By Man­fred Gerber

Sple­ndor and mise­ry of the Star of David

Out­line of Wiesbaden’s Jewish history

Pro­tec­tion money and limi­t­ed rights:
The prehistory

Jews may have lived in Aquae Mat­ti­a­corum, anci­ent Wies­ba­den, alre­a­dy in Roman times. The first Jew, named Kir­san, is men­tio­ned in docu­ments from 1385. Later, it was always only indi­vi­du­al Jews who lived in Wies­ba­den, unli­ke in Mainz, Worms and Spey­er, whe­re the­re had been flou­ris­hing Jewish com­mu­ni­ties sin­ce Roman times and throug­hout the Midd­le Ages. In 1427 the­re is a report of a Jew Geb­hardt who owned a house near today’s Michels­berg. In 1518, the Jew Jakob from Nurem­berg was men­tio­ned in the records becau­se he had to pay an annu­al pro­tec­tion fee. In 1570 a Jew named Moses lived in the Mühl­gas­se. At that time it was also known as “Juden­gas­se”. The name was later trans­fer­red to the Metz­ger­gas­se, today’s Wage­mann­stras­se, whe­re the­re was also a “Juden­schu­le”. The­re was never a ghet­to in Wies­ba­den. The few Jewish fami­lies appar­ent­ly lived among the other citi­zens, but with fewer rights. They were not allo­wed to own land, belong to a craftsmen’s guild, or per­form mili­ta­ry ser­vice. In 1638, the Jew Nathan recei­ved per­mis­si­on to sett­le in Wies­ba­den for one year. At that time, the buil­ding of a lar­ge syn­ago­gue was still far away. Despi­te the small num­ber of Jews, the Wies­ba­den aut­ho­ri­ties repea­ted­ly recei­ved com­plaints about the Jewish neighbors.

Der Stolz des jüdischen Bürgertums: die Synagoge am Michelsberg Wiesbaden 1869. (Abbildung: Stadtarchiv Wiesbaden, F.-Nr. 003191)

The pri­de of the Jewish bour­geoi­sie: the syn­ago­gue on the Michels­berg in 1869
(Illus­tra­ti­on: StadtA WI  F000-3191)

The syn­ago­gue buil­ding in 1869: a sym­bol of emancipation

The new syn­ago­gue on the Michels­berg was to beco­me a pie­ce of Jeru­sa­lem in the midd­le of Wies­ba­den. The Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty had cho­sen none other than the Nas­sau court archi­tect Phil­ipp Hoff­mann (1806 — 1889) to build it. Hoff­mann had alre­a­dy desi­gned the Roman Catho­lic Boni­fa­ti­us­kir­che (1849) in the Lui­sen­platz and the Rus­si­an Church on the Ner­oberg (1855) in Wies­ba­den. That he should now also build the syn­ago­gue was an expres­si­on of the reli­gious tole­rance and the gene­ral­ly pre­vai­ling libe­ral atti­tu­de in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry, a con­se­quence of the Enligh­ten­ment, and the French Revo­lu­ti­on with its pro­cla­ma­ti­on of human and civil rights.

Phil­ipp Hoff­mann desi­gned the syn­ago­gue on the ground plan of a Byzan­ti­ne cen­­­tral-plan buil­ding. In doing so, he allu­ded to the com­mon roots of Juda­ism and Chris­tia­ni­ty. The buil­ding sequence of the new Wies­ba­den hou­ses of wor­ship in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry was a kind of Lessing’s ring para­ble set in stone, so to speak. All reli­gi­ons were to be trea­ted equal­ly. In 1864, the Angli­can Church in the Klei­ne Wil­helm­stra­ße had been com­ple­ted. The dai­ly cont­act with spa guests from Rus­sia, Eng­land and the USA ine­vi­ta­b­ly led to Wiesbaden’s cos­mo­po­li­ta­nism. With the com­ple­ti­on of the syn­ago­gue, anyo­ne loo­king in the direc­tion of the Michels­berg could see it: The Jews were now reco­gni­zed citi­zens of the city. The almost fairy-tale-like lar­ge oni­on tower with its gol­den stars on an azu­re back­ground and the Star of David on the dome was visi­ble from afar. The syn­ago­gue had beco­me a new land­mark of Wiesbaden.

The old syn­ago­gue, built in 1826 in the Schwal­ba­cher Stras­se, soon show­ed signs of struc­tu­ral defects. Rab­bi Ben­ja­min Hoch­städ­ter was an ear­ly advo­ca­te for a new buil­ding, but the Jewish com­mu­ni­ty did not go along.
Final­ly, it beca­me too cram­ped due to the fur­ther influx of Jews. The com­mu­ni­ty grew from 200 mem­bers in 1833 to 550 in 1863. As ear­ly as 1857, it had enough money to finan­ce a new buil­ding. The Nas­sau buil­ding offi­ci­als pro­ved unwil­ling and delay­ed the buil­ding per­mit. But then Duke Adolph is said to have inter­ven­ed and appro­ved the “request” to build on a plot of land on the Michels­berg. In 1862, Phil­ipp Hoff­mann set to work. A year later he sub­mit­ted the first plans, whereu­pon buil­ding per­mis­si­on was granted.

For the fur­ther deve­lo­p­ment of Jewish archi­tec­tu­re in Ger­ma­ny, Gott­fried Sem­per (1803 — 1879) had set the trend with his syn­ago­gue in Dres­den (1840). Sem­per built it in the so-cal­­led Moo­rish style, with round arches as a design ele­ment. Moo­rish was syn­ony­mous with ori­en­tal, and the Dome of the Rock was the topos for Jeru­sa­lem. The rock on which it stands, accor­ding to tra­di­ti­on, was the site of the burnt offe­ring in the Jewish temp­le. On it, the foref­a­ther Abra­ham is said to have sacri­fi­ced a ram in place of his son Isaac. At any rate, Phil­ipp Hoff­mann built on the Michels­berg what the Ger­man edu­ca­ted bour­geoi­sie ima­gi­ned to be a Solo­mo­nic temp­le. If Hoff­mann had loo­ked around St. Peters­burg and Ita­ly for the con­s­truc­tion of the Rus­si­an Church, this time he tra­ve­led to Bad Cannstatt to be inspi­red by a vil­la that the archi­tect Lud­wig Zanth had built for King Wil­helm I of Württemberg.

He also inspec­ted the new syn­ago­gue in Colo­gne (1861) by cathe­dral mas­­ter-buil­­der Ernst Fried­rich. It had also been built in the Moo­rish style that had just beco­me fashionable. The mour­ning hall at the Jewish ceme­tery on Plat­ter Stras­se (1891) was also built in this style.

In the case of the synagogue’s for­mer buil­ding in the Schwal­ba­cher Stras­se, the Nas­sau sta­te govern­ment had still sti­pu­la­ted that it should not be con­spi­cuous in the town­s­cape. “The sin­ging of the Jews would then be less of a nui­sance to passers-by than if the syn­ago­gue were in the ‘street line’,” wro­te buil­ding inspec­tor Karl Fried­rich Faber, who plan­ned the buil­ding. With this remark he pro­ba­b­ly repre­sen­ted the spi­rit of his time. When in 1826 the syn­ago­gue moved from its pre­de­ces­sor in the Obe­re Weber­gas­se to the Schwal­ba­cher Stra­ße and they wan­ted to car­ry the Torah scroll into the new syn­ago­gue in a cere­mo­ni­al pro­ces­si­on, the Sta­te Minis­try still brusque­ly rejec­ted the request: “The Jews are not allo­wed any public rite at all, in that they do not enjoy the rights of a church, but are only tole­ra­ted in silence.”

