General information: First Jewish presence: 1241; peak Jewish population: 53 in 1890; Jewish population in 1933: 44
Summary: Jews were massacred in Oberwesel during the Black Death pogroms of 1349. Although individual Jews settled in Oberwesel during the ensuing centuries (records from 1452 mention a synagogue), it was only in the 18th century that an actual community began to emerge there. Oberwesel’s Jewish cemetery was consecrated in the early 19th century, if not before. By 1836, the community had inaugurated a synagogue. Records from 1853 refer to a new synagogue, and we also know that in 1886, one year after the second synagogue burned down, the community built a new house of worship on Schaarplatz; the building housed a mikveh and a school for religious studies, the latter of which was presided over by a teacher who also served as shochet and chazzan. In 1933, 44 Jews lived in Oberwesel; five children received religious instruction. A women’s association and a chevra kadisha were active in the community that year. On Pogrom Night, the synagogue’s interior was destroyed, prayerbooksandTorahscrollswerethrownintoastreamand windows in Jewish-owned homes were smashed. Later, in 1940, the municipality appropriated the synagogue building. Oberwesel’s last Jews were deported to the East in 1942. At least 18 local Jews perished in the Shoah. The synagogue, renovated in 1957, accommodated a police headquarters and, later, a residence. Since 2007, the building has served as the headquarters of the Rabbi Hillel organization, which promotes Jewish-Christian dialogue; in honor of Oberwesel’s destroyed Jewish community, that organization has unveiled a memorial.
Photo: On the right, the synagogue of Oberwesel. The picture was taken during the flood of 1926. Courtesy of: Town Museum of Oberwesel.
Author / Sources: Yehoshua Ahrens
Sources: AJ, EJL