General information: First Jewish presence: 16th century; peak Jewish population: 174 in 1858; Jewish population in 1933: unknown (54 in 1932)
Summary: Records indicate that Jews probably lived in Geseke, which was located on the East-West trade route, before the 16th century. Thirteen “protected Jews” lived there in 1700. Between 1750 and 1770, services were conducted in a prayer room. In 1770, the community established a synagogue in a modest, half-timbered house on Steinweg (renovated in 1877 and again in 1931). Geseke was home to two Jewish cemeteries: the first, located on Steintor, was consecrated on an unspecified date; the second, on Ehringhauser Strasse, was in use from 1861 until 1941. Local Jews, many of whom were cattle traders, often faced hostilities from their Christian neighbors, a result, perhaps, of jealously over the fact that by 1820 local Jews controlled most of the town’s commerce. Anti-Jewish riots erupted in 1844. In the winter of 1918/19, soldiers used wood from the synagogue’s floor for heating. On Pogrom Night, SA and SS men smashed the synagogue’s windows and desecrated its Torah scrolls; four Jews were taken into “protective custody.” Later, in 1940, Geseke’s remaining Jews were subjected to forced labor. We also know that 11 local Jews were deported to Auschwitz, Sobibor and other camps. Poet Else Lasker-Schueler’s family lived in Geseke for several generations. As of this writing, at the synagogue site—the building was demolished in 1952—no memorial plaque has been erected.
Author / Sources: Beate Grosz-Wenker
Sources: AJ, EJL, SG-RPS