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Posts tagged ‘Pogrom’

IHolocaustdenkmal, Berlin, Germany,

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: observations from Germany

Primo Levi, Italian-Jewish author, chemist, and Auschwitz survivor, delivered a set of essays about life and survival in Nazi extermination camps in his 1986 book “The Drowned and the Saved”. Levi wrote:

… For us to speak with the young becomes even more difficult. We see it as a duty and, at the same time, as a risk: the risk of appearing anachronistic, of not being listened to. We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experiences, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental, unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It took place in the teeth of all forecasts; it happened in Europe; incredibly, it happened that an entire civilized people, just issued from the fervid cultural flowering of Weimar, followed a buffoon whose figure today inspires laughter, and yet Adolf Hitler was obeyed and his praises were sung right up to the catastrophe. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say.

On 27 January 1945, Soviet Red Army troops liberated the Nazi concentration and extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in south-central Poland. Over 1 million men, women, and children were murdered.

The United Nations declared January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day; the designation came during the 42nd plenary session of the United Stations when resolution 60/7 was passed on 1 November 2005.

Accepting and openly stating responsibility are critical first steps, but spending time, money, and effort to ensure the simple motto of “never again” is also an ongoing reality that isn’t solely up to the citizens of Germany. It’s a collective responsibility that we all should have to remain vigilant; that we all have to recognize and bolster actions which encourage and strengthen the universality of human rights, and reject the erosion and withdrawal of those rights.

I also believe responsible tourism includes paying appropriate respect at a memorial, especially the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. It’s my view this important memorial is not (supposed to be) a playground.

And yet, there’s something to be said about freedom in the early 21st-century which allows people to laugh and frolic in the public space, an undulating sculpture of featureless massive grey cement blocks, a testimonial to the systematic murder of millions of people.

Naturally, you have the freedom to take selfies and play here. But it doesn’t mean I’m gonna laugh with you.

•   Yolocaust art project, DW 2017.

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Jewish history since 1180

After their visit, most will depart Rothenburg ob der Tauber with memories of a romantic medieval town that seems almost frozen in time.

But a careful measured walk also produces a deeper examination of the town’s history with clear signs to an historical and centuries-old presence of Jews. A Jewish settlement goes back to at least 1180 AD/CE in written records with the appearance of the name of Samuel Biscopf, a Jew from Rothenburg ob der Tauber (“erste Erwähnung eines Rotenburger Juden”: [ℵ1], p. 136; [ℵ2], pp. 133-135).

The centuries are marked with a growing thriving Jewish community, persecution, violent death, explusion, and a return to life.

Summary Timeline:

•   1180 AD/CE, first mention of Jewish community in Rothenburg; 1st Jewish quarter and synagogue at present-day Kapellenplatz.
•   1250-1286, Rabbi Meir ben Baruch, teaching life and times in Rothenburg.
•   1298, Rintfleisch-Pogrom: 450 Jews killed in Rothenburg; total 5000 Jews dead in Franconia.
•   1339, some of the first set of graves buried at the Jewish Cemetery, at present-day Schrannenplatz
•   1349, Pogrom and persecution, Jews accused of poisoning wells with corpses due to the Black Death.
•   1370, Establishment of 2nd Jewish quarter, around Judengasse.
•   1404, 1st Synagogue converted to St. Mary’s Chapel.
•   1407, 2nd Synagogue constructed close to burial ground, at present-day Schrannenplatz.
•   1520, Theologian Johann Teuschlein incites anti-Jewish hysteria, forcing expulsion of all Jews from Rothenburg. No Jews allowed in the city for next 350 years; 2nd Synagogue and Jewish cemetery destroyed.
•   1861, all Jews allowed to settle anywhere in Bavaria.
•   1870-1875, Jews begin returning to the city.
•   1872, Equality granted among Jews and Christians, after the 1871 constitution of the new German Empire.
•   1888, Prayer hall (“3rd synagogue”) at present-day Herrngasse 21.
•   1875, 2nd Jewish cemetery at Würzburger Strasse and Wiesenstrasse.
•   1938, Rothenburg declared “free of Jews” on 22 October, as last remaining 17 Jews driven out, two and a half weeks before the Reichspogromnacht.
•   1942, 2nd cemetery desecrated and destroyed. Few, if any, descendants of early 20th-century community remain or known to be alive.

