General information: First Jewish presence: 14th century; peak Jewish population: 134 in 1885; Jewish population in 1933: 40
Summary: Although it is likely that individual Jews settled in Arnsberg as early as the mid-14th century, it was not until 1600 that a Jewish presence was recorded there, and not until 1810 that the community began to grow. It was in 1810, too, that Jews were granted residency rights, albeit for a fee. Local Jews, many of whom were cattle dealers and butchers, had, by the second half of the 19th century, joined the upper middle class. As such, they contributed greatly to the town’s economic life. The Jews of Arnsberg used the facilities of a neighboring community until 1824/25, when they established a synagogue, a school and a cemetery. A new Jewish school was inaugurated in 1853, and we also know that Jewish schoolteachers—between 1825 and 1875, 16 teachers held this post—performed the duties of cantor, mohel, undertaker, etc. Other communal institutions included a cemetery; consecrated in 1847 and initially owned by a small group of businessmen, the cemetery became community property in 1886, as did the synagogue. Many Jews left Arnsberg at the turn of the 20th century, so that the Jewish population of 1926 and 1933 was 90 and 40, respectively. By 1938, most Jewish shops had been “Aryanized.” On Pogrom Night, SA troops and a mob of local residents desecrated the cemetery and destroyed Jewish homes. Although the rioters broke into the synagogue and desecrated the ritual objects, they were, or so reports suggest, prevented from burning down the building by neighboring residents who feared that the blaze would spread to their own homes. Most of the remaining Jewish men were sent to Sachsenhausen and held there for several weeks. Seventeen local Jews left for other German cities. Of those who emigrated, seven reached the Netherlands, six South America and five Palestine. At least 37 Arnsberg Jews perished in the Shoah. In 1973, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the Jewish cemetery.
Author / Sources: Moshe Aumann; Sources: EJL, LJG, SG-NRW