Jewish community in Esen - Jüdische Gemeinde Esens

Jewish communities in East Frisia before 1938

The Jewish community in Esens existed for a period of around 300 years from its beginnings in the 17th century to its end on July 31, 1941. The Harlingerland, consisting of the old offices of Esens , Stedesdorf and Wittmund, was until its unification with the county East Frisia became an independent territory in 1600. There were Jewish communities here only in Wittmund and Esens. The Jewish community of Wittmundseems to have been the oldest in Harlingerland. In any case, the Jews from Esens initially had to bury their dead in the Jewish cemetery in Wittmund. After the unification of the Harlingerland with East Frisia, Esens served the counts and princes of East Frisia as a second residence. The settlement of the first Jews should also take place after 1600. The first documentary mention is dated to 1637. In 1827 it became a synagoguebuilt. In 1925 Jews made up 3.4 percent of the population in Esens. This was the fourth-highest percentage in East Frisia. After the National Socialists came to power, the exodus of the Esensian Jews began. On March 9, 1940, the last citizens of the Jewish faith reported to the city administration. The history of the Jews in Esens finally ended with the dissolution of the Jewish religious association. V. on July 31, 1941.

History of the Jewish community in Esens

17th century to 1744

Former synagogue in Esens with the Jewish school building (in the background). The synagogue building is now used as a garage

It is very doubtful whether there were Jews in Esens before 1600. The first Jew mentioned by name in Esens is Magnus Phibelmans. It is listed in the protection money register of the Counts of East Friesland in 1637 . Phibelmans had moved from Emden , where the protection money payments were considerably higher than in Esens. The year the Jewish community in Esens was founded is unknown.

Probably the Jews of the city initially belonged to the community in Wittmund. The Jews from Esens and Neustadtgödens had their dead buried in the Jewish cemetery in Wittmund until 1702 and were obliged to help maintain it.

In 1645 there were 32 protected Jews in Esens and the Harlingerland , who formed the core of the Jewish community. The general letter of conduct issued by Count Ulrich II in 1645 allowed the Jews of East Frisia to live according to their own "Jewish order". The first incident occurred in 1665 when members of the shopkeeper's guild broke into the homes of Jewish traders and plundered. In 1792 there were again riots against Jewish citizens. The reason for this was the Jewish Purim festival , which resulted in the Jewish population of the anti-Jewish Hamanremembered with rattles and noise not only in the synagogue but also on the way home. This was interpreted by parts of the Christian population in such a way that the Jews were indirectly meant by the Christians. These early examples of anti-Semitism remained the exception.

In 1670 Princess Christine Charlotte had a general escort letter written in which the Jews were allowed to hold services in their homes or in their own synagogues . Until the synagogue was built in 1828, it was held in a meeting room that was rented from 1686 and used as a synagogue. Furthermore, the Jews were allowed to bury their dead according to Jewish custom.

For tolerance, the Jews had to pay taxes to the counts and princes of East Frisia, depending on their economic performance. This was up to 4 thalers and a caponper family. In the late princely period an income structure emerged that could be found in all Jewish communities in East Frisia. Most of the Jews lived from the butcher's trade, from trading in textiles or from peddling, only a few from the money or pawnshop. These were professions that were not closed to the Jews, as there were no guilds for this in Esens. A specialty within the East Frisian county was the Jew Magnus Bents from Esens. In 1677, Princess Christine Charlotte of East Frisia explicitly allowed him to work as a "window maker". The profession of glazier and window maker has been hereditary in his family ever since. [1] This one-sided job description hardly changed during the entire period of the existence of the Jewish community.

The Jewish cemetery in Esens

By 1690 the Jewish cemetery in Wittmund was fully occupied. Now the East Frisian protection Jews were supposed to set up their own cemeteries at their places of residence based on a ruling order from Prince Christian Eberhard from 1690. In 1701 the elders of the Jewish community of Esens (Moses Benjamin and David Josephs) bought a garden from the citizen and surgeon Johann Adam Müller, but the Esens chancellery prevented the burial of a child who died a little later on this property. At the beginning of February 1702, the Esens Jewish community bought another small piece of land, which at that time was "located far outside the city". Presumably it was the Jewish cemetery on Mühlenweg that has survived to this day. This marked the final separation from the Jewish community in Wittmund.

