Bentheim (with Schuettorf and Gildehaus)

General information: First Jewish presence: 14th century; peak Jewish population: 72 in 1905; Jewish population in 1933: 24 (see below)
Summary: The Jewish community of Bentheim was annihilated during the Black Death pogroms of 1348/49, and it was not until the mid-17th century that Jews returned to the town. In 1844, the Jews of Bentheim, Schuettorf and Gildehaus founded a new community. The community established the following institutions: a cemetery in the 17th century (in Schuettorf and Gildehaus, cemeteries were consecrated in the 17th century and in 1742, respectively); a synagogue in 1824; a new synagogue in 1853 (renovated in 1868); a Jewish elementary school in 1864; and a new cemetery in 1874 (desecrated in 1924). Bentheim’s Jewish elementary school—it was presided over by a teacher who also served as chazzan and shochet—closed in 1922, after which schoolchildren studied religion with teachers who were brought in from other communities. Records from 1925 mention a mikveh. In 1933, 24 Jews lived in Bentheim, 40 in Gildehaus and approximately 20 in Schuettorf. A women’s association, a charitable society and a Zionist association (founded in 1935) were active in the community. On Pogrom Night, the synagogue’s interior was destroyed, the ritual objects were thrown onto the street; Jews were imprisoned in the local jail, and windows in a Jewish-owned business were smashed. The following day, the community chairman was forced to hand over the synagogue site to the municipality, after which, in 1939, the building was sold to a private buyer. The town’s remaining Jews left Bentheim in early 1942. In 1941/42, 11 local Jews were deported to the East (four from Schuettorf, seven from Gildehaus). At least 36 Bentheim Jews, 15 from Schuettorf and 20 from Gildehaus perished in the Shoah. A commercial building was later built on the synagogue site. Heavily damaged during the Nazi period, the cemetery could only be partly restored. In 1985, a memorial was unveiled in Bentheim.
Author / Sources: Nurit Borut; Sources: BGJG, PK-NW
Located in: lower-saxony