General information: First Jewish presence: 965; peak Jewish population: approximately 2,361 in 1925; Jewish population in 1933: approximately 1,973
Summary: The earliest record of Jewish settlement in Magdeburg is dated 965. The early Jewish community, the oldest one in the eastern part of Germany, maintained a synagogue (14th century), a yeshiva and a cemetery (13th century). Local Jews lived in the Judendorf (“Jews’ village”) quarter. In Magdeburg, Jews suffered a series of persecutions and expulsions, and it was not until the early 19th century that a new community was established there, after which the Jewish population grew rapidly: from 188 Jews in 1811 to 2,361, the peak, in 1925. The modern Jewish community inaugurated a synagogue at 2c Grosse Schulstrasse (present-day Julius-Bremer- Strasse) in 1851; the 1,000-seat, Liberal synagogue—the architectural style incorporated Moorish features, and we also know that an organ was used during services—was renovated in the late 1890s and reopened in September 1897. Other Jewish institutions included a cemetery at 46 Fermersleber Weg (1816), a school for religious studies (1834) and, next to the synagogue, a community center. Prominent Magdeburg rabbis included Ludwig Philippson, who served the community from 1833 until 1862. In 1933, 1,973 Jews lived in Magdeburg, served by a rabbi, a chazzan and a teacher; 254 schoolchildren received religious instruction in 1932/33. Active in the community were several welfare associations, youth clubs and local branches of national Jewish organizations. Beginning in 1933, anti-Jewish violence and legislation intensified in Magdeburg: that year, guests at a Jewish hotel were attacked; two Jews, members of the Communist Party, were arrested in 1933/34; and a local Jew was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor in 1935. As a result of the deteriorating situation, many local Jews emigrated. In 1938, all children who had been expelled from German public schools received general schooling at the school for religious studies (see above). Later, on Pogrom Night (November 1938), members of the SS and the Hitler Youth looted the synagogue and destroyed its interior; the Torah curtain, however, was saved. Other Jewish facilities were demolished that night, Jewish homes and stores were vandalized and 375 Jewish men were arrested, beaten up and taken to Buchenwald concentration camp.In 1939, approximately 700 Jews lived in Magdeburg. Ownership of the synagogue building was transferred to the municipality, which ordered that the building be blown up. In 1940/41, the remaining Jews were forcibly moved to so-called “Jews’ houses”). Approximately 500 were deported to the concentration and annihilation camps in Eastern Europe; of these, most perished in the Shoah. A new community was founded in Magdeburg in 1947, which has been home to a Jewish community center at 1a, Groeperstrasse since 1968. In November 1988, a memorial was erected near the former synagogue; the area around the memorial is now called An der Alten Synagoge (“at the old synagogue”). At the Jewish cemetery on Fermersleber Weg, two memorial stones have been unveiled. In 2007, the Jewish congregation of Magdeburg consisted of 591 members.
Photo: The synagogue of Magdeburg; probably in or around the year 1930. Courtesy of: Unknown.
Author / Sources: Heidemarie Wawrzyn
Sources: AJ, EJL, FJG, LJG, SIA, W-G
Located in: saxony-anhalt