The word “pogrom” is a late 19th- to early 20th-century Russian word (“погром”), derived from the verb “gromit” (громи́ть) meaning “to destroy with violence.” While “pogrom” is used generally to describe mob violence by one ethnic or religious group on another, the term is used in this post to describe attacks on the Jewish community.

The following map shows a recommended 1.6 km (1 mi) self-guided walk with labeled stops and corresponding descriptions and photographs below. The walk begins and ends at Marktplatz near the Tourist Information centre. Click on the “arrow-window” icon at the upper-left corner of the map below for additional details.

1. Kapellenplatz (Chapel Square), 1st Jewish quarter

Beginning in about 1180 AD/CE, the first Jewish settlement was centred here in the area of present-day Kapellenplatz. The historically renowned teacher Rabbi Meir ben Baruch played a critical role in synagogue- and (Talmud) school-life in the mid to late 13th-century. With Jews blamed for the Black Death resulting in the 1350 Pogrom, houses left behind by expelled Jews were claimed by the town. Returning Jews established a new community around Judengasse and Schrannenplatz. By the early 15th-century, the abandoned (first) synagogue had been converted into St. Mary’s Chapel, which itself was torn down in 1805. After complete destruction from bombing in World War Two, nothing original remains at Kapellenplatz.

Kapellenplatz, Chapel Square, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bayern, Bavaria, Germany,

Northwest corner, Kapellenplatz

Kapellenplatz, Chapel Square, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bayern, Bavaria, Germany,

South side, Kapellenplatz

2. Rabbi-Meir-Gedenktafel (Meir Memorial Plaque), 1st Synagogue

At the entrance to the building at Kapellenplatz 5 is a bronze plaque to memorialize the presence of Rabbi Meir ben Baruch whose synagogue and school were once at the present location. A leading Talmud scholar and authority of his time, he wrote commentary and poetry, and taught and mentored in Rothenburg ob der Tauber between 1250 and 1286.

Rabbi Meir ben Baruch von Rothenburg, einem der bedeutendsten Talmudgelehrten. Zum Gedenken. Geboren um 1220 in Worms, lebte und wirkte er von etwa 1250 bis 1286 in der Synagoge und in der Talmudschule, die auf diesem Platz standen, dem ersten Judenviertel Rothenburgs. Er starb 1293 in Ensisheim und wurde 1307 in Worms begraben. Synagoge und Talmudschule wurden 1404 in eine Marienkapelle und in ein Seelhaus umgewandelt. Die Marienkapelle wurde 1805 abgebrochen.

In memoriam to Rabbi Meir ben Baruch of Rothenburg, one of the most important Talmud scholars of his time. Born around 1215-1220 in Worms, he lived and worked between 1250 to 1286 at the Synagogue and Talmud School at this present-day square where the first Jewish settlement in Rothenburg was located. He died 1293 in Ensisheim; he was later buried in his hometown of Worms in 1307. From 1404, the Synagogue and Talmud school were converted, respectively, to St Mary’s Church and a shelter for the poor and sick. Neither building survived to the present day.

Rabbi-Meir-Gedenktafel, Rabbi Meir Memorial Plaque, Kapellenplatz, Chapel Square, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bayern, Bavaria, Germany,

Bronze memorial plaque to Rabbi Meir ben Baruch.

