The Synagogue Beth-Hamidrasch is in the Westend district of Frankfurt, at Freiherr-vom-Stein-Strasse 30. It was inaugurated in 1910 as a house of worship for the liberal wing of the Frankfurt Jewish community.
It was set on fire by the Nazis during their night of terror in November 1938, but unlike the other three large synagogues this one was not completely destroyed. It was rebuilt after the war in 1948, and underwent major renovation work in 1980 and 1994.
Before the Nazis came to power there were about 28,000 Jewish people in Frankfurt. This was the second largest Jewish community in Germany, after Berlin. Many Frankfurt Jews were able to emigrate in the 1930s, but over 10,000 were deported and murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War. There are now nearly 7000 Jews in Frankfurt, many of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union or other Eastern European countries.
From 1907 to 1938 this was the site of a large synagogue belonging to the orthodox Jewish Israelitischen Religionsgesellschaft (IRG). This was one of four large synagogues in Frankfurt at the time.
Like most synagogues in Germany, this one on the Friedberger Anlage was attacked and set on fire by Nazi mobs on the night of November 9-10, 1938. But in this case the first fire did little damage to the building, so in the next few days the Nazis set it on fire four more times, using barrels of gasoline, until the interior was completely destroyed.
Then the police ordered the IRG to demolish the rest of the building at its own expense, on the grounds that it was unstable and in danger of collapse. Later the IRG was forced to sell the land to the city for a small fraction of its true value. At the end of 1938, the orthodox IRG was disbanded and forced to merge with the more liberal “Jewish Community”, which itself was disbanded three years later on orders of the Nazi government.
The site of the orthodox synagogue remained vacant until 1943, when a huge above-ground air-raid bunker was built there. There are several of these bunkers in Frankfurt, and despite their ugliness they have not been torn down because they are practically indestructible. Rooms in some of these bunkers have been used periodically as rehearsal rooms for rock bands, because no matter how loud they played, no sound penetrated the thick walls to disturb the neighbors.
This particular bunker on the Friedberger Anlage served for many years as a used furniture store. I remember spending many cold hours in there in the 1970s trying to find cheap furniture for one of our early apartments. Now the furniture-and-junk company has moved out, and a memorial site has been erected in front of the bunker, with a large photo of the inside of the old synagogue mounted on the outside wall.
Third photo: The same scene at night. Inside the bunker there is now an exhibition, in cooperation with the Jewish Museum, about Jewish life in the East End of Frankfurt in former times. The exhibition is only open on Sundays from 11.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m., and only from May to November. The address is Friedberger Anlage 5/6. Admission is 2 Euros (as of 2013). Guided tours in German are available Sundays at 11:30 a.m. for an additional 2 Euros.
Visitors are advised to wear warm clothing, because it is cold inside the bunker even in the summer. In the winter it is too cold, so the exhibition remains closed.
This attractive building at the Eschenheimer Tor, just one block north of the Hauptwache in the city center, is now a multiplex cinema called Metropolis.
For most of its history, though, the building was known as the Volksbildungsheim and was the center for adult education in Frankfurt. It was originally built in 1908, and became the Volksbildungsheim right after the First World War in 1919. Though it suffered some damage in the bombings in the Second World War, it was quickly rebuilt (except for the top floor) and again served for many years as a meeting hall and a highly central and convenient venue for adult education.
Unfortunately the Adult Education Center (VHS or Volkshochschule) gradually let itself be forced out of the building in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. This was because the VHS was run by political appointees, first of one persuasion, then another, who regarded the directorship of the Adult Education Center as a sinecure rather than a challenge or a responsibility. The building was allowed to deteriorate, and the badly needed remodeling and modernization never took place.
After several years at a rather out-of-the-way location, the VHS has now moved to a newly-built Education Center on the (near) east side of Frankfurt, at Sonnemannstraße 13. So this is where you can now go for adult education courses like Frankfurt OperaTalk, Opern-Gespräche, Cambridge Advanced English or Conversation and more, just to mention a few of the many courses that are held in this new building.
Location of the former Volksbildungsheim at Eschenheimer Anlage 40, on Google Maps.
Location of the new VHS building at Sonnemannstraße 13, on Google Maps.