The mas­ter buil­der: Phil­ipp Hoff­mann (1806 — 1889)
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Archi­ve Wies­ba­de­ner Kurier)

Inau­gu­ra­ti­on with the syn­ago­gue sin­ging socie­ty: Roy­al visit to the Kurhaus

Things had chan­ged now, in the late 1860s. On the after­noon of August 13, 1869, a lar­ge con­gre­ga­ti­on, about 500 peo­p­le, solemnly mar­ched up the Schwal­ba­cher Street to the Michels­berg with the Torah scrolls and songs of thanks­gi­ving and prai­se, the school youth lea­ding the way. They were fol­lo­wed by the bea­rers of the Torah scrolls and white-clad girls with the syn­ago­gue key. Among the par­ti­ci­pan­ts were mas­­ter-buil­­der Phil­ipp Hoff­mann, led by the community’s board of direc­tors and Rab­bi Dr. Samu­el Süß­kind at its head, as well as cler­gy­men of the various deno­mi­na­ti­ons, such as the Pro­tes­tant Bishop Wil­helm Wil­hel­mi, and repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the civil and mili­ta­ry aut­ho­ri­ties. The new syn­ago­gue had 500 seats. On the day of the con­se­cra­ti­on, howe­ver, it could not even remo­te­ly accom­mo­da­te the audi­ence. A huge crowd of spec­ta­tors had lined up along the Schwal­ba­cher Stras­se and the Michelsberg.

“It was,” repor­ted an eye­wit­ness, “a solemn moment when, to the sounds of the organ, the oldest mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­ti­on wal­ked through the new magni­fi­cent temp­le with the Torah scrolls car­ri­ed over from the old syn­ago­gue, when Rab­bi Süss­kind pla­ced them in the sacred ark and lit the eter­nal lamp with the bene­dic­tion.” Sin­ging and organ play­ing began as the pro­ces­si­on stro­de into the syn­ago­gue. This was fol­lo­wed by the can­ta­ta “O how beau­tiful are thy tents, Jacob!” the Rhei­ni­scher Kurier repor­ter wro­te of the event.

On the eve of the con­se­cra­ti­on, even King Wil­helm of Prus­sia, later Ger­man Emper­or Wil­helm I, came to the (old) Kur­haus to lis­ten to a con­cert by the Syn­ago­gue Sin­ging Socie­ty and in this way pay his respects to the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty. The inau­gu­ra­ti­on cerem­o­ny had been pre­ce­ded by a fare­well ser­vice in the old synagogue.

The 19th cen­tu­ry: The long road to emancipation

The gra­du­al civic equa­li­ty of Jews began in the Duchy of Nas­sau, the new sta­te of the Con­fe­de­ra­ti­on of the Rhi­ne, in 1806, when it abo­lished the “Leib­zoll” (poll tax) for Jews under the influence of Napo­le­on. In 1817 Nas­sau was the first sta­te in the Ger­man Con­fe­de­ra­ti­on to intro­du­ce non-deno­­mi­na­­tio­nal schools, and in 1819 com­pul­so­ry edu­ca­ti­on for Jewish child­ren. In 1841, the Jewish pro­tec­tion money was abo­lished. From 1842 on, the Jews of Nas­sau were given sur­na­mes. The next step was the intro­duc­tion of com­pul­so­ry mili­ta­ry ser­vice in 1846. The libe­ral spi­rit of the revo­lu­ti­on of 1848/49 cau­sed a fur­ther push towards legal equa­li­ty, in the wake of which fur­ther laws were for­mu­la­ted in Nas­sau for the equal rights of the Jews, even though the­re were also pogroms against the Jewish popu­la­ti­on in rural are­as at the same time. In 1852, the duchy was divi­ded into 83 syn­ago­gue dis­tricts. And now, in 1869, the eman­ci­pa­ti­on of the Jews was unmist­aka­b­ly embo­di­ed in the Wies­ba­den city­scape for all to see.

The cen­tral dome rose 35 meters high. A repre­sen­ta­ti­ve buil­ding in a pro­mi­nent loca­ti­on. A few years ear­lier, Wiesbaden’s Pro­tes­tants had still been con­side­ring whe­ther to build a repla­ce­ment for the Mau­ri­ti­us Church on the Michels­berg, which had bur­ned down in 1850. They then deci­ded on the site of today’s Markt­kir­che (1862). The name Michels­berg refers to St. Michael’s Cha­pel, which had stood in the ceme­tery there.

The new syn­ago­gue was an urban enhance­ment with exci­ting new visu­al per­spe­cit­ves. The synagogue’s lar­ge oni­on tower was in dia­lo­gue with the towers of the Pro­tes­tant Markt­kir­che and the Catho­lic St. Boni­fa­ti­us­kir­che. At the same time, the syn­ago­gue with its four small oni­on domes refe­ren­ced the Rus­si­an Church on the Neroberg.

The design of the inte­ri­or also fol­lo­wed the magni­fi­cent exte­ri­or design. Thus, the dome of the three-nave syn­ago­gue was deco­ra­ted with gild­ed stars on a blue back­ground. The four free-stan­­ding dome pil­lars, the half-colum­ns and belt arches sho­ne with their lavish orna­men­tal deco­ra­ti­on. The blue, gray, green and red deco­ra­ted walls crea­ted a sacred atmo­sphe­re. The light strea­ming in through the cen­tral dome lent gran­deur to the space. Through the small dome towers the women ascen­ded to their gal­lery, the rab­bi rea­ched his room and the orga­nist the organ. Howe­ver, the women were also allo­wed to sit down­s­tairs with the men. The pul­pit in front of the apse was made of Nas­sau marb­le. Oppo­si­te it was the seven-bran­ched can­de­labrum. Behind it, under a rich­ly deco­ra­ted cano­py, was the Holy of Holies, the Torah shri­ne. Its marb­le colum­ns sup­port­ed a gol­den roof. Colo­red light ente­red through a round win­dow and out­sho­ne the holy pre­cinct. The cano­py had simi­la­ri­ties with the syn­ago­gue in the Ora­ni­en­bur­ger Stras­se in Ber­lin, which was inau­gu­ra­ted in 1858. Phil­ipp Hoff­mann had mas­terful­ly sol­ved the pro­blem of crea­ting an impo­sing struc­tu­re on the rela­tively small buil­ding site. The Star of David not only sho­ne abo­ve the main dome, it ran as a motif through the enti­re buil­ding, its ground plan and its facades.

With the Reich Con­sti­tu­ti­on of 1871, Ger­man Jews beca­me equal citi­zens in the then new­ly crea­ted empire. Legal secu­ri­ty and a good mea­su­re of free­dom enab­led them to rise soci­al­ly into the bour­geoi­sie. In Wies­ba­den, many Jews work­ed as respec­ted doc­tors and lawy­ers. Salo­mon Herx­hei­mer (1842 — 1899), for exam­p­le, was a spe­cia­list in skin dise­a­ses. His brot­her Karl Herx­hei­mer (1861 — 1942) was direc­tor of the Muni­ci­pal Skin Cli­nic, Pri­vy Coun­cil­lor of Medi­ci­ne and bea­rer of the Iron Cross on the White Rib­bon. Ben­ja­min Wolff (1845 — 1892), a mem­ber of the Old-srae­­li­­te Reli­gious Com­mu­ni­ty, was the first Jewish city coun­cil­or in Wies­ba­den. Later, in the 1920s, the con­duc­tor Otto Klem­pe­rer and the com­po­ser Ernst Kre­nek, the music direc­tor Otto Rosen­stock and the ope­ra sin­ger Alex­an­der Kip­nis work­ed at the Wies­ba­den Music Thea­ter. Under the direc­tor­ship of Paul Bek­ker, the musi­cal life of the spa town enjoy­ed an excel­lent inter­na­tio­nal repu­ta­ti­on, also thanks to other num­e­rous Jewish artists who lived at least tem­po­r­a­ri­ly in Wiesbaden.

Otto Klem­pe­rer, a nati­ve of Bres­lau, was one of the most important con­duc­tors of the 20th cen­tu­ry and was Wiesbaden’s Gene­ral Music Direc­tor from 1924 to 1927 under mana­ger Carl Hage­mann. Paul Bek­ker was gene­ral direc­tor of the Wies­ba­den Thea­ter from 1927 to 1932 and included quite a few con­tem­po­ra­ry works in his reper­toire. Wies­ba­den owes to him the revi­val of the May Fes­ti­val, form­er­ly the Kai­ser Fes­ti­val, in 1928. Alt­hough the artists were not part of the core of the Jewish com­mu­ni­ty, they con­tri­bu­ted to the pres­ti­ge of Jewish Wies­ba­den residents.

