General information: First Jewish presence: 1767; peak Jewish population: approximately 800 in 1924; Jewish population in 1933: 574
Summary: Pirmasens was home to a district rabbinate from 1827 until 1879, and again between the years 1911 and 1939. Services were conducted in private residences until 1781, when the Jewish community established its first synagogue. In 1844, a larger synagogue was inaugurated in Pirmasens; we do not know much about the synagogue’s architectural style, but records do tell us that it was enlarged and/or renovated on several occasions. The community also maintained a Jewish school (opened in 1828) and three cemeteries (established in 1813, 1867 and 1927). In 1933, 574 Jews lived in Pirmasens; 34 children attended the Jewish school. Dr. Dagobert Nellhaus was rabbi, and the community also employed a teacher and a chazzan. Several Jewish associations and branches of nationwide organizations were active in the community, with which the Jews of Herschberg were affiliated. On Pogrom Night, Christian schoolchildren were assembled and brought to the synagogue site, where they watched the building burn to the ground. Jewish-owned property was vandalized, and 82 Jews were sent to concentration camps. Although a Methodist congregation, located across the former synagogue site, offered its prayer facility to the Jewish community, the police forbade the Jews from congregating there. Accordingly, services were conducted in a private residence. The municipality appropriated the synagogue site—cleared in early 1939 at the Jewish community’s expense—in February 1939, and sold it in 1941. On October 22, 1940, Pirmasens’ remaining Jews were deported to Gurs, France. At least 115 local Jews perished in the Shoah. After the war, houses were built on the former synagogue site. In 1979, a commemorative plaque was affixed to the Methodist church.
Photo: The synagogue of Pirmasens. Courtesy of: Leo Baeck Institute Photo Archive, 3156.
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans
Sources: AJ, EJL, FGW