General information: First Jewish presence: 8th century; peak Jewish population: 1,665 in 1905; Jewish population in 1933: 1,348
Summary: The earliest available record of a Jewish presence in Aachen is from the 8th century, but it was not until the mid-13th century, by which point all Jews had been restricted to living in the town’s Judengasse, that records once again mention Jewish life in Aachen. In or around 1800, when the town was under French rule, local Jews attained civil rights. Members of the modern community conducted services in a prayer room until the establishment, in 1839, of a synagogue, community center and school on Hirschgraben; and, in 1862, of a new, impressive house of worship at 21 Promenadenstrasse (present-day 23 Synagogenplatz). Other communal institutions included a Jewish school (established in 1826) and a cemetery, the latter of which was consecrated on Luetticher Strasse in 1822 and enlarged in 1865 and 1878. (Prior to 1822, burials were conducted in Dueren.) David Rothschild, who served this Liberal congregation between 1850 and 1859, was the community’s first full-time rabbi. Rabbi Theodor Julius held this post between 1876 and 1925. In 1933, Aachen was home to 1,348 Jews. One hundred and four schoolchildren received religious instruction at religious and secondary schools. Around this time, the community maintained a Jewish elementary school (Juedische Volksschule). Numerous welfare associations and foundations provided assistance to children, juveniles, women, the elderly and the poor. Because the National Socialists gained a foothold in Aachen prior to 1933, Jews there were discriminated against before the Nazis’ election victories. Beginning in March 1933, a series of anti-Jewish legislation—dismissing Jews from their jobs, banning them from certain occupations—were put in place. On April 1, 1933, one day after SA men had threatened Jewish shop owners and their customers, the boycott of Jewish businesses was implemented. The persecution intensified in 1935, as a result of which many local Jews immigrated to the Netherlands, Palestine and other countries. On Pogrom Night, the synagogue was burned down, Jewish homes and stores were damaged and Jews were publicly beaten. Seventy men were arrested, of whom 60 were sent to Buchenwald and 10 to Sachsenhausen. In 1939, 780 Jews still lived in Aachen, many of whom managed to escape to Holland and Belgium. The remaining Jews were moved to so-called Judenhaeuser (Jewish Houses) in April 1941, after which they were subjected to forced labor and ordered to wear a yellow star badge. Between 1942 and 1944, several deportations left for Theresienstadt and Lublin. At least 845 Aachen Jews perished in the Shoah. After World War II, 25 Jewish survivors returned to Aachen, where a Jewish community center was established on Oppenhoffalle at the end of the 1950s. A memorial and a commemorative plaque have been erected at the site of the Burned interior of the synagogue of Aachen after Pogrom Night. Courtesy of: City Archive of Aachen. former synagogue and that of the schoolhouse, respectively. The new Jewish community (1,500 members in 2006) holds services at the synagogue on Synagogenplatz (formerly Promenadenstrasse), inaugurated in 1995.
Photo: Exterior of the synagogue of Aachen in or around the year 1900. Courtesy of: City Archive of Aachen.
Photo 2: Burned interior of the synagogue of Aachen after Pogrom Night. Courtesy of: City Archive of Aachen.
Author / Sources: Heidemarie Wawrzyn; Sources: EJL, FJG, HU, LJG, SIA, W-G, resources.ushmm.org/vlpnamelistimages/ReferenceCollection/ EE2758/Aachen_Juden_ermordet.pdf