General information: First Jewish presence: 13th century; peak Jewish population: 261 in 1835 (7% of the total population); Jewish population in 1932/33: 200
Summary: Members of Gelnhausen’s medieval Jewish community were massacred in 1349 and expelled in 1576. Founded in the 17th century—Jews were confined to a ghetto until the 18th century—the modern community later developed into a center of Jewish learning. Rabbi Henoch ben Jehuda Loeb, Rabbi Samuel Warburg (died in 1817) and Rabbi Hirsch Levi Kunreuther (died in 1847) were associated with Gelnhausen. By 1835, the Jews of Roth and Altenhasslau had been affiliated with Gelnhausen. A synagogue, built on the Judengasse, or “Jews’ Alley” (today 6 Brentanostrasse) in 1601, was destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War; it was rebuilt in 1656 and enlarged in 1736. The community also maintained a mikveh, a cemetery (1617-1938), a library (1894) and a Jewish school (1836). Teacher Meier Strauss served as teacher and chazzan for 30 years (1887-1917). We also know that Gelnhausen was the seat of a rabbinate until the middle of the 19th century, at which point, in 1847, it was affiliated with the rabbinate of Hanau. In 1932/33, 200 Jews lived in Gelnhausen; by May 1933, their number had dwindled to 162. Five welfare organizations were active in the community, and a teacher—he also served as chazzan and shochet—instructed 20 children in religion. In Gelnhausen, anti-Jewish boycotts were launched in 1932. On the night of June 3, 1938 (a Friday), SA men bricked up the synagogue’s doors; a crowd hurled rocks at the building. Windows in Jewish homes were smashed the following night, and the entrance to a Jewish shop was blocked. All Jews were ordered to leave by September 1938. In July 1938, the synagogue was sold and converted into a storehouse; ritual items were sent to Frankfurt. Gelnhausen was declared “free of Jews” in November 1938, for all had emigrated or moved to other German cities. In 1943, a Jew in who was caught in hiding was sent, via Berlin, to Auschwitz. At least 104 Gelnhausen Jews and four from Altenhasslau perished in the Shoah. A few Jews returned to Gelnhausen after the war, establishing a new community. Between 1981 and 1986, the municipality repaired the synagogue—it had been damaged during the war— and converted it into a community center, to which a memorial plaque has been affixed. Since 2009, more than 35 memorial stumbling stones (Stolpersteine) have been unveiled in memory of Gelnhausen’s Shoah victims.
Author / Sources: Heidemarie Wawrzyn
Sources: AJ, DJGH, EJL, FJG, SIA
Located in: hesse