Vanished World: Galicia’s Lost Synagogues

Galicia was once home to a large Jewish population. Before the war, Jews were the third most numerous ethnic group in the region, after Poles and Ukrainians, and all Galician cities and towns had vibrant Jewish communities. Much of this heritage was destroyed during the war and most of what remains is in ruins.

For many years Christian Herrmann has been documenting Jewish remnants in Eastern Europe, especially in Galicia. He shares his photographs and experiences on his blog Vanished World:  “Nearly 70 years after the holocaust Eastern Europe is still covered by neglected Jewish cemeteries, ruins of synagogues and other remains of  Jewish institutions – stranded ships at the shores of time. The traces of Jewish life are still there, but they vanish day by day. It’s only a matter of time until they are gone forever…This blog tries to recall those places into public consciousness and wants to encourage people for the rescue of a heritage we all share.”

For this post, I’ve selected twelve of Christians’ photographs of synagogues from across Galicia. Christian has beautifully captured what remains of these Jewish houses of prayer. Despite their decayed state, with the help of his images we can get a sense of the grandeur and beauty that they once embodied. As we can see in the photographs, many of the synagogues that survived the war were left abandoned and fell into disrepair. Others were used for various purposes in the post-war years, such as warehouses, factories, stores, sport gyms, apartments. All descriptions are Christian’s. More images can be found on his blog.

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Synagogue in the Galician town of Zalishchyky. In the Soviet era the building was transformed into a factory after the Jewish community was wiped out during the German occupation; now it’s abandoned. Zalishchyky – picturesquely situated at a turn of Dniester River – had a glorious past as a resort, with customers from all nationalities of multi-ethnic Galicia and Bukovina. The synagogue is a reminder of that past. Photo taken on July 13, 2017. Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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Former synagogue in the town of Bolekhiv.  Photo taken on July 8, 2017.Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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This is Stryi synagogue, south of Lviv. Photo taken in 2017.Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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Former synagogue in Probizhna. The Jewish population was exterminated during the German occupation in WWII. Under post-war Soviet rule, the synagogue became a factory. A stork has now its nest on top of the factory’s chimney. Photo taken on April 13, 2017; it was spring and trees and bushes were blooming. Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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Rozdil – once a synagogue, now an abandoned warehouse. Photo taken on December 8, 2016.
Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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Ruin of the Grand Synagogue in the Galician town of Berezhany – crumbling day by day. Photo taken on April 12, 2017.Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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Great Synagogue of Busk. Now partly a Christian church, partly an apartment building. Photographed in January 2015.

Busk’s Great Synagogue in Galicia, Ukraine, has been split into two parts. One is used by the Baptists as a Christian church. It has been renovated up to a point where visitors may believe it’s a new building without history. The other part is still owned by the municipality. 8 families share the few rooms of the former synagogue, which became an apartment building during the Soviet period. The residents repeatedly asked for better accommodation. They were promised new apartments before several local elections; a promise that was forgotten after votes were counted.Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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Former Great Synagogue of Monastyryska – now a hardware store. Photographed on April 15, 2017.Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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Ruin of the Grand Synagogue of Hrymailiv. Photo taken on April 13, 2017.Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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Synagogue in Staryi Sambir. Photo take on November 26, 2017.Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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Ruin of the Grand Synagogue of Sokal. What is now a park was once the Jewish quarter of the town. Photographed in 2014.Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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Former Grand Synagogue of Pidhaitsi. Photo taken on April 15, 2017.Photo: Christian Herrmann, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

1 thought on “Prewar German-Czech Street Signs in Prague

  1. Thank you for your site, photography and bringing our ancestors’ lives to the net for us to experience.

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