General information: First Jewish presence: 1266; peak Jewish population: 391 in 1875; Jewish population in 1933: 151
Summary: A small number of Jews were permitted to live in Schwerin in 1267. After centuries of pogroms, burnings at the stake and expulsions, Jews were permitted to return to Schwerin in 1679, albeit with restrictions: in addition to being forced to pay exorbitant taxes and protection money, they were limited to certain business activities. As a result, the Jewish population of that period never exceeded thirty. When these cumbersome restrictions were relaxed in the mid-1700s, more Jews moved to Schwerin. Although the community received permission to build a synagogue in 1773, it was not able to gather the necessary funds until 1819. Shortly after the inauguration of the synagogue, the anti-Jewish Hep-Hep riots erupted: angry crowds marched in front of the synagogue chanting “Kick out the Jews,” but Schwerin Jews, unlike their contemporaries in other towns and cities, were spared the brunt of the pogrom. Beginning in 1933, when the Nazis instituted the anti- Jewish boycott, Jews started to leave Schwerin in large numbers. Later, on Pogrom Night (November 1938), the interior of the synagogue was ransacked, after which the contents were burned in one of the city’s squares. Forbidden to set the synagogue on fire because of its proximity to many homes, the Nazis forced the Jews to tear down the building themselves. By 1942, Schwerin’s remaining Jews had all been deported. Three years after the war, a group of Jews returned to Schwerin and founded a new Jewish community. By 1947, 100 Jews lived there. After buying two homes on the street on which the old synagogue once stood, the community converted one into a synagogue and the other into a community center. The Jewish population dwindled during the ensuing decades (three members in 1980), but an influx of Jewish arrivals from the former Soviet Union rejuvenated the defunct community. In 2005, 1,000 Jews lived in Schwerin (more than double the peak pre-war population). In 1951, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the former synagogue site, and in 1984, planning commenced for a building that would house a miniature replica of the destroyed synagogue. (The project was funded by the Ford Foundation and the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.)
Author / Sources: Moshe Finkel