Offenbach am Main

General information: First Jewish presence: 14th century (possibly earlier); peak Jewish population: 2,360 in 1910; Jewish population in 1933: 1,435
Summary: Offenbach’s Jewish community was annihilated during the Black Death pogroms of 1348. When the Jews of Frankfurt were expelled from the city in 1614, they settled in Offenbach and founded a new Jewish community there. A Judenstrasse (“Jews’ street”) was established in 1702, another in 1708. Offenbach developed into an important center for Hebrew printing during the 18th century. Jacob Frank, the Shabbatean pseudo-messiah who lived in Offenbach during the years 1788 to 1791, attracted thousands of devoted visitors to the city; his daughter, Eva, maintained his court until 1817. The Jewish population remained at approximately 1,000 during the 19th century. Between 1913 and 1916, the community built a beautiful, domed synagogue with a seating capacity of 800. Jews were successful in local industries, especially in leather and textiles, and they owned the larger department stores. Prominent Jews included the Offenbach family, made famous by the Romantic composer and cellist Jacques Offenbach. At some point during the second half of the 19th century, as Liberal Judaism became predominant in Germany, 25 local families established an Orthodox congregation without seceding from the mainstream community. Eastern European Jews, the so-called Ostjuden, made up a large chunk of the city’s Jewish population. Many Polish Jews were expelled in 1936. From 1933 onwards, as was the case all over Germany, Jews in Offenbach faced severe social and economic measures; many Jewish-owned businesses were “aryanized” during the 1930s. On Pogrom Night (November 1938), the synagogue was burned to the ground; Offenbach’s rabbi, Max Dienemann, a leading figure in progressive Judaism, was imprisoned. Five hundred and fifty-four Jews still lived in Offenbach on May 17, 1939. Of these, 205 were deported in October 1942; the rest were deported soon afterwards, mostly to Theresienstadt and to Auschwitz. Approximately 400 Offenbach Jews are known to have perished in the Shoah. Jews returned to Offenbach in 1956 and consecrated a new synagogue there. By 1970, the Jewish population numbered 662; and by 2005, 960 Jews—half of whom were from the former Soviet Union—lived in Offenbach. The original synagogue building, now a theater, bears a commemorative plaque.
Photo: The synagogue of Offenbach. Courtesy of: Leo Baeck Institute Photo Archive, 3135.
Photo 2: The synagogue of Offenbach. Courtesy of: Leo Baeck Institute Photo Archive, 3135.
Author / Sources: Fred Gottlieb
Sources: EJ, EJL, LJG
Located in: hesse