General information: First Jewish presence: 16th century; peak Jewish population: 220 in 1935; Jewish population in 1933: 210
Summary: Jews lived in the Niederlausitz area as early as the 14th century. During the 16th century, the Jews of Forst lived in the Neustadt (“new town”; present-day Lindenplatz). Expelled after the Reformation, they resettled there in 1648, after the end of the Thirty Years’ War. It was not until 1815, however, that a considerable number of Jews moved to Forst. The community was initially joined to that of Guben, but in 1894 the Jews of Forst established an independent community. By the end of the 19th century, Forst boasted an array of religious and cultural associations: a chevra kadisha, a branch of the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith, a Jewish women’s organization and a bowling club. The community’s first prayer room was located in the annex of a house on Bismarckplatz. In or around 1900, local Jews inaugurated a synagogue on 6 Wasserstrasse (near present-day Cotbusser Strasse). We also know that the cemetery—several tombstones are still intact—was consecrated next to the road to Teuplitz. Local Jews, mainly textile merchants and manufacturers, were exposed to constant anti-Semitism during the 1920s. The daily humiliations and privations only increased after 1933. Although firefighters prevented the mob from burning down the synagogue on Pogrom Night, the furniture and ritual objects were destroyed. Thirty-one men were arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen. The community was dissolved in 1939/40. At least 52 Forst Jews perished in the Shoah; two Jews survived the war in Forst, protected by intermarriage laws. At the synagogue site—the building, a library after 1945, was demolished in 1945—a memorial plaque and stone were unveiled in 1988 and 1998, respectively.
Author / Sources: Beate Grosz-Wenker
Sources: AJ, EJL, LJG, SIA, WDJB, YV
Located in: brandenburg