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Lutheran Church during the Soviet period

In February 1920, power of the Bolsheviks was established in Odessa, and in October 1921, a special committee withdrew church registers of births, which had been conducted since 1820. Spreading famine gave rise to the confiscation of many church treasures from the Evangelical Lutheran parish of St. Paul by the province executive committee on May 3, 1922.

Lutheran Church   1824—1894   1895—1917   1918—1991   Restoration   Parsonage  Temples-prototypes   Slideshow

However, the really difficult times had come to the community with the beginning of large-scale repression of the 1930s (so-called «Great Terror»), when about 8 million Soviet citizens, among them priests and the religious of all confessions of the country were annihilated on unjust charges. Friedrich Merz, who served as a vicar in Odessa in 1916-1919, was lost in 1931 at the Solovetsky camps. The last pastor of Odessa parish Karl K. Fogel was arrested July 4, 1937 and executed by shooting on October 27 of that year; the church choirmaster and organist, professor of Odessa Conservatoire and concertmaster of the Odessa Opera House Theophilus D. Richter (the father of the eminent Soviet pianist of the twentieth century Sviatoslav Richter) was shot with the other 23 members of the «German» church in October 1941, shortly before the entry of the German and Romanian troops in Odessa.

Lutheran Church in Odessa. German church.
K. Fogel, the last pastor of the Lutheran Church

Public liturgy in the Lutheran church stopped in 1938, the same year the cross from the spire of the church was removed. During the Romanian occupation of Odessa the Church of St. Paul was again opened on 7 December 1941, the service was held until the end of December 1943. The celebration in Odessa parish in this period was carried out by the Lutheran pastors of the German community in Romania. In such a short period, a total of about twenty pastors, to some extent, contributed to the restoration of church traditions in the city.
After the war the building was given Popov Institute of Communications, which main building rose up close to it. The temple was used as a warehouse for a long time, and later — the gym. The apse was equipped with toilets and showers for athletes, and a laundry was attached to the outside of the building, that led to the destruction of the foundations due to the ingress of water and wastewater.

Lutheran Church in postwar times

Lutheran Church in Odessa. German church.
General view from Popov Institute of Communications side

The choir were equipped to practice cycling, wrestling and gymnastics. As a result, deep cracks appeared in bearing structures of the temple. The Lutheran Church destruction continued for decades — slowly but inevitably the building was perishing.

Lutheran Church in Odessa. German church.
Cracks and other extensive damages of the façade, photograph 1975

In the early 1960s, the Institute leader’s plans to demolish the dangerous structure for the construction of another student’s dormitory became known to the public at large. In 1965-1966 a fierce struggle for the preservation of the church of St. Paul broke out. Not only the State Security Service of the cultural heritage of Ukraine, but also the leading intellectuals of Odessa and students from various higher schools protested against the demolition of the church. Through their vigorous resistance, it was success in cancellation of the planned explosion of the long-suffering building.

Lutheran Church in Odessa. German church.
Roof fragment, photograph early 1970s

In 1971, the Regional Union of Architects applied for identifying the building of the church of St. Paul in the category of architecture monuments and its preservation (it was only in 1979).
Meanwhile, in the church there were systematic restoration works: in order to use it as an organ and concert hall. Public at large supported this project with donations.

When this goal was almost achieved, the fire at night May 9, 1976 almost completely destroyed the building, leaving only the stone case. Almost completely interiors and partially lap structures were lost. Rumors about a deliberate arson have not been ceasing in the city until now.

Lutheran Church in Odessa. German church.
Fire at night May 9,1976

Lutheran Church after the fire

General view, the end 1970s General view, the end 1970s General view, photograph 1978
Steeple, photograph by N.Dutsenko at the turn of 1970s and 1980s Right-side facade  and altar towers, photograph by N.Dutsenko at the turn of 1970s and 1980s Main entrance portal, 1978 Altar part and apse, 1978 Side facade, portal and outward walls
Interior columns and beams charring during the fire Choir

Only in 1987, the reconstruction of the building was resumed. Raised funds, of course, were enough only to carry out anti-damage measures in the ruins of what was once the Lutheran church. And everything again reached a dead end.

Restoration Plan, developed by the Kiev Institute for Protection of Monuments (1989)

Lutheran Church in Odessa. German church.
Title page
Lutheran Church in Odessa. German church.
Church and parsonage (nursing home) conversion plan in the Concert Hall and Music Center

The building was becoming dilapidated disastrously fast, turned into a dangerous shelter for the homeless and persons of doubtful lifestyle.

Lutheran Church in Odessa. German church.
A view of Lutheran Church to the centennial celebration in 1997
A fragment of the facade ruins (the second half of 1990s) A fragment of the facade ruins (the second half of 1990s) Laid windows of the lower tier (the second half of 1990s) Main entrance portal (the second half of 1990s) Windows of the utility services room (the second half of 1990s) One of the small semi columns (the second half of 1990s)
Church interior, a view of the laid apse, 1989 A view of the main entrance from the apse Lobby Stabilizing steel structure in the apse

References and Archives