3. Rabbi-Meir-Gärtchen (Rabbi Meir garden)

In memory of Rabbi Meir ben Baruch (2. above), the garden is next to the old Judentanzhaus (“Jewish dance hall”: built around 1400, modified 1613, burned down from bombing 1945, reconstructed 1953). In 1914, Jewish tombstones were unearthed at the old Jewish cemetery (see 5. below); some of these tombstones are now embedded in the garden’s surrounding wall. Hebrew inscriptions on the stones and their German and English translations are found here. On the ground, a memorial in the garden proper commemorates the last number of Jews who were driven out of Rothenburg in 1938.

Rabbi-Meir-Gärtchen, Judentanzhaus, Weisser Turm, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Rabbi-Meir-Gärtchen, Judentanzhaus (D-5-71-193-120)

Rabbi-Meir-Gärtchen, Judentanzhaus, Weisser Turm, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Jewish gravestones imbedded into wall.

Rabbi-Meir-Gärtchen, Judentanzhaus, Weisser Turm, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Rabbi-Meir-Gärtchen, Judentanzhaus, Weisser Turm, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

“Zum Gedenken an unsere jüdischen Mitbürger, die in der Zeit von 1933 bis 1938 aus Rothenburg vertrieben wurden.” (In memory of our Jewish citizens who were expelled from Rothenburg between 1933 and 1938.)

4. Judengasse (east end), 2nd Jewish quarter

From about 1370, the Jewish community established a second community and living quarter around what is now called Judengasse, or “Jews Alley”. The photo below shows the east end of present-day Judengasse at Am Platzl.

Judengasse, Am Platzl, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,


5. Schrannenplatz (Granary), 2nd Synagogue

What’s interesting is that Judenkirchhof was renamed Schrannenplatz in 1958. The present site was already known as the Jewish burial ground in 1339, and by 1410, a new and second synagogue had been built nearby. After the expulsion of Jews in 1520, the synagogue was converted to a chapel which itself was torn down by 1561. After 1520, the cemetery was converted to Christian use, and was enlarged a decade later with Jewish graves dug up and their bones removed. When the site was opened for construction in 1914, over 30 Jewish tombstones with dates between 1266 and 1395 were discovered. These stones are presently found in the wall of the Rabbi-Meir-Garden (3. above), the Reichsttadtmuseum (10. below), and the Jewish Museum Franconia in Fürth (about 120 km east-northeast from Rothenburg ob der Tauber).

Schrannenplatz, Judenfriedhof, Stadtmauer, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Southeast corner of Schrannenplatz, facing northwest

Schrannenplatz, Judenfriedhof, Stadtmauer, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

South side, Schrannenplatz

Schrannenplatz 17/18, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

“Judenkirchhof” (Jewish cemetery), at Schrannenplatz 17/18

6. “Judenkirchhof” inscription, Schrannenplatz 16

This barn at Schrannenplatz 16 dates back to about 1783. During the period of exclusion of Jews (1520-1870), all stonework associated with the 2nd Synagogue and adjacent cemetery was considered basic building materials. Not only does the faded inscription suggest a link to the area’s past, but also suggests the desecration of Jewish graves and symbols and incorporation into subsequent construction.

Schrannenplatz 16, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Former barn at Schrannenplatz 16 (D-5-71-193-539). A closer view of the area within the dashed box is shown below.

Schrannenplatz 16, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Left: faded inscription “Judenkirchhof” (“Jewish cemetery”). Right: “This building was constructed by Johan Bernhard Kohn in 1783.”

7. Judengasse, at Heugasse

In the final quarter of the 14th-century, Jews returned to Rothenburg and began settling outside the first town wall. The street took on the name “Judengasse” or Jews’ Alley as far back as 1377, and both Jews and Christians lived among another. With cautious painstaking detail to renovation, some 21 buildings remain mostly in their original form, which makes Judengasse the only late-medieval Jewish street to survive in Europe.

