General information: First Jewisהh presence: 1734; peak Jewish population: 260 in 1908; Jewish population in 1933: 70
Summary: The Jewish community of Altenkirchen, founded in 1743, established several communal institutions: a cemetery (1780), an elementary school (1824) and a synagogue (1884). The synagogue, which seated 120 worshipers, was built in the Moorish architectural style. During the years of the Weimar Republic, Jews took an active part in the economic, social and cultural life of the town in spite of sporadic anti-Semitic outbursts. Even the boycott of 1933 did not extinguish the spirit of enterprise; in 1937, Altenkirchen was still home to seven Jewish cattle dealers and four butchers. A Zionist society of 15 members was active in the community. On Pogrom Night, the synagogue was set on fire—the interior was destroyed—Jewish-owned homes and businesses were vandalized and Jewish proprietors were arrested and sent to Dachau. Several Jews were forced to clear the synagogue ruins, but it was not until 1946 that the site was completely cleared. Of the 27 Jewish families who lived in Altenkirchen during the Nazi period, several managed to emigrate before the final deportation. In 1978, the town and church authorities unveiled a memorial listing the names of 47 former members of the destroyed community.
Photo: The synagogue of Altenkirchen after it was destroyed, photograph taken on November 11, 1938. Courtesy of: the Heinz Kraemer Collection, Altenkirchen.
Author / Sources: Harold Slutzkin; Sources: EJL, LJG