The site

Nestled at the base of the Harz Mountains, Halberstadt boasts in the area of the city centre exquisite religious architecture and traditional timber constructions, epitomising its rich historical heritage. The area surrounding the city centre was heavily bombed during the Second World War and exhibits examples of post-War socialist housing constructions. Notably, the town served up until the rise of National Socialism, as the epicentre of a significant Jewish community, pivotal in shaping Germany's distinctive Jewish culture.

Halberstadt had been home to a thriving Jewish community dating back to at least the 13th century. Around 1700, Berend Lehmann, the Court Jew to August the Strong of Saxony and a Halberstadt resident, established the Klaus Synagogue on Rosenwinkel street No. 18. The Klaus Synagogue, housed in a half-timbered building, was envisioned to be a “perpetual hub” for respected Jewish scholars to immerse themselves in Torah study. Lehmann aimed to etch his legacy into the annals of Jewish history through this initiative, attracting erudite scholars and fostering a culture of learning. Throughout the mid-19th century, the Klaus became synonymous with erudition, emerging as a bastion of Jewish neo-Orthodoxy under the stewardship of distinguished rabbis such as Eger, Auerbach, Hildesheimer, and Hirsch.

From the mid-19th century, the Hirsch family, prominent Halberstadt businesspeople, played a pivotal role in preserving the Klaus Synagogue's legacy. Founded by the son of Rabbi Hirsch from Göttingen, the Aron Hirsch & Sohn company burgeoned into a leading entity in the German metal industry. Reflecting the community's neo-Orthodox ethos, the Hirsch family upheld observant Judaism and traditional scholarship alongside secular culture and modern cosmopolitanism. In 1857, Joseph Hirsch commissioned a new building at Rosenwinkel street No. 18, featuring a synagogue sanctuary and a bet ha midrash on the second floor.

The 1938 pogrom left the Klaus Synagogue unscathed, but the subsequent “Aryanisation” carried out under National Socialist racist policies transferred ownership to the Regional Finance Office, repurposing it as a "Jewish house." Tragically, all Jews housed here were deported to Warsaw in 1942, none surviving. From 1944 to 1945, the Klaus Synagogue served as a forced labour camp under Nazi sub-organisations. The two-story high sanctuary was split in two by a false ceiling and barracks were built in the garden and courtyard. The building housed refugees in the immediate aftermath of the war. Following the war, was used for a brush factory, and residential units. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German reunification, the restitution process returned the Klaus Synagogue to the Jewish Claims Conference in 1998.

During the 1997 restoration of the Klaus, a surprising discovery was made in the room farthest to the back on the second floor of the half-timbered building: a ceiling trellis, remnants of the Sukkah which had been integrated into the structure. Aerial photographs from the 1920s revealed metal plates in place of tiles in this area. These plates could be opened to allow meals under the open sky during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, with the trellis adorned with fir branches from the Harz Mountains. The last occupants of this apartment were Rabbi Dr. Philipp Frankl (1876, Preßburg/Bratislava – 1944, Buchenwald Concentration Camp) and his wife Bella, née Spiro (1883, Fulda – 1960, Amsterdam). They had emigrated to Amsterdam before World War II, joining their daughter Charlotte. Rabbi Frankl was deported to the Westerbork Concentration Camp in June 1943, later transferred to Buchenwald Concentration Camp, where he died on March 17, 1944. His wife Bella and daughter Charlotte survived the Ravensbrück and Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camps. In 1952, the metal plates were removed from the roof, noted in the roofer's invoice as "Sukkah – torn down."

In 1712, Berend Lehman had also commissioned the construction of a splendid Baroque Synagogue, hidden from view behind the buildings of Bakenstraße and Judenstraße. The synagogue's cupola surpassed the neighbouring buildings in height, a pioneering architectural concept in Germany. In the late 19th century, the Hirsch family invested in modernising the synagogue, adding an entrance hall. However, during the "Night of Broken Glass" on November 9, 1938, the synagogue was plundered, and Torah scrolls burnt in the street. The following day, the building inspection ordered its demolition, with the Jewish community of Halberstadt bearing the costs. Today, only the outer wall of the entrance hall remains, serving as a poignant reminder of the destruction.

Today the Moses Mendelssohn Academy and Berend Lehman Museum are housed in the Klaus Synagogue and integrate the remnants of the synagogue to the sites of Jewish heritage under their watch, reclaiming the area as a hub of Judaic knowledge and remembrance since 1998. An art installation now marks the site of the former synagogue, a testament to resilience and commemoration.

The training course

The European Heritage Training Course is the continuation of courses and projects following the theme of Jewish heritage in Halberstadt which had taken place yearly from 2018 to 2023. This engagement has been an important collaboration between European Heritage Volunteers and the Moses Mendelssohn Academy both to raise awareness about the importance of Jewish heritage in Halberstadt as well as to promote its documentation and conservation for posterity.

The training course will be focusing on three locations:

The first location of work will situate the participants in the garden area behind the Klaus. This is the location where the National Socialist forced labour camp was set-up, with barracks built next to the historic stone walls that enclose the garden of the Klaus. Today, all that remains are the historic stone walls which still exhibit memory traces of this traumatic use of the garden, in the way of carvings and other markings that the prisoners left on the stones. Work of conservation has already been done on a segment of the walls. In the section of the wall which has not yet been intervened, the participants will firstly carry out a detailed documentation of its current state as well as of the inscriptions that may still be found. After identifying missing stones and damaged mortar joints, which is the area where mortar is applied to bond the stones together and provide structural integrity to the wall. The damaged joints will be repaired with mortar prepared using the hot lime mortar technique.

The second area of work will be the site of the Sukkah, which is now a part of the permanent exhibition of the museum. Here, the participants will be tasked with exploring the existing layers of historical wallpaper decoration, fixing the wallpaper, and protect as it is not waterproofed.

The third location is the remaining ruins of the Baroque synagogue which was destroyed in 1938/39, a task which had already begun with the European Heritage Training Courses that took place in the years 2021 to 2023. During that previous training courses, the structures, and damages of the remains of the former synagogue had been documented, and urgent interventions on the main structure have already begun, thus laying the groundwork for the interventions that took place in 2023 and will be continued in 2023. The work will begin by doing an examination and securing the top of the wall, reviewing the current status of the interventions carried out during the training course in 2023. There will be a need to renew joints, and to do colour retouching of the stone additions and completing the damaged masonry joints. The heavily weathered stone surfaces will also be strengthened by adding stone supplements. The fragments of painted surfaces will be secured of any lose parts and lime slurry will be applied to fill in any damaged parts.

Through the different areas of work, the participants will learn the complete process from the preparation of mortars, the manufacturing of the stone supplementary compounds and colour matching with pigments to the adjacent stone surfaces, up to mixing the glazes for retouching the various stone surfaces as well as in wallpaper decorated surfaces.

The training course will be guided by a certified restorer with a specialisation in restoration of plaster, stucco, and wall paintings.

In the frame of the educational part, various lectures, and guided tours as well as an excursion will be organised so that the participants can gain comprehensive and detailed knowledge about the Jewish history and heritage in Halberstadt and other regions of Germany. The visits will also contextualise the training course by providing an overview of the rich history and the high valuable heritage of Halberstadt in general.


The training course will take place from August 18th to August 31st, 2024 and is organised by European Heritage Volunteers in cooperation with the Moses Mendelssohn Academy and Berend Lehman Museum.


European Heritage Volunteers