The Israelite congregation of the villages of Pünderich, Briedel, Merl, Bullay, Alf, Bad Bertrich and Blankenrath counts 74 people who use small private prayer houses for prayer, for example in Merl. The congregation founds the synagogue association of Zell to realize the desire for a common prayer room.
Jakob Bermann, Jakob Hirsch and Moses Hirsch, as representatives of the synagogue community in Zell, acquire the second floor of an extension of the former Kurtrian castle. This extension was used as a servants’ quarters in earlier times. The purchase price is 300 Taler Preußisch Courant. As a condition of the seller, the Prussian District Administrator Alexander Moritz, the community has to break a new door to Jakobstraße at its own expense and wall up the former entrance from the castle courtyard, as the passage through the courtyard is no longer allowed.
A Torah shrine will be built into the east side, and the prayer room will also receive a desk for the prayer leader and benches for the congregation. From the street three steps lead to a small anteroom, straight ahead is the women’s compartment, on the left the men’s compartment. The division is made by a wall about 1.20 m high, a curtain up to the ceiling completes the separation of the sexes.
The seats of the benches are foldable to store prayer shawls and prayer books.
The new synagogue has room for about fifty people, but soon becomes too small again for the growing congregation, which at the turn of the century had grown to over one hundred members. The Jewish Community plans a new building and acquires a plot of land at Hauptstraße 5 (today Hotel Mayer).
The construction work that had begun is stopped with the outbreak of the First World War, after the war the community’s savings are lost in war bonds, the shell of the building is auctioned off.
Instead of the new building, the existing synagogue will be renovated, a gallery for the women will be built, the Torah Shrine will be renewed and enlarged, the two round windows on the east side will be walled up, electric lighting will be installed and a memorial plaque for the dead of the First World War will be placed. The menorah, the law tablets and the gable of the Jakobstraße are renewed, the walls are decorated with an ochre paint, the starry sky is painted, the Essen synagogue community donates benches.
The commemorative plaque for the fallen is first made by the commissioned sculptor Wendhut from Traben Trarbach with a steel helmet as ornament. The head of the community
Max Bender is of the opinion that a steel helmet does not belong in a church, he insists on a change, thus the face of a grieving woman is created, a double offence against the usual commandment not to depict people, let alone women.
On the night of the progrom on November 8-9, the local police removed all valuable, i.e. precious metal cult objects, such as the Eternal Light, menorah, Torah shields, mezuzah, before an SA goon squad gave free rein to “the indignant popular anger over the murder of the Rath Legation Council in Paris”. The remaining inventory such as the Torah shrine, Torah scroll and curtain, benches, candlesticks and windows are demolished or stolen.
The sandstone ornaments remain untouched, such as the plaque of war dead, the menorah in the door frame outside and the law plaques. Even the oak door decorated with eight Stars of David remains untouched. The reason for this is that one of the Traben-Trarbach SA – rackets (in civilian clothes) is the son of the sculptor Wendthut, who created the stonemasonry 18 years earlier. “You won’t be honored by my Vadda’s stuff!” This was reported by an eyewitness.
According to police reports, the synagogue could not be burned because of the electoral castle in the same building. The life of the synagogue community Briedel-Zell ends after almost 90 years on this November 10th.
As the last remaining parishioner of the synagogue the butcher Gustav “Israel” Harf from Bullay has to sell the building to the owner of the castle, Bohn, for 1000,- RM. The purchase price is never paid.
The textile merchant P. J. Piacenza rents the synagogue as storage space, also to protect the former church from further desecrations. On the inside of the door he writes the word “kosher”.
The Nazis begin the deportation of the remaining Jews and their families. They are collected in the ghettos of the larger cities (Trier, Koblenz, Cologne) and from there sent to the extermination camps of the East. By 1943, 34 men, women and children had fallen victim to the Nazi tyranny.
The district of Cochem – Zell invites the former Zell Jews, who are scattered all over the world, to a week of encounter. Eight follow this invitation.
After the mayors of Zell, Döpgen and Bamberg had already made efforts in the 1980s / 90s to preserve the former synagogue, the circle of friends was formed for the first time. The still loose association of citizens examines possibilities to prevent a further, purposeless use of the area lastingly. First of all, an inquiry is made to the State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments, which immediately places the former synagogue under its protection.
Foundation of the registered association “Freundeskreis der Synagoge Zell” with the aim of restoring the former synagogue and making it accessible to the public.
The association receives the Former Synagogue from the owners of Schloss Zell as a gift, with the conditions to insure the room and to pay the energy costs.
As the owner, the association can now direct the request for restoration to the State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments, in the sense that the room is not to be preserved in its current state, but rather that the association should strive to restore the last intact state.
Restoration work will begin at the end of the year. Through the personal contribution of the members and supporters of the association as well as fee waiver of the commissioned architect, the circle of friends can save 20% of the estimated total budget. The remaining costs will be borne 60% by the Office for Monument Protection, 40% by the town of Zell, the association community and the district of Cochem-Zell.
The room is carefully restored according to photos and memories. There is a conscious decision not to erase all traces of the past, the “kosher” lettering is preserved, as are traces of vandalism in the masonry and remains of the original wall decoration. The walls are plastered ochre yellow again, the starry sky is hand painted. The Senheim artist Christoph Anders designs and donates the menorah. On October 25th the former prayer room is opened to the public again in a ceremony.
Since then, regular opening hours and cultural events have enlivened the historic building, which is also a place of remembrance for the persecuted and victims of the Nazi regime.