General information: First Jewish presence: approx. 14th century; peak Jewish population: 252 in 1910; Jewish population in 1933: 220
Summary: In Alsfeld, a Jewish community (it maintained a synagogue) was annihilated during the Black Death pogroms of 1348/49. The roots of the modern community emerged in the 17th century. Records suggest that the Alsfeld prayer room was established in the 18th century. A proper mikveh, built to replace three privately owned ritual baths, was opened in 1826. The community inaugurated a synagogue in a rented building on Metzgergasse in 1833; six years later it purchased the building. The synagogue housed a schoolroom and an apartment for a teacher who performed the duties of shochet and chazzan. The community established a cemetery in 1877, and, in 1905, a new synagogue on Lutherstrasse (350 seats). Local Jews were assaulted by Nazis on two occasions in 1931. In 1933, 220 Jews still lived in Alsfeld; 25 schoolchildren studied religion that year, and several religious and charitable associations were active. Under Nazi rule, Alsfeld Jews suffered many violent attacks, including cases of burglary, assault and destruction of property. Between 30 and 40 Jews left Alsfeld each year until 1939. On Pogrom Night (November 1938), the synagogue’s interior was incinerated; the building’s exterior was also damaged. Jewish homes and businesses were attacked and property was destroyed. After the pogrom, the Nazis gave some remaining ritual objects to the local museum. The damaged synagogue was converted into a residence. Eighty-seven Jews emigrated; others relocated within Germany. In June 1939, the remaining 18 Jews were moved into a “Jew’s house.” All later left Alsfeld. At least 90 local Jews perished in the Shoah. Several ritual objects were later sent to Israel. A memorial stone was unveiled in Alsfeld in 1988, and in 2009 memorial “stumbling stones” were placed on the town’s sidewalks.
Author / Sources: Heike Zaun Goshen; Sources: AH, AJ, EJL, PK-HNF, www.juedisches-museum-vogelsberg.de, www.osthessen-news.de
Located in: hesse