General information: First Jewish presence: 1600; peak Jewish population: 208 in 1875; Jewish population in 1933:43
Summary: Town records indicate that a prayer hall existed in Petershagen in 1652, as did a cemetery—its oldest extant tombstone is dated 1692—known locally as Judenberg (“Jews’ hill”). From 1800 onwards, the growing Jewish community participated increasingly in the town’s commercial and municipal affairs. We also know that in 1846, local Jews inaugurated a synagogue whose schoolrooms were used until the late 1930s. The anti-Jewish boycott of 1933 triggered the emigration of the bulk of the Jewish community. Although the municipality had appropriated the synagogue building before Pogrom Night, rioters nevertheless vandalized its interior that night, destroying the women’s gallery and throwing out the ritual objects and Torah scrolls. The local fire brigade extinguished the ensuing fire, as the property had been “aryanized.” Later restored, the building now houses a museum, an archive and a memorial plaque. In 1941, seven Petershagen Jews were deported to Riga; the remaining few were deported to the death camps in 1943.
Author / Sources: Harold Slutzkin
Sources: LJG, SIA