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    The Marpe Lanefesch memorial

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    The artistic concept

    Reading traces

    Minna Antova realised her goal of preserving Max Fleischer’s synagogue while making the destruction by the Nazis and imprints of the post-war era both visible and readable as historical signs of use.

    The destroyed elements of the prayer house - the roof, porch and Torah alcove - were replaced with glass in accordance with the architect’s original plans. The transparency of the glass walls is also intended to make visitors sensitive towards the subject matter. The interior symbolises defencelessness and creates a special awareness of one’s own body.

    The walls have frescos in the form of torn pieces of Torah scrolls, highlighting the marginalisation of the building’s past as a Jewish prayer house in reference to the Old Testament. Visitors should be reminded of the rich, ‘colourful’ religious life in the prayer pavilion. The first words of the Decalogue – reminiscent of the tablets of law above synagogue Torah shrines - have been enlarged to wall size and carved into the lime plaster.

    The transparent, multi-layered floor refers to the layers of the building’s history. The first is an enlarged, 1:1 version of the original floor plan. Above, a piece of Gestapo correspondence is shown, dealing with the destruction of Viennese synagogues during the November pogrom of 1938 (the interior of this synagogue was destroyed too). On the top is a reproduction of the plan from the 1970s to convert the synagogue into a transformer room.

    The area around the commemorative building is also included in the new design, with Max Fleischer’s original layout marked out. Historico-cultural facts about the history of the prayer house and its architect can be found in German, Hebrew and English on the path leading past the memorial.

    Image caption: Concept, DENK-MAL Marpe Lanefesch by Minna Antova, 1998
    Photo: Minna Antova, 1992
    © Minna Antova