If you fly in and out of Frankfurt on your Luther tour, take a half day to tour these spiritual landmarks:
Old Jewish Cemetery: The Old Jewish Cemetery is a walled enclosure where the Jews of Frankfurt were buried from the thirteenth century to 1828. During the Nazi era, much of the graveyard was desecrated and the stones were removed. Only one corner remains undisturbed, filled with headstones marked with Hebrew lettering and covered with moss. On the walls surrounding the cemetery, small plaques bear the names of the approximately 12,000 Frankfurt Jews who were killed during World War II. Among them is Anne Frank, who was born in the city.
In the middle of the bustle of Frankfurt, this is a place of silence. As we stood next to the grave markers, our guide told us about the Jewish history of the city, how Jews were a vital part of its society for many centuries despite living under burdensome restrictions and being prohibited by law from most professions. He spoke about the creation of the Jewish ghetto in Frankfurt and of the terrible Nazi years.
I admire the ways in which Germany has come to terms with the dark parts of its past, but places like this bring to mind the question of how this could happen, how a nation so cultured and educated and sophisticated could produce such evil. It is a reminder as well of how religion can be twisted (Martin Luther’s writings on the Jews of his day, for example, were used as Nazi propaganda). It is a cautionary tale for all of us in the modern world, of how the forces of hate can engulf a society.
Frankfurt Jewish Museum: Located in a tall and narrow building on the bank of the Main River, this museum traces the history of the city’s Jewish community. While the exhibits are in German, an English translation is provided. Here you can learn how the Jews of the city endured centuries of discrimation and restrictions even before the Nazis came to power. On its top floor, Jewish religious life is detailed.
St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral (Dom Sankt Bartholomäus): This magnicent cathedral was the place where the German kings and Holy Roman Emperors were crowned from 1356 to 1792. Its interior is a pinkish-rose color, a reflection of its original decoration. It features a medieval altar showing an unusual depiction of the death of the Virgin Mary.
St. Leonhard’s Roman Catholic Church: People from more than 50 nations attend this English-speaking parish in the heart of the city. The church was founded in 1219 and served as a way station for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. A portal on the left side of the altar depicts St. James, the patron of the pilgrimage.
Dining and Lodging in Frankfurt
In the evening, enjoy a meal in Frankfurt’s Sachsenhausen District, which is famous for its apple wine. Try Apfelwein Wagner, a cozy spot where guests eat at trestle-style tables and sepia-toned historical murals line the walls. Be sure to order an entree that features Frankfurt’s famous green gravy, which is a mix of sour cream and herbs.
The Steigenberger Airport Hotel offers convenient accommodations for flying out of the airport the next day.