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Parts of a Munich synagogue demolished by Nazis are found in a river 85 years later

Jewish Museum Munich

After Adolf Hitler ordered Munich’s main synagogue to be demolished in June 1938, no one knew what became of the rubble — until last week. Construction crews working on a river dam unearthed some 150 tons of stone columns and a tablet bearing the Ten Commandments in Hebrew.

Bernhard Purin, the director of the Jewish Museum Munich, says they were found 7 or 8 miles away from the synagogue site, which was converted into a parking lot and now houses a department store and a monument to the original building.

The workers contacted German heritage protection authorities and then Purin, an expert on synagogues who said it quickly became clear to him where the rubble had come from.

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“[That was a] day which is very unusual in my professional career, because we don’t usually find a synagogue in a river,” he told NPR in a Zoom interview.

Purin said it was “especially touching” to see the Ten Commandments tablet, a symbolic object that would have played a central role in synagogue services as “all worshippers look to it.”

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