General information: First Jewish presence: 1212; peak Jewish population: 1217 in 1910; population in 1933: 1020
Summary: According to legend, Jews lived in Augsburg during Christ’s lifetime, but the first available record of a Jewish presence there—it mentions one Joseph de Augusta—is dated 1212. Town records from 1242 mention a rabbi (Rabbi Baruch) and a Jewish cemetery, proof that a community existed there at the time, making Augsburg the oldest Jewish community in Swabia. Local residents protected the Jews from the Rindfleisch (1298) and Armleder (1336) pogroms, but turned on them during the Black Death pogroms of 1348/49, during which nearly all local Jews were massacred. The community was reestablished quickly, but in 1438 the 300 Jews of Augsburg were expelled from the town, their cemetery was confiscated and the synagogue converted into a residential building. After that, few Jews settled in Augsburg, although several prominent individuals managed to establish a presence there, among them Rabbi Yaakov ben Yehuda Weil (15th century), who established a yeshiva, and Hayyim Schwarz (16th century), who established a Hebrew press. In 1803, Jews settled in Augsburg in larger numbers, and in 1861 the town became the seat of the district rabbinate. Local Jews conducted services in prayer rooms—namely, in the house of Jakob Obermayer at 2 Johannisgasse; on High Holidays, services were conducted at Schiessgrabensaal— until 1861, when they established a small synagogue at 11 Wintergasse, the first Bavarian synagogue to feature an organ. On April 4, 1917, Rabbi Richard Gruenfeld inaugurated a new synagogue at 6-8 Halderstrasse; architect Fritz Landauer designed the building, and it was, with its copper dome, one of the most impressive synagogues in Germany. Beginning in 1867, burials were conducted at the Hochfeld cemetery (64 Haunstetter Strasse). By 1933, the community enjoyed an array of Jewish organizations and economic opportunities, especially in the banking sector. Dr. Ernst Jacob—he later immigrated to the United States—was rabbi, and 149 children attended the Jewish school. With the Nazis in power, the synagogue became more and more of a sanctuary for the Jewish community, including the children who received both religious and secular instruction from instructor Fritz Levy. Jewish businesses were “Aryanized” during those years, so that by 1939 not a single Jewish establishment did business in Augsburg. Between 1933 and 1941, 450 Jews left the town. On Pogrom Night, Jewish stores were looted and the synagogue was vandalized; the latter was set on fire, but the fire department extinguished it in order to protect the surrounding buildings. All Jewish men under the age of 70 were sent to Dachau on Pogrom Night. Beginning in 1941, the remaining 400 Jews were deported to Riga, Piaski and Theresienstadt, with the deportations continuing into 1945. After the war, 25 Jews returned to Augsburg. A memorial plaque was later unveiled at the former cemetery site. Augsburg’s new Jewish community attends the Halderstrasse synagogue.
Photo: Interior of the Augsburg synagogue. Courtesy of: Unknown.
Author / Sources: Benjamin Rosendahl; Sources: AJ, EJL, LJG, SG-B1, YV
Located in: bavaria