General information: First Jewish presence: 1575; peak Jewish population: 43 in 1849; Jewish population in 1933: unknown (22 in 1932)
Summary: Two Jewish families were expelled from Raesfeld in 1683. A Jewish community was later established there without the required permission of the authorities, an offense for which the entire community was imprisoned in 1740. In 1750, however, a Jewish man named Israel Jost received a letter of protection from the authorities, which was renewed when he died in 1807; his descendants would form the bulk of Raesfeld’s future Jewish community. The Jewish population (most local Jews were cattle dealers) grew while Raesfeld was under French rule. In 1812, the community converted a barn into a prayer hall and classroom. Later, in 1863, a synagogue—it housed a mikveh and classrooms—was built in Raesfeld. Local Jews operated an elementary school from 1835 until 1880, after which (until 1900) children received religious instruction from teachers who served Raesfeld and its surrounding Jewish communities. Rabbis from Borken or Recklinghausen officiated at weddings and funerals. Few Jews lived in Raesfeld in 1933, and the local authorities, probably out of regard for their amiable relationship with the town’s Jews, did not enforce the boycott. The synagogue was nevertheless vandalized and looted by local SA men on Pogrom Night. The cemetery was desecrated in 1940, and the remaining Jews were deported in 1941/1942. Approximately 36 Raesfeld Jews were murdered in the Shoah. A memorial plaque was unveiled in the town after the war.
Photo: The synagogue of Raesfeld. Courtesy of: City Archive of Raesfeld.
Author / Sources: Harold Slutzkin
Sources: LIG, SIA