The synagogue as a prayer room

The synagogue in Memmelsdorf (Lower Franconia) was built in 1728/29. The architect of the square sandstone building (Ground plan: 13 by 13 metres) was presumably Johann Georg Salb, who also restored the Protestant parish church in Memmelsdorf in 1722 – Jews were not allowed to become craftsmen at the time.

Main room, interior view before 1916, towards the east wall<br>© 1916 R. Oldenbourg Verlag

[ Main room, interior view before 1916, towards the east wall
© 1916 R. Oldenbourg Verlag ]

The building was continually altered during the course of its use. The floor of the main room was initially paved with sandstone and the pews were placed along the walls, aligned towards the octagonal reading desk (Almemor) in the middle of the room. The wooden barrel vault above was replaced by a flat ceiling in the 19th century and around 1914 and the pews were placed on wooden platforms, facing the Torah shrine on the east wall. In addition, square embossed floor tiles were laid over the sandstone slabs and the Almemor was extended.

Between the completion of the building in 1729 and the last redecoration in 1925, seven different wall designs and five different versions of the ceiling can be identified in the main room. The final wall decoration was wine-red contrasted in white, on a blue-grey background and enclosed in a zigzag frieze.

There were two further rooms located at the north side of the main room; accommodation for the Jewish teacher on the ground floor and the women’s gallery above, whose large windows covered with wooden ornamental lattices provided a view of the prayer room. In front of the main entrance on the south side, there was originally a porch from which one descended into the main room.

The synagogue in Memmelsdorf was used as a place of worship for 210 years. From May 1938, because of the low number of members, the Jewish community entered into negotiations with the regional association of Jewish communities for the sale of the building. On 10 November 1938, SA storm troopers forced the male members of the community to tear out all movable objects from the synagogue and burn them in a field outside the village. The building itself was not destroyed on account of the proximity of the surrounding houses, and on 10 August 1939, it was sold to the Memmelsdorf municipality by the Jewish community. Of the interior fittings, only the Torah shrine built of stone survived the devastation almost intact.