General information: First Jewish presence: 1241; peak population 440 in 1905; population in 1933: 378
Summary: Eisenach’s first Jewish settlement, established in the Middle Ages, had its own “Judenstrasse” or “Jews’ street”; its residents were driven out during the Black Death persecutions of 1348- 1349. Jews did return to the town in later years, but were expelled again in 1458. The town’s modern Jewish community began to develop in the early 1800s; its members established a cemetery and, at 23 Karlstrasse, a prayer hall. The Eisenach Jewish congregation was officially constituted in 1867, with 72 members. By the late 1800s, it had grown to such an extent (300 members) that services for the High Holidays had to be held at the Loewen Hotel. A new, larger house of worship became imperative; construction work began in 1883, and a new synagogue was inaugurated on today’s Karl Marx Strasse in January 1885. Even though Eisenach’s young Jewish men staunchly played their part in defending the Fatherland (23 fell in World War I) anti-Semitic incidents took place frequently in the town in the 1920s, and the synagogue’s windows were often smashed. In 1933, the boycott of Jewish businesses destroyed whatever sense of security Eisenach’s Jews still had, and they began to leave. On Pogrom Night, November 1938, the synagogue was burned down. All the town’s Jewish businesses, most of its Jewish-owned homes and the Jewish cemetery were destroyed. Approximately one third of the Jews who left Eisenach during that period managed to escape to safe places. In 1941, the 145 Jews who remained were gathered together to live in several so-called “Jews’ houses,” and were then deported in stages; few survived. In 1947, a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the site of the former synagogue; in 1998, a new memorial was dedicated to those who were deported, never to return.
Photo: The synagogue of Eisenach. Courtesy of: City Archive of Eisenach.
Author / Sources: Harold Slutzkin
Sources: AJ, LJG
Located in: thuringia