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The Altdorf Synagogue

Altdorf Synagogue Before 1938

The Altdorf Synagogue before Kristallnacht (date unknown)Courtesy of the Leo Baeck Institute, New York

The building that was once the Altdorf Synagogue on Wallburger Strasse still stands today.  In a similar manner to the street being renamed Eugene-Lacroix Strasse, the building itself has a very different appearance on the interior and exterior than it once had. It is no longer a Synagogue.  Some of the refashioning of the building was first done to preserve the overall integrity of the structure, severely damaged in 1938  (Kristallnacht).  It was then converted to a factory building, used as a warehouse and more recently it has been converted to an art museum.  See Fate and History of the Jewish Community in Altdorf (new and recommended).

Altdorf Synagogue as of July 1999

(Photo by P. A.Dreifuss  July 1999)

The Altdorf Synagogue History:

Planning for the building began in October of 1841 with a letter from the Altdorf Synagogue Council to the Ettenheim District Office.  It was signed by H. Hirsch, Abraham Dreyfus and David Bernheimer. The building was needed to replace an old, outgrown and dilapidated structure on or near the site of the older building.  Planning, raising money and construction lasted through 1867 although the process had to be stopped  from 1848 to 1849 by the upheaval of the Revolution.  Construction began in March of 1866. The building was first used in 1868. 

The Synagogue for the nearby Jewish Community at Rust, completed in 1857 served as the model for the Altdorf Synagogue.  Both used the same architect, Jakob Schneider of Freiburg.  Photographs of the Rust Synagogue demonstrate extremely similar design features also strongly reflecting Moorish features.

The Altdorf Synagogue was consecrated on February 21, 1868.  A permit was obtained for celebrating with firecrackers.

Original Appearance

 The architecture of the building displayed a Moorish influence with three adjacent, rounded archway entrances, with upper windows shaped like twin tablets of the Ten Commandments and roof top corner pieces (see photo at top of page).  Just inside the entrance were two spiral stairways leading up to a women’s gallery.  Both sides of the building had 5 mullioned Moorish style windows on both levels. The window shape was not preserved.

There were inscriptions over the entrances, which are mostly eroded or chipped away today.  Fortunately they have been deciphered to read as follows:

On the left arch: "Planted in the house of the Lord, they sprout up in the courts of God" (Psalms 92.14)
 Psalm 92.14
                                  in Hebrew

On the middle arch: "This is the gate of the eternal, through which the righteous enter" (Psalms 118.20).
Psalm 118.20 in
On the right arch: "How lovely is your dwelling place O Lord of hosts." (Psalms 84.2)
(Psalm 84.2) in Hebrew        

Synagogue Damage on "Kristallnacht"

On the night of November 11,1938, the synagogue building was badly damaged mostly by fire.  The Nazis beat down the doors and windows, demolished the interior and threw the tablets down from the gable. During the Second World War the building served as a warehouse and for other military purposes.

On that terrible night however, the Nazis could not destroy the Synagogue’s Torah.  It had already been safely transported to Palestine.
See The Altdorf Torah (future link) to learn the story and where it is today.

(Photo by P. A. Dreifuss July 1999

 The plaque on the former Altdorf Synagogue reads as follows:
"In this building there was a synagogue of the Jewish community of Aldorf 1868-1938. On 10 November 1938, it was desecrated and largely destroyed by Nazi tyranny.   Jewish residents were humiliated and their homes were destroyed.  This was the beginning of tracking, expulsion and killing Jews. This commemoration serves as a reminder of the sacrifice of the survivors.  November 1998 Village of Altdorf, Altdorf Catholic Parish, Historical Society Ettenheim"

Reference Material:

The pimary resource for the information on this page can be found in the book, Schicksal und Geschichte der jüdischen Gemeinden: Ettenheim - Altdorf - Kippenheim - Schmieheim - Rust - Orschweier:  Ein Gedenkbuch, 1988 Herausgeber: Historischer Verein für Mittelbaden e. V. – Mitgliedergruppe Ettenheim,  This book is written entirely in German.    The selected source information was authored by Dieter Weis and can be found on pages 95-110.


Compiled by Pete Dreifuss (
Last updated 14 August 2013
Copyright © Peter A. Dreifuss 2012
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