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Poznan decided: synagogue for apartments. Activist scores city and writes open letter

27 of December '23

On the one hand, a gesture: printing a multicultural calendar, and on the other, disregarding the heritage of one culture in the city space. There is a green light to thoroughly convert a former synagogue in Poznan into an apartment building. However, supporters of a different approach to the former temple are not laying down their arms. An open letter to the mayor of the city has been written.

We have written about the issue of the former Poznań synagogue many times(the last time six months ago). The lump of the former temple stands on the northern outskirts of the strict Old Town. In the space of Poznań it is the only such significant testimony to the centuries-old Jewish presence in the city. For years the building has stood empty and deteriorated, and this year a fire broke out in it. There are growing concerns that the building, now neglected by a private owner, may not survive to be renovated or rebuilt. For many years, neither the city authorities nor most cultural institutions have been active in supporting the restoration or adaptation of the edifice, which is, after all, an important part of Poznan's heritage.

survivors and non-survivors

The issue is therefore mainly on the minds of city activists. After the fire, in June, community activist and cultural animator Maciej Krajewski, who runs the association Lazęga Poznańska (also galleries and a profile on FB under the same name), prepared and made public a petition to the Provincial Monument Conservator appealing for the inclusion of the former synagogue in the register of monuments (it is currently included only in the records). To date, almost three thousand people have signed the appeal. During the summer there were demonstrations in defense of the building.

December brought two pieces of news: good and bad. Both stem from the new local development plan for the Old City, which has just been passed. The good news: ultimately, the plan does not allow for the demolition of the building. The bad: the former synagogue can be converted into a residential building with a volume exceeding both its present size and its shape from before the last war. The design gauges of the redevelopment could be seen at a presentation of the plan during a City Council session. The plan became legally binding a few days before Christmas. Now Krajewski is publishing a long open letter to the mayor defending the building's unique status.

The Germans swam, the Poles swam

So much in a nutshell. To better understand what is at stake, we recall the most important facts. The magnificent new synagogue was erected by Poznan's Jewish community in 1907 at the exit of Wroniecka Street, two hundred meters from the Old Market Square. The sizable edifice topped with a dome survived in its original form until the occupation.

dawna synagoga w Poznaniu, ul. Stawna/Wroniecka stan sprzed przebudowy w 1940 roku

Former synagogue in Poznan, Stawna/Wroniecka street state before reconstruction in 1940

Source: author's archive, postcard from before 1918

In the early 1940s. The Germans converted the temple into a swimming pool. In the process, they lowered and simplified the building. After the war, the Poles sanctioned the Nazis' decision and used the swimming pool until the beginning of this century. In 2002, the City returned the building to Poznan's very small Jewish community, and its representatives announced that an unspecified Center for Dialogue and Judaism would be built in the synagogue. At the same time, until 2011, the community (which was not compensated for nearly six decades of use of the building by the City) maintained a swimming pool in the building. After the pool was closed, occasional concerts, exhibitions and performances were held in the former synagogue.

dawna synagoga w Poznaniu przy ul. Wronieckiej i Stawnej, wnętrze, stan sprzed 1940 roku

Former synagogue in Poznan at Wroniecka and Stawna Streets, interior, pre-1940 condition

Source: (archives of the MKZ Office)

However, the municipality could not cope with maintaining the sizable volume, nor with obtaining subsidies for its renovation. In 2014 it entered into an agreement with a private fund planning a hotel function in the permanently desacralized temple. The reconstruction and adaptation projects presented in the decades were of very poor quality at that. Finally in 2016 the City issued a building permit, and in 2019 the Jewish community sold the building to an entrepreneur from Lower Silesia. All the while, it was emphasized that the converted building would house a memorial to Poznan's Jews.

Dawna synagoga w Poznaniu, róg ulic Wronieckiej i Stawnej. Stan z początku 2023 r.

The former synagogue in Poznan, corner of Wroniecka and Stawna Streets. As of early 2023.

photo: Jakub Głaz

A dozen floors of apartments!