Judengasse Heugasse, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Judengasse, west from Heugasse

8. Judengasse 10 and 15/17

The Mikwe (Mikveh) or ritual bath at Judengasse 10 still contains groundwater, but is under private property and not open to the public. A replica of the Mikwe is in the Reichsstadtmuseum. Across from Judengasse 10 is the double-house at 15/17 with two entrance arches resembling two stone tablets for the Ten Commandments. The following two photos at Judengasse 10 and 15/17 are by Tillman2007 (Wikipedia, CC3 license).

Judengasse 10 (D-5-71-193-241): initial construction to 1409; alterations to 1558 from dendrochronological dating.

Judengasse 15/17 (D-5-71-193-245): initial construction to 1399 from dendrochronological dating.

9. Judengasse (west end), 2nd Jewish quarter

At the west end of Judengasse (at Klingengasse), a memorial plaque commemorates the presence of the Jewish quarter (Jüdisches Viertel), from about 1371 to 1520.

Jüdisches Wohnviertel, Jewish quarter, Judengasse, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

South on Klingengasse, at Judengasse. Hotel Schwarzer Adler: built in 1784 over the remains of the old Blue Tower city gate (D-5-71-193-292).

Jüdisches Wohnviertel, Jewish quarter, Judengasse, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Judengasse, facing east-southeast. The fountain in the centre-foreground (D-5-71-193-319) was built in 1600 with the column and lion figure added in 1704; the second fountain was added between 1715 and 1830.

Jüdisches Wohnviertel, Jewish quarter, Judengasse, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

הרובע היהודי, Jüdisches Viertel (Jewish Quarter), ca. 1371-1520. Memorial plaque on building address Klingengasse 12 (D-5-71-193-292).

10. Judaica, Reichsstadtmuseum (Imperial City Museum)

The Judaica collection in the Imperial City Museum contains items related to Rabbi Meir and Jewish gravestones uncovered during construction at Schrannenplatz in 1914 and saved from destruction. Very few items representing daily life in the medieval Jewish community survived to the present-day.

Judaica, Reichsstadtmuseum, Imperial City Museum, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Memorial to the Rintfleisch 1298 pogrom: recovered original tablet with Hebrew inscription; German and English translations in 11. below.

Grabsteine, Judenkirchhof, Judaica, Reichsstadtmuseum, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Recovered 13th- and 14th-century gravestones from Jewish cemetery.

Judaica, Reichsstadtmuseum, Imperial City Museum, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Bronze signet for Jewish community in Rothenburg (“R”), about 1410.

Judaica, Reichsstadtmuseum, Imperial City Museum, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Chanukkah candle holder (Fayence style): Bohemia, 1773.

Judaica, Reichsstadtmuseum, Imperial City Museum, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Silver wedding ring in the shape of a tower: Hungary/Bohemia, about 1900.

Judaica, Reichsstadtmuseum, Imperial City Museum, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Silver dreidl: Hungary 1987. “נס גדול היה שם” (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham), “a great miracle happened there”.

11. Pogrom-Gedenkstein, Burggarten (Pogrom memorial, Castle Gardens)

To mark the 700th anniversary of the 1298 Pogrom, a memorial stone was established in 1998 on the north side of the Chapel of St. Blaise in the Castle Gardens. The original memorial stone in Hebrew is now located in the city’s Judaica collection of the Imperial City Museum; see 10. above. The German translation of the Hebrew inscription goes:

With a bitter soul an equally bitter cry, because we have forgotten about the first persecutions. In their memory I have chiselled onto a stone tablet Rothenburg’s martyrs who were killed and burned because of the uniqueness of God, in the year 58 according to the small counting of the 19th Tamus. And in the castle outside of town, residents forced a conclusion by lighting a fire and killing young and old alike. On the 12th day of the fifth month of the sixth thousand year my job came to an end and on the third day He will come and set us free, my Saint and my Savior. Amen. Amen. Amen.
Pogrom-Gedenkstein,  Burggarten, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

1298 Pogrom Memorial, on the north side of Chapel of St. Blaise (Blasiuskapelle)

Pogrom-Gedenkstein,  Burggarten, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Top of the memorial (death by fire), 1/4

