General information: First Jewish presence: 17th century; peak Jewish population: 168 in 1901; Jewish population in 1932/33: 132 (see below)
Summary: Jews settled in Geilenkirchen during the latter half of the 17th century. The community experienced steady growth, from two families in 1710 to 101 members in 1895. In 1869, local Jews inaugurated an impressive, Neo-Romanesque synagogue on Neustrasse (present-day Herzog-Wilhelm-Strasse); attached to the building was a school for religious studies. We also know that the Jewish cemetery on Heinsberger Strasse was in use from 1823 until 1937. In 1932/33, 132 Jews lived in Geilenkirchen. (According to another source, 242 Jews lived in Geilenkirchen in 1933; this number, however, includes the Jews of Huenshoven and Bauchem.) A chevra kadisha (founded in 1828) and a Jewish women’s association (1870) were active in the community. Approximately 10 local Jews emigrated in 1933, and many others emigrated from or relocated within Germany during the following years. On Pogrom Night, SA men from Cologne destroyed the interior of the synagogue and set the building on fire. The remaining Jews were chased to the border of Germany with the Netherlands on the following morning; most returned, only to be expelled to Dueren and Aachen in December 1938, from where they were deported in 1941/42. At least 85 Geilenkirchen Jews were killed in the Shoah. In 1988, a memorial plaque was affixed to the community center on Gerbergasse; a commemorative stone can be found on Herzog-Wilhelm-Strasse. The cemetery was desecrated on three occasions during the 1960s.
Photo: The synagogue of Geilenkirchen in or around the year 1935. Courtesy of: City Archive of Geilenkirchen.
Author / Sources: Heidemarie Wawrzyn
Sources: EJL, FJG, HU, LJG, SIA