszeitung referred to the location as a “place of memory”. But that was long ago, in 2010.


Written by taide

November 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Verden’s Commemoration Efforts: those Unhappy Memories

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It has been said before that the way Germans remember their former fellow citizens –  citizens murdered and expelled in the 1930s and 1940s, and many of them Jewish – may matter more to the German citizens of today, than to the actual victims, their surviving relatives and the following generations (many of whom live abroad).

This thought could make commemoration easier. It wouldn’t need to include the horrors, which can’t be adequately described anyway. People who once lived and worked here, and who worshipped their God in our town, would be remembered for the respect we owe them. People who, if this had always been a normal and decent country, could have stayed among us, rather than getting killed, or having to flee what had been their city and country, too.

Excavations on the old synagogue site, Verden, July 18, 2011

Excavations on the old synagogue site, Verden, July 18, 2011

Verden’s synagogue was inaugurated in 1858, and burnt down during the “Night of Broken Glass” (Reichskristallnacht or Reichsprogromnacht) in November, 1938. Until recently a car dealership’s location, the old site is now to become a shopping center. Excavations have begun last week.

Some eight years ago, a Verden Society for Regional History (Verein für Regionalgeschichte Verden e. V.) planned to place a Reichsbahn railway waggon at Verden Railway Station, as a site to remember the haulage of forced labourers and other nazi victims to the concentration camps. The railway waggon was arsoned on January 2007.

For the arson attack alone, the waggon had served a function after all – the attack was a clear indication that commemoration of nazi crimes was deemed undesirable by certain quarters (something that many opponents would have liked to deny). But many Verdeners – correctly – pointed out that deportations by rail had taken place from Bremen, rather than from Verden, and that for historical reasons alone, Verden’s railway station was hardly the right place for the waggon.

In April 2010, Eilert Obernolte, teacher at Verden’s Domgymnasium (one of the city’s secondary schools) and two students,  picked up a suggestion by city council member Jürgen Weidemann (FDP, liberal democrats) to find a way to commemorate the synagoge, within the shopping center concept.

While the railway waggon approach was questionable from a historian’s perspecitve, the synagogue is definitely part of Verden’s past. Now that the shopping center’s construction has begun, one wonders if and how the synagogue and Verden’s former Jewish congregation will be remembered.

Stay tuned.

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July 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm

The Recession isn’t ONLY Bad

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Prices for freehold flats in Bremen have gone down by 23.6 per cent in 2008. On average, buying such a flat in Germany came at the cost of 120,900 Euros, that’s 3.5 per cent less than in 2007. In Munich, prices went up.

There is a downward trend not only in Bremen, but also in neighbouring (or surrounding) Lower Saxony.

ugly rural residential area, Lower Saxony

ugly rural residential area, Lower Saxony

So far, this is how Verden’s local paper quotes Associated Press today. The Handelsblatt adds that one year earlier, there had been a substantial rise in Bremen’s freehold flat prices, and the decline was a correction of that earlier trend.

Either way, if sustained, this trend should do the Lower Saxonian commuter belt around Bremen,  and the Lower Saxonian hinterland in general, a lot of good. Maybe more people than before may move into the city, rather than buying property in rural “development” areas which spread in this otherwise beautiful countryside like cancer until recently.

For Sale, but at a Given Price, April 5, 2009
The Countryside – Reasons to Go, Reasons to Stay, June 7, 2008

Written by taide

September 25, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Verden means World

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Verden means “world”, explained Rolf Specht of Residenz-Gruppe Bremen. And added that Verdeners hadn’t always reacted to his corporation’s building plans in the Süderstadt in an urbane way. The Residenz-Gruppe is building a health-center there, on the hospital site. And Mr Specht is confident that the conflicts with the neighbourhood will die down now.

Mayor Lutz Brockmann, district chief executive Peter Bohlmann, investors, and other distinguished guests

Mayor Lutz Brockmann (SPD), district chief executive Peter Bohlmann (SPD), investors, and other distinguished guests

Only few neighbours had come to the the starting ceremony on the building site, reports the Verdener Aller Zeitung. Most guests were employees of the hospital on the site, members of the county council, Verden’s city council and members of public life (whatever that is).

Oh, and Mr Specht also suggested – if I can believe my local paper – that a  liberal democrat member of the city council arguably had had his own interests in mind when opposing the project.