After over half a century at the Volksbildingsheim in downtown Frankfurt and then several years at a rather out-of-the-way location in the Gallus district, the Frankfurt Adult Education Center (Volkshochschule or VHS) moved in 2005 to the newly-built Bildungszentrum Ost (Education Center East) on the near east side of Frankfurt, at Sonnemannstraße 13.
So this is where you can now go for adult education courses like Frankfurt OperaTalk, Opern-Gespräche, Cambridge Advanced English or Conversation and more, just to mention a few of the many courses that are held in this new building.
The VHS also provides numerous German language courses, as well as courses for people who want to apply for German citizenship.
Over three thousand courses are offered each semester (mostly in German but a few also in English). The VHS administrative offices and some of the classrooms are in this building at Sonnemannstraße 13, but many of the courses are held in schools and other buildings throughout the city.
Third photo: Entrance to the VHS at Sonnemannstraße 13.
Fourth photo: Diagonally across from the VHS, in the next block of the Sonnemannstraße, the new headquarters of the European Central Bank is being built, as shown in this photo from June 2013. When this new building is finished, it will be the seventh tallest building in my Frankfurt Skyline Countdown. The VHS is on the right in this photo, and the square in the foreground is Paul-Arnsberg-Platz.
Location of the VHS on Google Maps
This monument to Philipp Reis (1834-1874), the “inventor of the telephone”, was first proposed in the 1890s but was not built until 1919. It is located in the Eschenheimer Anlage, near Eschenheimer Tor in Frankfurt.
It was built by an Austrian sculptor named Friedrich Christoph Hausmann (1860-1936), whose design for the monument was the winner of a competition.
The engravings on the monument (fourth and fifth photos) read:
INVENTOR OF THE TELEPHONE
BORN IN GELNHAUSEN 1834
DIED IN FRIEDRICHSDORF 1874
OF THE FIRST DEMONSTRATION
OF HIS INVENTION
AT THE FRANKFURT PHYSICS SOCIETY
OCTOBER 26, 1861
What the monument neglected to mention was that in 1861 the worthy gentlemen of the Frankfurt Physics Society were not at all impressed by Reis’s crackpot invention nor by Reis himself, an upstart high school teacher who didn’t even have a university education.
It wasn’t until thirty-five years later that the next generation of Physics Society members decided Reis had invented the telephone after all, and started talking about setting up a monument to him. But the making of the monument was delayed by (among other things) a lengthy controversy with the inventor’s son, Carl Reis (1863-1917) about how his father should be depicted. He wanted his father to be shown with a full beard, as he had known him, but the Frankfurt Physics Society said he should only be shown with a moustache, as he had looked when he presented his first telephone in 1861.
In 1919 the monument was controversial for a different reason. It shows two naked young men, one talking into Reis’s first telephone (second photo) and one listening (third photo). One of the local newspapers, the Frankfurter Volkszeitung, complained that these naked young men were a danger to morals and decorum because they had “thrown off their clothes before answering the telephone.” The same paper expressed its consternation, a few days later, about this “un-German” style of naked art which had been “borrowed from the French” and was inappropriate for use in true German monuments.
On my Gelnhausen page I have included two tips about Philipp Reis: The inventor of the telephone and The birthplace of Philipp Reis.
There is more about Philipp Reis on my Freidrichsdorf intro page and in the tips The Philipp Reis House, The invention of the telephone and Philipp Reis’s living room.
Philipp Reis really did invent a device which could transmit sounds over a wire by electricity, but it was not very reliable and tended to conk out after four or five words. Still, if he had lived longer and if he had had some financial backing and a good patent lawyer, he might someday have been able to develop it into a successful product.
This movie theater at the Eschenheimer Tor, one block north of the Hauptwache in the center of Frankfurt, used to show films exclusively in English.
It's a good thing they didn't depend on me for their survival, because I only went there once in forty years. That was in 2004 to see the original English-language version of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911.
There was an American flag hanging behind glass in one of the front windows of the Turm Palast that evening. Several people with clipboards spoke to those who were going in and asked if they were Americans and were registered to vote. (I was already registered, but several others started filling in forms while I was there.)
Update: The Turm Palast closed for good at the end of May 2010, much to the consternation of the American opera singers and other ex-pats in Frankfurt.
Second photo, added in April 2013: This is what the site of the former Turm Palast looks like now.
