General information: First Jewish presence: 14th century; peak Jewish population: unknown; Jewish population in 1933: 45
Summary: It was not until the 18th century that continuous Jewish settlement was established in Frechen. In 1803, the community inaugurated a synagogue in a half-timbered building at 84 Hauptstrasse; the building, which was renovated in 1873, seated approximately 100 worshipers. In 1842, the synagogue community—which incorporated the Jews of Frechen, Grefrath and Grosskoenigsdorf—numbered 177 members. Forty-five Jews lived in Frechen in June 1933, of whom three left for Belgium that year. The community’s shochet immigrated to South Africa in 1936; others immigrated to the United States, some before the outbreak of the war, via England and Shanghai. In 1940 the Gestapo in Belgium arrested some Jews who had come there from Frechen. On Pogrom Night, SA men and members of the Hitler Youth vandalized the cemetery and ravaged the synagogue, after which they tore the iron Star of David from the roof and used it to smash windows in Jewish homes and businesses. At the butcher’s shop, which was also destroyed, the rioters poured poison on the kosher meat. One Torah scroll from the synagogue was saved and later taken to New York. In 1938 or 1939, the synagogue was sold to private buyers and used as a shop whose storage area was located on the women’s balcony. On September 25, 1939, nine impoverished Frechen Jews were forcibly moved into the Levy family’s residence. Of these, a Jewish man and his son (both forced laborers) later moved to Cologne, as did an unmarried Jewish woman. Another unmarried Jewish woman moved to the Rheidt old- age home in 1941, after which only three Jewish women and their children from mixed marriages remained in Frechen. Twelve Frechen Jews were murdered in the Lodz Ghetto; in Riga, all but three of the 18 Frechen Jews who were sent there perished; and in Minsk, where nine local Jews were sent, all perished. Five were murdered in Auschwitz, one in Izbica and one at an unknown location. At least 43 Frechen Jews perished in the Shoah. At the synagogue site—the building was torn down in the 1960s—two plaques commemorate Pogrom Night. In 1988, a plaque was unveiled in the town’s pedestrian zone; and in November 1988, a street neighboring the former synagogue’s site was renamed An der Synagoge.
Photo: The former synagogue of Frechen, no date. Courtesy of: City Archive of Frechen.
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans
Sources: LVAJ, SG-NRW