General information: First Jewish presence: 1304; peak Jewish population: 240 in 1909; Jewish population in 1933: 156
Summary: Records from the 15th century mention the occasional Jewish visitor in Unna, but the town’s Jewish population was then limited by decree to no more than six families. Twelve Jewish families lived in Unna in 1821, and in 1854 an official Jewish congregation was established there. Most local Jews were merchants. Religious services were conducted in a prayer room until 1805, when the community acquired a house on Hertinger Strasse and converted it into a synagogue. The dilapidated structure was abandoned three years later, after which congregants conducted services in several unspecified locations. Finally, in 1848, a chapel on Klosterstrasse was converted into a synagogue and school (both were opened in 1851). We also know that the community maintained an oldage home—established on Muehlenstrasse in 1905, it had its own cemetery—as well as an organization for hosting Jewish guests and a ritual burial association. The cemetery on Massener Strasse, consecrated in 1854 and desecrated in 1900, was used until 1942. Anti-Semitism flourished in Unna after World War I. Many local Jews left the town after April 1, 1933, when the Nazis implemented their anti-Jewish boycott. On Pogrom Night (November 1938) SA men demolished Jewish homes and destroyed furniture from the synagogue, from the school and from Jewish-owned shops. In 1939, Unna’s remaining Jews were moved into a few apartments and the old-age home. Although we do not know how many Jews lived in Unna in 1942, records do tell us that they were deported to Zamosc and to Theresienstadt that year. One hundred and fifty local Jews perished in the Shoah. Sold in 1956, the synagogue building was eventually converted into a printing shop. Commemorative plaques have been affixed to the building and to the house on Muehlenstrasse; at the cemetery, two memorial stones commemorate local Shoah victims. Many Jews from the former Soviet Union lived in a hostel in Unna during the 1990s. Unna’s new Jewish community began to develop in 2007.
Author / Sources: Svetlana Frank
Sources: EJL, FJG, SIA, SG-NRW