Pogrom-Gedenkstein,  Burggarten, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

German translation of Hebrew inscription, 2/4

Pogrom-Gedenkstein,  Burggarten, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Replica of memorial stone; original in Reichsstadtmuseum (see 10. above), 3/4

Pogrom-Gedenkstein,  Burggarten, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Bottom of the memorial, 4/4

12. Ehemaliger jüdischer Betsaal (Former Jewish prayer hall, 3rd Synagogue)

In 1888, members of the Jewish community purchased the building at Herrngasse 21. The building found use by the community as a prayer room, school, teacher’s accommodations, and ritual bath (Mikwe, Mikveh), until the Nazis expelled the remaining Jews in 1938.

Ehem. jüdisches Betsaal, former prayer hall, 3rd Synagogue, Altstadt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany,

Herrngasse 21: former Jewish prayer hall, now Hotel Klosterstüble.


With their corresponding “Baudenkmal” file numbers, many of the structures above are in the city’s listings of heritage and historical buildings compiled by Bayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege (Bavarian State Ministry for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage); see also Bayerische Denkmal-Atlas (Bavarian Monument Atlas).

•   City of Rothenburg ob der Tauber: English | German
•   Alemannia Judaica, in German
•   Evang.-Luth. Kirchengemeinde St. Jakob Rothenburg, in German
•   “Auf jüdischen Spuren im mittelalterlichen Rothenburg” (Judengemeinde Rothenburg), in German
•   Self-guided tour of Rothenburg ob der Tauber with 20 stops within the city’s Old Town, in English

[ℵ1] “Archiv des Historischen Vereins von Unterfranken und Aschaffenburg, Volume 12”, Historischer Verein von Unterfranken und Aschaffenburg, Würzburg, 1853. Digital copy on Google.

[ℵ2] “Regesten zur Geschichte der Juden im Fränkischen und Deutschen Reiche bis zum Jahre 1273.” Aronius, Julius; Dresdner, Albert; ed; Lewinski, Ludwig, ed; Historische Commission für Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland, 1902. Digital copy at Goethe Universität digital collections (Frankfurt am Main) and University of Michigan Book Collection.

Thanks to Rothenburg ob der Tauber Tourism Service for providing access to services and facilities, and thanks to Akzent Hotel Schranne for a warm welcome and a comfortable convenient stay. Except for the two photos at Judengasse 10 and 15-17, I made the photos above on 11 and 12 November 2015. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at as

Alter Synagogenplatz, Altstadt, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany,

My Heidelberg: Synagogue Square and Pogromnacht

It happens every time without fail.

My spirit breaks a little more every time I see a memorial, another example of the depths to which our species have plumbed.

Does feeling this way make me weak? Or am I resembling a human being after all?

I often hear a common chorus:

history is hard, history is boring, why should I care?

I can’t decide what’s worse: the rise of the far-right or blatant willful ignorance.

A Mob of Broken Glass

From the evening of 9 November to the following morning of 10 November 1938, Kristallnacht (“the night of broken glass”) was a “pogrom”, a coordinated series of violent attacks by Nazis against the Jewish people and their property in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslavakia’s Sudetenland. Pogromnacht (or Reichspogromnacht) is a truer description; the “prettier sounding” Kristallnacht hides the brutality of “the night of (broken) crystal” referring to broken shattered glass from windows to synagogues, homes, and stores owned by Jews. Aside from a few who intervened, most stood aside and watched people and property burn.

The numbers were appalling: at least 90 dead, hundreds injured, 30000 arrested and detained in concentration camps, up to 2000 synagogues burned, over 7000 Jewish businesses damaged or destroyed. With one more insult, the Jewish community was forced to pay for damage to their own property. The outbreak of coordinated actions against Jewish people marked the beginning of state-sanctioned violence. With the Pogromnacht, the state no longer hid their hate and escalated their savagery as a turning point directly leading to the Holocaust.

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