General information: First Jewish presence: 1323; peak Jewish population: 180 in 1905; Jewish population in 1933: 160
Summary: The Jewish community of Bensheim was officially recognized in 1830; the Jews of Schoenberg, Zell, Wilhelmshausen, Kleinhausen and Schwanheim were members of the Bensheim community. The medieval synagogue (on Hintergasse) was confiscated during the Black Death pogroms of 1348/49. Jews conducted services in prayer halls until 1892, when the community inaugurated a synagogue at 14 Schoeneberger Strasse (present-day 14 Nibelungenstrasse). The community also maintained a mikveh, a community house (built in 1929) and a Jewish school whose teacher served as chazzan and shochet. Burials were conducted in Alsbach. In 1933, windows in Jewish shops were smashed. The synagogue was burned down on Pogrom Night (November 1938); businesses and homes were damaged that night, and all Jewish men over 16 were sent to Buchenwald. Ninety-one Jews emigrated, 50 relocated within Germany and three committed suicide. In 1940, the remaining Jews were forced to move into the school building. Bensheim’s last 17 Jews were deported in 1942: nine to Poland, eight to Theresienstadt. At least 90 local Jews perished in the Shoah. In 1945, camps for displaced persons (DPs) were established in Bensheim; all the DPs, however, left after 1948. The synagogue ruins were demolished in 1962, and a memorial plaque was unveiled at the site in 1971; in 1990, the plaque was vandalized and pulled from its place. A memorial site was established in Bensheim in 1995.
Author / Sources: Heidemarie Wawrzyn; Sources: AJ, DJGH, EJL, PK-HNF, SIA;
Located in: hesse