General information: First Jewish presence: mid-14th century; peak Jewish population: 421 in 1901; Jewish population in 1933: 273
Summary: The medieval Jewish community of Paderborn was destroyed during the Black Death pogroms of 1348/49, and it was not until the 16th century that another Jewish presence was established in the town. From 1704 onwards, under the protection of the bishopric, the Jewish population began to grow, if only moderately. Services were conducted in a prayer hall with adjacent classrooms until 1882, when the community inaugurated a synagogue; the octagonal building seated 200 men and, in the gallery, 120 women. Later, in 1893, the community consecrated a new cemetery, as the older cemetery—it had been established in 1703—was no longer able to accommodate the growing Jewish population. We also know that the Jews of Paderborn maintained an orphanage whose building housed a synagogue and classrooms. By the early 1930s, Paderborn was home to many Jewish merchants, doctors, lawyers and other professionals. Accordingly, the anti-Jewish boycott of 1933 financially crippled the community. An anti-Jewish demonstration in 1935 strengthened the determination of many to leave Paderborn. On Pogrom Night, rioters vandalized the synagogue’s interior and set the building on fire. The synagogue property was forcibly sold later that year, as was the cemetery site. The remaining Jews continued to conduct services in the orphanage’s synagogue, where David Koeln instructed approximately 50 children in, among other subjects, Hebrew and English, with the aim of preparing them for immigration to Palestine. In 1940, the orphanage building and several nearby houses served as a Jewish quarter; the remaining Jews (most of whom were elderly) of Paderborn and from the neighboring communities were moved there before the final deportation of 1942. Between September 1939 and February 1943, 100 Jewish men and women were interned in a forced labor camp in Paderborn’s industrial quarter; all were deported in February 1943. After the war, a few survivors reestablished the Jewish community, and in 1959 a new house of worship was inaugurated near the old synagogue site, where a memorial plaque has been unveiled. Eighty Jews lived in Paderborn in 2005.
Photo: On the left, the synagogue of Paderborn in 1914. Courtesy of: City Archive of Paderborn.
Photo 2: Firefighters were instructed to let the synagogue of Paderborn burn, but to prevent the spread of the flames to nearby structures. Kurt Boese/Goluecke
Author / Sources: Harold Slutzkin
Sources: LJG, SIA