General information: First Jewish presence: in or around the year 1600; peak Jewish population: 40 in 1812; Jewish population in 1933: unknown
Summary: Jews first settled in Schwanenberg at the beginning of the 17th century. In 1812, eight Jewish families (40 Jews) lived in the town. The Schwanenberg Jewish community was incorporated into the rabbinate of Geilenkirchen-Heinsberg- Erkelenz in 1861. On November 27, 1868, the community inaugurated a synagogue on Lindches Weg. A Jewish cemetery was located in the district of Lentholt, but its funding source and history are not known; according to records, there was a mikveh in the same area. Many Jews left Schwanenberg for larger urban areas in the 19th century; accordingly, few Jews still lived there in 1933. The synagogue had been all but abandoned by then, and when vandals broke its windows in 1936, a service had not been conducted there for over a year. On Pogrom Night, SA and SS men burned the synagogue to the ground. Jewish residents from the surrounding areas tried to rescue what remained of the interior, but were prevented from doing so by the SS and SA. No funerals took place at the cemetery after 1938. Schwanenberg’s remaining Jews were either arrested or deported to the Hetzerath ghetto (in Erkelenz), where, from 1941/42 onwards, all the Jews of the region were crammed into a house known as the Hetzerather Hof/Spiesshof. On March 24, 1942, these Jews were deported to the Belzec death camp in Poland. The synagogue building no longer exists, but there is a memorial plaque on the site. Another plaque has been unveiled at the defunct Jewish cemetery.
Author / Sources: Benjamin Rosendahl
Sources: SG-NRW