General information: First Jewish presence: 1334; peak Jewish population: 316 in 1925; Jewish population in 1933: 279
Summary: The Jewish community of Oldenburg did not exceed 30 members until 1810. Services were held in Baruch Goldschmidt’s home, and burials were conducted in Hohenberge, near Varel, until 1814, when the community opened its own cemetery (enlarged in 1862) in a suburb of Ostenburg (present-day Dedestrasse). Local Jews were served by two community leaders and a teacher/shochet. On June 6, 1829, the community inaugurated its first synagogue in a rented house at 5 Muehlenstrasse; the ceremony was presided over by Dr. Marcus Adler, Oldenburg’s first provincial rabbi. The community bought the house—it also housed a schoolroom and an apartment for the provincial rabbi—in 1832. On August 24, 1855, a new synagogue was inaugurated on Peterstrasse. Children studied religion at the community center, located next to the synagogue. The building was remodeled in 1904/05 (the architectural style incorporated Oriental features), when a mikveh was added. By 1933, the community was running a chevra kadisha, a sisterhood, a society for unmarried women, a synagogue choir, an orphans’ association, a Henry-Jones lodge and an association for the study of history and literature. In response to anti-Semitic propaganda, the Jews of Oldenburg established the Schild (Shield) athletic group in 1927. From 1935 onwards, community membership dwindled considerably; and between April and October of 1938, enrollment at the school dropped from 41 to 33. On Pogrom Night, the synagogue and the school building were burned down; the interior and contents of the cemetery’s ritual purification house were also burned. The remaining Jewish-owned businesses were ransacked, a local Jew was brutally beaten and 43 Jews were arrested; women, children and men over 70 were released after being paraded past the burning synagogue, but 32 men were sent to Sachsenhausen, where they were interned until early 1939. In May 1939, 96 Jews lived in Oldenburg, crammed into a so-called “Jews’ house” at 5 Kurwickstrasse, into which Walter Spitta, the Protestant preacher, smuggled food. A Jewish school, established on December 14, 1939, was moved three times; by October, 1939, only 12 students were enrolled there, soon after which, in April 1940, the school was closed. All Jews not married to Christians were ordered to leave by May 1940; they were deported in 1944 and 1945. A memorial was unveiled in Oldenburg in November 1990. On March 5, 1995, the newly established Jewish community acquired land for a community center and synagogue at 17 Wilhelmstrasse; the inauguration ceremony for the center, synagogue and mikveh took place in March 2002.
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans Esther
Sources: HH, PK
Located in: lower-saxony