Among the Jewish per­so­na­li­ties of the city was the edi­­tor-in-chief of the Wies­ba­de­ner Tag­blatt, Her­mann Lekisch, who also wro­te plays on the side. The libe­ral-min­­ded jour­na­list was dis­missed in 1933.

Tog­e­ther with his sis­ter Emmy, he was depor­ted to Sobi­bor in June 1942 and mur­de­red in the gas cham­ber. Sin­ce Octo­ber 2010, Her­mann Lekisch has been com­me­mo­ra­ted by a “stumb­ling stone” in front of the Pres­se­haus at Lang­gas­se 21.

Domes and towers: syn­ago­gue with Markt­kir­che in the background.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: StadtA WI F000-5241)

Typi­cal Hoff­mann: round arches also on the inside.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: StadtA WI F000-481)

Gesta­po file card of Her­mann Lekisch. Last cyni­cal ent­ry: 10.06.42: Evacua­ted to the East.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wies­ba­den. StadtA WI NL 210 Nr. 1)

Libe­ral Judaism

It was also bour­geois libe­ral Juda­ism that shaped the spi­rit of the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty. Here Abra­ham Gei­ger (1810 — 1874) play­ed a decisi­ve role. Alt­hough he did not accom­pa­ny the buil­ding of the syn­ago­gue as rab­bi, as it was not built until after his depar­tu­re from Wies­ba­den, his ide­as and impul­ses con­tin­ued to have an effect on the community.

Fol­lo­wing Moses Men­dels­sohn (1729 — 1786), Gei­ger tried to recon­ci­le the new fin­dings from sci­ence and tech­no­lo­gy with religion—reason and faith—much like the theo­lo­gi­ans Fried­rich Schlei­er­ma­cher (1768 — 1834) and Albrecht Rit­schl (1822 — 1889) on the Pro­tes­tant side. During his time in Wies­ba­den, Abra­ham Gei­ger published the “Zeit­schrift für jüdi­sche Theo­lo­gie” (“Jour­nal of Jewish Theo­lo­gy”). Becau­se the duke refu­sed him the posi­ti­on of sta­te rab­bi, he final­ly saw no fur­ther pos­si­bi­li­ty for effec­ti­ve acti­vi­ty in Wies­ba­den and went to Bres­lau in 1838, later to Frank­furt am Main and final­ly to Ber­lin, whe­re he taught at the Hoch­schu­le für Wis­sen­schaft des Juden­tums (Col­lege for the Sci­ence of Juda­ism) from 1872. The con­se­cra­ti­on of the new syn­ago­gue on the Michels­berg was then per­for­med by Rab­bi Dr. Samu­el Süß­kind, who held his office in Wies­ba­den from 1844 to 1884. The intellec­tu­al ground­work for the syn­ago­gue buil­ding, which was con­side­red pro­gres­si­ve by the stan­dards of the time, was done by reli­gious scho­lars such as Abra­ham Gei­ger. And Gei­ger did not miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be pre­sent at the dedi­ca­ti­on of the Wies­ba­den synagogue.

Anti-Semi­­tism was far less pro­no­un­ced in the “spa and tou­rist town” of Wies­ba­den in the 19th cen­tu­ry than in some other small towns. Howe­ver, with the influx of most­ly poorer and Ortho­­dox-ori­en­­ted Jews from Rus­sia at the begin­ning of the 20th cen­tu­ry, most of whom sett­led in the West­end, ten­si­ons grew among Wiesbaden’s Jews. Con­flicts aro­se bet­ween rich and poor, bet­ween “Eas­tern Jews” and estab­lished citi­zens, some of whom wan­ted not­hing to do with the pen­ni­less new­co­mers; ten­si­ons also aro­se bet­ween Ortho­dox and libe­ral deno­mi­na­ti­ons. In 1925, about three per­cent of Wiesbaden’s popu­la­ti­on were Jews, and about a third came from Eas­tern Euro­pe. Espe­ci­al­ly in the after­math of the pogroms in Rus­sia in the years 1903 to 1906, to which more than 2,000 peo­p­le had fal­len vic­tim, many Jews from the East flo­cked to Wes­tern Europe.

The­re were also ten­si­ons, howe­ver, becau­se the out­ward appearance of the Eas­tern Jews ran coun­ter to the efforts of Ger­man Jews to con­form in the peri­od befo­re the First World War.

Jewish busi­nesses were a natu­ral part of Wiesbaden’s city­scape in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry. In the West­end, for exam­p­le, Ephra­im Tie­fen­brun­ner owned a store at Herr­mann­stras­se 3. He sold kos­her sau­sa­ge, which he obtai­ned via over­night express from a Ber­lin slaugh­ter­house. His com­pe­ti­tor was Isaak Alt­mann at Hele­nen­stras­se 33. Bet­ween 1905 and 1928, many Jews from East Cen­tral Euro­pe also flo­cked to Wies­ba­den, espe­ci­al­ly from Polish Gali­cia, which had belon­ged to Aus­­­tria-Hun­­ga­ry until 1919. Many who lived in the West­end bet­ween Schwal­ba­cher­stras­se and Scharn­horst­stras­se, Emser­stras­se, Bert­ram­stras­se and Goe­ben­stras­se were rela­ted to each other. They spo­ke Yid­dish, a lan­guage simi­lar to Midd­le High Ger­man with Sla­vic and Hebrew ele­ments and Hebrew wri­ting. Even though they for­mal­ly belon­ged to the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty on the Michels­berg, they had their own pray­er hou­ses, cal­led “Stibl” in Yid­dish. About 25 fami­lies coun­ted them­sel­ves among the par­ti­cu­lar­ly pious Hasidim.

One of the suc­cessful Wies­ba­den busi­nesses was run by the Jewish fac­to­ry owner Dr. Leo­pold Kat­zen­stein. Born in Thu­rin­gia, the doc­tor ran the “Phar­maceu­ti­cal Indus­try Dr. Kat­zen­stein” in Erben­heim. The “children’s risi­net­tes” (cold pills) they pro­du­ced were useful against pha­ryn­ge­al , laryn­ge­al and bron­chi­al catarrh. Leo­pold Kat­zen­stein was mur­de­red in Sach­sen­hau­sen con­cen­tra­ti­on camp, his wife Doro­thea in Auschwitz.

Jewish Wies­ba­den was a diver­se cos­mos. Its social spec­trum ran­ged from the incon­spi­cuous poor employee with no inco­me to the respec­ted upper middle-class.

Reform Juda­ism and Old-Israe­­li­­tes: The schism

The lit­ur­gi­cal rappro­che­ment with the Chris­ti­an rite through the “organ syn­ago­gue” on the Michels­berg, howe­ver, was too much reform and adapt­a­ti­on for the (religious-)law-abiding among the con­gre­ga­ti­on mem­bers. From the point of view of the “pious”, the “libe­rals” had moved too far away from the foref­a­thers. The Ortho­dox dis­ap­pro­ved of both the instal­la­ti­on of an organ and the exis­tence of the syn­ago­gue sin­ging socie­ty, foun­ded in 1863, in which women were also allo­wed to par­ti­ci­pa­te, and insis­ted on a clear sepa­ra­ti­on from the Chris­­ti­an-influen­­ced envi­ron­ment. The fact that the libe­rals no lon­ger obser­ved the rules of Shab­bat also met with dis­ap­pr­oval. In 1878, about 40 fami­lies left the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty and foun­ded the Old-Israe­­li­­te Com­mu­ni­ty (Alt-Israe­­li­­ti­­sche Kul­tus­ge­mein­de). One of the first “with­dra­wal com­mu­ni­ties” in Prus­sia, it built its own syn­ago­gue in the Fried­rich­stra­ße, which was inau­gu­ra­ted in 1897. Here the ser­vice was again orga­ni­zed accor­ding to the (religious-)law-abiding tradition.

For half a cen­tu­ry, from 1876 to 1925, Rab­bi Dr. Leo Kahn (1888 — 1951) shaped the reli­gious life of the Old-Israelites.

“The first thing I need is a mik­vah,” Kahn, who came from Sulz­burg in Baden, is said to have said upon his arri­val in Wiesbaden.

