General information: First Jewish presence: 1852; peak Jewish population: unknown; Jewish population in 1933: unknown
Summary: In 1852, a Jewish tanner named Jacob Kaufman settled in Erkelenz. Within nine years, the Jewish population was 18. Use of the community’s first synagogue, built on Oerather Strasse in 1862, was short-lived, for in 1869 the Jews of Erkelenz inaugurated a new synagogue on Patersgasse (also accessed from Westpromenade). An aerial photograph shows a saddle-roofed, brick building of 28 by 26 square feet. In Erkelenz, a Jewish cemetery was consecrated on Neusser Strasse. In April 1933, the boycott of Jewish-owned business was implemented in Erkelenz. Later, on Pogrom Night (November 1938), SS and SA men demolished the synagogue and Jewish homes. According to an eyewitness who was then eight years old, Jews who attempted to enter the synagogue and rescue the books and ritual objects were arrested, never to be seen again. Between 30 and 40 Jews lived in Erkelenz at the beginning of World War II. On April 1, 1941, the remaining Jews were forcibly moved from so-called “Jews’ Houses” to Spiesshof (in Hetzerath), from where they were deported to concentration camps, via the Izbica ghetto, in 1942. At least 44 Erkelenz Jews perished in the Shoah. Only two Jews (a married couple) returned to Erkelenz after the Shoah. At the synagogue site, now a restaurant, one can still discern sections of what was once the back wall.
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans
Sources: SG-NRW, YV