An historical treasure under the synagogue.

by Betty Arndt & Ernst Böhme

During excavation for the foundation of the syngogue, stones from a late medieval dyeing hearth were discovered.These can be viewed through the glass plates in the floor of the synagogue It was built around 1500 CE. At that time, the dyers mixed the dye bath from water, various plants and alkaline (mordant) substances. The resulting solution had to be heated in order to make the dye bond permanently to the fabric. Different temperatures were needed depending on the final colour: very hot for the red, warm for the blue colour.

The foundation of the dyeing hearth has been preserved through the centuries. The hearth was made of bricks set up in a round area of limestone. Inside was a rectangular fireplace built of vertically placed reused roof tiles.

In a metal kettle, the dye was heated on the round hearth. The dyer stirred the fabrics in the dye using long rods. He then hung the long lengths of cloth out to dry. In Göttingen, the colours red, blue, green, brown and black were produced. Their production costs varied.

This is the only dyeing hearth discovered in Göttingen to date. It is considered to be the oldest known dyeing hearth in Lower Saxony.

New craftsmen for the town - dyers and woollweavers

by Betty Arndt & Ernst Böhme

The town of Göttingen was founded sometime around 1150 CE. The town went through rapid economic and political development. The basis for this was the production and export of linen and woollen fabrics. Göttingen's woollen cloth in particular was exported to Northwest Europe.

The craftsmen who produced the cloth were called woollweavers. In the new town, they lived mainly near St. Mary's Church. Initially, the Göttingen cloth was of simple quality and undyed.

By around 1450, the quality of dyed cloth produced in Western Europe had improved and Göttingen's woollweavers were less able to compete. The town went into an economic crisis. As a remedy, specialists were recruited for weaving and cloth processing. These new woollweavers and dyers helped Göttingen to a new economic upswing.

However, for a long time, the new craftsmen remained foreign in the city as immigrant workers. They did help to establish religious and political innovations.

The dyer's hearth discovered here bears witness to an important turning point in Göttingen's history.

A brief history of Jewish life in Göttingen

by Ernst Böhme

In 1289, the first Jew settled in Göttingen. The lives of Jews in German towns in those times were usually quite confined: In order to live in a city, they needed permission from the reigning duke of the region. Jews were forced to pay large sums for the right of residence. Even with that, they were only allowed to pursue certain professions: small trading, money lending (considered a sin by many non-Jews), and no crafts. This kept Jews from competing with non-Jews .

Little is known about the medieval Jewish community in Göttingen; probably there were only between 30 to 40 people. They were confined to the area between the present Jüdenstraße and Speckstraße, where their synagogue was located.

In the Luther Bible, Jews were held responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. In the Middle Ages, the Jews were blamed for the "murder of God" and their communities were often persecuted. During the Black Plague epidemic of 1347 to 1348, Jews in Göttingen were robbed, persecuted, and expelled from the city or murdered.

From 1460 to 1559 there were no Jews registered in Göttingen. It was during this time that the dyeing hearth was built.