Four years have passed, the building is deteriorating faster and faster, the investor, Campione Investment, is not taking any significant action. However, he informed that he now prefers a residential function to a hotel one. The zoning plan just passed includes a provision that makes this possible. At the same time, the plan allows for expansion of the current form to the height and size stipulated in the hotel's building permit(to avoid possible claims by the owner caused by an unfavorable change). The concept for conversion to a residential building was only made public in December, during the vote on the plan for the Old City. Its authors are Przemyslaw Borkowicz, who died last year (co-author of, among other things, the Old Brewery), and his son Iwo , who continues the work (an exhaustive story about the fate of the synagogue and the attitudes of Poznan residents related to it was written by Violetta Szostak for in September).

koncepcja przebudowy dawnej synagogi w Poznaniu, proj. Przemysław i Iwo Borkowicz

Concept for the reconstruction of the former synagogue in Poznan, designed by Przemyslaw and Iwo Borkowicz - visuals shown during the session of the Poznan City Council on 5.12.2023.

Source:, profile: PB Projekt Inwestor (

The Borkowiczes' concept is much higher-end than previous designs, but it still raises legitimate controversy. It is simply a several-story (!) residential building with a form that simultaneously evokes an ancient ziggurat, a Byzantine temple and a work from the art deco era. The outline of the façade of the current building (in the shape given to it by the Nazis) was distinguished by unplastered brick facades. A return to pre-war forms - none. Yes, the projected building measures the same number of meters as the synagogue in its original shape, but it seems even more massive. It's one thing to have a dome, but another to have a pile of cuboids with windows under a flat roof. At the same time, it is unclear whether this will be the final shape of the building. However, there is no more talk of a closed competition for a new concept, mentioned by the investor's representatives more than a year ago.

Who to the dustbin of history?

Maciej Krajewski is highly critical of the decision of planners and councilors, who approved in the new plan both a residential function and a sizable gabar on the edge of the Old Town. Today, on December 27, he published on his profile and sent to the media an open letter to Poznań Mayor Jacek Jaskowiak. The latter, after the June petition, did not speak on the matter. It was only when questioned by Violeta Szostak in that he disinclinedly went over the current state, the future of the synagogue and the commemoration of Poznan's Jews:

If someone would like a museum to be built there and expects the city to build it and then maintain it, we're no longer talking about support, we're talking about shifting responsibility. Since it wasn't important to this community, I'm not going to make someone happy by force.

At the same time, the same Jaskowiak scored the anti-Semitic behavior of MP Braun in the Sejm on his Facebook profile two weeks ago :

In diverse Poznań, Braun will not pass. He and his ilk must go to the dustbin of history. And our Three Religions calendar is already in print [more about the calendar, which has been in print for seven years: on the website of the Poznań City Hall - ed. note].

zrzut ekranu oficjalnego profilu prezydenta Poznania Jacka Jaśkowiaka na FB

screenshot of the official profile of Poznań Mayor Jacek Jaskowiak on FB


That's why Jaskowiak is the addressee of Krajewski's letter, which, among other things, points out the City's numerous omissions in the synagogue case, washing its hands of the matter, and allowing the developer to make money on the redevelopment without image and spatial gains for the City. He points out that since the announcement of the June petition, none of the city's units has taken up the issue and arranged, for example, a public discussion on the building, which is the last visible trace of Jewish presence in the city. Visible because there are also hidden souvenirs in Poznań: hundreds of matzevot with which the Germans fortified the shores of the artificial Rusalka lake. Despite Krajewski's and other community activists' appeals , however, the City has not been quivering to excavate the stone slabs and move them to the lapidarium.

At the end of his letter, Krajewski therefore calls once again for a public, well-prepared debate about the former synagogue. The next few days will show whether Jaskowiak, who has already announced a run for local elections (a third term, despite firm announcements that he would limit himself to two) will take up the challenge, or whether - as happens in Poznan with difficult topics - he will once again keep quiet about the matter.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast