General information: First Jewish presence: 1330; peak Jewish population: 3,088 in 1925; Jewish population in 1933: 2,713
Summary: In Wiesbaden, Jews first settled in 1330 or 1385 (sources provide differing information); one source also informs us that the town’s first Jew was one Kirsan (Gershon). A Jewish community was established in Wiesbaden in 1573 at the latest, and while there were several streets that were referred to as the Judengasse (“Jews’ alley”), the city never had a Jewish ghetto as such. Jews were expelled from Wiesbaden in 1626; although the ban was rescinded in 1638, it was not until the beginning of the 18th century that community life really picked up, as evidenced by the fact that in 1708, Wiesbaden became the headquarters for the district rabbinate of 20 Jewish communities in the region. As a result of the so-called Judenordnung (or “Jews’ decree”)—issued by Countess Charlotte Amalie of Nassau-Saarbruecken in 1732—Jews were prohibited from using a number of public institutions, including bathhouses. Accordingly, local Jews established their own bathhouses and other institutions, including a Jewish coffee house in 1774. The community conducted religious services at the Judenschule (“Jews’ school”) on Metzgergasse (later renamed Wagemanngasse) until 1732, at which point services were moved to the Zum Rebhuhn (later renamed Pariser Hof ) bathhouse. A small synagogue (located at 40 Webergasse) was used during the years 1820 to 1824, soon after which, in 1826, a large 200-seat synagogue was inaugurated at 43 Schwalbacher Strasse, financed by the Frankfurt branch of the Rothschild family. The rapid growth of Wiesbaden’s Jewish population necessitated the construction of yet another synagogue: inaugurated on Michelsberg in August 1896, the new, liberal-oriented house of worship—the architectural style featured Moorish and Oriental elements—accommodated 358 men, 224 women and an organ. It was in or around the year 1896, too, that the community inaugurated a smaller synagogue (at 3 Schulberg) whose premises contained a prayer room for 40 men and a library. Orthodox Jews, opposed to the reforms introduced by the congregation of the large synagogue, conducted their own services at 2a Kleine Schwalbache Strasse. Forty-one members of the Orthodox community later founded the Orthodox Altisraelitische Kultusgemeinde (Old Israelite Congregation), which inaugurated a synagogue at 33 Friedrichstrasse (236 seats for men, 100 for women). There were also a few smaller Jewish prayer halls at different locations in Wiesbaden— namely, at 6 Bluecherstrasse (today’s 10 Kleine Schwalbacher Strasse), which belonged to the Talmud Torah association; and on Geisbergstrasse (in the Bristol Hotel), which was open only for Sabbath and holiday services. There were also a number of Jewish butcheries and a few Jewish cemeteries in the city. Burials were conducted in nearby Wehen until 1747, around which time the community consecrated its own cemetery at Auf dem Kuhberg; later, in the late 19th century, a new Jewish cemetery was consecrated at Platter Strasse, where more than 1,800 burials took place before 1943. We also know that the community consecrated a smaller Jewish cemetery at Hellkundweg. Prominent Wiesbaden Jews included: members of the Tendlau rabbinic dynasty; Rabbi Dr. Abraham Geiger, one of the most influential Reform rabbis in Germany; and Dr. Paul Lazarus, who was rabbi of the city and of the district from 1918 until 1938. Wiesbaden was home to a large number of Jewish organizations, including welfare organizations, women’s organizations, a local branch of the B’nai-B’rith, a local Zionist organization, a synagogue choir and an association of Jewish World War I veterans, to name but a few. The community always saw to the religious instruction of children, and we also know that in 1936, a Jewish school was opened on the corner of Mainzer Strasse and Welfenstrasse. In 1933, the same year local Nazis enforced the boycott of Jewish-owned stores, 2,713 Jews lived in Wiesbaden. Jewish children were later expelled from German schools, as a result of which local Jews established a Jewish school (see above); there, 160 students were enrolled until, approximately, 1942. On Pogrom Night in Wiesbaden, Nazis destroyed and burned down the Michelsberg synagogue; the city’s other synagogues and prayer halls were partly demolished. According to records, SA men ravaged 80 Jewish-owned businesses that night. Two hundred and thirty Jews died during the period following the pogrom, half of whom presumably committed suicide. In 1941, approximately 300 Wiesbaden Jews were deported to the German-occupied territories in Poland. Of those 1,000 Jews who still lived in Wiesbaden in January 1942, almost all were deported to Theresienstadt that year, and almost all were killed. Wiesbaden is no longer home to a Jewish community. A bronze memorial plaque has been unveiled at the Michelsberg synagogue.
Photo: The synagogue of Wiesbaden, in or around the year 1900. Courtesy of: City Archive of Wiesbaden.
Photo 2: The burning synagogue of Wiesbaden. Courtesy of: Leo Baeck Institute Photo Archive, 3216.
Author / Sources: Benjamin Rosendahl
Sources: AJ, EJL, LJG, SG-H, YV
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