German Cities Seek UNESCO Status for Jewish Heritage

Towns of Shpira, Vermayza and Magentza, now known as Speyer, Worms and Mainz, were the center of Jewish life in the Middle Ages

The medieval mikveh, or ritual bath, in Speyer, Germany, April 26, 2006
Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons

A request to include the Jewish past of the German cities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz on the UNESCO World Heritage list will be submitted to the UN agency on Monday.

The state premier of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer, will officially sign the request for the so-called ShUM sites on the same day at the New Synagogue in Mainz, the state chancellery announced.

ShUM refers to the Jewish heritage of Speyer, Worms and Mainz, which were home in the Middle Ages to some of the earliest documented Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe. ShUM refers to the Hebrew initial letters of Shpira, Vermayza and Magentza, now known as Speyer, Worms and Mainz.

The work on the World Heritage application began in 2016, although Germany had already put them up for nomination as early as 2012. The nomination document, which is around 600 pages long, presents the outstanding universal value of the sites, which is required for inclusion on the UNESCO list.

In Speyer, a ritual bath - known as a mikveh - built around 1120 would receive the UNESCO status. In Worms, it would be a somewhat smaller mikveh, a synagogue and a cemetery. In Mainz, a cemetery would also be among the sites to be included on the list.