General information: First Jewish presence: 1675 (five families); peak Jewish population: 139 in 1857; Jewish population 1910: none
Summary: In the late 17th century, the regents of the principality of Anhalt-Dessau allowed some Jews to settle there, offering them protection in return for high taxes and an oath of allegiance. Accordingly, Jews lived in Woerlitz under relatively favorable circumstances from around 1680 onwards. By the early 19th century, they numbered 130 out of a total population of 1,700. In 1787, after the old Jewish prayer hall (it was located in the vicinity of the marketplace) had become decrepit, the community built a new synagogue just outside the Woerlitz Garden; Friedrich von Erdmannsdorff designed this architectural masterpiece, which was modeled on the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli. The synagogue served the surrounding Jewish communities too, and had a ritual bath in the basement. Religious services were held there regularly until the beginning of the 20th century. By 1910, no Jews lived in Woerlitz, and the community was formally dissolved. The synagogue was taken over by the Republic of Anhalt and, in 1937, was declared a national monument. All the synagogue’s ritual articles were transferred to the synagogue in the town of Dessau, where they were destroyed on November 9, 1938 (Pogrom Night). The director of the Woerlitz Garden managed to prevent the Nazi hordes from torching the Woerlitz synagogue during the pogrom, but the mayor of Woerlitz nevertheless had the interior of the building wrecked, leaving its exterior intact.
Author / Sources: Fred Gottlieb
Sources: EJL, FJG, LJG, SSA
Located in: saxony-anhalt