General information: First Jewish presence: mid-18th century; peak Jewish population: 126 (in 1821); Jewish population in 1933: 22
Summary: In Altena, most Jews earned their livings as kosher butchers or as tradesmen. Prayer services were initially conducted in rented quarters, and records also tell us that the community purchased these quarters in 1808. In 1828, by which pointthe site was no longer able to accommodate the growing congregation, a larger building—it housed a synagogue, a school and an apartment for a teacher—was purchased. The community abandoned this synagogue in 1914 and acquired yet another building. We also know that the school functioned for only part of the year; Jewish children attended Christian schools at all other times. Jewish-owned stores and businesses were attacked and plundered on Pogrom Night; a truck rammed into and shattered all the display windows of the Heinemann department store. The synagogue building was stormed by uniformed members of the Nazi Party and SA, who demolished, burned or confiscated the furnishings. The building itself, however, was not set on fire, and would later house the town’s remaining Jews, pending their deportation. Between 1937 and 1941, 17 Jews left Altena, eight of whom emigrated from Germany. Eight Jews, the town’s last, were deported in April and July of 1942. Sixteen Altena Jews perished in the Shoah.
Photo: Exterior of the synagogue of Altena. Courtesy of: the Friedrich Karl Baltruschat Archive.
Author / Sources: Moshe Aumann; Sources: EJL, LJG