General information: First Jewish presence: 1565; peak Jewish population: 144 in 1897; Jewish population in 1933: 41
Summary: In Werl, most Jews earned a living as sellers of commercial mortgages, or as ritual slaughterers and livestock traders. The few who managed to become craftsmen were harassed by the guilds. It was not until the mid-19th century that an official Jewish congregation was established in Werl. Records suggest that Werl’s Jewish school, first documented in 1723, was also used as a prayer hall. The community built a new synagogue, on Baeckerstrasse, in 1811; the building was renovated in 1897, after which men and women worshiped together. We also know that one of the synagogue’s rooms served as a school until 1892, when a new Jewish school was founded nearby; as a result of low enrollment numbers, the school was closed in the 1920s. Werl was home to two Jewish cemeteries, the first of which was consecrated in the 16th century. The modern Jewish community consecrated another cemetery, on Grafenstrasse, in the 19th century. In late May 1933, rioters smashed the windows of local Jewish-owned businesses. On Pogrom Night (November 1938), the synagogue was burned down, Jewish properties were vandalized and looted, and Jewish men were sent to Buchenwald. Later, in 1942, all but nine of Werl’s 37 remaining Jews were deported to Theresienstadt or to Zamosc. A memorial plaque was later unveiled at the former synagogue site. Several ritual objects from the destroyed house of worship are now on display at the Dusseldorf synagogue.
Photo: The destroyed synagogue of Werl. Courtesy of: Unknown.
Author / Sources: Swetlana Frank
Sources: FJG, LJG, SG-NRW