General information: First Jewish presence: 14th century; peak Jewish population: 260 in 1932; Jewish population in 1933: 231
Summary: The Jews of Euskirchen—a small community had been established there by 1302—were annihilated during the Black Death pogroms of 1349. Jewish families lived there sporadically during the following decades, and records from the early 15th century mention a Judengasse (“Jews’ Alley”). Established in the 17th century, the modern, largely Orthodox community initially conducted services in prayer rooms. It was during the late 19th century, however, that Euskirchen’s Jewish population experienced considerable growth: from 148 in 1871 to 260 in 1932. Many members of the 19th-century community were employed in the textile industry. In 1856, the community built a synagogue behind the Jewish school at 16 Annaturmstrasse. That house of worship was destroyed during a neighborhood fire in 1886, after which, in 1887, local Jews, in the presence of Rabbi Abraham Frank, inaugurated a new, grand synagogue with a seating capacity of 200. Euskirchen was home to three Jewish cemeteries: on Judenwall (1680-1835), on Koelner Strasse (1834-1918) and on Frauenberger Strasse (1913-1942). In 1933, 231 Jews lived in Euskirchen; approximately 20 schoolchildren received religious instruction. A mikveh was still functioning that year, and we also know that a youth organization and a social committee, the latter of which was founded in 1927 to aid the poor, were active in the community. Local Zionists organized lectures on Jewish and Zionist history. Anti-Semitic measures in Euskirchen included the boycott of April 1933; the publication of anti-Semitic articles in January 1934; and a ban, implemented by the city council in 1935, on Jews moving to Euskirchen. Most Jewish-owned businesses were forcibly closed in 1934 and in 1935. On Pogrom Night, local Nazis vandalized the synagogue, after which non-local workers set the building on fire; two Jewish cemeteries were desecrated that night. The synagogue ruins were torn down in 1940. One hundred and seventy-eight local Jews emigrated from or relocated within Germany. Those who stayed in Euskirchen were eventually moved to so-called “Jews’ Houses” and subjected to forced labor. Deportations from Euskirchen commenced in 1942, and at least 112 local Jews perished in the Shoah. In 1981, a memorial stone was unveiled at the former synagogue site.
Photo: Onlookers gather after the burning of the synagogue in Euskirchen on the morning of November 10, 1938. Courtesy: City Archive of Euskirchen.
Author / Sources: Heidemarie Wawrzyn
Sources: EJL, FJG, HU, LJG, SIA, W-G