General information: First Jewish presence: 1349; peak Jewish population: 1,244 in 1930; Jewish population in 1933: 1,100
Summary: The Jewish community of Bochum established a synagogue at 42 Schuetzenbahn in 1744/45, prior to which religious services were conducted in a prayer room and, possibly, in a makeshift synagogue. (Records suggest such a building may have been established in Bochum in 1650.) We also know that in 1863, ten years after the congregation was officially founded, a new house of worship—200 seats for men, 100 for women—was inaugurated at 16 Wilhelmstrasse (presentday Huestrasse); in 1895, the building was expanded to accommodate another 200 worshipers. Bochum’s Jewish school was established in 1730. Attendance became mandatory in 1820, and the school was moved to a building near Schuetzenbahn and to the new synagogue in 1850 and 1863, respectively. Officially licensed as an elementary school in 1883, it recorded its peak enrollment (125) in 1886. The oldest Jewish cemetery in Bochum, located at Buddenberg Gate, was bequeathed to the community in 1720. The cemetery was moved three times: to Wittenstrasse in 1822; to Friedhofstrasse in or around 1884; and to Wasserstrasse, in Wiemelshausen, in 1917. Many Eastern European Jews settled in Bochum at the turn of the century, some of whom joined the Liberal congregation while others established an Orthodox prayer room. In 1930, Bochum was home to the largest Jewish congregation in Westphalia. The community maintained a cheder for religious studies, a Hebrew school, a kindergarten, numerous charities and cultural associations and, beginning in 1905, summer holiday camps. Community member Otto Ruer was elected mayor in 1925. In 1933, after the Nazis’ election victories, Zionist activities intensified in Bochum. Later, in 1938, Jews of Polish origins were deported. On the evening of November 10, 1938, following an assembly, drunken members of the SA and SS set out to terrorize Jews. Jewish residents were assaulted, their homes and stores plundered and wrecked. The synagogue was set on fire around midnight, three hours after which the dome was detonated. Although the community secretary had managed to remove the Torah scrolls from the building before the destruction, no one knows what became of them. After the pogrom, the remaining Jews were moved to six designated “Jews’ Houses,” one of which was located in the interior of the destroyed school. At least 200 Bochum Jews, eventually deported to the camps in a total of five transports, perished in the Shoah. The new Jewish community, established in 1946, inaugurated a synagogue and community center in 2007, at which point over 1,200 Jews lived in Bochum. Memorials were unveiled at the former synagogue site and at Harminestrasse in 1969 and 2004, respectively.
Photo: The synagogue of Bochum in or around the year 1920. Courtesy of: City Archive of Bochum.
Author / Sources: Ruth Martina Trucks
Sources: EJL, FJG, LJG, SG-NRW