Here in what was once the ballroom of a 150-year-old apple-wine pub in Frankfurt's North End is where you can find the Stalburg Theater, featuring (just about) daily performances of cabaret, jazz, chansons, classical music, drama, and combinations of all of these.
I was there recently for the premiere of a brilliant new revue called "Mozart Motz-Art so zart", a lively celebration of Mozart's 250th birthday by three mainstays of the local classical music cabaret scene, Ingrid El Sigai, Markus Neumeyer und Frank Wolff.
If you understand German and are at all familiar with Mozart's operas Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute you'll love the way these three manage to play all the roles, sometimes doing three different scenes at once in an elaborate counterpoint. Frank Wolff makes his usual weird sounds on the cello, Markus Neumeyer is a virtuoso on the piano and as an arranger and singer, and Ingrid El Sigai aside from being a fine soprano is also a brilliant reader of Mozart's raunchy letters, which is no wonder since she earns her living as a radio and television announcer.
She began the second half of the program with a great parody of herself or one of her colleagues introducing a live opera broadcast on the radio, "live from the Stalburg Theater in Frankfurt", featuring singers with funny invented names from all over the world, along with the "Orchestre de la Radiodiffusion de Stalburg".
They have also done this same show out at the Alte Muehle or Old Mill in Bad Vilbel.
Second photo: In the Stalburg Theater.
Third photo: Theater announcements at the entrance.
Address of the Stalburg Theater: Glauburgstrasse 80.
Location on Google Maps.
The Nidda - a tributary to the river Main - is the second largest river in Frankfurt. Along roughly 20 km of its length it flows through the city limits of Frankfurt. The Nidda joins the main in the suburb of Frankfurt - Höchst. It is a very popular destination for hiking and cycling, along the river course on well-signed paths. A cycling path along the Nidda River goes from the suburb Frankfurt-Hoechst all the way to its source near Schotten (about 90 km one-way). The best entry point for cycling would therefore be Höchst (Wörthspitze).
Bad Homburg is one of Germany's wealthiest towns (possibly the wealthiest), and you can see that from the moment you exit the train station. This is no seedy square covered in the weekend's debris of beer and fast food - instead there's an elegant walk through modern office buildings. Then you have two directions to choose from: One to the park and the other to the palace and old town. Both are beautiful.
The great and good have been drawn to the city of the years, tempted by the spa water and its alleged health giving properties. They were also attracted to its money - the gambling kind. One of the first casinos in the world was opened here, the owner of which went on to open the casino of Monte Carlo. Dostoyevski was one famous patron. Today the gambling continues in the casino, and in the banks of Frankfurt whose directors all live in Bad Homburg.
I first came to Oberursel in July. It was freezing cold, raining and just about typical of Frankfurt's summer that never was in 2011. The second time I came, a few months later in October, it was sunny and warm and touching 20 degrees after a balmy weekend of sunbathing on the Main river. Though clouds did move in towards the end of the day to spoil the only pictures I took of the town.
Oberursel is not really famous for anything, but it does have a pretty old town and its location in the Taunus on the edge of Frankfurt gives you good views of the moutains and the city skyline if you know where to look. It's also a convenient jumping off point for trips to the Taunus mountains. The end of the U3 underground line that passes through the town is the start of trips (and buses) up to the highest point.
Perhaps the only thing I can think of that Oberursel is famous for, is being the scene of an infamous murder. During the crisis years that Germany was plagued by the Baader-Meinhof Red Army Faction terrorists, a banker was shot dead in Oberursel during a botched kidnapping attempt. That scene was played out in the movie: Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, a tense German crime thriller that is definitely worth watching.
Take the U3 to Oberursel Altstadt.
The Johann Wolfgang Goethe University was founded in 1914 and has traditionally been located for the most part here in the Frankfurt district of Bockenheim, which is just west of the Westend and north of the fairgrounds.
They call it a campus, but it is more like just a part of the city that has a lot of buildings belonging to the university. You won't find much in the way of parks and greenery here.
Lots of distinguished people have studied here, including yours truly.
(You'd think they'd at least put up a plaque or something, but no...)