For the­re was no lon­ger a ritu­al bath in the syn­ago­gue on the Michels­berg. So the Ortho­dox Jews revi­ved the old mik­vah at Spie­gel­gas­se 9. Today, this buil­ding hou­ses the Paris Court Thea­ter and the Spie­gel­gas­se Acti­ve Muse­um of Ger­­man-Jewish Histo­ry. Of Kahn’s suc­ces­sor, Dr. Jonas Ans­ba­cher (1879 — 1967), who came from Nurem­berg, the state­ment has come down to us that Kahn “pro­tec­ted his con­gre­ga­ti­on like an eagle pro­tects its nest”, in deep pie­ty, gre­at eru­di­tion and stun­ning elo­quence. Ans­ba­cher was rab­bi of the Alt-Israe­­li­­ti­­sche Kul­tus­ge­mein­de from 1925 until the end of 1938. He was tem­po­r­a­ri­ly inter­ned in the Buchen­wald con­cen­tra­ti­on camp. In 1939 he mana­ged to escape to Eng­land. From 1941 to 1955 he was rab­bi at a syn­ago­gue in London.

Paul Laza­rus (1888 — 1951), the rab­bi of the Israe­li­te Com­mu­ni­ty, attes­ted of him: “From the intr­epid figh­ter in his ear­ly ten­ure, he had beco­me the sym­bol of peaceful coexis­tence bet­ween the two com­mu­ni­ties.” Kahn died at the bibli­cal age of 94, high­ly respec­ted by Jews and Chris­ti­ans ali­ke. On his tomb­stone, two bles­sing hands attest to his des­cent from the Jewish priestly lineage.

Paul Laza­rus was a bridge-buil­­der: bet­ween ortho­dox and libe­ral, poor and rich Jews. He was par­ti­cu­lar­ly com­mit­ted to the inte­gra­ti­on of Eas­tern Jews and to wel­fa­re work. After Jewish child­ren were no lon­ger allo­wed to attend public schools during the Natio­nal Socia­list dic­ta­tor­ship, he saw to the estab­lish­ment of the school in the Main­zer Stras­se, which ope­ned in 1936.

The rab­bi of the Old-Israe­­li­­te Community:
Dr. Elie­zer Leo Lip­man Kahn
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Miri­am Krai­sel, grand­d­augh­ter of Rab­bi Dr. Kahn)

Rab­bi Dr. Elie­zer Leo Lip­man Kahn with his family
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Miri­am Krai­sel, grand­d­augh­ter of Rab­bi Dr. Kahn)

Kahn’s suc­ces­sor: Rab­bi Dr. Jonas Ansbacher
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Acti­ve Muse­um Spiegelgasse)

Visi­tors from all over the world: The Jewish cemeteries

In 1750, the first Jewish ceme­tery was estab­lished on the Kuh­berg in the Idstei­ner Stra­ße, today Schö­ne Aus­sicht. Until then, Wies­ba­den Jews had been buried in Wehen. From 1750 on, the area on the Kuh­berg was also the buri­al place for the sur­roun­ding com­mu­ni­ties. In 1883, among others, Ephra­im Ben Abra­ham Schön­ber­ger was buried here. His gra­ves­tone reads, “He was a respec­ted and God-fea­ring man with all his heart.” The Duke’s Pri­vy Coun­cil­lor of Com­mer­ce Mar­cus Ber­lé, who had made it from gla­zier to foun­der of a suc­cessful ban­king house and was a gre­at sup­port­er of the Michels­berg syn­ago­gue, may have been at least as respec­ted. In 1890 the ceme­tery on the Kuh­berg was clo­sed. But to this day peo­p­le from Isra­el, the USA and all over the world still come here to visit the gra­ves of their ancestors.

After the Old-Israe­­li­­te Com­mu­ni­ty was foun­ded, it estab­lished its own ceme­tery on Hell­kund­weg in 1877. Due to the clo­sure of the area at the “Schö­ne Aus­sicht”, the ceme­tery in the Plat­ter Stra­ße was inau­gu­ra­ted in 1891 for the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty, both in the imme­dia­te vici­ni­ty of the Chris­ti­an North Ceme­tery. Among others, the actress at the Wies­ba­den thea­ter Lui­se Wolff (d. 1917) and the depart­ment store foun­der Juli­us Bacha­rach (d. 1922) are buried at Hell­kund­weg. Today’s Jewish com­mu­ni­ty buries its dead in the ceme­tery in the Plat­ter Stras­se. Jewish ceme­ter­ies also exist in the sub­urbs of Bier­stadt, Schier­stein and Bie­brich, as well as in Wal­luf. But they are no lon­ger used.

The bles­sing hands of the Koh­anim — the priestly tri­be — on a gravestone.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wies­ba­den. Pho­to­grapher: Igor Eisenschtat)

Bet­ween Inte­gra­ti­on and Inci­te­ment: Jewry bet­ween the Wars

The peri­od bet­ween the world wars, during the Wei­mar Repu­blic, was ambi­va­lent for Wiesbaden’s Jews. On the one hand, Germany’s defeat in the war of 1918 and the eco­no­mic hard­ship that fol­lo­wed cau­sed a new, inten­si­fy­ing anti-Semi­­tism; on the other hand, the­re were plans in Wies­ba­den to crea­te a modern Jewish com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter at today’s Platz der deut­schen Ein­heit and to fur­ther integration.

Eco­no­mic decli­ne, the pro­vi­si­ons of the Ver­sailles Peace Trea­ty (1919), which were per­cei­ved as extre­me­ly unjust, and the humi­lia­ti­on inflic­ted by French occu­pa­ti­on forces also fos­te­red an anti-Jewish cli­ma­te in Wies­ba­den. Once again, Jews had to be used as scape­goats. Right-wing extre­mists in par­ti­cu­lar por­tray­ed Jews as respon­si­ble for the defeat of the Ger­man Reich in World War I and inci­ted against them in the same breath as the “Novem­ber cri­mi­nals.” This refer­red to the “Wei­mar par­ties” SPD and USPD, the libe­ral Ger­man Demo­cra­tic Par­ty (DDP) and the Catho­lic Cen­ter. Exem­pla­ry for the patrio­tism of Ger­man Jewry was Wal­ter Rathen­au (DDP), who as Minis­ter of Recon­s­truc­tion in 1921 pushed through repa­ra­ti­on reli­ef against France in the “Wies­ba­den Agree­ment.” In 1922, Rathen­au was ass­as­si­na­ted in Ber­lin by right-wing enemies of the Republic.

The eco­no­mic cri­ses of the 1920s also took their toll on the pre­vious­ly pro­spe­rous Jews of Wies­ba­den. In 1922, the com­mu­ni­ty set up a “mid­d­­le-class kit­chen” for its impo­ve­ris­hed mem­bers, fol­lo­wed in 1924 by the con­s­truc­tion of an “Israe­li­te old people’s home” at Geis­berg­stras­se 24. A “wel­fa­re cen­ter” based on the model of the Inner Mis­si­on had alre­a­dy exis­ted sin­ce 1917. An asso­cia­ti­on for Jewish vaca­ti­on colo­nies made it pos­si­ble for child­ren of desti­tu­te par­ents to spend recrea­tio­nal time in the countryside.

The dark Novem­ber night of 1938: A tra­ge­dy in five acts

The tra­ge­dy of Novem­ber 10, 1938, in which SA and par­ty squads des­troy­ed the syn­ago­gue on the Michels­berg, can, in retro­s­pect, be divi­ded into five acts.

Act I, on the evening of Novem­ber 9: Reich Pro­pa­gan­da Minis­ter Joseph Goeb­bels takes the attack by the Jew Her­schel Grün­span on the diplo­mat Ernst vom Rath in Paris on Novem­ber 7 as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to issue ins­truc­tions to the par­ty bran­ches for a “spon­ta­neous” reac­tion. NSDAP and SA men dres­sed in civi­li­an clo­thes ente­red the Wies­ba­den syn­ago­gue at night. They threw the Torah scrolls into the air, tore up pray­er books, sto­le what they thought was somehow valuable, and set fire to the synagogue.

Act Two: Around 4 o’clock in the mor­ning, the fire depart­ment arri­ved and began to extin­gu­ish, pro­ba­b­ly due to misunderstandings.

