Former synagogue of the city of Görlitz
Görlitz hosts one of Germany’s most significant synagogues. It was built between 1909 and 1911 and is the only synagogue in Saxony to survive the 1938 Pogrom Night. The imposing building reflects the self-belief of Görlitz’ Jewish community at the start of the 20th century: their pride, their modernity, their self-confident openness towards their by majority Christian fellow town’s people.
Since their expulsion in the 14th century the Jews could only return to Görlitz in the middle of the 19th century. The Jewish community grew rapidly and boasted nearly 700 members by 1890. An earlier synagogue established in 1853 and situated in 43 Langestraße soon proved too small. Thus the parish put in place a fund for the building of a new synagogue as early as 1870. Especially the merchants Emmanuel Alexander-Katz and Martin Ephraim as well as the Rabbi Siegfried Freund worked tirelessly towards the realization of the project The committee set up in 1909 and chaired by Alexander-Katz put the building to tender. Bids were received from all over Germany. William Lossow and Hans Max Kühne from Dresden, who were amongst the most renowned architects of their era were awarded the contract. Besides many other important buildings their company designed the Dresden Theater and the Main Railway Station in Lipsia. The foundation for the new Görlitz Synagogue was laid on May 19th, 1909. As early as March 7th, 1911 the completed structure was inaugurated.
With its cubic containment, compact shape and monumental proportions the Görlitz Synagogue represents one of the most impressive examples for the building style of synagogues at the beginning of the 20th century. At that time the formerly preferred orientalised style was abandoned in favour of a quest for a more present-day architecture of Jewish houses of worship.
In Görlitz a synthesis of traditional influences and contemporary building ideas led to unique solutions. The construction of concrete on a steal skeleton was technologically innovative. The choice of a domed centre responds to influences from the reform movement within the Protestant church building style around 1900. The front entrance with a low gable Lisene division and richly ornamented building details mimics a temple of the late classical antiquity period. The interior design draws on ideas taken from the Eastern Polish wooden synagogues transposing their painted interiors rich in colors and symbols into a modern context. Dominating the stucco decoration of the dome are: the Seven Armed Chandelier, the Menora and the Lion, the emblem of the tribe of Juda. Leafy laurels and scales are also to be found. Intensive colours interlink with pointedly utilized gilding. The design of the lions alludes to Babylonian models. On top of the domineering domed tower visible from far and near was resplendent the Star of David.
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If you cross the city bridge "Johannes Paul II" you soon see the "Dom Kultury" towering above the surrounding trees, the former "Oberlausitzer Gedenkhalle with Kaiser Friedrich Museum" (Hall of Fame). After several years of preparation and discussion this building was built on the basis of an architectural competition in 1897. The Hall of Fame was opened in November 1902 in the presence of Emperor Wilhelm II in the German Empire.
Today, after World War II, the building is moved to the Miejski Dom Kultury w Zgorzelecu, the municipal cultural center of Zgorzelec. Art exhibitions, photo exhibitions, club evenings, cinema events and concerts take place here. Numerous events of the partner cities Görlitz-Zgorzelec were carried out here in the past years. Incidentally the roof of the building was a popular location for photographers such as Robert Scholz, where the trees were still very low but today panoramas are difficult to achieve. When you enter the large hall the staircase immediately turns up and when you look up the view opens into a huge glass dome. Bronze plates on the gallery bear witness to statues of people from the imperial era. In the basement rooms, the well-known Zgorzelec photography group "Nadir" had their club rooms.
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The Görlitz Theater, built by Gustav Kießler, is also called the „small Semperoper”. It was opened on October 2, 1851.
In 2011 the Theater Görlitz merged with the Zittau Theater to form the Gerhart-Hauptmann-Theater Görlitz-Zittau (GHT), named after the Nobel laureate Gerhart Hauptmann from Silesia. Music Theater, drama, dance of the in-house wee dance company as well as concerts of the New Lusatian Philharmonic arise at the two production sites in Görlitz and Zittau.
In addition to repertoire works the theater offers new productions and modern commissioned works every year. The program is complemented by a puppet theater, a youth theater and numerous guest performances by renowned artists. The "International Street Theater Festival ViaThea" has been held in summer annually since 1995.