General information: First Jewish presence: 14th century (see below); peak Jewish population: 1,813 in 1910; Jewish population in 1933: 1,314
Summary: We know very little about the lives of Jews in Bremen before the 14th century; however, beginning in that century, records increasingly refer to a Jewish presence in the city. In 1802, Bremen annexed Hastedt, home to an unspecified number of “protected” Jews, as well as a Jewish cemetery at 1796 Deichbruchstrasse. In 1803, when the Jews of Bremen founded their own community, the Hastedt cemetery became Bremen’s official Jewish burial site (enlarged in 1909). In Bremen, Jews were granted civil rights in March 1849, after which the Jewish population increased and religious life flourished. Services were conducted in rented prayer rooms until 1876, when a synagogue was inaugurated at 6 Gartenstrasse (present-day Kolpingstrasse). Leopold Rosenak, an Orthodox rabbi, was hired in 1896 and served the community for 27 years. Local Jews also maintained a mikveh (on Vohnenstrasse), a school for religious studies (on Grosse Johannisstrasse) and, beginning in 1922, an old-age home on Groepelinger Heerstrasse. In 1927, a community center—it was called Rosenak House—was opened at 7 Gartenstrasse; the center accommodated a teachers’ library, classrooms and offices. In or around 1910, Eastern European Jews founded the Bet HaMidrash Schomre Schabbos (“House of Learning of the Shabbat Observant”), on Sebaldsbruecker Heerstrasse. In June 1933, 1,314 Jews lived in Bremen. Several welfare organizations were active in the community, as were branches of nationwide organizations, Jewish foundations, cultural associations, sports clubs and youth groups. In 1932/33, 115 schoolchildren studied religion under the guidance of a rabbi. We also know that on September 30 that year, six SA men entered the synagogue at night and stole books and documents. On Pogrom Night, at some point after midnight, local SA members set the synagogue on fire. The Rosenak House was looted and damaged, Jewish shops and homes were destroyed and the Bet HaMidrash and the Jewish old-age home were attacked. One Jew committed suicide, two were murdered and many were arrested and detained in the schoolyard. The following day, more than 160 Jewish men were sent to the jail in Bremen-Oslebshausen; they were later deported to Sachsenhausen and interned there until December 1938. Bremen’s Jewish cemetery was desecrated on the afternoon of November 10, 1938. After the destruction of the synagogue, services were moved to the school on 6 Kohlhoekerstrasse. Between 1933 and 1941, roughly 930 local Jews emigrated. In 1941, the remaining Jews were forcibly moved to so-called “Jews’ Houses.” Approximately 650 Bremen Jews were deported in 1941, 1942 and 1945. According to records, 165 Bremen Jews worked as forced laborers in Bremen-Farge in 1944. At least 849 Bremen Jews perished in the Shoah. The Jewish community, reestablished in August 1945, conducted services in a private residence at Osterdeich until August 1961, when a synagogue was inaugurated at 117 Schwachhauser Heerstrasse. Bremen’s Jewish cemetery was declared an historic site in 1978. Numerous memorial plaques and stones have been unveiled in Bremen since 1982—at, among other locations, Kolpinghaus, Landherrnamt, Am Barkhof High School, the Jewish old-age home in Groepelingen, and the new synagogue.
Photo: The synagogue on Gruen Strasse in Bremen in 1938, before Pogrom Night. Courtesy of: Jewish Community of Bremen.
Author / Sources: Heidemarie Wawrzyn
Sources: EJL, FGJ, JGNB1, SIA, YV
Sources: EJL, FGJ, JGNB1, SIA, YV
Located in: bremen