Nordhausen – Thuringia (English)

Location: Thuringia
About this community: Earliest documents of the presence of Jews date to the late 13th century. In the 14th-century, Nordhausen's Jewish community operated a synagogue, a mikvah (ritual bath) and a cemetery outside the city. Nordhausen Jews were persecuted during the Black Death persecution in 1348/49. In the middle of the 16th century, all Jews were expelled from the city. It was not until 1808 that Jews were allowed to resettle there.

In the early 19th century, the modern Jewish community was formed. The first Jew settling in Nordhausen was Meyer Abraham, who held the post of the president of the Jewish community until his death in 1826. From 1821, the community maintained a prayer room at 4 Ritterstrasse. A cemetery was laid out at 19 Am Ammerberg in 1820, which was enlarged in 1854 and in the 1860s. A beautiful, remarkable synagogue was built at 9/10 Pferdegasse in 1845 (and renovated in 1888). It consisted of an impressive domed structure with a Neo-Romanesque hall and Neo-Byzantine construction elements. The festive inauguration took place in the presence of Rabbi Dr. Levi Herzfeld from the town of Ellrich in September 1845. Two years later, in 1847, the synagogue community of Nordhausen was officially declared a public institution.

Around 1825 the local Jewish population consisted of approximately 100 persons and peaked at 490 in 1880. Jews were active in the public and social life of the city. The banker Jacob Plaut (born 1807) was one of the most important Jews in Nordhausen. He founded several social and charitable institutions including a local nursing home and a public library. Due to their philanthropic activity, the brothers Jacob and Moritz Plaut were awarded honorary citizens of Nordhausen. In the second half of the 19th century, there were numerous Jewish-owned shops on Rautenstrasse and in Toepferstrasse. Jewish manufacturers, lawyers, businessmen, doctors and artists played an important role in the economic and cultural development of Nordhausen until the early 1930s. Dr. Oscar Cohn, for example, was a lawyer and a representative of the Social Democratic Party to the Reichstag (German parliament). He died in exile in Switzerland in 1934. Anti-Semitic incidents occurred after World War I. The synagogue, for example, was vandalized in 1922. Nevertheless, Nordhausen Jews were still able to continue their rich communal life. Alfred Levy was the community's rabbi until 1925 and also worked as teacher and preacher. Samuel Simon served as chazzan (cantor) and shochet (kosher butcher) and also provided religious instruction to Jewish children.

In 1933, between 400 to 438 Jews lived in Nordhausen. Thirty-three children attended the religious school of the Jewish community. At that time, they were instructed by teacher Samuel Simon, who also served as chazzan. Several social associations were active in the community that year, including a chevra kadisha (burial society, founded in 1861) and a Jewish women's group (active since 1848). In the mid-1930s, an elderly Jewish businessman was attacked for alleged race defilement. He was dragged through the streets and thrown into a well. On April 1, 1933, the nation-wide boycott against Jewish businesses was implemented in Nordhausen. The Nordhauser Allgemeine Zeitung, a local newspaper, reported:

"Yesterday morning at 10 am, the local SA and SS shut all Jewish shops, businesses and offices of Jewish lawyers and doctors. After the closure, red posters were attached with the following text: 'Closed until the World Jews have stopped the fight against the awakened Germany. SA and SS Nordhausen'."

In October 1938, approximately 40 Jews of non-German nationality were expelled from Nordhausen to Poland. On Pogrom Night, Nazis broke into the synagogue; member of the NS Fliegerkorps (NS Flying Corps) set the interior on fire, burning it down. In the Jewish community center next to the synagogue, cantor Kurt Singer and his father were dragged out of their beds. All rooms of the community center were ransacked. The books of the community's library were thrown into the flames of the burning synagogue. Cantor Singer was pushed into the synagogue and the door was closed behind him. Almost suffocated, he managed to leave the burning building. Furthermore, Jewish-owned homes and stores were looted and damaged. Approximately 70 Jewish men were arrested and taken to Buchenwald, where three of them died.

By 1939, at least 180 local Jewish residents had emigrated to Palestine, England, the United States and other countries. Soon after the beginning of World War II, many local Jews were forcibly moved into Judenhaeuser (Jews' houses), of which Nordhausen comprised a total of nine. In May 1942, several dozen Nordhauser Jews were deported via Weimar to Belzyce. The remaining local Jews were deported to the annihilation camps in Eastern Europe and to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in October 1942 and spring 1943.

Although Germany's military defeat was already clearly looming, the SS established Mittellbau-Dora, a concentration camp, north of Nordhausen in the summer of 1943. The prisoners were mainly used in the underground nearby Mittelwerk plant, where especially the V-weapons (retaliatory weapons) were produced.

More than 250 Nordhausen Jews perished in the Shoah. In November 1988, a memorial stone was established at the synagogue site, which now houses apartment buildings.

The rabbis of the Jewish community in Nordhausen from 1856-1933:
Dr. Samuel Auerbach (1827-1884), studied in Darmstadt and Bonn.

Dr. David Leimdörfer (1851-1922, studied in Vienna.

Dr. Siegmund Gelbhaus (1850-1928), studied in Berlin.

Dr. Philipp Schönberger (1867-1908), studied in Berlin;

Dr. Alfred Levy (1880-1934), studied in Breslau.

Dr. Gustav Pfingst (1900-1957), studied in Berlin.

Dr. Heinrich Lemle (1909-1978), studied in Breslau, Berlin und Wuerzburg, served as preacher in Nordhausen.
Kahl, Monika, "Denkmale juedischer Kultur in Thueringen," in Kulturgeschichtliche Reihe, Vol. 2, Ed. Landesamt fuer Denkmalpflege, Publisher Rheinold E. 1997.
Schroeter, Manfred, Die Verfolgung der Nordhäuser Juden 1933-1945.
Schwierz, Israel: Zeugnisse juedischer Vergangenheit in Thueringen. Eine Dokumentation. Erfurt, 2007.
Spector, Shmuel (ed.): The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, Yad Vashem and New York University Press, 2001.
Synagogue Memorial "Beit Ashkenaz": Pogrom Night 1938: A Memorial to the Destroyed Synagogues of Germany, Jerusalem, 2013. Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Deutschen Juden (Ed.): Führer durch die Jüdische Gemeindeverwaltung und Wohlfahrtspflege in Deutschland 1923-1933 [1933/34].
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Located in: Thuringia