General information: First Jewish presence: 1260; peak Jewish population: 480 in 1905; Jewish population in 1933: 403
Summary: Osnabrueck’s 14th-century Jewish community lived on Schweinestrasse (present-day Marienstrasse), where they maintained a prayer room in the Judenschule (“Jews’ school”). The early community maintained two cemeteries: one near Natruper Gate, the other near Heger Tor (consecrated in 1386). Local Jews established prayer rooms in rented homes in Tuchfelds (at 16 Hakenstrasse) and at 18 Bierstrasse in the early 1820s and the 1850s, respectively. In 1872, the community purchased a house on Barfusskloster and established a synagogue (60 seats) and a Jewish school there, the latter of which was opened in 1886. Finally, on September 13, 1906, a synagogue with seats for 500 worshipers was inaugurated at 3-5 Rolandstrasse (presentday Alte Synagogenstrasse, or “old synagogue street”). Against the community’s will, the 14th-century Jewish cemetery was eventually closed, after which land for a new cemetery was acquired on Magdalenenstrasse. The municipality finally agreed to finance the disinterment and relocation of graves from the old cemetery, a process that was completed in 1894. In 1933, the community maintained a chevra kadisha, a sisterhood, a Bikur Cholim society for visiting the sick and an Ezra aid society, the last of which originated in Osnabrueck and helped survivors of the Russian pogroms immigrate to Palestine. Founded in 1924, a welfare organization aided itinerant Jews from Eastern Europe; in 1926, 5,428 needy Jews benefited from this group’s services. B’nai B’rith was active in Osnabrueck, as were Jewish pioneer groups and sports clubs. On Pogrom Night, SA men ransacked and set fire to the synagogue; Osnabrueck’s mayor ordered that the ruins be demolished the next day, for the municipality planned to use the site for its own purposes. Another group of SA men arrested and abused local Jews: between 20 and 30 of them were eventually sent to Buchenwald; those who were married to Christians were sent to Sachsenhausen. After their release, both groups were encouraged to leave the country immediately. Some of those who had been in Buchenwald were later sent to the death camps in Poland. In March 1939, the community was forced to sell the synagogue. Later, in 1941, 69 Jews lived in Osnabrueck, of whom 25 were moved into a “Jews’ house” (with just four rooms) at some point after August 1941. Nine patients from a local health institute were sent to Wunstorf in 1940, after which, on September 27, 1940, they were sent to Brandenburg and murdered by means of poison gas. On December 13, 1941, 35 local Jews were deported to Riga. We also know that in late July 1942, 27 elderly Jews—including a female convert to Christianity—were sent to Theresienstadt, from where several were later deported to either Minsk or to Auschwitz. And on March 1, 1943, the last seven residents of the “Jews’ house” on Kommenderiestrasse were deported to Auschwitz. Forty local Jews who had escaped to the Netherlands were brought back and deported, as were a married couple who had fled to Brussels; according to records, this couple died in Auschwitz. In all, 142 Osnabrueck Jews perished in the Shoah. Five Jews survived the war in Osnabrueck. On June 1, 1969, Osnabrueck’s new Jewish community received a synagogue and community center from the municipality. In 1970, paintings by Felix Nussbaum, the renowned Jewish artist, were discovered in Belgium and returned to Osnabrueck, where, in 1998, the Felix Nussbaum Museum was opened. In 1978, a memorial stone was unveiled at the former synagogue site. The Magdalenenstrasse cemetery was repaired in 1997 and again in 1999. Due to the arrival in Osnabrueck of many Russian Jews, the Jewish community grew from 61 in 1991 to 400 in 1996.
Photo: The synagogue of Osnabrueck in or around the year 1910. Courtesy of: Jewish Community of Osnabrueck/City Archive of Osnabrueck.
Photo 2: Curious onlookers in front of the vandalized synagogue of Osnabrueck on the morning of November 10, 1938. Courtesy of: Jewish Community Osnabrueck
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans
Sources: HH, PK
Located in: lower-saxony