General information: First Jewish presence: 1611; peak Jewish population: 306 in 1885; Jewish population in 1933: unknown
Summary: In 1925, 289 Jews lived in Leer, making the community the third-largest in East Friesland. Leer was home to a Jewish cemetery by the middle of the 17th century. The last burial conducted there before the Shoah took place on June 11, 1939. A Jewish school was established on Kirchstrasse at some point between 1840 and 1850; later, during the first decade of the 20th century, the community opened a new school—the building housed an apartment for a teacher—on Deichstrasse (present-day 14 Ubbo-Emmius-Strasse). The synagogue on Heisfelder Strasse was inaugurated in 1885. On Pogrom Night, SA men set the synagogue on fire. Jews from Leer and the surrounding areas were assembled at the fairgrounds; the women and children were later released, but the men were sent (via Oldenburg) to Sachsenhausen, where they were interned until the end of December 1938 (possibly January 1939). In late January 1940, local Jews were ordered to leave East Friesland by April 1, 1940. By then, Jewish properties had been confiscated, and Jews had been forcibly moved into the ghetto located at the corner of Groninger and Kampstrasse. The Jewish school was closed on February 23, 1940, and the ghetto was liquidated on October 23, 1941. In March 1943, the municipality bought the Jewish cemetery, after which, in May of that same year, Dutch slave laborers were forced to remove the gravestones from the oldest section of the Jewish cemetery. Approximately 20 to 30 Leer Jews survived the war. Miriam Hermann, one of the survivors, was deported to Theresienstadt on February 10, 1945. Almost 90% of the community perished in the Shoah. After the war, a stone tablet bearing the ten commandments— it had once stood above the synagogue door—was found in a neighboring vegetable garden; in 1984, the tablet was transferred to the Ichud-Shviat-Tzion synagogue on Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv. During the years 1946 to 1985, six Jews were buried in the oldest part of the Jewish cemetery, which was returned to the Jewish community in 1953. Memorial plaques were unveiled at the former synagogue site (on September 12, 1961) and at the cemetery.
Photo: The synagogue of Leer. Courtesy of: Yad Vashem Photo Archive, 1663/70.
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans
Sources: HH, PK, GELKB
Located in: lower-saxony