The Biggest One in the City

The Rykestraße Synagogue

The synagogue in Rykestraße was built in the style of a neo-romanesque basilica. The building was inaugurated in 1904 after a construction phase of just ten months. The synagogue was built in the courtyard and was one of the biggest in Europe, with over 2000 seats. Funeral processions down the Judengang to the cemetery started from here. Until 1933 Prenzlauer Berg was one of the most important centres of Jewish life in Berlin.

The synagogue in 1904
The synagogue in 1904

During Kristallnacht the building was set on fire, although the fire was extinguished quickly to avoid endangering the nearby houses. Nevertheless the interior was devastated and the Rabbi and congregation members were deported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The last service was held in April 1940. Apparently, the borough of Prenzlauer Berg then used the synagogue as a deposit for the Wehrmacht and as a horse stable.

The inside of the synagogue after the renovation in 2007
The inside of the synagogue after the renovation in 2007

After the liberation of Berlin by the Red Army in May 1945, the first wedding was celebrated here the following July. It was also here, in the only synagogue left in East Berlin, that the remainder Jewish community gathered in the GDR period. After the Berlin Wall was built, the congregation remained 3000 members strong, figure that decreased to 200 people within thirty years owing to migrations and natural death.

 

The history of Rykestraße Jewish school, which was in the front building of the complex is shown in a permanent exhibition in Pankow museum.

Please turn back to look at Knaackstraße. At the beginning of the street you can see the water tower, the penultimate stop of our tour.