Bad Duerkheim

General information: First Jewish presence: 14th century; peak Jewish population: 291 in 1900; Jewish population in 1933: 184
Summary: Jews were persecuted in Bad Duerkheim during the 14th century, most notably during the Black Death pogroms of 1348/49. It was not until the 17th century that a new Jewish presence was established there. The synagogue on the corner of Wachenheimer Strasse and Entenstrasse was built in 1748/49, enlarged exactly a century later and renovated in 1925. Burials were conducted in Wachenheim, but the community was able to maintain a Jewish elementary school (established, at the latest, in 1856) and a mikveh. The district rabbinate of Frankenthal was based in Bad Frankenthal. Duerkheim was renamed Bad Duerkheim in 1904. By 1933, the Jewish communities of Grethen, Hardenburg, Ungstein, Leistadt, Kallstadt, Friedelsheim, Goennheim, Freinsheim and Weisenheim had all been affiliated with Bad Duerkheim, then one of the largest Jewish communities in the region. Active in the community were a brotherhood of Jewish youths (founded in 1820) and a Jewish sisterhood (founded in 1898), both of which looked after the sick and needy and assisted with burials. In 1932, Dr. Steckelmacher, the district rabbi, was instructing 18 children in religion; he perished in Lublin-Majdanek in 1943. Another prominent figure was the vocational teacher Ludwig Strauss, who served the community from 1875 until 1940. On Pogrom Night, SA men demolished the synagogue and ravaged 25 Jewish homes and stores; the Torah scrolls and the hearse were set on fire at the marketplace. Four Jewish men were sent to Dachau. By late 1939 the remaining 28 Jews had been forcibly moved into four designated buildings. Nineteen local Jews were deported to Gurs concentration camp (in France) on October 22, 1940. At least 25 Bad Duerkheim Jews perished in the Shoah; the total number would be at least 52 if one were to include those who had lived there temporarily. The synagogue—it was heavily damaged during a bombing raid in 1945—was torn down in 1946. The property was sold to a private individual in 1953. A memorial plaque was unveiled at the site in 1989.
Photo: For the holiday of Sukkot, the Jewish community of Bad Duerkheim erected a Sukkah. The walls were decorated in the traditional style with a curtain from the synagogue’s Torah Ark and some unused Torah mantles. Courtesy of: Leo Baeck Institute Photo Archive, 17966.
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans; Sources: AJ, EJL, SG-RPS