General information: First Jewish presence: early 16th century; peak Jewish population: 120 in 1930; Jewish population in 1933: 61
Summary: The earliest record of a Jewish presence in Wesseling is from the early 16th century. By the late 18th century, seven Jewish families had settled there; in 1885, Wesseling became the center of religious and social life for the Jewish communities of Hersel, Sechtem, Oedenkoven and Waldorf. Most local Jews earned a living as craftsmen, small business owners or livestock traders. Communal institutions included a synagogue, first documented in 1822, whose premises contained 40 seats for men, a women’s gallery and a Jewish elementary school; two charitable associations (one for men, the other for women); and, finally, a cemetery on Roemerstrasse (consecrated in 1783). On April 1, 1933, all Jewish-owned shops were boycotted and one Jewish cattle trader was beaten to death; these events persuaded many Jews to leave Wesseling. On Pogrom Night (November 1938), rioters destroyed Jewish dwellings and set the synagogue and neighboring Jewish homes on fire. The old Jewish street, called the “Jews’ alley” (or Judengasse), however, still exists. During the years 1933 to 1938, the Kibbutz Bemaaleh movement prepared young local Jews for life in Palestine; one of the branches of this organization founded Kibbutz Afek in Israel. Twenty-two Jews from Wesseling had emigrated by 1938; those who stayed were moved into so-called “Jews’ houses” and, later, deported. By 1942, only two Jews, both of whom were married to Christians, lived in Wesseling. Commemorative stones were later unveiled in memory of the Jewish cemetery and the synagogue.
Photo: The synagogue of Wesseling before 1938. Courtesy of: City Archive of Wesseling.
Author / Sources: Swetlana Frank
Sources: FJG, LJG, SG-NRW