I don’t know if he has evidence for that, or if it was just the beer. After all, the starting ceremony was a Bierfest, writes the Verdener Aller Zeitung.

I’m just glad that the Residenz-Gruppe and the city government are  selfless servants of the people of Verden.

Verdener Aller Zeitung reports Three Recoveries

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The Verdener Aller Zeitung, a local paper, reports plans which are currently discussed at the city council. One goal is to make new use of an area close to the Aller River. So far, there is a flat building encased with washed-out concrete which houses a supermarket and which mayor Lutz Brockmann says is ugly, according the papers Tuesday edition. There are no detailed plans yet, but a hotel may be included, too.

This used to be the site of Verden's synagogue (arsoned during Germany's collective "Kristallnacht" in 1938). It became the site of a car dealership after the war.

This used to be the site of Verden's synagogue (burnt down during Germany's "Kristallnacht" in 1938). It became the site of a car dealership after the war.

At the same time, a site at the Johanniswall which once lodged a car dealership shall be refurbished as a combination of retailing, services, and residence. An urban planning office in Hanover did the design, the Verdener Aller Zeitung wrote on Friday. Specialised retailers should take up some 3,000 square metres of the new place. It’s meant to be complementary to the pedestrian’s zone (Große Straße). The former synagogue which was located within the area (East of the Johanniswall and South of Lindhooper Straße) until 1938 is scheduled to be factored in with a remembrance site.

The newly-designed place will reportedly be accessible for cars from the Johanniswall and the Zollstraße.

The urban planning office from Hanover cites expert’s reports which state that no adverse effects on existing supply structures (this probably refers to existing retailers and services in the old town) are to be expected, provided that limits on the lines of business and range of products are abided by.

The smallest sales floors should be 300 to 400 square metres. The first floor will be for retailers, the second floor for flats, and the courtyard should become a car park.

The building plans are reported on the top of a page for local news. Right underneath, the Verdener Aller Zeitung reports that no real mood of [an economic] crisis seems to emerge on Verden’s job market, as the jobless rate had dropped from 6.5 to 6.2 per cent in May. “In Verden, actually a Recovery”, says the headline. This would spell 7,943 people looking for a job. Available apprenticeship positions had dropped only by 4.8 per cent, the paper quotes the employment agency and an agency which is apparently operated by the rural district.

For Sale, but at a Given Price?

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Cafe Engelhardt for sale

Cafe Engelhardt for sale

So, Verden’s estate agents don’t think that the property prices are stable, in cases of properties for  commercial use anyway (allerdings-online, April 2). We have an ageing population, less and less children (migration doesn’t catch up with that yet), we have a recession, maybe a looming depression with corresponding unemployment rates, but no likelihood that property prices are going down? The estate agents explaining the market situation are actually referring to the financial crisis as a reason as to why people may prefer properties.

In my life, I only saw “for sale” signposts in England 30 years ago. Until now, that is. During the recent eight months, I have seen such signposts popping up here in Verden, too. But then, who knows, maybe they still do sell at prices at previous levels.

mansion for sale

mansion for sale

If I was living and working in Bremen and intended to buy property in the hinterland, Verden wouldn’t be a place for me to look. Not if its estate agents’ expectations are correct. After all, I would have to add my petrol costs to the bill.

Then again, the picture according to allerdings-online isn’t entirely consistent. A Volksbank employee (position not specified) also quoted by the paper sees demand in refurbishing and mondernising houses, rather than in the classical real estate business (which probably means buying and selling properties).

Pretty often, a plan to sell the object later may be a motive for modernising, for selling “at a better price now or later. If so, supply will increase, sooner or later. And a lot will depend on the duration of the economic crisis – the longer it lasts, the more demand will slump.

As far as I can judge that, anyway. After all, I’m no expert.

Written by taide

April 5, 2009 at 7:35 pm

The British Army of the Rhine in Verden

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In January, I wrote about the Brunnenwegskaserne barracks and the new building site there. As the barracks are demolished, they are logically missing on my photos.

There are people who did a documentation online. You can find information on three formerly British barracks in Verden here – the Brunnenwegskaserne is under the third link (Shiel Barracks).

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March 27, 2009 at 7:10 pm