Third act: Around 6 o’clock, a Nazi com­man­do appeared again, again in plain clo­thes, to feign spon­ta­n­ei­ty; in rea­li­ty, the ins­truc­tions had come from Ber­lin. Using acce­le­rants, the syn­ago­gue was set on fire again. This time the fire depart­ment had appar­ent­ly recei­ved clear ins­truc­tions from the par­ty: Pro­tect only the neigh­bor­ing buil­dings. The poli­ce stood idly by. This is how Georg Buch (1903 — 1995), the later SPD mayor of Wies­ba­den, descri­bed the events of the night.

Fourth act: Around 8 o’clock, a crowd gathe­red at the Michels­berg. Some were armed with axes and crow­bars. They smas­hed the ben­ches in two and piled them up into a pyra­mid. Appar­ent­ly, the syn­ago­gue was not bur­ning fast enough for them. They dou­sed the woo­den pyra­mid with gaso­li­ne and set it on fire. The buil­ding was now abla­ze. The fla­mes also spread to the neigh­bor­ing com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter. The fire was still smol­de­ring in the after­noon of Novem­ber 10. No one pro­tes­ted, at least not publicly. Accor­ding to wit­nesses, passers­by were as sho­cked as they were silent.

Act Five: In the after­noon, around 2 p.m., the dome collapsed.

A prey to the fla­mes: the syn­ago­gue at noon on Novem­ber 10, 1938.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: HHStAW Best. 3008,1,1, 3997)

In blind zeal: the mob rages in the stores

While the syn­ago­gue bur­ned, Jewish stores in the city cen­ter were demo­lished. Among many others, the hat store Ull­mann, the wine store Simon and the jewel­ry store Hei­mer­din­ger, in addi­ti­on to the fashion store for children’s clot­hing Baum in the Weber­gas­se, the per­fu­me­ry Albers­heim and the shoe store Mesch. The com­pa­ny Salberg—glass and crystals—at the ent­rance of the Lang­gas­se was also atta­cked. A few hou­ses fur­ther on, the rio­ters hur­led shoes indis­cri­mi­na­te­ly onto the street from a shoe store.

The devas­ta­ti­on always fol­lo­wed the same pat­tern: the des­truc­tion squads smas­hed win­dows and doors, then demo­lished the stores and threw the mer­chan­di­se onto the street. “Ger­mans do not buy in Jewish stores,” was writ­ten on the card­board signs that SA squads hung on the hou­ses. In blind zeal they smas­hed the win­dows of the Jewish stores. Not­hing was seen of the police.

The apart­ment and office of the lawy­er Bert­hold Gut­h­mann were also van­da­li­zed. “The peo­p­le threw the files out the win­dow, des­troy­ed the fur­ni­tu­re and smas­hed win­dow panes,” sta­ted an indict­ment filed with the Wies­ba­den Regio­nal Court in 1950. Gut­h­mann was arres­ted and taken to the Buchen­wald con­cen­tra­ti­on camp, whe­re he was held for six weeks and sever­ely maltrea­ted. After his release, he retur­ned to Wies­ba­den. Here he took over the pre­si­den­cy of the Jewish “Ein­heits­ge­mein­de” (unity com­mu­ni­ty) and hel­ped many com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers to emi­gra­te. He hims­elf stay­ed until he was for­ci­b­ly trans­fer­red to Frank­furt in Novem­ber 1942, from whe­re he was final­ly depor­ted and mur­de­red in Ausch­witz in 1944. He had alre­a­dy lost his licen­se to prac­ti­ce law in 1933. In World War I, Bert­hold Gut­h­mann had been a flight lieu­ten­ant and award­ed the Iron Cross. Gut­h­mann did not take oppor­tu­ni­ties to bring hims­elf and his fami­ly to safe­ty abroad. As a mem­ber of the board of the Jewish com­mu­ni­ty and repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the “Reich Asso­cia­ti­on of Jews in Ger­ma­ny,” he remain­ed with his com­mu­ni­ty, who­se mem­bers he sup­port­ed to the best of his abili­ty until the last major depor­ta­ti­on in 1942. Gut­h­mann was forced to coope­ra­te in the dis­so­lu­ti­on of the com­mu­ni­ty and the “Reichs­ver­ei­ni­gung” (Reich Asso­cia­ti­on of Jews in Ger­ma­ny). He also had to com­pi­le the lists for the deportations.

In the famous store for ladies’ fashions of Carl Bacha­rach (1869 — 1938) in Weber­gas­se 2 — 4 even Kai­ser Wil­helm II had once been a cus­to­mer. The busi­ness­man and his wife Anna were arres­ted in March 1939.

The remains of the syn­ago­gue des­troy­ed during the Novem­ber pogroms are demolished.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: HHStAW Best. 3008,1,1,4000)

Carl Bacha­rach died in the remand pri­son in the Albrecht­stra­ße. Bacharach’s house at Alex­and­ra­stra­ße 6 — 8 was one of a total of 42 “Jewish hou­ses” in which Wiesbaden’s Jewish popu­la­ti­on was iso­la­ted from the begin­ning of the war. In 1943, the last Jewish hou­ses were dissolved.

For months, the ruins of the syn­ago­gue on the Michels­berg bore wit­ness to the atro­ci­ty. It was not until the sum­mer of 1939 that it was final­ly demo­lished. Final­ly, in 1950, the base of the syn­ago­gue was demo­lished and the Coulin­stras­se was widen­ed. Now not­hing remin­ded one of the for­mer loca­ti­on of the synagogue.

Last remains dis­ap­pear: Demo­li­ti­on of the base of the syn­ago­gue on the Michels­berg in 1950.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Wil­li Rudolph, © Richard Rudolph)

The rub­ble of the sub­urbs: Five syn­ago­gues dese­cra­ted in Wiesbaden.

Five syn­ago­gues were dese­cra­ted and rui­ned by the Nazi des­truc­tion squads in Wies­ba­den on Novem­ber 9/10, 1938: two in the city cen­ter (Michels­berg and Fried­rich­stra­ße) and the syn­ago­gues in Bier­stadt (built in 1827), Schier­stein (1858) and Bie­brich (1860). In the case of the syn­ago­gue in the Fried­rich­stra­ße, arson was not used, pro­ba­b­ly becau­se the­re was a dan­ger of the fla­mes spre­a­ding to neigh­bor­ing hou­ses. The Natio­nal Socia­lists also ram­pa­ged in the small pray­er house at Blü­cher­stra­ße 6, whe­re the Ortho­dox Eas­tern Jews from the neigh­bor­hood gathe­red, but no fires were set the­re, pre­su­ma­b­ly becau­se of the cram­ped con­di­ti­ons of the buil­ding. The syn­ago­gue in Bie­brich, which was also demo­lished in 1938, fell vic­tim to a bom­bing raid during the war. The ruins of the Bier­stadt syn­ago­gue were demo­lished in 1971.

Stan­ding like this until 1967: the ruins of the syn­ago­gue in Schierstein.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: StadtA WI F000-3361)

Orde­red in Ber­lin: An orga­ni­zed sta­te crime

For Reich Pro­pa­gan­da Minis­ter Joseph Goeb­bels, the ass­as­si­na­ti­on of Ernst vom Rath in Paris was a wel­co­me oppor­tu­ni­ty to herald a new stage in the per­se­cu­ti­on of Ger­man Jews. Wit­hout even men­tio­ning the bur­ning of the syn­ago­gues, the Nas­sau­er Volks­blatt, published in Wies­ba­den, clai­med the day after the outra­ge: “Whoe­ver wal­ked through the streets could hear how deep the anger sat in the peo­p­le over this nefa­rious and vile act of Jewry.” And fur­ther, “If dama­ge then occur­red in some places, the Jews brought it on them­sel­ves.” The Tag­blatt expres­sed its­elf in simi­lar terms. It also avo­ided refe­ren­ces to the des­truc­tion and sta­ted threa­ten­in­gly that the “dama­ges” were to be regard­ed “as a remin­der that could not be expres­sed more forcefully.”

In 1946, the main per­pe­tra­tors of the Pogrom Night in Wies­ba­den were brought to tri­al, but were only mild­ly punis­hed. Alt­hough the law pro­vi­ded for a sen­tence of not less than ten years in pri­son for aggrava­ted arson, only sen­ten­ces of bet­ween two and five years were imposed.

