General information: First Jewish presence: 1309; peak Jewish population: 423 in 1890; Jewish population in 1933: 111
Summary: With the exception of the 16th century, during which Jews were banned from the Brandenburg region, Jews maintained a continuous presence in Prenzlau. A functioning community was established there during the 18th century. In 1716, a cemetery was consecrated near the water tower (today’s city park); enlarged on several occasions, the cemetery was moved to Am Suessen Grund (serving Prenzlau and the Jewish communities of Bruessow und Strasburg) in 1890. In 1752, the Jews of Prenzlau established a synagogue in a timber-frame building at Wasserpforte; accordingly, the street was named Tempelstrasse (“temple street”). Eighty years later, the structure was replaced by a simple but solid building with arched front windows. We also know that, in 1825, the rabbi started giving private lectures in his home on Prinzenstrasse; he later established a gender-separated school with three classes. At its peak, Prenzlau was Germany’s third largest community, after Berlin and Frankfurt. The community ran many cultural and religious organizations; for example, a chevra kadisha, a sisterhood and a literature club. Despite the arrival of many Eastern European Jews during the early 20th century, Prenzlau’s population declined as more Jews chose to move to Berlin. As early as 1935, windows in seven Jewish stores were smashed. On November 10, 1938, the synagogue was burned down; homes and stores were vandalized, as was the cemetery; many men were arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen. The Nazis appropriated Jewish-owned businesses and forced the congregation to sell its property to pay for the removal of the synagogue ruins. Approximately 46 Prenzlau Jews perished in the camps; three survived the war. A memorial plaque was unveiled in the town in 1988, and in 2000 the old cemetery was declared a memorial site.
Photo: The burning synagogue of Prenzlau on November 10, 1938. Courtesy of: City Archive of Prenzlau.
Author / Sources: Ruth Martina Trucks
Sources: DPKM, EJL, LJG, YV
Located in: brandenburg