The talking stones of Regensburg

Despite its destruction in 1519, the traces of Regensburg’s medieval Jewish community are still there. They can be found along the streets and backyards: tombstones of the Jewish cemetery.

Regensburg was an important economic and political hub in the south of Germany. Documents prove the Jewish presence in the city since the 10th century. Like in many other cities in Central Europe the Jews were forced to leave. In 1519 Regensburg’s Jews were expelled, the synagogue and the cemetery were destroyed, the physical legacy was looted. 150 years later a new community was founded, which was destroyed during the Nazi dictatorship. Due to the imigration from Eastern Europe, Regensburg has again a flourishing Jewish community. A new synagogue was inaugurated just some months ago.

What is still visible of the Jewish past are the “Judensteine” – literally “Jews stones”. They are medieval Jewish tombstones mounted on the facades of the palazzos of the local nobility – a publicly and proudly exposed document of vandalism and inhumanity. Today, these tombstones are well documented and signs direct local residents and visitors to see them and to contemplate about them. One tombstone is visible at the facade of the city hall, two are placed next to buildings, another one can be found in a backyard. More medieval tombstones are exhibted in the local history museum.

The facade on Regensburg’s cathedral shows an insult to the Jews: a group of Jews suck the milk of a porc. A representation of Jews, which was typical in the middleages and which can be found on more than one cathedral all over Germany. Also here a sign gives background information.

Where once the medieval synagogue stood, is now a scupture by Israeli artist Dani Karavan. Representing the foundations of the synagogues it forms a public space in which people like to sit and talk.

The recently inaugurated synagogue is well visited – when we arrived there a group of visitors were waiting for a guide. A sculpture in the open space at the gate quotes the Bukovian poetess Rose Ausländer: “Vergesst nicht, Freunde, wir reisen gemeinsam – Don’t forget, friends, we travel together”. How true!

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