General information: First Jewish presence: 1288; peak Jewish population: 116 in 1874; Jewish population in 1933: 83
Summary: In 1800, a few Jewish cattle traders settled in Kempen; by 1812, a dozen Jewish families lived there. The community established a cemetery (in use until 1942) and a Jewish private school in 1810 and 1826, respectively. According to records, the old synagogue on Judenstrasse (“Jews’ street”) was later replaced by a new building on Umstrasse. Although several local Jewish families were able to flee Germany after 1933, most were still living there on Pogrom Night (November 1938), when they helplessly watched the SS burn down the synagogue. After the war, three of the culprits were sentenced to prison terms. At least 35 Kempen Jews perished in the Shoah. In 1960, a memorial tablet listing the names of the victims was unveiled at the former synagogue site.
Photo: The interior of the synagogue of Kempen. Courtesy of: Leo Baeck Institute, New York.
Author / Sources: Harold Slutzkin
Sources: LJG, SG-NRW