The Arty Semite

A German City Built by Jews

By Benjamin Ivry

Felix Nussbaum Foundation
Felix Nussbaum, “The Two Jews (Inside the Synagogue in Osnabrück),” oil on canvas, 1926.

Cologne, Germany had a flourishing tradition, not just of Jewish creativity, but also of Jewish architecture. That tradition is demonstrated in “Cologne and its Jewish Architects,” an exhibition on view through September 5 at the Municipal Nazi Documentation Center of Cologne (NS-Dokumentationszentrum der Stadt Köln).

Jewish architects such as Sigmund Münchhausen contributed mightily to beautify the region in and around the city, and Münchhausen’s 1905/1906 synagogue in Osnabrück, 100 miles outside Cologne, is depicted in a 1926 oil on canvas by the noted painter Felix Nussbaum.

Earlier, turn-of-the-century Jewish architects such as Philipp Fritz conjured up rapturous visions in jugendstil (art nouveau) of commercial passageways. These must have enchanted the critic Walter Benjamin, who spent many years analyzing such covered groupings of shops in a fascinating book later published as “The Arcades Project.”

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