General information: First Jewish presence: 1103; peak Jewish population: 2,567 in 1900; Jewish population in 1933: 2,145
Summary: The earliest record of a Jewish presence in Wuerzburg is dated 1103. Jews were subjected to violent persecutions and expulsions throughout the Middle Ages, and it was not until the early 19th century that the Jewish population began to grow significantly. The official Jewish community of Wuerzburg was founded in 1822. Wuerzburg, a center of Jewish scholarship in the 12th and 13th centuries, was home to a renowned yeshiva and to some of the most influential Ashkenaz rabbis of the period: Eliezer ben Nathan (Ra’aven), Eliezer ben Yoel HaLevi (Ra’avyah), the Maharam of Rotenburg and several leading Tosafists lived in Wuerzburg. The city’s reputation as a center of Jewish learning diminished after the Rindfleisch massacres of 1298, after which a yeshiva of lesser importance was established there; this yeshiva was destroyed in 1349. Records indicate that a Jewish cemetery existed in Wuerzburg in the early 12th century. A new regional cemetery was consecrated in 1147, but was destroyed and cleared in the 14th or 15th century. After 1817, the Bavarian state rabbinate, headed by Rabbi Abraham Bing—a distinguished scholar who presided over a yeshiva attended by many renowned rabbis—was based in Wuerzburg. A district rabbinate was established in the city in 1839 and, in 1840, Rabbi Bing was replaced by Seligmann Baer Bamberger, known as the “Wuerzburger Rav” (the rabbi of Wuerzburg). A medieval synagogue—first documented in 1170— was confiscated in 1349. The modern Jewish community conducted services in several prayer rooms until 1842, when a proper synagogue was inaugurated in Wuerzburg. A smaller synagogue for use on weekdays was inaugurated in 1924; in 1926, the community’s Eastern European Jews began to conduct their services there. Local Jews established a Jewish school in 1856, a mikveh (of unknown date of construction), a seminary for Jewish teachers in 1864, a cemetery in 1882 and a hospital in 1885. In 1933, 2,145 Jews lived in Wuerzburg. Siegmund- Shimon Hanover was rabbi. The Jewish school had 143 students, and the teacher’s seminary 100. Many Jewish associations, as well as branches of nation-wide Jewish organizations, were active in the community that year. The Nazi campaign to destroy Jewish community life came to a head in Wuerzburg, as it did all over Germany, on Pogrom Night. That evening, approximately 1,000 SA men, operating in small groups, attacked the city’s Jewish homes and businesses, destroyed their contents, and looted valuables. A Jewish man was beaten so severely that he died of his injuries, and another Jew committed suicide. The interiors of both synagogues and of the school building were destroyed, as were the ritual objects found there; the broken furniture from the main synagogue was set on fire. Students at the seminary were abused, and the building’s furniture, windows and doors were broken. Older students and Jewish men were imprisoned together with Jews from nearby communities. After the pogrom, transports to Buchenwald included 130 Jewish men from Wuerzburg, one of whom died in the camp; another 160 Wuerzburg Jews were deported to Dachau. Although the synagogue, school and community hall were confiscated, services continued in the synagogue attached to the seminary. Many Jews moved to Wuerzburg after 1933. In total 1,649 Wuerzburg Jews emigrated, 667 relocated within Germany and 185 died in the city. In early 1942, the remaining Jews— they were often used for forced labor—were moved into a few allocated buildings, after which they were moved to the cemetery building and to the Jewish hospital. Deportations from Wuerzburg began in November 1941. In six transports, the last of which took place in June 1943, 702 Wuerzburg Jews and 1,494 Jews from the surrounding area were deported to Riga, Izbica, Theresienstadt or Auschwitz. The Wuerzburg Jewish community was officially dissolved in September 1942. At least 999 Wuerzburg Jews perished in the Shoah. The synagogue was destroyed during an aerial bombing in March 1945. The new Jewish community of Wuerzburg, established later that year, inaugurated a new synagogue in 1970. The cemetery was renovated, and several memorial plaques were unveiled in the city.
Photo: The synagogue on Bibrastrasse in Wuerzburg. Courtesy of: The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, P160/1083.
Photo 2: The “Kleine Synagoge” synagogue in Wuerzburg. Courtesy of: The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, P160/926.
Author / Sources: Nurit Borut
Sources: AJ, DWG, PK-BAV
Located in: bavaria