General information: First Jewish presence: early Middle Ages; peak Jewish population: 1,137 in 1925; Jewish population in 1933: 1,038
Summary: Jews lived in Fulda in the Middle Ages, perhaps as early as the 8th century. A Jewish cemetery was consecrated there in the early 13th century, and the town was also home to a renowned yeshiva. Records from 1423 mention a synagogue, and we also know that a mikveh was built on the Judengasse (“Jews’ Alley”). In 1603, a regional rabbinical court—one of five in Germany – was established in Fulda. The community founded a Jewish school, also one of Germany’s first, in 1784; a new synagogue (335 seats) in 1859; a new cemetery in 1904; and an old-age home in 1930. The synagogue was enlarged in 1927 to include 730 seats, and the yeshiva was renovated during the Weimar period. During the 1920s, agricultural training centers in nearby Rodges and Geringshof prepared many Zionist Orthodox youth for immigration to Palestine. The cemetery was desecrated in 1923 and again in 1928. In 1933, Dr. Leo Kahn was district rabbi. Ninety-two children attended the school, and 60 others received religious instruction. Several Jewish associations and branches of nation-wide organizations were active in the community that year. Windows in Jewish shops and homes were smashed on many occasions after 1933. Jews were often abused in the streets, and the cemetery was desecrated in 1935. In October 1938, 41 Polish Jews were deported from Fulda to Poland. One month later, on Pogrom Night, the synagogue was burned down together with its ritual objects and Torah scrolls. The yeshiva was destroyed, the school building was damaged, the two cemeteries were desecrated, and Jewish homes and businesses were ransacked. A Jewish woman was raped that night, and Jewish men were sent to Buchenwald and to Dachau. In December 1938, the community was forced to clear the synagogue’s ruins at its own expense. Gravestones from the old cemetery, which was cleared by the Nazis and turned into a park, were used as building material. The new cemetery was closed in October 1940, after which burials took place in Weyhers. Many Jews moved to Fulda after 1933, and 70 Jewish babies were born there in the years that followed. Nine hundred and thirty-five Jews emigrated, 246 relocated within Germany and approximately 100 passed away in the town. In December 1941, 132 Jews (including 35 children) were deported, via Kassel, to Riga; in May 1942, 36 were deported to the Lublin area (Poland); and in September 1942, 76 were deported to Theresienstadt. At least 361 Fulda Jews perished in the Shoah. The new Jewish community of Fulda, founded in September 1945, conducted services in the former school building until it was sold in 1950. The building was repurchased in 1987, after which a prayer hall with 48 seats was established there. Memorial plaques have been unveiled at the former synagogue site (on which a garage has been built) and in both cemeteries.
Photo: The synagogue of Fulda, in or around 1910. Courtesy of: City Archive Fulda.
Photo 2: Decorated interior of the synagogue of Fulda shortly before the reopening of the renovated synagogue in 1925. Courtesy of: Leo Baeck Insitute Photo Ar
Author / Sources: Nurit Borut
Sources: AJ, EJL, PK-HNF
Sources: AJ, EJL, PK-HNF
Located in: hesse