Long befo­re the Novem­ber pogroms, two Wies­ba­den Jews had been mur­de­red by Nazis: In April 1933, they kil­led 39-year-old milk mer­chant and SPD tre­asurer Max Kas­sel at Weber­gas­se 46 and 58-year-old mer­chant Salo­mon Rosen­strauch at Wil­helm­stras­se 20. While Rosen­strauch suc­cum­bed to a heart attack as a result of an assault, Kas­sel was shot with a pis­tol. Alt­hough the per­pe­tra­tors were pro­se­cu­ted, they were punis­hed very leniently.

In the spring of 1938, the Jews of Wies­ba­den had to decla­re all their assets, and in Octo­ber 300 Polish Jews were depor­ted to Pol­and. Almost all of them beca­me vic­tims of the Holocaust.

Simp­le digni­ty: the inte­ri­or of the Schier­stein synagogue.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: StadtA WI F000-493)

From Arson to Mass Depor­ta­ti­on: The Start of the Machi­nery of Genocide

On Janu­ary 20, 1942, the “Wann­see Con­fe­rence” on the “Final Solu­ti­on of the Jewish Ques­ti­on” took place in Ber­lin. The Ger­man Jews, who had been wit­hout rights at least sin­ce the Nurem­berg Laws of 1935, were to be depor­ted to Eas­tern Euro­pe and kil­led the­re. A first wave of arrests had alre­a­dy sei­zed Wies­ba­den Jews in Octo­ber 1938. On Octo­ber 17, Rab­bi Paul Laza­rus held his last ser­mon in the Michels­berg syn­ago­gue. Fore­bo­din­gly, he said, “This time has taught us to say good­bye.” Laza­rus was tem­po­r­a­ri­ly depor­ted to a con­cen­tra­ti­on camp after the Novem­ber pogroms. In 1939, he fled to Nice and emi­gra­ted from the­re to Pal­es­ti­ne. Impo­ve­ris­hed, he died in Isra­el in 1951. After the des­truc­tion during the “Reichs­kris­tall­nacht”, the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty was allo­wed to hold its ser­vices in the Fried­rich­stra­ße for a while. Paul Laza­rus’ libra­ry of 1,700 volu­mes was given to the För­der­kreis Akti­ves Muse­um deutsch-jüdi­­scher Geschich­te in Wies­ba­den by his daugh­ters Eva and Han­na in 1999.

The mass depor­ta­ti­ons from Wies­ba­den began on June 9, 1942, after which just under 600 Jews still lived in the city. In 1933, the­re had still been about 2,800. Emi­gra­ti­on was no lon­ger pos­si­ble after Octo­ber 1, 1942. The last major depor­ta­ti­on took place on Sep­tem­ber 1, 1942. On a Satur­day, Shab­bath of all days, on August 29, about 370 Wies­ba­den Jews had to gather in the cour­ty­ard of the par­ti­al­ly des­troy­ed syn­ago­gue in the Fried­rich­stra­ße. They were allo­wed to take only a small suit­ca­se and a maxi­mum of 50 Reichs­mark with them. Their remai­ning assets had been con­fis­ca­ted. In the syn­ago­gue they had to spend a night of per­ple­xi­ty and des­pair. They had been told that they would be “housed tog­e­ther out­side the Old Reich”. But had­n’t Hit­ler alre­a­dy spo­ken of the “anni­hi­la­ti­on of the Jewish race in Euro­pe” in 1939?

From the Fried­rich­stra­ße, the main­ly elder­ly Jews moved on foot in the direc­tion of the slaugh­ter­house, whe­re they were her­ded tog­e­ther at the catt­le loa­ding ramp and then her­ded into the wai­ting Reichs­bahn rail­road cars. Like catt­le, they were sent on the jour­ney to their deaths. Via Frank­furt am Main to The­re­si­en­stadt and from the­re to the lar­ge mur­der fac­to­ries in the East. They even had to pay for this trans­port to death. Not many Wies­ba­den resi­dents took care of the per­se­cu­ted. Almost 100 of Wiesbaden’s Jews avo­ided depor­ta­ti­on by com­mit­ting suicide.

Macab­re regis­tra­ti­on: cour­ty­ard of the syn­ago­gue in the Fried­rich­stra­ße on August 29, 1942.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: StadtA WI, F.-Nr. 8666/99)

Depar­tu­re to the mur­der fac­to­ry: ramp of the slaugh­ter­house on August 30/31, 1942.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: StadtA WI, F.-Nr. 8666/122)

Docu­ment of des­pair: fare­well let­ter from Mr. and Mrs. Spie­gel to the Pre­di­ger family.
(StadtA WI NL 75 Nr. 1013)

Tran­scrip­ti­on of the fare­well letter

Sun­day 2.11.40

My dear Rec­tor family! *

With the­se few lines my wife and I take lea­ve of you—forever! I am wri­ting you the­se lines becau­se at the last hour the­re are still so many things to be done, in time and with the ful­lest con­scious­ness and con­sent of my wife. Yes­ter­day, Novem­ber 1, my son was infor­med by a priest fri­end from Ett­lin­gen, who inqui­red about his con­di­ti­on, that all non-Aryans the­re would have had to lea­ve their homes within a few hours in order to be deported.

We cer­tain­ly belie­ve that soo­ner or later the same fate will reach us. For us old, rot­ten peo­p­le, such an over­ly ghast­ly banish­ment is equi­va­lent to death, so we pre­fer a quick end. We thank you from the bot­tom of our hearts for all your love and atten­ti­on we enjoy­ed during our living tog­e­ther. May Pro­vi­dence be always incli­ned to you only in the best sen­se. In spi­rit, I press all your hands with all my heart.

August Spie­gel and Ida Spiegel

*  Niko­laus Pre­di­ger was a rec­tor at Wies­ba­den schools.

A bould­er bears their names: The for­got­ten fighters

Even their par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in World War I (1914 — 1918) did not save Ger­man Jews from the gas cham­bers. A total of 57 Jewish sol­diers from Wiesbaden—many of whom had been award­ed the Iron Cross—lost their lives in the tren­ches of the Wes­tern and Eas­tern Fronts during this war. Mea­su­red against the num­ber of about 2,000 Jewish Wies­ba­de­n­ers around the year 1914, this was even a dis­pro­por­tio­na­te­ly high blood toll among the Wies­ba­den popu­la­ti­on. A com­me­mo­ra­ti­ve plaque on a bould­er in the Jewish Ceme­tery in the Plat­ter Stras­se com­me­mo­ra­tes the fallen.

On May 22, 1921, the hono­ra­ry plaque was cere­mo­nious­ly unvei­led by Rab­bi Paul Laza­rus. He too had enlis­ted as a war vol­un­teer and field rab­bi in 1916 and was on duty in Mace­do­nia. When the bells of the Wies­ba­den churches rang out in August 1914, the Jews of Wies­ba­den also pray­ed in the syn­ago­gues for the vic­to­ry of their fat­her­land. At the end of 1932, the Wies­ba­den chap­ter of the Reichs­bund Jüdi­scher Front­sol­da­ten still had 105 mem­bers. After the trans­fer of power to Hit­ler, they were spared for a while, but from 1936 on they were no lon­ger spared. They were for­bidden any poli­ti­cal acti­vi­ty and in 1938 the Reichs­bund was dissolved.

Names such as Karl Ham­bur­ger (1891 — 1915), Sig­mund Hel­fer (1877 — 1917) and Theo­dor Abra­ham (1880 — 1918) are inscri­bed on the hono­ra­ry plaque in the Jewish ceme­tery. The fact that Wies­ba­den Jews were just as wil­ling as many others to sacri­fice their lives for their fat­her­land in the First World War is hard­ly pre­sent in the coll­ec­ti­ve memo­ry. Apart from the memo­ri­al plaque at the Jewish ceme­tery, not­hing in the Wies­ba­den city­scape reminds us of their fate.

