A former synagogue in Poznań is falling apart, a fire recently broke out in it, and decision-makers are mostly washing their hands. So community activist and cultural animator Maciej Krajewski is launching an appeal for rescue. What is surprising, however, is the indifference of many Poznań residents and some officials to the fate of the building, which is a significant part of Poznań's heritage. Is there any good news? Yes, a creative and sensible idea has emerged .
More than a week ago, a fire broke out in the abandoned building of the former Poznań synagogue. Early on,plaster was falling apart and roof tiles were falling off, with adventurers and homeless people breaking into the interior. Photos taken inside show that the building is degrading more and more. After the fire and the earlier inertia of city decision-makers, the matter was taken into his own hands by community activist and cultural animator Maciej Krajewski, who runs the Poznanska Laze gallery (also a Facebook profile under the same name). He drew up an online petition addressed to officials and decision-makers with an appeal to enter the building in the register of monuments (it is only in the records). More than 2,000 people have signed it so far (you can still submit your signatures). The appeal reads, among other things.
The historic and listed building is deteriorating. Its deteriorating technical condition makes the building lean towards ruin. All this is taking place in a civilized European country, in the heart of the Old City (...). As signatories of this appeal, we call on the municipal and provincial authorities to cooperate in this matter and to place the former SYNAGOGA under legal and conservation protection and construction supervision. We hope to oblige the current owner-investor to reliably secure the building to prevent acts of vandalism, including re-arson, in order to prevent a building disaster. If this collective effort is not made, we will thus lead to the disappearance of the historic building from the panorama of multicultural Poznań.
temple. float, ruin
We have already described the complicated and sad case of the former Poznań synagogue several times. The building, now dilapidated, stood in 1907 on the outskirts of the strict Old Town at the exit of Wroniecka Street at what was then Wolnica (Wroniecka) Square. In 1940 the Germans converted it into a municipal swimming pool, and after the war the Poles... maintained this function. The swimming pool operated in a building simplified and lowered by the Nazis until 2010! The Jewish community had already reclaimed the building, but failed to manage its maintenance, development and adaptation.
Former synagogue in Poznan, Stawna/Wroniecka Street - The state before reconstruction in 1940.
Source: author's archive, pre-1918 postcard.
Beginning in 2014, she tried to convert the synagogue into a hotel together with a commercial partner (several very unfortunate concepts and architectural designs were created), and five years later sold the building to an entrepreneur from Lower Silesia. This one first also planned a hotel function. Later he started thinking about apartments. He hired Przemyslaw Borkowicz, who died a year ago, to design (today his son Iwo continues the work). The residential function was recently allowed by the new local plan for the Old Town. However, the building is deteriorating, with no signs of repairs or decent security measures. The fear arises that this is a straight road to demolishing the building and erecting a new form in its place. Hence Krajewski's appeal, which, unfortunately, is accompanied by silence on the part of some city authorities.
Former synagogue in Poznan, Stawna/Wroniecka Street - current state, in the foreground unearthed relics of the former Wroniecka Gate, on the right fragments of medieval city walls
Photo: Jakub Głaz
indifference and inertia
The indifference of Poznań residents (discernible in public comments and online discussions), not infrequently opinion leaders or those in positions of responsibility for culture and heritage and the city's space, is astonishing. A very common view is that since the Jewish community did not take proper care of the building and sold it, and does not even particularly care about preserving the building, then basically, only a private investor has a problem. One of the high-ranking officials in charge of architecture (for the sake of the matter, let's keep silent on the name), said in a limited group at one of the opinion meetings that (quote verbatim):
since the Jews sold it, I would knock it down.
Istonian attitude of a small Jewish community does not arouse enthusiasm, but this is no reason to approach a topic important for the entire city in this way (during the Renaissance, Poznan had the most numerous Jewish community in the First Republic).Fortunately, employees of the Office of the Municipal Conservator of Monuments show a different attitude. First by opposing the removal of the synagogue from the space of the city at the stage of giving an opinion on the local plan (the concept of the plan included such an option), and now by taking care of relations with the owner (unfortunately, in this case, the intervention in the matter of technical condition belongs only to the building inspector, not the conservator). Jacek Maleszka of the MKZ Office reports:
We are in contact with the investor, who consults his ideas with us all the time. At the same time, I would recommend restraint regarding appeals for entry into the register by the provincial conservator of monuments. This is a problematic issue. According to Article 10a of the Law on the Protection and Care of Monuments, from the date of initiation of proceedings for entry in the register until the date on which the decision becomes final, it is forbidden to carry out conservation, restoration, construction works and other activities that could lead to the violation of the substance or change of the appearance of the monument.
The archive is a good idea!
The situation looks like a stalemate. However, there is an idea for a way out of the situation, not yet official, but it makes sense and is worth spreading. The building could be bought by the Poznan State Archive, which has its headquarters a hundred meters away, on 23 Lutego Street. For many years now, there have been plans to expand the old historic headquarters, although neither the project on display nor its volume merits high praise. The new wing would dominate the open space that was created after the postwar reconstruction of the Old City. Locating the Archive in the former synagogue is therefore a sensible idea. The building would gain a socially responsible host and serve a public purpose, with a memorial to Poznan's Jewish community and the complex fate of the building. The vaulted ceiling of the synagogue could also provide an attractive setting for a reading room.
The former synagogue in Poznan at Wroniecka and Stawna Streets, interior, pre-1940 condition.
Source: www.poznan.pl (MKZ Office archive)
The idea is so fresh that we do not yet know the position of the investor and the Archive. Nevertheless, it is worth pursuing such a solution - beneficial for the city and, probably, for the owner as well. Locating apartments near a busy car route, next to a streetcar and next to a fire station does not seem to be the most unfortunate idea. Add to this the requirements for parking spaces for future tenants, and the divestment of the problematic building seems a solution worth negotiating and the support of any authority responsible for the city's space and heritage. This is because it represents the only such visible trace of the Jewish community's presence in Poznan. Besides - despite its disastrous condition - it is an important spatial dominant of the Old Town outskirts, which has permanently grown into the landscape of Poznan. Its disappearance would be a scandal, both for historical and urban planning reasons.