General information: First Jewish presence: 1560; peak Jewish population: 174 in 1843; Jewish population in 1933: 99
Summary: In 1691, the growing Jewish community of Brakel received permission to open a prayer room. Later, at some point in the early 1800s, a synagogue and mikveh were established in the town. By 1836, however, the synagogue structure had deteriorated, necessitating the construction of a new house of worship. Inaugurated on October 10, 1844 (the groundbreaking ceremony took place on August 2), the new synagogue included an interesting feature: the Torah Ark was located on the western, rather than the customary eastern, wall. On Pogrom Night, Nazis smashed the synagogue’s windows and destroyed the interior; the neighboring cemetery was also destroyed. In 1939, only 36 Jews still lived in Brakel, all of whom were eventually deported. The synagogue’s organ, which survived the pogrom, was eventually sold to the local church. As of this writing, no memorial has been erected in Brakel.
Author / Sources: Moshe Finkel
Sources: EJL, SG-NRW, SIA