Hono­ra­ry plaque of the fal­len 1914–1918
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wies­ba­den. Pho­to­grapher: Igor Eisenschtat)

Vol­un­tee­red: Field Rab­bi Dr. Paul Lazarus
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Lothar Bem­be­nek Collection)

No quar­ter for legal scho­lars: Jewish jurists

The fates of Jewish jurists, which Wies­ba­den jurist and local his­to­ri­an Dr. Rolf Faber has rese­ar­ched and published in the series of publi­ca­ti­ons of the city archi­ve, are also moving and poignant. The­re were seve­ral dozen Jewish jud­ges, sta­te att­or­neys and lawy­ers in Wies­ba­den during the Wei­mar Repu­blic. Dr. Wil­helm Drey­er (1882 — 1938), who is men­tio­ned here as a repre­sen­ta­ti­ve exam­p­le, was a judge at the Hig­her Regio­nal Court in Frank­furt am Main. He was shun­ted to the Wies­ba­den Regio­nal Court in 1933 and reti­red in 1935. On Novem­ber 10, 1938, unsu­spec­tingly, he was orde­red to report to poli­ce head­quar­ters in the Fried­rich­stras­se. The­re he was arres­ted and depor­ted to the Buchen­wald con­cen­tra­ti­on camp tog­e­ther with other Wies­ba­den Jews. Drey­er died on Novem­ber 25, only two weeks after his com­mit­tal. He was one of 26,000 Jewish men arres­ted throug­hout the Reich in accordance with the ins­truc­tions of Rein­hard Heyd­rich, the head of the secu­ri­ty police.

Wil­helm Drey­er was not the only Wies­ba­den resi­dent who­se fami­ly had con­ver­ted from Juda­ism to Pro­tes­tan­tism in the late 19th cen­tu­ry. Drey­er was also a sol­dier in World War I, with the rank of lieu­ten­ant. But neither his Pro­tes­tant faith nor his par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in the war pro­tec­ted him from being mur­de­red. His “crime” was sole­ly that he belon­ged to the “Jewish race.”

The disen­fran­chise­ment of Jews after the Nazi “sei­zu­re of power” took place in seve­ral stages: As ear­ly as April 1933, the “Law for the Res­to­ra­ti­on of the Pro­fes­sio­nal Civil Ser­vice” crea­ted the basis for remo­ving poli­ti­cal­ly dis­fa­vor­ed and Jewish civil ser­vants from the civil ser­vice. Accor­ding to the “Nurem­berg Race Laws” of 1935, no Jew was allo­wed to hold public office any lon­ger; his citi­zen­ship was prac­ti­cal­ly revo­ked. Juris­pru­dence and the sepa­ra­ti­on of powers had been annul­led in Ger­ma­ny any­way. For in 1933 Hit­ler had declared hims­elf the “supre­me ruler” of the Ger­man people.

Humi­lia­ti­on and exclu­si­on rea­ched a new level in 1941: From Sep­tem­ber onwards, all Jews in the Reich and in the occu­p­ied ter­ri­to­ries had to wear the “Star of David”. The Star of David, which had been visi­ble from afar on the dome of the Wies­ba­den syn­ago­gue sin­ce 1869, had beco­me a stig­ma. Its bea­rers were wit­hout rights and dignity.

After the Libe­ra­ti­on in 1945: The Star of David shi­nes again in the city

During the time of Natio­nal Socia­lism, a crime of almost uni­ma­gi­nable dimen­si­ons was com­mit­ted against the Euro­pean Jews, which only very few Jews survived.

As ear­ly as 1945, the Jewish com­mu­ni­ty in Wies­ba­den began to form anew under the pro­tec­tion of the Ame­ri­cans. In 1946, after much work of its own in rebuil­ding, it was able to con­se­cra­te the syn­ago­gue in the Fried­rich­stra­ße again.

The initia­tor of the reestab­lish­ment of the com­mu­ni­ty was Clai­re Gut­h­mann, the widow of the lawy­er Bert­hold Gut­h­mann, who had been mur­de­red in Ausch­witz. She and her daugh­ter Char­lot­te were the only mem­bers of her fami­ly to sur­vi­ve the The­re­si­en­stadt con­cen­tra­ti­on camp. Clai­re Gut­h­mann had retur­ned to Ger­ma­ny as a “dis­pla­ced per­son” and initi­al­ly lived in a camp, but was soon assi­gned a room in Wies­ba­den. On July 21, 1945, the muni­ci­pal “Care Cen­ter for the Poli­ti­cal­ly, Raci­al­ly and Reli­gious­ly Per­se­cu­ted” infor­med the U.S. mili­ta­ry govern­ment about the reestab­lish­ment of a Jewish com­mu­ni­ty. Clai­re Gut­h­mann was its first spo­kes­wo­man and took care of the mem­bers from the for­mer Jewish old people’s home at Geis­berg­stra­ße 24. In 1946, Dr. Leon Frim from Lem­berg beca­me chair­man of the com­mu­ni­ty. Frim had sur­vi­ved the con­cen­tra­ti­on camps Ausch­witz and Buchen­wald. Jakob Matz­ner was one of the co-foun­­ders of the Jewish Community.

On Hanuk­kah, Decem­ber 22, 1946, the syn­ago­gue was rede­di­ca­ted in a cere­mo­ni­al act. Colo­nel James R. New­man, the man who had pro­clai­med Wies­ba­den the capi­tal of the new sta­te of Hes­se in 1945, spo­ke on behalf of the U.S. mili­ta­ry govern­ment. Mayor Hans Redl­ham­mer (CDU) par­ti­ci­pa­ted on behalf of the city. The Ame­ri­can mili­ta­ry rab­bi Wil­liam Dalin lit the lights of the Hanuk­kah can­de­labrum. The only Torah scroll saved during the dese­cra­ti­on in Novem­ber 1938 retur­ned to Wies­ba­den from its “exi­le” in Switz­er­land on this day. With Cha­im Hecht, the com­mu­ni­ty now had its own rab­bi again.

A rebuil­ding of the old syn­ago­gue or the con­s­truc­tion of a new one on the Michels­berg was first con­side­red, but then dropped.

Under the pro­tec­tion of the Ame­ri­cans: Inau­gu­ra­ti­on of the Fried­rich­stras­se Syn­ago­gue in 1946.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wiesbaden)

In the 1960s, the syn­ago­gue in the Fried­rich­stra­ße no lon­ger met the needs of the com­mu­ni­ty, which now deci­ded to build a new one. The foun­da­ti­on stone was laid in 1965, and the syn­ago­gue was con­se­cra­ted in 1966. The sta­te rab­bi Dr. Isaak Emil Lich­tig­feld was pre­sent at its con­se­cra­ti­on. Minis­ter Pre­si­dent Georg August Zinn (SPD) spo­ke on behalf of the sta­te of Hes­se, and Lord Mayor Georg Buch (SPD) con­gra­tu­la­ted the con­gre­ga­ti­on on behalf of the city of Wies­ba­den. Buch hims­elf had once been a pri­soner in the Hin­zert and Sach­sen­hau­sen con­cen­tra­ti­on camps.

The modern buil­ding desi­gned by archi­tects Hel­mut Joos and Ignaz Jako­by is cha­rac­te­ri­zed by the win­dows of Wies­ba­den sculp­tor and glass desi­gner Egon Alt­dorf. Blue, ruby red and gol­den yel­low tones domi­na­te. Only the Bur­ning Bush shi­nes in green. The colors chan­ge throug­hout the day depen­ding on the expo­sure to light. The pur­ple hues that appear at dusk dis­ap­pear again the next day.

You can find out more about the post-war histo­ry of the Wies­ba­den Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty in the online exhi­bi­ti­on: “Jewish Wies­ba­den: Bet­ween a New Begin­ning, Con­fi­dence and “Tar­but — Time for Jewish Cul­tu­re”.

Cere­mo­ni­al act with Sta­te Rab­bi Dr. Isaak Emil Lichtigfeld.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wiesbaden)

Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty in Tran­si­ti­on: Immi­grants from the For­mer Soviet Union

In the ear­ly 1990s, the num­ber of com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers increased by leaps and bounds as emi­grants from the for­mer Soviet Uni­on moved in. As a result, com­mu­ni­ty life gai­ned a new dyna­mic. The pre­vious­ly some­what age­ing con­gre­ga­ti­on once again enjoy­ed many child­ren. The inte­gra­ti­on of the Rus­­si­an-spea­k­ers is giving the com­mu­ni­ty a lot of work, but Wiesbaden’s com­mit­ment is con­side­red exem­pla­ry throug­hout the repu­blic, not least thanks to the sup­port of the Cen­tral Wel­fa­re Office of Jews in Ger­ma­ny, based in Frank­furt. And, says Jacob Gut­mark, loo­king at the new “Jews from the East” in com­pa­ri­son with the inner con­flict of Ger­man and Eas­tern Jews in the 1920s, “This time we must not fail, or soon the­re will be no Jewish com­mu­ni­ties left.”

