The Krnov Synagogue
The former Jewish temple situated in Krnov in Upper Silesia is the only synagogue in the Moravia-Silesia Region that has kept its original appearance and is accessible to tourists. It is one of the two existing buildings in the Czech Republic with preserved Arabic-Spanish interiors.
The Interior of the Synagogue
The synagogue se is situated behind the post office (Česká pošta), on the corner of the Soukenická and Barvířská Street. It was built in 1871 by the builder Ernst Latzel. The hall is 24 m long and the two towers are 22m high. The exterior of the building is neo-romantic; while in the interior, Moorish architectonic elements predominate. Horseshoe-shaped arches of the carved arcades above the female balconies and the reddish brown coffered ceiling are bound to attract the visitors' attention. This style was used from the Middle Ages by Sephardic Jews. On the iron-cast columns, there is still the distribution system for gas lighting, and under the windows and in the ceiling, there are air vents. The portal under the eastern frontage is only a decorative element of the façade. Behind the portal, there is wall. On the inside, there used to hang a tabernacle (a wooden box with scrolls of the Torah). Above the tabernacle, there was the organ. On the outer roof plinth, there used to be stone slabs, on which the Ten Commandments are carved. The slabs are nowadays placed in the loft.
The Krnov Synagogue stopped to be used for religious services in autumn 1938, when the Sudeten were incorporated into Nazi Germany. Not long afterwards, synagogues in the surrounding towns were destroyed. However, the Krnov synagogue was saved. The mayor of the town summoned a meeting of the councillors and informed them about a secret order received from Berlin "to destroy the Jewish temple". The Sudeten councillors then unanimously accepted the proposal of the builder Franz Irblich to deceive the Nazis. The funeral ceremony hall in the Jewish cemetery was burned down, while the synagogue itself, after the symbols of the Jewish religion were removed, was changed into a town market hall. During the socialism, the building was first used as a warehouse and then, from 1960, as an archive. In 1994 it was returned to the Jewish Community and since 2003 it has run by a citizen association called Krnovská synagoga (Krnov Synagogue) and it has been used as an exhibition and concert hall. The association also received pews from 1897 that come from the Olomouc synagogue. Plates bearing the names of the Holocaust victims from the Krnov region will be placed in the pews. Due to the Oriental architecture and the excellent acoustics of the synagogue, the cultural programmes organized in there are absolutely magic.
The Jews moved into Krnov in the 19th century from a near village called Osoblaha. The Gesslers began to produce a famous herbal liqueur called Altvater (Praděd); the Bellak's built the second biggest textile factory in town. Members of the Jewish Community built a lot of buildings, for example the Silesia palace or a block of flats with a restaurant called Hermes situated on Hlavní náměstí (Main Square). These properties were stolen in 1938 and in 1945 they were not mostly returned. The fact that an overwhelming majority of the Krnov Jews before World War II held German nationality aggravated their situation. The Jewish Community in Krnov ceased to exist, and the residence of the nearest Jewish Community is in Ostrava. The Jewish cemetery situated in the street called V osadě, by the access road to Opava, is a monument to the disappeared fellow citizens. It was seriously damaged during the partial destruction that took place from 1986 to 1990. It is still in poor condition and there is not enough money for its repair.
The synagogue is made accessible by the members of a citizen association called Krnovská synagoga (Krnov Synagogue).