General information: First Jewish presence: late 13th century; peak Jewish population: 106 in 1880; Jewish population in 1933: 37
Summary: Although Jews were annihilated in Gau-Odernheim during the Black Death pogroms of 1348/48, a Jewish presence was subsequently re-established there. Records tell us that the community grew during the 17th century, and that the modern community, to which the Jews of Koengernheim were affiliated, peaked at 106 in 1880. Gau-Odernheim was home to a prayer hall in the 19th century, presumably used until the establishment, in 1868, of a synagogue on Mainzer Strasse. Although we do not know when Gau-Ordenheim’s first Jewish cemetery was consecrated, records do tell us that the community established a new one in 1848 (the old burial grounds were sold in 1919). Local Jews also maintained a mikveh and a school for religious studies, the latter of which was presided over by a teacher who performed the duties of chazzan and shochet. In 1933, 37 Jews lived in Gau-Odernheim (three more Jews moved to the village after the Nazis came to power); six Jewish children received religious instruction. The cemetery was desecrated in 1935. Damaged on Pogrom Night, the synagogue building was later used as a camp for girls from local farming families. Records from 1940 indicate that the town authorities invested a lot of money in renovating the former synagogue and converting it into an apartment block. Twenty-seven Gau-Odernheim Jews managed to flee Nazi Germany; the rest relocated within the country. By the summer of 1939, no Jews remained in the village. At least 24 Gau-Odernheim Jews perished in the Shoah. All traces of the former synagogue were removed during the renovation process. The Jewish cemetery was desecrated in 1954.
Author / Sources: Bronagh Bowerman