1744 to 1933

From the middle of the 18th century there were plans to erect a separate synagogue building, and from 1756 the community began negotiating with the city's magistrate. He was ready to provide a piece of land. However, as a result of the Seven Years' War, the Jewish community in Esens became so impoverished that building a synagogue was out of the question for the time being. This only succeeded in 1827 when a synagogue was built on Burgstrasse, which was ceremoniously established on February 15, 1828. The synagogue was used until the November pogroms in 1938 and, apart from small repairs, hardly changed structurally.

Former Jewish schoolhouse, today August-Gottschalk-Haus

In 1819 the Esensian Jews purchased a building that served as a school building and apartment for the teacher. Before that was done teaching of children in private rooms. In 1827 a new schoolhouse with an apartment for the synagogue servant was built behind the synagogue on Burgstrasse .

In 1858 the cemetery was expanded, fenced in and an entrance gate was added. This was kept in the synagogue during the winter in the following years so that it would not be "spoiled or ruined by evil people". [2]

When the opera singer Sara Oppenheimer , who was born in Esens, was supposed to give a concert in the city's Lutheran St. Magnus Church in 1864 , this performance was prevented by objections from anti-Semites.

The schoolhouse was demolished in 1899 because it was in disrepair. The Esensian Jews built a new community hall with an apartment for the Jewish religious officer, a classroom and the ritual bath in its place. Congregational meetings should also take place in this building. On average, around 10 to 15 children of several years attended the Jewish elementary school, where they received lessons together in the single classroom. The classroom was separated from the other rooms and reached through a separate entrance through the anteroom.

By 1870, new laws finally brought civil rights for Jews in East Frisia as well. In 1872 the Jews in West Accumersiel left the Esenser community and became members of the Jewish community in Dornum . The last (legal) discrimination was reduced by the end of the First World War . Now the Esensian Jews could be elected to the city council or become members of an association. Jews became members of the local rifle club and other clubs. In 1902 they made the rifle king. From 1919 to 1933 Jews were members of the city council. Simon Weinthal was elected for a second term in 1929.

In 1927 the Jewish elementary school in Esens was closed due to insufficient student numbers. The few Jewish children from then on attended the general elementary school or middle school in Esens. However, they continued to receive their religious instruction in this room, initially from teacher Hartog from Wilhelmshaven; later the religion teacher Abraham Bronkhorst moved into the Jewish community center.

Individual members of the Jewish community began to prosper economically. Around 1930 there were two large Jewish textile shops in Esens, Julius Frank Wwe. U. Co. and siblings Weinthal . [1]

1933 to 1940

Apart from a few actions by the shopkeepers' guild against Jewish competitors and rare attacks by individuals or groups against the Jewish community, there had hardly been any noteworthy confrontations between Jews and Christians in Esens before 1933. [3] In the local elections of March 12, 1933, the Jew Simon Weintal ran again for a seat on the city council, but could only unite the votes of the Jews living in Esens, which was not enough for re-election.

After the National Socialists came to power in 1933, the time of persecution began for the Jews in Esens as well. Immediately after the founding of the new citizenship council, it decided to exclude Jews from placing orders for deliveries to the city. Two months after the seizure of power , four days earlier than in other parts of the German Reich , the boycott of Jewish businesses began in East Frisia . On March 28, 1933, the SA posted itself in front of the shops. The East Frisian daily newspaperplaced several special supplements under the title: "The Jews are our misfortune". With the appeal “People's comrades, do not buy in the following Jewish shops”, the newspaper listed all the shops that still existed in East Frisia. On April 12, 1933, the East Frisian daily newspaper reported from Esens: “Jews do not belong in German shooting clubs. At the last general meeting, all foreigners including Jews were excluded from membership. "

