General information: First Jewish presence: unknown; peak Jewish population: 572 in 1839; Jewish population in 1933: 231
Summary: The history of Jewish Breisach began in the Middle Ages. As a result of ongoing persecution and a series of expulsions, a lasting community was not founded there until 1638. The Jewish population peaked at 572 members in 1839. The community consecrated a cemetery in the 16th century. The first synagogue was destroyed by fire in 1793, after which, in 1804, the community built a new house of worship. Established in Breisach in 1827, the district rabbinate was transferred to Freiburg in 1885. During the 1830s, local Jews built a larger synagogue (it housed a mikveh) and consecrated a second cemetery. We also know that the new synagogue was enlarged between 1870 and 1875, and that, between 1835 and 1876, the community maintained a Jewish school in a former inn. Jewish associations included a chevra kadisha for men (founded in 1838), one for women (founded in 1832) and a women’s association. In 1933, 231 Jews lived in Breisach. The Jewish school reopened briefly from 1938 to 1940. The synagogue was burned down on Pogrom Night, when 30 Breisach Jews were arrested and transported to Dachau. Michael Eisemann, the community’s chazzan and Hebrew teacher, died in a Freiburg hospital in February of the following year; he had been sent there, severely emaciated, from Dachau. Thirty-four local Jews were deported to Gurs on October 22, 1940. The Jewish wife of a Christian stayed behind, as did a mentally ill woman who was eventually murdered at the Grafeneck Institute as part of the Nazis’ euthanasia program. At least 68 Breisach Jews perished in the Shoah. A memorial stone was unveiled at the site of the former synagogue in 1959; and in 1998, a full-scale memorial was erected in the town. The renovated Jewish community house is now a memorial center.
Photo: The synagogue of Breisach, on fire, on the morning of November 10, 1938. Courtesy of: Town Archive of Breisach.
Photo 2: A non-Jewish photographer was allowed to take pictures of the Shabbat service in the synagogue of Breisach, before 1933. Courtesy of: Central Archives
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans
Located in: baden-wuerttemberg