General information: First Jewish presence: 1679; peak Jewish population: 120 in 1872; Jewish population in 1933: 35
Summary: Birkenau was home to a small synagogue building in 1823, and although it was sold to a local Jew in 1833, the community continued to conduct services there. In 1859, six years after the synagogue burned down, a new house of worship—40 seats for men, 20 for women—was inaugurated at 17 Obergasse. The Jews of Birkenau operated a school between 1817 and 1835, after which they employed a teacher of religion who also served as shochet and chazzan. Birkenau’s Jewish cemetery (on Kallstaedter Talstrasse) had been purchased in 1717. In response to dwindling Jewish population numbers, the synagogue was sold to the municipality on November 9, 1938. On Pogrom Night, SA men broke into the synagogue and set its contents on fire. The synagogue was damaged heavily, but the fire brigade, hoping to appropriate the building, extinguished the blaze. Jewish homes were looted that night, and Jewish men were sent to Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. The synagogue was demolished in 1940. Nineteen local Jews emigrated; one died in Birkenau. In February 1942, the remaining 14 Jews were moved into a Judenhaus from which they were deported to Poland and Theresienstadt in March and September of 1942. At least 27 Birkenau Jews perished in the Shoah. A memorial plaque was later unveiled at the former synagogue site, as was a memorial stone (1993).
Author / Sources: Heidemarie Wawrzyn
Located in: hesse