General information: First Jewish presence: 1670; peak Jewish population: 206 in 1890; Jewish population in 1933: 205
Summary: Benedikt Levi, a protected Jew (Schutzjude), is credited with founding this community in 1671, around which time local Jews consecrated a cemetery. During the 18th century, the Jewish population of Schwedt grew steadily. The community built a synagogue on the Judenstrasse, or “Jews’ street” (later renamed Mittelstrasse) which was replaced, in 1862, by a new synagogue which housed an elementary school and a mikveh. Schwedt’s first rabbi was hired in 1841, and we also know that the Orthodox members of the community formed their own congregation in a rented hall when Rabbi Natan Hirsch Kuttner introduced a series of reform-oriented changes. Most Schwedt Jews were horse dealers during the community’s early years, but later, as Schwedt grew into a manufacturing hub for tobacco products, local Jews played a prominent part in the development of that industry. As was the case in the rest of Germany, anti-Semitism flourished in Schwedt after the 1933 elections: the boycott was applied zealously, and Jewish business owners were forced to display anti-Jewish placards on their storefronts. The synagogue was set on fire on Pogrom Night, but the fire was quickly extinguished out of concern for a nearby petrol station; the interior, however, was wrecked. Jewish homes were broken into that night and householders were arrested. By May 1939, only 27 Jews still lived in Schwedt, six of whom were deported in 1942; the others had moved to Berlin or Stettin, from where they, too, were presumably deported. In 1988, memorial plaques were unveiled at the former synagogue and cemetery. Mittelstrasse has since reverted to its original name: Judenstrasse.
Author / Sources: Harold Slutzkin
Sources: EJL, LJG
Located in: brandenburg