In the middle of Prenzlauer Berg is the biggest synagogue in Berlin. The Synagoge Rykestraße survived the Nazis and the war almost unscathed.
The second-biggest Jewish place of worship in Europe not only survived survived the Nazis and the Second World War largely undamaged, but also the general neglect of the area in the GDR. Berlin’s largest synagogue, near Kollwitzplatz, has a history to be proud of.
The history of the Synagoge Rykestraße: another synagogue for Berlin
The expansion of the Jewish community in Berlin at the beginning of the 20th century made it necessary to build another large synagogue in the city. The architect Johann Hoeniger designed the building in the Neo-Romanesque style. After 10 months of construction it was ceremonially inaugurated in 1904. The synagogue in Prenzlauer Berg still has room for 2000 worshippers today.
The front building of the Rykestraße synagogue is also a place of learning. In the beginning, it was purely a religious school, then a primary school opened in 1922, followed a few years later by a private school for the Jewish community. One of the teachers there was Lilli Henoch, holder of several athletics world records.
When the Nazis took power in 1933 the teaching and activities at the Jewish school association changed focus. From this time on there was increased interest in preparing the pupils for Aliyah, emigration to Palestine to escape from the fascist regime.
After the November Pogrom
Of course, the synagogue in Rykestraße was in the sights of the Nazis on 9 November 1938. Its location in a densely populated urban residential area meant that the Nazis were unable to burn it down. They destroyed the interior of the building instead. In April 1940 the building was confiscated and used by the Wehrmacht as stables and a storehouse. The synagogue survived the Second World War bombing raids without any lasting damage.
After extensive renovation, the building was dedicated again by Rabbi Martin Riesenburger in 1953. When Germany and Berlin were divided, the synagogue became the centre of Jewish life in East Berlin. A three-year renovation project from 2004 to 2007 was headed by Ruth Golan and Kay Zareh, with the aim of making the original condition of the synagogue in 1904 visible again. The project – financed by many sponsors – was completed in 2007 and the synagogue was reopened with a ceremony to bring in the Torah rolls.