General information: First Jewish presence: 14th century; peak Jewish population: 496 in 1925; Jewish population in 1933: 460
Summary: After 1330, Jews lived on Zwickau’s Judengasse, or “Jews’ alley” (present-day Heinrichstrasse). A prayer room, thought to have been established a street called the Judenstrasse (Jews’ street”) in, at the latest, 1450, was destroyed in 1504. In 1543, after a series of brief periods of expulsion, Jews were banned from living in the town for 300 years. It was only between the years 1870 and 1875 that a Jewish presence was re-established in Zwickau. The modern Jewish community, founded in 1904, inaugurated a large prayer room on June 15, 1905; the prayer room, located in the annex of a house at 8, Bahnhofstrasse, seated 130 worshipers. The community maintained a mikveh and a Jewish cemetery, the latter of which was opened at the corner of Thurmer Strasse and Schneppendorfer Strasse in 1905. At the beginning of the 1920s, newly arrived Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe founded the Adass Jisroel congregation, whose prayer room was located at 10 Burgstrasse. By 1925, the Jewish community had grown to almost 500 members (approximately 0.5% of the total population), many of whom were owners of small shops, salesmen and peddlers. Several charitable and social organizations— including a branch of the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith and, after 1912, a branch of the German Zionist Organization—were active in Zwickau. The well-known publisher and philanthropist Salman Schocken (1877-1959) lived in Zwickau; an active Zionist, he worked tirelessly during the Nazi period in helping Jews immigrate to Palestine. In October 1938, 68 Zwickau Jews of Polish origin were deported to Poland. Later that year, on Pogrom Night, SA men vandalized Jewish homes and shops; one hundred Jewish men were arrested and sent to Buchenwald. The prayer room was spared that night, but would be destroyed by the Nazis three years later. Sixty-four Jews lived in Zwickau in 1939. In October 1941, all but 15 of the town’s remaining Jews (they were, presumably, protected by their marriages to Christians) were deported to the East. The Burgstrasse prayer room and the cemetery hall were burned down, and the inscriptions on Jewish tombstones were removed. At least 79 Zwickau Jews perished in the Shoah. At the Jewish cemetery—several Russian-Jewish POWs from World War I are buried there—one will find 64 intact tombstones and a memorial to Zwickau’s murdered Jews. Severely vandalized in 2003, the cemetery was later restored. In memory of the Orthodox prayer room, a memorial plaque has been affixed to the sidewalk on Katharinenstrasse. In 2002, Torah scrolls were discovered in Zwickau’s Ratschul Library.
Author / Sources: Beate Grosz-Wenker
Sources: AJ, EJL, LJG, W-G, YV
Located in: saxony