Now that the new Westend Campus has been inaugurated, they are planning to move more and more departments up there over the next ten or fifteen years, and at some point perhaps phase out the Bockenheim Campus entirely. There are already fewer students here than there used to be, which has an adverse effect on local businesses and also on the general mood and atmosphere of this part of the city.
To get here, hop on your bike or take the subway U4, U6 or U7 to Bockenheimer Warte.
As recently as forty or forty-five years ago the old U.S. Consulate was a completely open building. People used to walk in just to get a drink of water, since they had an American-style electrically-cooled drinking fountain, which is otherwise unheard of in Germany. People with cars could simply drive into the parking lot and park. There was a sign saying they shouldn't park backwards because the exhaust fumes were getting into people's offices.
With the Vietnam war came the need for increased security. First they built a tall metal fence, then installed a guard house, then a second guard house at the corner to make sure no suspicious people got through to the first guard house. Finally the entire street was blocked off for three blocks, with barbed wire, tank traps and permanent police presence.
Of course there is no denying that security is a necessity. I know some nice people who work in there, and wouldn't want them to get blown up since they are certainly not responsible for the things the American government does to incur the wrath of the rest of the world. In fact, I wouldn't want to get blown up myself when I go there every ten years to get a new passport.
The people who do security checks of course have to keep their guard up, and it is doubtless better to have them err on the side of caution than the other way around. On my last visit it was my bicycle helmet that stymied them. They acted as though they had never seen such a thing before and put it through the machine three times before calling their supervisor, who made a swift executive decision on the matter.
Fortunately the really important things like voter registration can be taken care of on the phone or by mail.
Update: The U.S. Consulate has now moved to its new location at Giessener Strasse 30 in Frankfurt. The additional photos on this tip show my first impressions of the new consulate compound -- lots of fences!
One of the most accessible places in the Taunus mountain range, and also one of the prettiest, Hofheim has become a commuter town for Frankfurt city workers. Unlike Frankfurt, with its sparkling new office towers, this is proper old Germany, untouched by allied bombers and the rebuilding mania of the 50s. It has a small old town, with a number of good restaurants, and makes a pleasant break from the noise of the city.
You can get there in about 30 minutes from Frankfurt's main station, on S-Bahn or regional train.
1. Instituto Cervantes 2009.
2. Amerika Haus 2004.
3. Weatherproof text panels and photos about the history of Amerika Haus and Instituto Cervantes -- all in three languages, German, English and Spanish.
Frankfurt's old Amerika Haus has changed languages and is now the home of the Instituto Cervantes, which is the official cultural institution of the Spanish government and is intended "to promote and teach Spanish and to spread the culture of Spain and Spanish-speaking countries."
I recently tried to attend a concert at the Instituto Cervantes (with soprano Juanita Lascarro and guitarist Heike Matthiesen), but it was sold out so I have learned my lesson and will book well in advance in the future.
The old Amerika Haus was founded right after the Second World War in 1945, and moved into this building in 1957.
It was basically a public library such as might be found in any small town in America, with a typical selection of American books shelved in accordance with the Dewey Decimal System. But they also had an auditorium where visiting American writers, scholars and folk-singers used to appear, and for decades they had a full-time staff member who advised German students on how to get into American universities.
As recently as the 1980s I used to come and borrow books here, and on several occasions I also brought my English classes for a tour of the library.
This was an immensely popular institution in Frankfurt for a quarter century or so, but during the Vietnam War it gradually became a target for protest demonstrations. I was present at some of these, but usually disguised as a journalist. You young folks wouldn't believe the huge reel-to-reel tape recorders we used to lug around in those days (see my Cutting edge technology album for a photo), but I shouldn't complain because my Uher saved me from getting a mighty bash on the head at one of the demonstrations. The club-wielding policeman noticed my tape recorder and microphone just in time, and decided I was a reporter, not a demonstrator. I did get soaked by the water cannon, though, and a friend of mine got badly clubbed on the head that day.
At some point they closed the Amerika Haus library, not only for security reasons but also because of budget cuts and a decline in public interest. The British Council also closed their library in Frankfurt years ago for similar reasons. But the new Instituto Cervantes seems to be going strong, if the first few months are any indication.
Instituto Cervantes Fráncfort, Staufenstraße 1,
60323 Frankfurt am Main
GPS 50° 7'9.99" North; 8°40'13.42" East
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