General information: First Jewish presence: 1292; peak Jewish population: 280 in 1895; Jewish population in 1933: 196
Summary: The first available record of a Jewish presence in Bad Mergentheim is dated 1292. These early inhabitants were persecuted in 1298, 1336 and 1349, at which point the community was destroyed. Few Jews lived in the town throughout the ensuing decades, and it was not, in fact, until 1658 that a new community was founded there. Bad Mergentheim would become the central Jewish community of the Deutscher Orden (German Order). The community not only employed a series of rabbis, but also hosted, beginning in 1832, a regional rabbinate. A prayer hall was opened in a private residence in 1656. Later, in 1762, a synagogue was built in the backyard of Baruch Simon’s—a court Jew and the grandfather of Ludwig Boerne—manor house. This prayer hall was renovated and enlarged in 1840 and 1912, and it later housed the rabbinate. Burials were conducted in a regional cemetery (consecrated in the 16th century), and we also know that local Jews maintained a mikveh and a school. In 1933, 196 Jews lived in Bad-Mergentheim: ten children received religious instruction. Dr. Moses Kahn was rabbi, and several Jewish associations and branches of nationwide organizations were active in the community that year. On Pogrom Night, SA men assaulted Jews, looted stores and threw Rabbi Kahn down a flight of stairs after cutting off his beard. The interiors of the school and synagogue were destroyed; the Torah Ark was defiled with bacon. All Jewish men were arrested, including the wounded rabbi, and 38 were sent to Dachau. Rabbi Kahn emigrated in 1939 but died shortly afterwards. By 1941, 123 Jews had left the town. Eighteen Jews died in Bad-Mergentheim; thirty-five were deported to Riga, Izbica and Theresienstadt in 1941/1942. At least 61 Bad-Mergentheim Jews perished in the Shoah. The synagogue, renovated in 1946, was used by Jewish refugees and American soldiers. Sold in 1949, it was dismantled in 1957; the rabbinate house was demolished in 1975. A memorial stone and a plaque were unveiled there in 1978 and 1983, respectively.
Photo: The synagogue of Mergentheim in or around the year 1924. Courtesy of: Hartwig Behr Collection, Mergentheim.
Author / Sources: Yehoshua Ahrens; Sources: AJ, EJL, PK-BW
Located in: baden-wuerttemberg