General information: First Jewish presence: 1096; peak Jewish population: 1,503 in 1905; Jewish population in 1933: 1,268
Summary: The records indicate that Jews settled in Bonn in the early 13th century and established a synagogue on the Judengasse. During the Black Death pogroms of 1348/49, the Jews of Bonn were massacred. Beginning in the 1400s, Jews returned to the city and began to rebuild their community, which would become the headquarters of the regional rabbinate. Strong evidence suggests that a synagogue existed in Bonn in 1604. Bonn was destroyed in 1689 by Fredrick III of Brandenburg; later, when the city was rebuilt, Jews carved out a neighborhood along the Rhine and established a new Judengasse there. Years later, the Jewish community established a new synagogue on the Judengasse: For this purpose, two adjoining houses were renovated, combined and converted into a synagogue and rabbi’s residence; the date, 1716, was carved above the door. By 1813, the Jewish community had developed into the largest between the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Local Jews decided to erect a new and larger synagogue (on the same site) when the older structure was no longer able to meet the congregation’s needs. These plans were changed, however, when a wealthy family purchased property on the same street and donated it for the construction of a new house of worship. Inaugurated on January 31, 1879, the synagogue was a magnificent edifice, built with no expense spared. In 1929, in honor of the synagogue’s 50th anniversary, the community undertook a massive renovation project, refurbishing the entire building. The most notable of the improvements was the new Torah Ark, which was enlarged to accommodate the synagogue’s 26 Torah scrolls. The ark, in fact, was the synagogue’s prominent feature. On Pogrom Night, SS hoodlums plundered the synagogue and set it ablaze while the fire department protected the neighboring homes; the fire was so intense that the synagogue burned to the ground. The rubble was removed in early 1939, after which the site became a parking lot. Years later, a hotel was built on the grounds of the destroyed synagogue. A memorial plaque has been unveiled at the site. Bonn’s Orthodox community conducted services in its own large synagogue; it, too, was destroyed on Pogrom Night.
Photo: The Tempelstrasse synagogue in Bonn, on fire on the morning of November 10, 1938. Photographed by Fredi Kolb. Courtesy of: Unknown.
Author / Sources: Moshe Finkel
Sources: LJG, SG-NRW, SIA