Frankfurt an der Oder

General information: First Jewish presence: 1253; peak Jewish population: 800 in 1864; population in 1933: 570
Summary: Frankfurt an der Oder, a flourishing trading hub, was home to one of Germany’s oldest Jewish settlements. Its cemetery dates back to 1399, and is the oldest in Brandenburg. The modern community was born in 1671, when Jews from Poland and Vienna arrived in the city. The university attracted letterpress printers and those with academic aspirations: a Jewish printer published the first complete version of the Talmud in Frankfurt an der Oder; and in 1678, for the first time in history, two Jews were accepted into a German university. The synagogue, built in 1716, was located in a private house until 1822, when a new house of worship was built at 60 Tuchmacherstrasse (present-day Karl-Marx-Allee). The community established a Jewish school on Richterstrasse/ Wollenbergstrasse in 1819 and a hospital (at 36 Rosenstrasse) in 1838. As Jews poured in from Western Russia, and later from territories surrendered to Poland, the Frankfurt an der Oder community grew steadily. A smaller, Orthodox community opened its own prayer hall on Spornmacherstrasse. Frankfurt an der Oder was home to several renowned rabbis: Meir Tiomim, who in 1763 wrote an important commentary to the Shulchan Aruch; Samuel Holdheim, who served as rabbi of Frankfurt an der Oder (1836-1840) before founding the Reform congregation in Berlin; and Ignatz Maybaum, a leading figure in German Liberal Judaism. In 1934, in response to dwindling membership numbers, the two congregations merged. The elections of 1933 triggered the first wave of emigration. Zionist groups like Werkleute and Beth Halutz prepared many Frankfurt an der Oder Jews for immigration to Palestine by training them in Hebrew, agriculture and craftsmanship. On Pogrom Night, SA men looted and destroyed Jewish properties. They also set fire to the synagogue, and the ensuing blaze consumed the interior, the organ and many other valuable ritual objects. Many men were arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. We also know that the school was eventually closed, the building sold to a carpet dealer. At least 110 Frankfurt an der Oder Jews were murdered during the Shoah. A new congregation was established there after the war. At the synagogue site—it now accommodates a shopping mall—a memorial stone was unveiled in 1988, in the presence of Kurt Cassel—a Shoah survivor and Frankfurt’s last acting rabbi. The plaque was later moved to another location. The Jewish cemetery, now on Polish territory, was leveled in 1970.
Photo: The synagogue of Frankfurt an der Oder, probably before 1900. Courtesy of: City Archive of Frankfurt an der Oder.
Author / Sources: Ruth Martina Trucks
Sources: EJL, LJG, FJG
Located in: brandenburg