BERLIN – The German city of Erfurt, located in an area of the country traditionally known for having the highest support for the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NDP), with 5% voter support, is plagued with a severe neo-Nazi problem.
As part of their attempts to fight the phenomenon, city officials have requested that UNSECO add the city to its list of World Heritage sites due to its "Jewish past."
Erfurt's Jewish past was revealed almost by accident, when hundreds of valuable gold coins and silverware dating back to the Middle Ages were discovered during excavations in the city's old quarter. The phrase "Mazel Tov" was inscribed on one of the coins.
The treasure was buried at the site by Kelman von Viha, a Jewish money-lender who resided in the city. Von Viha decided to hide his treasure in 1349 for fear of pogroms after local Jews were accused of poisoning wells, which led to the spread of disease in the city.
And surely enough, on the March 21 of that same year, all of Erfurt's 900 Jews were butchered by angry mobs.
Three other German cities - Speyer, Worms and Mainz – are also looking to honor their Jewish history by becoming World Heritage sites.
But while the Jewish past of these three cities is well-known, a serious study of Erfurt's Jewish past only began with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Since then, archeologists working in the city discovered a synagogue from 1094, making it the oldest standing synagogue in Germany. An 11th century mikveh (bath used for the Jewish ritual of immersion), as well as Jewish tombstones, have also been uncovered.
Authorities in the state of Thuringia, where Erfurt is located, decided to convert the synagogue into a museum, which was opened in October.
Ingo Mlaynik, the Erfurt Municipality official who is in charge of the initiative, told Ynet, "Since UNSECO limits the number of requests to one a year, we teamed up with cities in other parts of Germany that are famous for their Jewish past.
"Erfurt's citizens appreciate the synagogue and are proud of the city's Jewish history, but we are keeping an eye on any activity near the synagogue," he said.
Erfurt's request to be named a UNESCO World Heritage site will be considered by the German Culture Ministry in 2012.
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