The Bergische synagogue was rebuilt in the town of Wuppertal after being burnt to the ground in 1938 during the “night of broken glass,” or Kristallnacht, a “government-sponsored terror attack.”
The land for the synagogue was donated by the Evangelical Church not far from the original site. The plot of land was particularly significant, as it was the site of the Declaration of Barmen in 1934, which was “a call to resistance against the theological claims of the Nazi state.”
The Bergische synagogue was inaugurated on December 8, 2002. The inauguration ceremony was attended by Israel’s former president Moshe Katsav and former President Johannes Rau. Security was so tight, particularly in the wake of September 11, that “manhole covers were welded shut” for the procession.
Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Manfred Kock, spoke during the ceremony. His speech can be found here, in it’s entirety. He said in part (translated from German),
“Mutual gestures are the ones that bring reconciliation to express a backlash against all anti-Semitic impulses and excesses that undermine our country again. The disease in Europe, especially in Germany, is the anti-Semitism.”
As mentioned above, the plot of land for the synagogue was carefully chosen as the site of the Declaration of Barmen in 1934, a response to the Nazi’s “Positive Christianity,” where the “Confessing Church” emerged as a response to the attempted Nazi hijacking of Christianity (they even re-wrote the lyrics to the song “Silent Night.”)
As an aside, Dietrich Bonhoeffer became a “prominent voice” in the Confessing Church.
Hitler sought to destroy Christianity. The “Deutsche Christen,” or “German Christian” movement “was organized in strict accordance with the ‘Führer principle'” and sought “to bring the church into doctrinal and institutional alignment with Nazi ideology…”
“Hitler is Germany and Germany is Hitler. Whatever he does is necessary. Whatever he does is successful. Clearly the Führer has divine blessing.”
The German Christians held a national convention in 1933 in Berlin:
German Christians “showed a complete loyalty to the Nazi state in their community policies and propaganda.”
The Theological Declaration of Barmen reaffirmed that God, not the state, was the only God. Many of the Pastors of the resulting “Confessing Church” were arrested and killed.
The Declaration of Barmen was “an appeal” to Christians of all denominations, in a meeting held by church leaders that stood in “opposition to attempts to establish the unity of the German Evangelical Church by means of false doctrine, by the use of force and insincere practices…” The declaration continued to affirm that “the Confessional Synod insists that the unity of the Evangelical Churches in Germany can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit.”
In a chilling plea, the declaration said,
“Be not deceived by loose talk, as if we meant to oppose the unity of the German nation! Do not listen to the seducers who pervert our intentions, as if we wanted to break up the unity of the German Evangelical Church or to forsake the Confessions of the Fathers!”
The Declaration of Barmen was affirming Christianity, and a denouncement of blind loyalty to the Führer. The sacred ground on which this declaration was made is now the home of the Bergische Synagogue. The gift from the Evangelical leaders to the Jewish population in Wuppertal is symbolic in their affirmation of faith.
The Bergische Synagogue was destroyed during Kristallnacht, and was rebuilt. Last week, the Bergische Synagogue was firebombed. A neighbour called police after seeing flames. An 18-year-old Palestinian youth was arrested. The Synagogue, thankfully, did not catch fire.