General information: First Jewish presence: 1571; peak Jewish population: 300 in 1924; Jewish population in 1933: 270
Summary: During the years 1850 to 1890, the Jewish community of Rheydt was affiliated with the larger community in Moenchengladbach. In 1842, a prayer room (possibly a small synagogue) was established in Rheydt. Later, in 1872, the community (then with 160 members) decided to initiate a regional fundraiser for the construction of a larger synagogue; additional funds were contributed by the state. The synagogue, inaugurated at 42, Wilhelm-Strater-Strasse in 1876, also housed a mikveh and a school, the latter of which was established in a wing of the building in 1880. Rheydt’s Jewish school was moved into its own building— where a teacher’s apartment was installed—at the turn of the century, after which, with an enrollment of 60 students, it was officially recognized as a Jewish elementary school. The Rheydt community maintained an old-age home, a hostel for girls and a Chevro Gemillut Hassidim charity organization. A Jewish sisterhood aided the sick, new mothers, youth and the unemployed. We also know that, in the 1830s, the community replaced its old cemetery in Aufm Heydberg (used since 1780) with new burial grounds on Eifelstrasse. The cemetery was severely damaged on Pogrom Night, November 1938, as were Jewish-owned stores and residences. SA men dressed in civilian clothing destroyed the synagogue’s interior before burning down the building. The school and the old-age home, however, were spared. Members of the congregation were forced to clear the synagogue ruins, which were later used in other construction projects. Rheydt’s remaining Jews were placed in designated “Jews’ houses” before being deported to Riga and to Theresienstadt; the last deportation included all 60 residents of the old-age home. A memorial stone was unveiled in Rheydt in 1988.
Author / Sources: Ruth Martina Trucks
Sources: FJG, LJG, SG-NRW