The last burial in the Jewish cemetery took place on March 31, 1938. On the night of the pogromOn November 10, 1938, Esenser SA men broke into the synagogue, destroyed the interior and set the building on fire. The fire brigade present limited its activity as instructed to the protection of neighboring houses. The synagogue burned down and the building was later converted into a garage. It has been preserved in this function to this day. The “Geschwister Weinthal” textile business was also looted. Almost without exception, the Jews were rounded up in the cattle yard by the town hall and abused by the SA. In the course of the morning, the women, children and men unable to work were dismissed, so that 56 men were transferred to Oldenburg together with around 200 other Jewish East Frisians. There they were rounded up in a barracks. About 1,000 Jewish East Frisians,Deported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin, where they remained imprisoned until December 1938 or early 1939. Little by little they were released.

The neighboring parish hall remained undamaged during the pogrom night. In the years 1938–1940 it became the “ Judenhaus ” for several remaining Jewish families who were forced to sell their houses and properties. Those of them who could no longer emigrate were deported to the east and murdered there in extermination camps. The former Jewish community center was sold to a private individual after 1940 and continued to be used as a residential building. The cemetery was completely devastated in 1940. Most of the tombstones were smashed and used to fill potholes during repair work on Mühlenweg.

Exodus, displacement and murder

The Jewish community was no longer a corporation under public law , but was founded in November 1939 as the Jewish Kultusvereinigung e. V. entered in the register of associations at Esens Local Court. At the instigation of East Frisian district administrators and the municipal authorities of the city of Emden, the Gestapo control center in Wilhelmshaven issued an instruction at the end of January 1940 that Jews should leave East Frisia by April 1, 1940. On March 9, 1940, the last Jewish residents of Esens reported to the city administration, whereupon Esens was declared " Jew-free ". On July 31, 1941, the Jewish Kultusvereinigung e. V. dissolved and the more than 300-year history of the Jewish community finally ended. At least 40[1] of the 139 Jews permanently or temporarily living in Esens between 1933 and spring 1944 perished in the Holocaust. 56 emigrated abroad, mainly to the USA, Argentina and Israel.

post war period

Mikveh discovered during restoration work

In 1949 the main culprits were charged who had excelled in the pogroms in Esens in November 1938. The trial took place in the “Zum Schwarzen Bären” inn. The court imposed prison sentences ranging from six weeks to one year.

In 1985, the city of Esens bought the former Jewish school house in order to demolish it according to a long-standing development plan and to create parking spaces in its place. Through a private initiative of the Ecumenical Working Group Jews and Christians in Esens e. V. managed to save the house and to set up a memorial and exhibition on the recent history of the Esensian Jews. In the course of the renovation work on the house, the completely preserved mikveh of the Jewish community was discovered. On August 29, 1990, the memorial was opened to the public as the August Gottschalk House .

Community development

year Parishioners
1645 32 people
1690 8 families
1707 73 people
1711 94 people
1744 87 people
1816 105 people
1840 124 people
1871 118 people
1905 89 people
1925 76 people
1933 80 people
1939 30 people
1940 March 9th 0 people


Memorial stone on the site of the old cemetery
  • Memorial stone at the site of the old cemetery on Mühlenweg.
  • Memorial stone for the burned down synagogue in Burgstrasse.
  • Memorial with a permanent exhibition on the history of East Frisian Jews in the August-Gottschalk-Haus , the former Jewish community center.
  • The town of Esens has named two streets after former Jewish families and personalities, the Weinthalslohne and the Siegfried-Herz-Lohne .

See also



Individual evidence

  1. a b c Herbert Obenaus (Ed.): Historical manual of the Jewish communities in Lower Saxony and Bremen ISBN 3-89244-753-5 .
  2. Alemmania Judaica: The Jewish cemetery in Esens
  3. The end of the Jews in East Friesland. Catalog for the exhibition of the East Frisian landscape on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Verlag Ostfriesische Landschaft, Aurich 1988, ISBN 3-925365-41-9 , p. 52.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on February 20, 2007 in this version .