During the Nazi occupation of Rijeka (September 1943-May 1945), the Orthodox synagogue remained untouched; the Great synagogue with its furnishings and Judaica on the other hand sustained heavy damage, although there is debate among historians as to the extent. A press release from the Jewish Telegraph Agency, dated 6 February 1944, reports that the Gestapo had recently raided the synagogue in Rijeka and arrested all worshippers "on the pretext that the Jews were transmitting information to the Allied forces through a secret transmitter in the synagogue building".
Gestapo Raids Synagogue in Fiume; Arrests All Jews during Services
According to other reports, on either 25 or 30 January 1944 Nazi soldiers of a neighbouring canteen attacked the synagogue with explosives, both preventing firemen from intervening and ravaging its contents. However, building's state of conservation immediately after the war is not clear. The war damage evaluation issued by the Rijeka City War Crimes Commission in 1945 (Commissione Cittadina per i Crimini di Guerra di Fiume) reports that the damage amounted to 11,500,000 Italian Lire, a high sum to be dispensed at the time, but the document does not detail the type of damage. What is certain is that on 9 August 1948 the Association of Jewish Religious Communities of Belgrade (as the legal successor of the Jewish community of Rijeka) sold what remained of the Great synagogue as construction debris to the City of Rijeka for 80,000 Dinars. Some historians believe that the Great synagogue was sold because it was in ruins and therefore repairing it would have been too expensive; others believe that the damage was limited to the roof and some walls, while the interior was largely preserved. After Rijeka's Great synagogue was sold, the Construction Company Učka erected new residential buildings on the spot. The area where the synagogue was located is not currently marked in any way.
We were not able to find images shedding light on the obscure years of the Nazi occupation and the subsequent destruction of the Great synagogue: its appearance and 'life story' are captured in a lively account by Teodoro Morgani (Morgenstern) (1910-1990), a man who joined the partisans and did much in the afterwar period to preserve the memory of the Jewish people of Rijeka.
Extract from Teodoro Morgani, Ricordi del tempio di Fiume, in Ebrei di Fiume e di Abbazia (1441-1945), Rome, 1979, pp. 113-114, with a description of the interior of the Great synagogue of Rijeka