General information: First Jewish presence: 1762; peak Jewish population: 119 in 1871; Jewish population in 1933: 114
Summary: The town’s Judengasse, or “Jews’ Alley” (later renamed Hochstrasse) was the center of Jewish life in Gersfeld until the Nazi period. The community’s first synagogue, built in the 18th century, burned down in 1814; in 1816, a new synagogue was inaugurated, together with a Jewish elementary school, at 10-12 Hochstrasse; and in 1887, one year after the Hochstrasse synagogue burned down, the community replaced it with another house of worship (84 seats for men, 40 for women). Although local Jews conducted burials in Weyhers, they were able to maintain a mikveh. The town hosted a district rabbinate from 1840 until 1892. The school was closed down in April 1933. Later, on Pogrom Night (November 1938), the synagogue was ransacked, after which the building was set on fire. The municipality demolished the destroyed synagogue in 1939. Thirty-nine Jews emigrated, 56 relocated within Germany and others left for unknown destinations. In September 1942, three families (the town’s last Jews) were sent to Fulda, from where they were deported to the East. At least 35 Gersfeld Jews perished in the Shoah. Between 1945 and 1947, a community of Jewish displaced persons used the former school building as a synagogue. They emigrated, mainly going to Israel, in 1948. In 2003, a memorial stone was placed at the street entrance to the former synagogue site.
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans
Sources: AJ, DVEJ, EJL, PK-HNF, YV
Located in: hesse