16. October 2016

Building History

Hermann Weil’s mausoleum was built in the immediate vicinity of the Jewish cemetery of Waibstadt, where his parents and many other family members are buried. As he wanted to be buried near them, he had his Mausoleum erected directly next to the cemetery. The inauguration’s celebration took place in 1927, four weeks before Hermann Weils’s death.

Hermann Weil – Cosmopolitan, successful businessman and generous Patron 

Hermann Weil originated from a long established Jewish family of Steinsfurt, in Baden, which today is part a district of Sinsheim, where he was born in 1868. As tenth of thirteen children it was difficult to get established; his elder brother took over the family business. Therefore, he entered training in a Mannheim grain trading company. His talent was quickly recognied and fostered, so he attained postitions of ever responsibility.

In 1888 Hermann Weil settled in Argentina where he first worked for a Dutch grain trading company, to build up their subsidiary. The funds and specialized knowledge that he accumulated allowed him, in 1898, to establish his own company, Weil Hermanos & Cia., also a grain trading company. Two of his elder brothers also held shares, while Hermann owned 50%, as main shareholder. The company grew at a rapid pace and soon became one of the market leaders in international grain trading, making immense benefits.

Due to a severe illness, Hermann Weil returned to Germany in 1908. He came along with his wife Rosa, who also had fallen seriously ill, and their children Felix and Anita. He settled in Frankfurt am Main, where he became a philanthropic patron, supporting a series of political education institutions with generous donations.

Hermann Weil’s homeland ties

After returning to Germany, Hermann Weil often visited his home town Steinsfurt, which he also generously supported with charity. His principal achievement was supporting the construction of a school for further education. This building, erected between 1923 and 1925, was a notably modern school building for the time and is still standing. During the same period, Hermann Weil decided to build his mausoleum in Waibstadt.

Construction of the Mausoleum

Hermann Weil wanted to be as near as possible to his parents and other family members. He planned to erect it within the Jewish cemetery. However, the burial community of Waibstadt refused. That is why Hermann Weil bought the 12,45 Ar (1200 square meters) directly neighboring to the cemetery. He payed the excessive price of one Gold-Mark pro square meter.  What is more, he was obliged to build a street leading from the village border to the mausoleum. To achieve this, he was obliged to purchase plots of land from a total of 45 owners.

The cost of the property and the infrastructure alone were unusually high. In addition, he paid the immense costs for the expensive building materials used in constructing the mausoleum. The walls are partly massive limestone building blocks, partly massive bricks encased with 10 cm thick limestone tiles. The inner walls as well as the floors are entirely marble. The dome’s interior remains to this day covered with an impressive mosaic representing a starry sky.

The first temple in Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock as model

Alfred Engelhard, one of Frankfurt’s most renowned architects of the time, designed this building, unique in all the Kraichgau. He had already erected the family villa in Frankfurt am Main. The floor plan as well as the entire appearance seems to be modeled on the first Temple in Jerusalem – it is possible to discern parallels and similarities, even if indirect. The dome, with its eight sided form was surely conceived to resemble the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, though the Mausoleum bears the Star of David instead of the original half-moon.

Inauguration

The first Waibstadt town festivity took place from September 3 to 5, 1927, a large festival, to which around 800 former Waibstadt residents gathered. On the first day of the festivities, Hermann Weil gave custody of the new building to the city of Waibstadt. In his speech, Hermann Weil clarified that he hadn’t intended to build a pompous building for himself, but rather to provide work for  the local people, so needed in those days of economic depression. Beyond this, he expressed the wish that the inner courtyard of the mausoleum be used as meeting place and a place of peace. No religious ceremony took place to bless or dedicate the site, so that, as opposed to the adjoining Jewish cemetery, this was to be a secular place.

Hermann Weil’s death

Hermann Weil died on October 3, 1927 in Frankfurt as a highly respected citizen, to whom the University rendered an honorary doctorate. The urn with his ashes – as well as those of his dear wife – were conveyed to the mausoleum where they rested until the depradations of the Reichsprogromnacht.

Reichsprogromnacht 

During the night of November 9, 1938, the Mausoleum as well as the Jewish cemetery were ravished under the leadership of the mayor at that time. The inside of the dome and the decoration statues as well as the altar and the marble paneling were stolen. The acme of disdain and destruction was that the urn was stolen and never recovered. The whereabouts remain unknown to this day.

Postwar period

After the war, the mausoleum deteriorated increasingly. In 1966 Hermann Weil’s son Felix endowed the building to the city of Waibstadt, who undertook necessary renovation during the period of 1981 to 1983. However, considerable new damage became apparent. Measures to repair the damage  were initiated in the year 2009 to save this unique cultural monument of the Kraichgau.