Starting point of the project

The project "The Pictures Come Back" arose in connection with research on former Jewish cemeteries in the city of Ústí nad Labem in the Czech Republic. In the process, I noticed a discrepancy: Although the synagogue was in the front row of the city's silhouette in terms of perspective from the vantage point “Větruše”, from where almost all historical and commercial total views of the city were made, it was hardly presented on postcards. In order to verify this impression, I started collecting postcards and photographs with city views of Ústí nad Labem in 2020. This confirmed the first subjective impression. The synagogue of Ústí nad Labem is often obscured, cropped or not visible on historical postcards. At the same time, I collected material from the German cities of Dresden and Görlitz and the Czech cities of Teplice and Děčín from 2022 onwards.

Most important results

In direct confrontation, the Teplice Synagogue is an almost equal image motif on postcards to all other sights of the city. Moreover, the building is depicted in different perspectives and views and appears as an independent pictorial topos. The different causes are - strongly summarised - in the longer constant settlement period of the Jewish population, their greater equality, the financial strength of the Jewish community as well as the significant location, volume or size of the synagogue building. These points also play a significant role in the depiction of synagogues on postcards of Dresden and Görlitz. There are solitary individual images for both cities, but the synagogues were and are in a peripheral position in terms of urban development, surrounded by other buildings or in competition with other buildings. As a result, the synagogues of Dresden and Görlitz were and are less or not at all visible in city views. In the case of the synagogues in Ústí nad Labem and Děčín, their average size has the greatest impact on the visibility of the synagogues on postcards.

About the collection and intention

All the motifs presented here are an excerpt from my collection of postcards of the synagogues of Ústí nad Labem, Dresden, Görlitz, Teplice and Děčín. I see them as a supplement to common archives with classical cataloguing and categorisation, in which there is no or hardly any finding material on my initial question about the visibility of the synagogues. Furthermore, the collection is relevant in the context of the respective city's history and can be transferred and applied to the representation of many former synagogues in the present-day area of Germany, Czech Republic and Poland.

It is important to me to create a picture archive of the former and present locations of the synagogues, which traces the history of these places and makes them visible.