In 2023, Wiesbaden’s Jewish com­mu­ni­ty will have clo­se to 850 mem­bers. That makes it one of the fas­­test-gro­­wing com­mu­ni­ties in Hes­se, after Kas­sel and Offen­bach. But the­re are hard­ly any Ger­man Jews left. The majo­ri­ty con­sists of migrants. Quite a few of them have gone through con­cen­tra­ti­on camps in seve­ral countries.

Sin­ce then, tea­ching Jewish con­tent and values to tho­se who grew up in an athe­i­stic sta­te has been one of the community’s most distin­gu­is­hed tasks. Today, two thirds of its mem­bers come from count­ries of the for­mer Soviet Union.

A social worker and an inte­gra­ti­on assistant take care not only of them, but also of well over two thousand fami­ly mem­bers who are not mem­bers of the Jewish Community.
Their home­land lies bet­ween the Gulf of Fin­land and the Black Sea, which they left for Ger­ma­ny. Many are doc­tors, artists, engi­neers. Some did not speak a word of Ger­man when they arri­ved, some only a few scraps of Yid­dish. But why are they emi­gra­ting to Ger­ma­ny of all places? Dr. Jacob Gut­mark is often asked this ques­ti­on. His ans­wer: “Sin­ce the war, word has spread that you’­re no lon­ger per­se­cu­ted in Ger­ma­ny and that you can suc­ceed here.” In Rus­sia, on the other hand, the situa­ti­on for Jews today is still quite dif­fi­cult in some places.

Solemn rite: the inser­ti­on of the Torah scrolls at the inau­gu­ra­ti­on in 1966.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wiesbaden)

Atten­ti­ve guests: among them Lord Mayor Georg Buch (4th from the right in front).
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wiesbaden)

With lear­ning cir­cle and cul­tu­re club: Lively com­mu­ni­ty life

The com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter in the Fried­rich­stras­se is a hive of com­mu­ni­ty acti­vi­ty. Peo­p­le con­ti­nue their edu­ca­ti­on in reli­gious topics, learn Ger­man and Hebrew, part­ly in tan­dem cour­ses. Peo­p­le prac­ti­ce gym­nastics and self-defen­­se, play chess, table ten­nis and bas­ket­ball in the TuS Mak­ka­bi Wies­ba­den. Sta­­te-reco­­g­ni­­zed reli­gious ins­truc­tion is given from the first gra­de of ele­men­ta­ry school through high school gra­dua­ti­on. Peo­p­le meet for lear­ning in the com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter, in the Tom Salus lear­ning cir­cle and in the cul­tu­re club. The­re is swim­ming for seni­or citi­zens and a “mee­ting place” for Holo­caust sur­vi­vors. More than a hundred vol­un­teers actively par­ti­ci­pa­te in com­mu­ni­ty life. Ani­ta Lip­pert, née Fried, born in 1931, is the last mem­ber of the Wies­ba­den con­gre­ga­ti­on who had visi­ted the Jewish school in the Main­zer Stra­ße and was later trans­por­ted from the slaugh­ter­house ramp to Theresienstadt.

The congregation’s “Mit­tei­lungs­blatt” is published regularly—in Ger­man and part­ly in Russian—with con­tri­bu­ti­ons of all kinds. Among the important rites is the ser­vice on Shab­bath, the seventh day on which God res­ted after the crea­ti­on of the world. The ser­vice is fol­lo­wed by a fes­ti­ve meal tog­e­ther. But all other Jewish holi­days are also cele­bra­ted here.

The Wies­ba­den syn­ago­gue is also visi­ted by Chris­ti­an com­mu­ni­ties for infor­ma­ti­on, espe­ci­al­ly school clas­ses. The­re are over 80 groups of visi­tors a year. The Jewish com­mu­ni­ty sees its­elf as a uni­fied com­mu­ni­ty and the legal and moral suc­ces­sor to the pre-war com­mu­ni­ty. It cele­bra­tes its ser­vices accor­ding to the Ortho­dox rite. The “libe­rals” can also par­ti­ci­pa­te in it. Con­ver­se­ly, howe­ver, the Ortho­dox would never par­ti­ci­pa­te in a libe­ral service.

For­mer Wies­ba­den Jews and their des­cen­dants now live scat­te­red across all con­ti­nents. Sin­ce the 1970s, they have been regu­lar­ly invi­ted by the sta­te capi­tal Wies­ba­den to visit. The Acti­ve Muse­um Spie­gel­gas­se for Ger­­man-Jewish Histo­ry in Wies­ba­den (AMS) also main­ta­ins inten­si­ve cont­acts with num­e­rous Wies­ba­den Jews and their fami­lies living abroad, not least in order to rese­arch their bio­gra­phies, but abo­ve all the bio­gra­phies of tho­se who were once murdered.

For a long time, over a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry, Can­tor Avigdor Zuker shaped the life of the com­mu­ni­ty. Most recent­ly, he also taught at the Hoch­schu­le für Jüdi­sche Stu­di­en (Col­lege of Jewish Stu­dies) in Hei­del­berg. Sin­ce 2000, Avra­ham Zeev Nuss­baum has been can­tor, and sin­ce 2004, after recei­ving fur­ther trai­ning in Jeru­sa­lem, can­tor and rab­bi of the con­gre­ga­ti­on. Sin­ce the ear­ly 1980s, Dr. Jacob Gut­mark, born in 1938, has been a mem­ber of the four-mem­­ber board. He gives the con­gre­ga­ti­on a face in the city and lends it weight. Gut­mark looks after inter­nal mat­ters, cul­tu­re and reli­gi­on, as well as repre­sen­ting the community’s inte­rests in terms of repre­sen­ta­ti­on and con­tent. Sin­ce 2007, the­re has been a city con­tract bet­ween the sta­te capi­tal and the Jewish community.

Con­cert as part of the event series “Tar­but — Time for Jewish Cul­tu­re” at the Kulturforum.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wies­ba­den. Pho­to­grapher: Igor Eisenschtat)

The Wies­ba­den Synagogue
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wies­ba­den. Pho­to­grapher: Igor Eisenschtat)

Today, the com­mu­ni­ty is pre­sent in the city life in many ways. Sin­ce 2008, it has orga­ni­zed the event series “Tarbut—Time for Jewish Cul­tu­re” with a wide ran­ge of offe­rings, from a per­for­mance by an Israe­li youth brass orches­tra from Wiesbaden’s part­ner city Kfar Saba in Isra­el to Israe­li films at the Cali­ga­ri, lite­ra­ry rea­dings at the Vil­la Cle­men­ti­ne, and an exhi­bi­ti­on on various topics at the city hall.

In 2020, the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wies­ba­den was award­ed the “Pri­ze for the Pro­mo­ti­on of Cul­tu­ral Life”, the Cul­tu­ral Pri­ze of the sta­te capi­tal Wies­ba­den for its series of events.

In 2013, the Jewish Tea­ching House (“Jüdi­sches Lehr­haus”) was also new­ly foun­ded. It offers events on various aspects of Jewish cul­tu­re and iden­ti­ty, imparts Jewish know­ledge and addres­ses his­to­ri­cal topics.

The Jewish Community’s char­ter sta­tes that child­ren and young peo­p­le are to be edu­ca­ted reli­gious­ly and cul­tu­ral­ly and “in love for the Jewish people.”

Sin­ce 2006, Ste­ve Land­au has been the exe­cu­ti­ve direc­tor respon­si­ble for the community’s ope­ra­ti­ons. He is also the direc­tor of the Jewish Tea­ching House.

Ope­ning of the event series “Tar­but — Time for Jewish Cul­tu­re” in the year 2019 in the Gre­at Fes­ti­val Hall of the Wies­ba­den City Hall.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wies­ba­den. Pho­to­grapher: Igor Eisenschtat)