General information: First Jewish presence: 1296 bzw. 1327; peak Jewish population: 433 in 1933, or 402 in 1911; Jewish population in 1933: 433
Summary: Jewish presence was first documented in a Hebrew document from 1296: It mentions two Jewish refugees from the town who were killed, probably on Anti-Semitic grounds. In 1327, Bishop Gottfried von Osnabrück granted Jews the right to settle in Hamm. This right, however, was limited to wealthy Jews only, as it was depended on a very expensive “Schutzbrief” (letter of protection) by local authorities. The few Jews living in Hamm were mainly money lenders. They were repeatedly victims of pogroms, and often killed and expelled, as in 1350, when the Bubonic Plague broke out in Hamm, and Jews were accused of well poisoning. During few times in the following centuries, Jewish presence in Hamm was prohibited by law. This changed with Friedrich Willhelm I, King of Prussia, in the 18th century, who granted Jews resident rights in his jurisdiction, including Hamm. The community established a Jewish school in 1722, and a synagogue in 1768 (location unknown). With its growing membership, it temporarily employed Rabbis, and inaugurated a new synagogue 1868 at Kleine Weststrasse. After having to give up the protected 14th century Jewish burial grounds in 1850, the community buried their deaths at a new cemetery at Ostentor. With the Nazis coming to power, there were Anti- Semitic attacks on Jews and Jewish properties, as early as 1933. The boycott of Jewish stores was enforced in Hamm, and a number of Jewish professionals were prohibited from working in their fields. So-called “Ostjuden”, Jews from Eastern Europe living in Germany, were expelled from Hamm in 1938. On Pogrom Night, the synagogue was destroyed, but not burned down, due to its proximity to neighboring buildings. The Jewish community had to pay for the damages. It was ultimately demolished at the end of 1938. The homes of Jews were destroyed, and Jews physically attacked. The Heymanfamily was murdered. According to an information plaque at the city museum, 200-300 Jews from Hamm were able to flee abroad in the years following. The rest were deported and murdered by the Nazis. Only a few Jews returned to Hamm after the war. The community dissolved in 1953, and the remaining Jews joined the Jewish community of Dortmund. There is a memorial plaque next to the former synagogue.
Author / Sources: Benjamin Rosendahl
Sources: AJ, EJL