General information: First Jewish presence: 1820; peak Jewish population: 45 in 1910; Jewish population in 1933: 38
Summary: The history of Jewish Opladen is rather short, as it was not until 1820 that Jews began to settle in the town; for many years, the Jewish population was limited to a few families. The Jewish cemetery, originally owned by one family, became public property in 1850. The community built a small synagogue on the corner of Altstadtstrasse and Lessingstrasse in 1879, and we also know that the synagogue district of Opladen and the Jewish surrounding communities was formed in the mid-19th century. In 1933, the Nazi Party called for the boycott of Jewish-owned stores and businesses. Party members prevented customers in Opladen from entering these stores and publicly ridiculed those who continued to do so. On Pogrom Night, “unknown persons” broke the synagogue’s windows and destroyed its interior. The building was burned down the following day. Twenty-nine Opladen Jews died in concentration camps; five committed suicide. One Jewish woman was hidden by a neighbor and survived. The synagogue arsonists were tried after the war. In 1963 a memorial was unveiled at the former synagogue site, renamed Platz der Synagoge (“synagogue square”).
Photo: The synagogue of Opladen, today Leverkusen, in 1934. Courtesy of: Rene Boosen/ City Archive of Leverkusen.
Author / Sources: Ruth Martina Trucks
Sources: EJL, LJG, SG-NRW