General information: First Jewish presence: 1815 (26 in 1828); peak Jewish population: 521 in 1910; Jewish population in 1933: 400
Summary: In 1869, Witten and a number of smaller, affiliated Jewish communities formed an official synagogue association. The Jews of Witten, many of whom were merchants, were active in local unions and in politics. Jewish cemeteries were consecrated on Ardeyhoehe and Helenenberg in 1830 and 1860, respectively. In or around the year 1890, a new cemetery was consecrated on Am Ledderken. The community acquired a building on Weidengasse in 1860, in which it established a synagogue, a school, a nursery and an apartment for a teacher. In order to accommodate the growing Jewish population, land was later purchased for the construction of a new synagogue and other communal institutions. Although the local authorities did not allow the community to open a new synagogue, they did permit the establishment of a school, which, together with a prayer room, was opened in 1873; according to records, the municipality forced the community to move the school several years later. Finally, on September 27, 1885, a new, liberal synagogue (it had a mixed choir) was inaugurated on Breite Strasse. Earlier, in 1884, Witten’s Orthodox Jews— they maintained their own synagogue and a school—seceded from the main community. Associations for Jewish men and women were active in Witten, as were youth associations and a center for adult education. During the years 1933 to 1937, in response to the anti- Jewish boycott, many local Jews moved to larger towns and cities. On Pogrom Night, the synagogue was set on fire, Jewish homes were looted and Jews were assaulted. Two hundred and fifty local Jews were later deported to the camps; few survived. In 1979, the street on which the synagogue once stood was renamed Synagogenstrasse or “synagogue street.” A commemorative plaque was unveiled there that year, and the municipality later erected memorials next to the synagogue site (in 1994) and in the Helenenberg cemetery.
Author / Sources: Svetlana Frank
Sources: FJG, LJG, SG-NRW, SIA