Holocaust Memorial Synagogue (Neue Synagoge) Darmstadt

New Synagogue, Wilhelm-Glässing-Straße, Darmstadt, Hesse


"The Neue Synagoge (New Synagogue) is the synagogue, community centre, and museum of the Jewish community (Jüdische Gemeinde) in Darmstadt. Constructed in 1988 for the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the complex was designed to fulfil the needs of the city's Jewish population, who had been without a place of worship since the 1938 pogrom when Darmstadt's three synagogues were destroyed. Built according to plans by architect Alfred Jacoby, Brian designed and fabricated the suite of twelve floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows, each six metres high; the stained glass dome above the Torah ark; and the Torah ark itself, of carved wood and ceramic tiles hand-painted by Clarke. The complex, also known as the Holocaust Memorial Synagogue, is located on the site of the city's former Gestapo headquarters – the intention of the city was to contribute a major work of art to the new building, 'since it was the windows of the synagogues that broke first on Kristallnacht.'"

The windows were a gift from the wider community of Darmstadt to the Jewish community, with the money for their design and fabrication raised through a citizen's initiative, Synagogue '88, from donations and a benefit concert given by violinist Yehudi Menuhin. The designs for stained glass, together with Jacoby's designs for the building, were exhibited in Die Architektur der Synagoge at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt, in 1988. In 1993–1994, Clarke again collaborated with Jacoby, on the New Synagogue in Heidelberg.

Jacoby's Darmstadt synagogue has a typically conventional basilican plan with a shallow apse to contain the Ark. Clarke was asked to produce thirteen windows in all, ten along the 'nave' of the building, two flanking the Ark, and a glazed half-dome above the Ark. The calm quiet at the heart of the Jewish faith is there, but there is also a memory of the horror which the building commemorates. The essence of calmness finds expression in a predominance of blue glass, but is balanced by a run of brilliant, fire coloured windows (the interest in flames, invading a calm frame of lines, appears in Clarke's paintings of this period).” – Kenneth Powell, in Architectural Artist, 1994.

"Da es in die Nacht des 9. auf den 10. November als erstes die Fenster der Synagogen waren, die zu Bruch gingen, wollten wir, die nichtjüdischen Darmstädter Bürger, ganz gezielt und ganz bewusst Fenster zum Geschenk machen, von denen wir hoffen, dass die die nächsten Jahrhunderte unbeschadet überstehen".