General information: First Jewish presence: 1300; peak Jewish population: 5,521 in 1925; Jewish population in 1933: 4,839
Summary: Although it is likely that Jews lived in Hanover in the 13th century or earlier, the earliest available record of their presence is dated 1300. The records are strangely silent about the fate of Hanover Jews during the Black Death pogroms of 1348/49, but it is safe to assume, considering what transpired in the rest of Germany, that local Jews were persecuted in Hanover, too. Hanover’s Old Town was home to a Jewish community from 1371 onwards, but it was not until 1585 that Jews settled in the New Town. The Jewish cemetery on Oberstrasse, consecrated in 1550 and in use until the mid-19th century, is the oldest intact Jewish cemetery in northern Germany. In 1864, the community consecrated a new cemetery on An der Stangriede (used until the 1960s). (The present-day community maintains a cemetery at Burgwedeler Strasse, in the Bothfeld district.) In 1589, one year after local Jews suffered a pogrom, the community’s synagogue was closed down. Jews were expelled from Hanover in 1591, and it was not until the mid-18th century that they were allowed to re-enter the Old Town. This ban did not, however, apply to the New Town, where the Jewish population continued to grow. In 1704, the community inaugurated a synagogue at Auf dem Berge (present-day 16 Bergstrasse/Calenberger Neustadt), after which the state rabbi lived in Hanover. In 1827, a new synagogue was inaugurated on the same site; the building was soon unable to accommodate the growing community, as a result of which the Jews of Hanover inaugurated a new house of worship, on Alten Posthofs Auf dem Berge, in 1870 (Jewish population for 1870: approximately 2,000). In 1876, the community purchased a building at Luetzowstrasse, which housed a Jewish school and administrative offices. Other Jewish institutions included the following: a seminary for Jewish teachers; a Hebrew educational institute; an orphanage; a hospital; several welfare organizations; a local branch of a national Zionist organization; and, finally, several sports clubs, among them Ha-Koah. Hanover was home to several prominent Jews: State Rabbi Dr. Selig Gronemann, who held that post from 1883 until 1914; and Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler, who served as rabbi of Hanover from 1831 until 1845 and was later appointed chief rabbi of Great Britain. Theodor Lessing, the philosopher, was a native of Hanover. The Jewish community continued to grow during the early 20th century, counting 4,540 Jews in 1900 and 5,155 in 1910. At least 760 Hanover Jews fought in World War I, many of them as volunteers; by war’s end, 92 had fallen in combat. In 1925, when the community recorded its peak membership figure, Hanover was home to the largest Jewish community in northern Germany, and to the fifth-largest in Prussia. The hyperinflation of the period financially crippled many Jews, as a result of which hundreds of families received welfare. Nevertheless, a new kindergarten, as well as oldage homes and other institutions, were established during this period. We also know that, between 1920 and 1938, Hanover’s Jewish community published a weekly newspaper called the Nachrichtenblatt. Anti-Semitism, which had become an acute problem during the Weimar period, intensified during the early 1930s. The Nazis’ anti-Jewish boycott went into effect in 1933, five years after which, in October 1938, Jews of Eastern European origin were expelled from Germany. Approximately 17,000 Jews were expelled that month, 484 of whom were from Hanover; among them was the family of Hanover native Herschel Grynzspan, whose assassination of the German diplomat Ernst von Rath was used as a pretext for Pogrom Night. On Pogrom Night, the synagogue (16 Bergstrasse) was incinerated, after which the Jewish community was billed 26,000 Reichsmarks for the demolition costs. The cemetery was destroyed that night, as were 27 Jewish apartments and 94 Jewish-owned businesses. At least 316 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Buchenwald. In late 1938, Jews were pressured to sell their businesses and properties; this process, the so-called “aryanization” of Jewish-owned property, had been completed by January 1939. During the ensuing years, more than 2,000 local Jews were deported to Riga, Warsaw, Trawniki, Auschwitz and Theresienstadt. Of these, only 27 survived the Shoah. After the war, a new community was born in the displaced persons camps in and around Hanover. The present-day community, numbering over 3,000 members, is home to the state rabbinate. Several memorial sites commemorate the rich history of Hanover’s Jewish community.
Photo: The synagogue of Hanover. Courtesy of: City Archive of Hanover.
Photo 2: The ruins of the synagogue in Hanover in 1938. Courtesy of: City Archive of Hanover.
Author / Sources: Benjamin Rosendahl
Sources: EJL, JGNB1, LJG, YV
Sources: EJL, JGNB1, LJG, YV
Located in: lower-saxony