General information: First Jewish presence: 13th century; peak Jewish population: 1,000 in 1927; Jewish population in 1933: 770
Summary: The history of Jewish Pforzheim commenced in the 13th century. Jews were persecuted there in 1260 and again in 1348/49, and were expelled in 1614. The modern community was born in the late 1600s, and eventually established the following institutions: a synagogue in 1812/1813; a new house of worship, at Zerrennerstrasse, in 1892 (renovated in 1930); a Jewish elementary school in 1832; and two cemeteries (one in 1846, the other in 1877). The school was closed in the early 1870s, after which the community employed a teacher of religion who also served as a shochet and chazzan. Although anti-Jewish incidents proliferated in the 1920s—anti-Semites broke the synagogue’s windows in 1922, for example, and the cemetery was desecrated four years later—Pforzheim’s Orthodox Jewish community (founded in 1905) inaugurated a prayer room at Rennfeldstrasse in 1926. In 1933, 770 Jews lived in Pforzheim. One hundred and sixty schoolchildren studied religion, and several Jewish associations and branches of nation-wide organizations were active in the community. Well into the Nazi period, in 1936, the community opened a Jewish elementary school. As was the case all over Germany, Pforzheim’s Polish families were expelled to Poland in October 1938. On Pogrom Night, SA men disguised as postmen entered Jewish homes, beat the inhabitants and destroyed property. Jewish businesses were plundered, their windows broken. The synagogue’s interior was destroyed the following morning: prayer books, Torah scrolls and ritual objects were ripped to shreds and thrown into a water channel, after which the building was incinerated. The Orthodox prayer hall was also vandalized, its Torah scrolls thrown into a garbage pile. The cemetery was desecrated (it would be leveled in 1940), and 23 Jews were sent to Dachau. In 1939, the synagogue’s ruins were cleared at the Jewish community’s expense. The copper roof was confiscated and the plot sold to a factory owner. Five hundred and fourteen Jews emigrated; 183 were deported to Gurs on October 22, 1940. The remaining 51 Jews were eventually deported to Izbica and to Theresienstadt. At least 190 Pforzheim Jews perished in the Shoah. In 1967, a memorial stone was erected at the former synagogue’s site; and in the 1980s the former cemetery was converted into a memorial. The new Jewish community of Pforzheim founded a community center in 2006.
Photo: The synagogue of Pforzheim in 1896. Courtesy of: State Archive of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Karlsruhe.
Photo 2: The synagogue of Pforzheim in 1896. Courtesy of: State Archive of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Karlsruhe.
Author / Sources: Heike Zaun Goshen
Sources: AH, AJ, EJL, PK BW
Located in: baden-wuerttemberg