General information: First Jewish presence: late 1200s; peak Jewish population: 223 in 1860; Jewish population in 1933: 118
Summary: When Jews first settled in Guestrow in the late 1200s, they built a synagogue and consecrated a cemetery. The anti-Jewish host desecration trials, in which Jews were prosecuted for refusing to convert to Christianity, took place in Guestrow in 1330: 20 Jews were burned at the stake, their belongings were confiscated and the synagogue was converted into a church. It was not until 1819 that a considerable number of Jews were permitted to settle in Guestrow, after which the Jewish population grew quickly, reaching its peak of 223 in 1860. The community’s prayer rooms were unable to accommodate the growing congregation, and in 1829, two days before the Jewish New Year, a new synagogue was inaugurated in the town. Adjacent to the building were a community center and a school. In 1910, the Jewish population of Guestrow began to dwindle, so that it stood at 118 in 1933 (50 in 1937). On Pogrom Night, droves of local residents destroyed the synagogue. Wanting to ensure the complete destruction of the building, they not only doused the interior with fuel, but also sprayed the outside walls; the ensuing fire was so intense that the building burned for over 36 hours. The mob also burned down the Tahara hall in the cemetery and desecrated the headstones. In 1988, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the cemetery.
Photo: The synagogue of Guestrow. Courtesy of: The Wiener Archive.
Author / Sources: Moshe Finkel