For the first time, Germany may submit Jewish heritage sites to UNESCO for consideration for inclusion on UNESCO’s roster of world cultural heritage.
According to an article by Charles Hawley in Der Spiegel, four of more than two dozen sites submitted by German states for a national review board for possible inclusion in future UNESCO applications are Jewish sites. They include:
– The Weissensee Cemetery in Berlin, the largest intact Jewish cemetery in Europe, encompassing 100 acres and 115,000 graves. Deutsch Welle describes the campaign to get this cemetery recognized.
– The Jewish Cemetery at Altona, near Hamburg, which was founded in 1611, making it the oldest Portuguese Jewish cemetery in Europe. It has finely carved tombs.
– The Old Synagogue in Erfurt, in the eastern German state of Thuringia. With construction begun in 1094, it may be the oldest intact synagogue in Central Europe and was only discovered in the 1990s.
– The so-called “ShUM” cities, Mainz, Speyer and Worms, which were the center of German Jewish life in medieval times. ShUM is formed by the first letters of the cities’ names in Hebrew. Worms is home to a rebuilt medieval synagogue and an 11th century Jewish cemetery, the oldest in Europe (aside from the catacombs in Rome.)
It is, of course, far from certain that any of the Jewish sites that have been proposed will make it onto the UNESCO list. The somewhat cumbersomely named Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany will now appoint an independent group to evaluate the proposals. Only those that make the cut will then be added to the list of sites that Germany intends to submit at future UNESCO meetings.
A number of Jewish sites are already on the UNESCO list, including the Jewish quarters of Trebic, Czech Republic and Bardejov, Slovakia.