General information: First Jewish presence: 15th century; peak Jewish population: 3,330 in 1880 (10.7% of the total population); Jewish population in 1933: 1,990
Summary: Fuerth’s 16th-century Jewish community was the largest in Bavaria and the most influential in the whole of Germany. It was not, however, until 1601 that communal services were conducted in Fuerth (in a private residence). The community employed its first rabbi in 1607, and we also know that, in 1617, a synagogue—it was referred to as the Altschul (the “old school”)—was inaugurated in Fuerth; the synagogue was renovated in 1831 and again in 1865. Local Jews established a cemetery and a mikveh in 1607 and 1697, respectively. Other communal institutions included the country’s first Jewish hospital (founded in 1653), a Talmud Torah (1697), a renowned yeshiva and, finally, an orphanage (1763). The city was also famous for its Jewish printing houses. In 1830, the authorities closed down the yeshiva. The hospital was moved to a new building in 1846 (enlarged in 1864). Fuerth’s Jewish school, opened in 1862, attracted so many students that the community eventually decided to establish a high school there. Records also tell us that the Jews of Fuerth consecrated a new cemetery in 1880, and that Orthodox Jews broke away from the mainstream community in 1873. In 1923, the community further enriched its cultural life by establishing a community hall whose premises included an extensive library. The mainstream community renovated its synagogue in 1925, after which, in 1927, the hospital was thoroughly modernized. In 1933, 1,990 Jews lived in Fuerth; 184 pupils attended the school. Dr. Siegfried Behrens was district rabbi, and Dr. Yehuda Breslauer presided over the Orthodox congregation. Fuerth was home to seven synagogues in 1933, six of which belonged to the Orthodox community: the Mannheimer (opened in the mid-17th century); the Klaus (1691); the Neuschul, or “new school” (1697); the Weisen-Synagoge (at the orphanage); the Spital-Synagoge (at the hospital); and the Polnische Synagoge (the Polish synagogue). The first four of these synagogues were located in a large yard, referred to as the Schulhof (schoolyard), which also accommodated a mikveh, the community’s offices and a kosher butcher’s shop. In August 1933, military units were sent to the city to protect Jews from the SA. Later, on Pogrom Night (November 1938), almost all Jewish public buildings, including those in the Schulhof, were destroyed, as were Jewish-owned businesses. All Jews—including women, children and invalids—were forced to stand in the city square for five hours, while they were mocked and humiliated by a crowd of onlookers; Rabbi Behrens was forced to desecrate a Torah scroll. The next morning, all men under the age of 60 were arrested and tortured. One hundred and fifty men were sent to Dachau after the pogrom, around which time the community leaders were forced to sell, for a mere 200 Reichsmarks, the two cemeteries, the community center, the hospital and all other community properties. Jews continued to attend the hospital and orphanage synagogues until the deportations began. In total, 1,400 Jews left Fuerth before 1941. Of those who remained, 504 were deported to the East and to Theresienstadt between 1941 and 1944. At the end of 1942, the Jews of Nuremberg were sent to Fuerth and, from there, to the camps. At least 600 Fuerth Jews perished in the Shoah. A new Jewish community was founded in Fuerth after the war. In 1949, the old cemetery was partially renovated. Several memorials were later erected in the city, now home to a museum of Franconian Jewry (opened in 1999). Furth’s present-day Jewish community has its own rabbi and synagogue. Burials are conducted at the newer cemetery.
Photo: The interior of the liberal synagogue in Fuerth. Courtesy of: Yad Vashem Photo Archive, 195B61.
Photo 2: The ruined synagogue of Fuerth after Pogrom Night. Courtesy of: City Archive of Fuerth.
Author / Sources: Nurit Borut
Sources: AJ, PK-BAV
Located in: bavaria