The Jewish Museum in Venice, Italy is hosting an exhibition about the Great Synagogue in Zagreb, Croatia that was destroyed during World War II. Called Zagreb Synagogue: 1867-1942-2015, the exhibit opened Jan. 19 and runs until March 4.
The synagogue was built in 1867 and had a tripartite facade with raised central section similar to a number of other important synagogues in Europe — including the Choral synagogue in Bucharest and the synagogue in Vercelli, Italy — whose design was inspired by the Tempelgasse synagogue in Vienna, designed by Ludwig von Förster, which was built in the 1850s and destroyed on Kristallnacht in November 1938.
Once a city landmark, the Zagreb synagogue was blown up in 1941 on the orders of Ivan Werner, Zagreb’s Ustasha (local fascist) Mayor. Demolition continued into 1942. A parking lot now occupies the site at Praska ulica 7, and a plaque marks the spot.
After years of legal wrangling, the empty plot was restituted to the Zagreb Jewish community in 1999, and the community plans to erect on the site a new Jewish center.
The question of just what to build was a major point of reference for local Jews and a significant issue for the city, as well, inspiring a wide-ranging public debate in the early 2000s, centering in part on whether a totally new, modern building should be erected or whether the new structure should recreate the facade of the destroyed landmark.
The exhibition in Venice is divided into two parts.
The first includes material dating from the founding of the Jewish community in Zagreb in 1806 to the demolition of the synagogue and is based on a 2001 exhibition about the synagogue that took place at Zagreb’s Archaeological Museum. The second included material from 1942 to the present.
The material from the 2001 exhibition on show in Venice includes photos, architectural plans and films.
According to an article in the Jewish community’s magazine, Ha-Kol, at the time of the 2001 exhibit, “three groups of designs have been exhibited: the first from the architectural studio Honigsberg & Deutsch, the second by Oton Goldscheider, and the third by the studio Freudenreich & Deutsch.”
In 1996, it states
the architect Aleksandar Laszlo sorted out and restored the designs for the synagogue left by the studios of Honigsberg & Deutsch and Aleksandar Freudenreich. These were of great help for the computerized reconstruction of the synagogue made by the architects Ivana & Tomislav Kusan. Apart from Aleksandar Freudenreich, all the other architects were Jews, and one of them, Leo Honigsberg, was even the president of the Jewish Community (1907-1912). All the surviving designs have been exhibited; and some even restored for this occasion by their owner, the Directorate for the Protection of the Cultural Patrimony in the Ministry of Culture. [...] The purpose of the exhibition was to show through documentation and other evidence what happened to the synagogue and its place in the 20th century. By the presentation of the strongest symbol of the presence of Jews and their history in Zagreb, it was intended to draw attention to the fate of the Jews from the period of full affirmation between the two wars to the Holocaust and its aftermath, through all the political and spiritual transformations which have taken place in Zagreb.