Family Home – Dereliction – Reconstruction
To visitors, the interior of the SpeierHaus reflects its poignant history and the biography of its occupants. The historical timber-frame house was built for the Jewish Speier family in the 1840s. In addition, the exhibition provides an insight into their trading business and into the villagers’ living together – Jews and Christians side by side. After an antisemitic wave in the 1880s and 1890s good relationships were reported until the advent of the Nazis.
In 1942 the last of Angenrod’s Jews were deported and murdered by the Nazis. In doing so, they stole the soul, the vital breath of this house.
After 1945, new tenants moved in. The property, nevertheless, remained in the possession of the Speier family. From the 1980s on, the house increasingly was exposed to dereliction, and finally fell to ruin completely. It became a paradise for graffiti sprayers.
In 2013 members of the Association of Jewish History in the Vogelsberg area initiated efforts to find a solution. However, the county commissioner, the mayors of the surrounding communities and the head of the protestant dean’s office rejected taking on a sponsorship. Furthermore, the local council agreed that a house reconstruction would not make sense. In addition, there was no majority within the association to take over the building on their own account.
This was the tipping point for several individuals to establish the association “Speier Angenrod Memorial”, and it included the municipal administrator of Angenrod as well as two members (Social Democratic Party, SPD) of the municipal council. Finally, in 2015 the renovation of the house started, thanks to the city of Alsfeld, which authorized a 25,000 Euro fund from a special budget (with votes from the SPD, ALA and one CDU member). The remaining 50 percent for immediate building measures were financed by the Hesse State Office for the Preservation of Monuments. This amount covered the expenses for the renovation of the roof. In order to stabilize the walls of the building, the roofing contractor had to secure the timber frames with belts. They placed a self-supporting roof structure on top of the building.
A construction team removed tons of rubble from the building. Within four years the house was rebuilt due to the hard work of refugees and members of the association. Three of the four facades were renovated, intermediate roofs and a staircase were built, the existing timber constructions had to be renewed. For this impressive endeavor, the association “Speier Angenrod Memorial” received the Honorary Award of the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments in 2017.
Finally, in 2018, the association – thanks to many donations and membership dues – was able to officially purchase the property. Members of the Speier family agreed to use the building as a memorial and gave it as a donation to the association. We are very happy for the support by Herta Arfeld Adler and her cousins.
Another milestone was the Ministry for Agriculture’s support of the project. They provided funding for the exhibition as part of their program “Landkultur 2019/20”. These resources enabled the association to assign a professional for the conceptualization and realization of the exhibition.