Themar – Thuringia (English)

Location: Thuringia
About this community: Not much is known about a medieval Jewish community in Themar. Jews eventually settled in Themar in the 13th century and were persecuted in 1298. However, recent research projects have provided us with many interesting facts about Themar's Jewish community in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In the 1850/60s, four Jewish families (Wertheimer, Walther, Schloss, and Sachs) resided in Themar. In the 1870s, the town had six shops run by Jews. Their owners were S. M. Mueller, S. J. Baer, the brothers Frankenberg, and A. Walther and Ernst Gassenheimer. They traded cattle, goats and horses as well as textile. They were also engaged in the travel industry. Themar's Jewish population numbered 93 in 1871 (6 percent of the total) and peaked at 97 in 1898.
In March 1863, Babette Schloss, the daughter of Gabriel Levi and Bertha Schloss, married Otto Sachs of Berkach. This was one of the first weddings of the Jewish community in Themar. Local Jews developed a lively and flourishing Jewish community. Initially prayer services were held in a rented private room, probably in the house of the master shoemaker Blau. In 1877, the Jewish community was officially founded, in the same year, a synagogue was dedicated at 205 Oberstadtstrasse (today: 17 Ernst-Thaelmann-Strasse). The synagogue was upstairs and in its back was a women's section. A religious school and a teacher's apartment were set up on the first floor of the building in 1894. Jewish schoolchildren attended the local elementary school. The dead were buried in nearby Marisfeld.
In 1933, at least 64 Jews lived in Themar. Seven Jewish schoolchildren received religious education. The teacher Moritz Levinstein enjoyed great popularity. He was the community's chazzan (cantor) and shochet (kosher butcher). He also officiated at weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs. A fund to help poor families finance burials was still active in the 1930s. In April 1933, the anti-Jewish boycott was also implemented in Themar. Due to the increase of anti-Semitic restrictions and harassments, many Jews left Themar and emigrated or moved to other German cities, like the family Rosengarten who moved to Meiningen in 1936.
On Pogrom Night in November 1938, the synagogue's interior was vandalized. It was not set on fire, probably because it was surrounded by neighboring buildings. SA men raided and damaged Jewish homes and shops. The Jewish men were brought to the town hall, where they were presented as 'Germany's misfortune' to Themar's non-Jewish citizens. Eighteen Jewish men were arrested, beaten and deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp; one of them did not survive the hardships. After the pogrom, the Jewish community had to sell the synagogue building. The number of Jews leaving the town grew. By 1939, approximately 21 Jews had emigrated to Palestine, Sweden, England, Shanghai and the United States. The remaining Jews were deported to Belzyce and Theresienstadt in May and September 1942. On May 8, 1942, Max and Clara Mueller sent a letter to their son in Sweden:

"Dear Meinhold, As we have already written you, we leave tomorrow morning early with the Neuhaus family. We don’t yet know our address but will send it as soon as possible. In the meantime write to Uncle Max. Since we are in such a hurry, this is just a short note. Much love, your father. All our love, Mama.”

In 1943, Themar's last remaining Jew was arrested. At least 22 Themar Jews perished in the Shoah. We know of only five who survived the Theresienstadt Ghetto: the 77-year-old Meta Krakauer (née Frankenberg) and her niece Doris Lorenzen, 73-year-old Minna Frankenberg (née Gassenheimer), Helene Gassenheimer (née Hirsch), and Hulda Grossmann (née Baer). Otto Baer, born 1895 in Themar and living in Berlin, survived Auschwitz. There is no Jewish community in Themar today.
Sources: Kahl, Monika: Denkmale jüdischer Kultur, Bad Homburg, 1997.
Synagogue Memorial "Beit Ashkenaz": Pogrom Night 1938: A Memorial to the Destroyed Synagogues of Germany, Jerusalem, 2013.
Spector, Shmuel (ed.): The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, Yad Vashem and New York University Press, 2001.
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