A Jewish community in Halberstadt had existed since 13th century. Around the year 1700 the famous royal resident of Poland and agent or the Saxon court, Berend Lehmann, established a house of learning, the so called “Klaussynagogue”. The community was characterised by eruditeness and developed from the middle of the 19th century on into one of the centres of the Jewish orthodoxy. Distinguished rabbis as Eger, Auerbach, Hildesheimer and Hirsch that are inseparable connected with Halberstadt transformed it into one of the most important Jewish communities in Middle Germany.
The three Jewish cemeteries in Halberstadt with in total more than 1,000 grave stones from a period of more than 300 years sire of the clarity of past days. The inscriptions represent a value that has to be saved for upcoming generations and is still waiting to be discovered.
At cemetery Nr. 1 (“Am Roten Strumpf”) that had been used from 1644 till ca. 1800 around 250 of originally more than 1,600 grave stones are preserved. At cemetery Nr. 2 (“Am Berge”) that had been used from ca. 1800 till ca. 1896 around 450 grave stones are preserved. At cemetery Nr. 3 ("Klein Quenstedter Straße“) that had been used from ca. 1896 on around 380 grave stones are preserved.
The Baroque grave stones at the oldest cemetery are rich decorated and therefore very important from the art history point of view. Important persons as Berend Lehmann are buried at this cemetery, the inscriptions provide an impression about 200 years history of the Jewish community in Halberstadt.
The two younger cemeteries offer long invariably Hebraic inscriptions of a period of 140 years – from the beginning of the Jewish orthodoxy till the end of the Jewish community in Halberstadt. In an era of growing assimilation and acculturation when elsewhere the percentage of German inscriptions on Jewish gravestones was increasing both cemeteries are representing a special feature in Middle Germany.
Jewish gravestones are not only materialised evidences of Jewish culture – in difference to Christian gravestones they content numerous information about the deceased person and are therefore often the only evidences of the disappeared Jewish culture of a town or a village.
Most of the gravestones at the Jewish cemeteries in Halberstadt are endangered by efflorescence, and the inscriptions become from year to year less readable. Thus, photographic and verbal documentation of the grave stones in order to create a second transmission as well as cautious restoring measures to counter the process of ongoing decay are urgently needed, before this unique archive of the history of the Jewish community in Halberstadt will disappear forever.
The European Heritage Volunteers Project is the continuation of a similar project that had taken place in 2018.
In 2018, around 85 % of the gravestones at the oldest cemetery could be documented; in 2019 the works will be finished. After having done so, the documentation of the gravestones at the cemetery Nr. 2 will start.
On the oldest cemetery the vegetation around the grave stones will be removed and the moss at the stones will be carefully eliminated in order to prevent the ongoing impairment of the grave stones by plants.
In addition, that part of the cemetery that had in 2018 not been accessible due to the high vegetation will be measured and the exact position of every grave stone will be marked. The so completed plan will serve as base for the detailed documentation of the remaining 15 % of the grave stones at the oldest cemetery. In continuation of the 2018 project the documentation will include a digital photographic part and a verbal part and may be complemented at one or the other grave stone by manual drawings.
The works at cemetery Nr. 2 will be comparable except the clearance of the vegetation since the gravestones are significantly better accessible than those at the oldest cemetery.
Within the framework of collaboration with Technical University Braunschweig a special scan technology will be used at selected gravestones at the oldest cemetery that enables to make parts of the inscriptions readable that are due to erosion already not readable by human eyes.
In the frame of the educational part various lectures and guided tours as well as an excursion will be organised that the participants can gain comprehensive and detailed knowledge about the Jewish history in Germany and Europe, about Jewish heritage, but also about the rich history and the high valuable heritage of Halberstadt in general.
The project will take place from August, 17th, to August, 31st, 2019, and is organized by European Heritage Volunteers, in cooperation with Moses Mendelssohn Academy Halberstadt and the Jewish Congregation Magdeburg.