General information: First Jewish presence: 1007; peak Jewish population: 1269 in 1880; Jewish population in 1933: 812
Summary: Jews are said to have lived in Bamberg since its foundation in 1007, and there is evidence, dating from the 12th century, of a thriving Jewish community with its own quarter, synagogue, mikveh, school and wedding hall. Many Jews of the early community were prominent bankers, but their contributions to the town’s economy did not protect them from the pogroms of the Middle Ages; notable among these were the Rindfleisch massacres of 1298, the Black Death pogroms of 1348, the expulsions of the 15th century and the pogroms of the 17th century. Bamberg was home to many prominent Jewish residents: Rabbi Samuel ben Baruch (Samuel von Babenberg), founder of a renowned yeshiva (in approximately 1220); Rabbi Moshe Mints, one of the most important Talmudists of the 15th century; and Rabbi Shimon Rosenfeld, the first in Bavaria to deliver his sermons in German. As early as the 12th century, the Jews of Bamberg had a synagogue on the present-day Judengasse; this synagogue was converted into a church after the 14th-century community was expelled from the town. We also know that the community of the 15th century—it too, was expelled—had maintained a synagogue at Hellerstrasse, and that it was not until 1852 that another house of worship was built in Bamberg (on Generalsgasse, renovated and inaugurated in 1853). The growing community of the late 19th century built a synagogue at Herzog-Max-Strasse (inaugurated in 1910); as the synagogue was Liberal, the Orthodox Adass Israel congregation conducted services in its own prayer hall at 9 Hellerstrasse. The modern community also maintained a school and a mikveh, both of which were established at some point after 1905. According to the records, the new cemetery at Siechenstrasse—it replaced an older cemetery at Walsdorf—was consecrated in the mid-19th century. By June 1933, 812 Jews, constituting 1.5% of the general population, lived in Bamberg. Although many Jewish institutions continued to flourish in Bamberg after the implementation of the anti-Jewish boycott, Jews began to leave the town in steadily growing numbers beginning in 1933. The synagogue, which housed ritual objects from the region’s many Jewish communities and 40 Torah scrolls, was burned down on Pogrom Night. The old synagogue was vandalized, as were Jewish homes, and local Jewish men were sent to Dachau. The 418 Jews who still lived in Bamberg in 1939 were eventually deported. By war’s end, 12 Jews (most likely spared because of their marriages to ethnic Germans) were still living in the town. There is a memorial plaque next to the former synagogue and cemetery. After the war, a large number of Jews, all awaiting emigration, lived at the Bamberg DP camp. Many Russian Jews settled in Bamberg after the fall of the Soviet Union, and at the time of this writing, the town was home to at least 800 Jews.
Photo: A SA man in front of the burning synagogue of Bamberg. Courtesy of: Leo Baeck Institute Photo Archive.
Author / Sources: Benjamin Rosendahl; Sources: EJL, LJG, SG-B1
Located in: bavaria