General information: First Jewish presence: 1448; peak Jewish population: approximately 400 in 1908; Jewish population in 1933: 450
Summary: The earliest available records of a Jewish presence in Cottbus are dated 1448. Jews were expelled from Cottbus in 1510, 1573 and 1630. It was not until 1740 that a permanent Jewish presence was established there. The official Jewish community of Cottbus was formed in 1858. A prayer room on Mauerstrasse, consecrated in 1811, was renovated and converted into a synagogue in 1875. Later, in 1902, a larger, Romanesque-style synagogue with 300 seats was inaugurated on Jahrstrasse. The community consecrated a cemetery on Strasse der Jugend in 1814, prior to which burials had been conducted in Maerkisch-Friedland. A new cemetery was consecrated in South Churchyard, on Dresdener Strasse, in 1918. In 1933, 450 Jews resided in Cottbus, served by a chazzan, a shochet and Rabbi Salomon Posner, the last of whom held that post from 1905 until 1934. Fiftytwo schoolchildren studied religion with Rabbi Posner that year, and three welfare associations—a chevra kadisha (founded in 1877), a Jewish Women’s Association (1887) and the “Achieser” Association for Eastern European Jews (1919)—provided welfare services. We also know that four local branches of national Jewish organizations were active in Cottbus that year. In October 1938, between 30 and 40 Polish Jews were expelled from Cottbus. On Pogrom Night, locals instructed by members of the SS incinerated the synagogue. Jewish businesses and homes were looted and damaged, the old cemetery was desecrated, Jewish residents were assaulted and approximately 30 Jewish men were arrested and, later, taken to Sachsenhausen; of these, two died in December 1938. The synagogue ruins were removed in 1939. The remaining Jews were eventually moved to “Jews’ Houses” and subjected to forced labor. In 1940/41, the deportations to Eastern Europe began, including to Warsaw and to Theresienstadt. At least 38 Cottbus Jews perished in the Shoah. In 1968, a department store was built on the former synagogue site. Nearby, on Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse, two plaques (unveiled in 1988 and 1998) commemorate the former Jewish community; a memorial plaque was unveiled at the new Jewish cemetery in the 1980s. The new Jewish community of Cottbus was founded in 1998, 10 years after which, in 2008, the Jewish cemetery was desecrated.
Photo: The synagogue of Cottbus. Courtesy of: City Archive of Cottbus.
Photo 2: The synagogue of Cottbus. Courtesy of: City Archive of Cottbus.
Author / Sources: Heidemarie Wawrzyn
Sources: AJ, EJL, FJG, LJG, SIA, W-G, YV
Located in: brandenburg