Bad Bergzabern

General information: First Jewish presence: 14th century; peak Jewish population: 123 in 1880; Jewish population in 1933: unknown (43 in 1932)
Summary: Few or no Jews lived in Bad Bergzabern in the 15th century, for it was then that the authorities prohibited Jewish settlement in the province of Zweibruecken. By 1623, however, a new Jewish presence had been recorded there. The community established a prayer room in, at the latest, 1815. Although a Jewish elementary school was opened in Bad Bergzabern in 1837, it was closed in 1915 as a result of low enrollment numbers. We also know that, between 1848 and 1850, the Jews of Bad Bergzabern established a proper synagogue which accommodated a mikveh and a school; originally built by Duke Gustav Samuel as a residence for Capuchin monks, the building was located to the east of the market church, below the pharmacy. The synagogue had a seating capacity of 190 (120 men on the main floor, 70 women in the balcony) and 10 Torah scrolls. Bad Bergzabern and the affiliated community of Pleisweiler belonged to the district rabbinate in Landau. In1932,whenonly43JewslivedinBergzabern,Raphael Mandel, the teacher, instructed three students in religion. By 1938 the Jewish population had dwindled to 22; and in May 1939, only 17 Jews remained in Bergzabern. Nineteen local Jews emigrated during the Nazi period, and many others relocated to other towns and cities in Germany. On Pogrom Night (November 1938), SA men smashed the synagogue’s windows, destroyed the interior, tore off part of the roof and confiscated the Torah scrolls and ritual objects. Several days later, the building was demolished, not long after which (in 1939) the property was sold to the municipality for 830 Reichsmarks. In October 1940, the remaining four Jews were deported to the concentration camp in Gurs, France. At least 16 Bad Bergzabern Jews perished in concentration camps during the Shoah. A memorial plaque was unveiled in Bad Bergzabern in November 1978, on the 40th anniversary of Pogrom Night.
Photo: The desecrated synagogue of Berzabern; photograph taken as the synagogue was being demolished after Pogrom Night, 1938. Courtesy of: Town Archive of Bergzabern.
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans; Sources: AJ, EJL, SG-RPS