General information: First Jewish presence: 1313; peak Jewish population: 657 in 1900; Jewish population in 1933: 600
Summary: Hanau’s first Jews were not only referred to in records as citizens, but were permitted to establish a prayer hall and employ a teacher; a position that was filled by a man named Abraham. The pogrom of 1349, initiated by the nobleman Graf Ulrich, claimed many Jewish lives and forced other Jews out of the area. Individual Jews lived in Hanau during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, but it was only in 1600 that Jews were officially permitted to return to the city, after which they played an important role in developing the city’s economy and new industrial zone (Neustadt). We also know that a Judengasse (“Jews’ Alley”) was eventually built next to the city wall. The Jews of Hanau established a prayer hall in 1362; a cemetery, on Muehltorstrasse, in 1603; a synagogue, on the Judengasse, in 1608 (enlarged in 1922 to accommodate 350 seats and a classroom); a community center—the building housed a social hall, a mikveh, classrooms and a teacher’s apartment—in the 18th century; and, finally, an elementary school on Nuernberger Strasse, in 1890. During the French occupation (1806-1813), Jews were given family names and permitted to live outside the ghetto. Although Hanau’s Jews were granted even more rights in 1823 and again in 1830, the authorities placed restrictions on Jewish moneylending and landownership in 1852. By the mid-19th century, however, 6% of the total population in the Hanau district was Jewish. Many local Jews gained prominence in business and trade during the early 20th century: the Stern Brothers, a private Jewish-owned bank, was the main investor in the city’s diamond industry; Hanau was also home to Jewish-owned mills, cigar factories, butcher shops, bakeries, diamond dealerships and restaurants. Jews were active in media, theatre, law and municipal politics, and many Jewish charities were active in Hanau, among them a branch of the Central Jewish Welfare association (1923), a burial society (1650), a women’s club (1901) and a Jewish youth association. On Pogrom Night, November 1938, the synagogue was burned down; seven Torah scrolls were desecrated and ripped to shreds. Forty Jewish men were deported to Buchenwald; Jewish-owned homes were looted and destroyed that night, as was the cemetery. Most Hanau Jews immigrated to the United States, Palestine, South Africa or other destinations after 1933. Those who remained were deported, together with their rabbi, Dr. H. Gradenwitz, in the deportations of 1938, 1940, 1942 and February 1945. Nineteen Jews lived in Hanau in 1965. A memorial has been unveiled at the former synagogue site; and in 2005 a new congregation of more than 250 members was founded in Hanau.
Author / Sources: Swetlana Frank
Located in: hesse