General information: First Jewish presence: early 19th century; peak Jewish population: 340 in 1931; Jewish population in 1933: unknown (113 in 1939)
Summary: The town of Wesermuende was founded in 1924, when the medieval borough of Lehe merged with the newer settlement of Geestemuende. Wesermuende’s Jewish community was attached to that of Bremerhaven, the port for the ancient city of Bremen. Jews settled in Lehe in the early 19th century: a cemetery was consecrated in 1804, and the synagogue in Geestemuende, with its seating capacity of 300, classrooms and communal offices, was built in 1878. When the boroughs merged in the early 1920s (see above), the Jews of Bremerhaven became members of the new community. Many Jews flourished at the beginning of the 20th century, and some even achieved national fame in business and the professions. Prominent among these Jews was the Schocken family, founders of the renowned publishing house and the chain stores that bear their name. Displeased with the results of the anti-Jewish boycott of 1933, local anti-Semites escalated their onslaught on Jewish businesses in 1935, so that by the end of that year one-third of the Jewish community had left Wesermuende. The synagogue was set on fire on Pogrom Night; Jewish homes were wrecked and businesses, including the landmark Schocken store, were vandalized. Many Jewish men were arrested, abused and taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The synagogue’s ruins were demolished in 1939 at the expense of the Jewish community. By 1939, only 113 Jews, crammed into designated “Jews’ houses,” still lived in Wesermuende; in 1942, those who had not managed to escape (approximately 80) were deported and murdered. A memorial plaque was unveiled at the former synagogue site in 1983. Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union later founded a new community.
Author / Sources: Harold Slutzkin
Sources: EJL, LJG
Located in: lower-saxony