General information: First Jewish presence: 1722; peak Jewish population: 679 in 1930; Jewish population in 1933: 630
Summary: The first record of a Jewish presence in Hagen is dated 1722. Most local Jews were poor peddlers and farmhands, and their poverty allowed for no more than a small prayer room. Later, as the Jews of Hagen began to prosper and open their own businesses, Jews from other parts of Germany made their way there. In Hagen, many Jews were wealthy and influential, and some were involved in local politics; a member of the Jewish community even served as a city assemblyman for 28 years. The Jewish population began to grow steadily in the early 1900s. Many Orthodox Jews from Poland, called Ostjuden (Eastern European Jews), moved to Hagen during this period, so that by 1933 they made up 30% of the Jewish population. Until the early 1800s, the community of Hagen made do with a “roving” prayer room (situated, each month, in a different house). By 1819, however, they had built a small synagogue, school and a teacher’s apartment. The large influx of Jews necessitated the construction of a larger synagogue, which was built and inaugurated in 1859; a mikveh was built alongside the new house of worship, as was a new school. Many people were unhappy with the synagogue’s architecture and design, claiming that the building resembled a church. The synagogue was renovated and enlarged in 1895, at which point it was re-inaugurated. Anti-Jewish measures were instituted and enforced in Hagen in early 1933: Jewish businesses were boycotted, storefronts were smashed, Jews were assaulted and racist slogans were painted on the synagogue. On Pogrom Night, the SA and SS came out in force, breaking into the synagogue and systematically destroying its furniture and books. Although the building was set on fire, it survived the blaze and served the local police as a beer hall for much of the war (according to records, the building was later destroyed during a wartime bombing raid). It was on Pogrom Night, too, that the Jewish cemetery was desecrated. A new synagogue was inaugurated on the same site in 1960. In 1961, the city published a memorial book commemorating the Jews of Hagen. A memorial plaque has been unveiled at the cemetery site.
Author / Sources: Moshe Finkel
Sources: EJL, LJG, SG-NRW, SIA