After destruction caused by fires and war, and through stages of rebuilding, there are no longer any visible remains left of the late medieval Jewish Quarter in Mainz. Too much had been destroyed: after the pogrom from 1096 with more than 1,000 murdered and repeated attacks, Jews were expelled from Mainz in 1438. Following the re-founding of the community in 1445, there was a temporary expulsion in 1462, and then the final expulsion in 1470/71. The synagogue was then used as an urban coal depot, after 1471 it was converted into a chapel. It was not until 100 years later that the Jews re-settled in Mainz. In November 1938 in Mainz, the synagogues, prayer rooms, and the Jewish Museum were destroyed, an example of the destruction that happened throughout Germany and Austria.
Localizing the medieval mikveh and other structural remains is is appealing and part of the whole approach towards ShUM, but within the frame of the UNESCO application this is not the first aim.
In huge parts preserved is the cemetery »Judensand« in the Mombacher Strasse. Expulsion of the Jews had led time and again to destructions and reshapings of the »Home of Eternity« and thus to serious loss of tombstones. Since the 1860’s, during construction works in Mainz important Jewish gravestones have come to light.
In 1926, exceptional newly discovered gravestones were combined to form a monument cemetery, to enable visibility of the heritage site. The oldest gravestone originates from 1049 and recalls Jehuda ben Schneor. Other gravestones honor the scholars Gerschom ben Jehudah and Meschullam ben Kalonymos the Great. Since the 1980s, several of the oldest gravestones have been on display at the State Museum Mainz, with permission from the Jewish community.
The Judensand as a Memorial cemetery makes it visible, how important Magenza was and still is: such a Memorial Cemetery is outstanding and unique in the Jewish World. During the course of the World Heritage application and beyond, the cemetery »Judensand« will continue to be assessed and researched, and conceptual plans for conservation measures will be developed. In the State Museum Mainz the Judaica-department will have an increased focus on ShUM in the future. Regarding World Heritage Status the Cemetery in Mainz is the only remaining monument, and it is of unique importance.
ShUM and the future: the New Synagogue in Mainz
In Mainz the spectacular synagogue construction of architect Manuel Herz was officially opened in 2010. In his language of form Herz metaphorically took up both the ShUM-wisdom as well as the teachings of the Gerschom ben Jehuda. Gershom ben Jehuda, also referred to as Meor ha-Gola, “light of exile” (around 960 in Metz - 1028 in Mainz). He was one of the most famous Talmud teachers of his era and formative for the Jewish legal discussion.
The building, observed from the side, forms the Jewish-liturgical concept Keduscha, i.e. a spoken blessing for sanctifying and/or exalting mundane objects. Other connections to Jewish discourse as well as the Torah or Piyyutim written in ShUM are to be found throughout the building. In this way this present-day monument reflects the teachings of ShUM which are also its base. Tradition and modernity form a symbiosis.