The Qahal pre-funeral house “Bet Tahara”
Zyndrama Z Maszkowic 2
"Bet Tahara" is the only architectural relic of Olsztyn’s Jewish community. It is also a unique and particularly valuable work of one of the most prominent 20th-century architects.
“Purification House” is Erich Mendelsohn’s (1887-1953) debut work. This modernist architect, devoted to expressionism, gained world fame in the course of time. The project of the pre-funeral house was created during Mendelsohn’s studies in Munich and, as a perfect diploma work, became his gateway to an international career.
The “Bet Tahara” pre-funeral house was created on the order of the qahal between 1912 and 1913 and became an integral part of the qahal’s cemetery, located by the former Jeziorna street since 1819. Although the body of the building – inconspicuous, one-storey, covered with red tile – is not particularly impressive, the interior is unique. Mendelsohn designed it in a logical order, paying attention to the tiniest details. Three main rooms symbolise the stages of man’s post mortem journey: the purification of the body, the purification of the soul and the last journey onwards. Considering the nature of the place, the decoration is balanced, with Judaistic motifs. Pyramidal finial of the final farewell room deserves a particular attention.
Although the building survived WWII, due to the lack of a landlord it fell into decline. For about 15 years it was utilised by the State Archives. The renovation of the building, aimed at restoring its past grandeur, began only in 2007, thanks to the initiative of the Cultural Union “Borussia” (Wspólnota Kulturowa Borussia). In 2013 “Borussia” moved its seat here and opened the Centre of Interkultural Dialogue “Mendelsohn’s House” (Centrum Dialogu Międzykulturowego “Dom Mendelsohna”).