The Aachvas Rein Orthodox Synagogue is the last synagogue built in Oradea during the inter-war period. It was erected on a plot of land previously occupied by a small house of worship run by the Orthodox Israelite Community, starting from 1870. In 1912, this sanctuary was modified. A hallway was built at the courtyard entrance, and the interior of the prayer room facing the street was re-modeled. The building deteriorated as time went by. The current building was erected in 1926 by the constructor Béla Weimann (son of lawyer Dr. Tibor Weimann, a jurist within the Community after the end of the war), based on the project of architect István Pintér. Béla Weimann constructed the Wiznitz Synagogue, as well as the demolished synagogue in Piața Independenței (Independence Square).
Built on a rectangular plane, the synagogue is decorated with four spiraled columns placed in the corners. The main entrance is meant for men and is framed by oval windows. This synagogue is also unique because of its ship-like walls, which have the shape of waves. The only decorative elements present on the independent coffers are David’s hexagrams. This discreet decorative element can be seen on the handrail of the balcony, the white hall ceiling, and the Torah ark, but also on the hall flooring, in a more artistic form.
According to the Jewish ritual, the women enter the synagogue from the side. The synagogue has 450 seats, of which 300 are for men – in the naos – and 150 for women – in the side balconies and the central area.
(Oradea architect Franz Löbl’s name appears in some sources. He created an architectural plan for this building ever since 1910. Ferenc Löbl was born in Oradea in 1882. He went to high school at the Scientific School of Oradea, and then studied at the Polytechnic University in Budapest. In 1904, he obtained his diploma in engineering and then moved to Vienna – where he opened his own design office. He designed the Ullmann Palace in Oradea, 1913).
Currently, the synagogue is host to the Jewish History Museum of Oradea, opened as a token of gratitude for the contributions of the Jewish community to the history of the city.
The Jewish History Museum of Oradea
The ground floor of the museum is dedicated to the history of the Jewish community. Some of the most important dates are:
1722 – the first Jewish community is founded in Oradea;
1792 – the Subcetate Jewish district is formed;
1870 – the Jewish community is divided;
1900- la Belle Époque: the architectural blossoming of the city;
1940 – the Vienna Diktat;
1944 – the ghettoization and deportation of the Jews of Oradea.
A special place is reserved for the Sonnenfeld family of Oradea, who was renowned in the domain of printing. There are documents, photos, as well as lithographs of the Sonnenfelds on display.
The religious objects and books showcased are representative for the spiritual life of the Jewish community, along with the paintings of famous rabbis.
The upper floor of the museum is dedicated to the horrors of the Holocaust: the consequences of the Vienna Diktat, the adoption of anti-Semitic laws, the isolation of the Jewish population in ghettos, and their deportation to the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Significant to the history of the city is Tereza Mózes, a survivor of the Holocaust. The visitors can read about her life, and access testimonies about the time she spent in the ghetto, Auschwitz and other labor camps.
On display are objects that reference the crimes against Jews: the regulations in the ghetto, the yellow star badge, documents from the detachments of forced labor, etc.
Several suggestive installations have been created in order to depict the tragedy of the Holocaust, such as the suitcase installation, which expresses the Jews’ dispossession of their belongings, and the drama of the deportation.
Several editions of Éva Heyman’s diary, which she wrote as a child while in the ghetto of Oradea, and is known as „Am trăit atât de puțin” (“I Lived So Little”), have been put on display in her memory. Éva’s story is also told through objects that characterized her, objects that she loved, like her red bike, her camera or a pair of skates.
The names of those who perished in the Nazi concentration camps, which are inscribed on the walls, as well as the imagery of the Jews confined to the ghetto and the concentration camps also carry a great emotional weight. Rocks have been placed on the stairs in memory of the victims.
Documentaries on the Auschwitz concentration camp can be found in a digital format, along with a list of the extermination camp victims of Oradea. This exhibition is a means through which the memory of the Holocaust is kept alive and spread. It is imperative that we are aware of it and that we do not forget, such that horrors of this kind never occur again, anywhere.