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I. Beginning and growth of the community

Grussenheim is a village belonging to the Département du Haut-Rhin and only 1 km distant from the Département du Bas-Rhin. It is located on the road connecting Colmar to Marckolsheim, where there used to be a passage across the Rhine river. The name Grussenheim is known since 726, but as a village it appears much later[1]. From 1361 to the French Revolution, Grussenheim was the fiefdom of the lords of Rathsamhausen-Ehnweyer[2]. It is not easy to research when the first Jewish families settled in Grussenheim, because the village archives were lost in the violent fighting of January 1945. Nevertheless Ginsburger has found in the toll registers of Bergheim the names of two Jews from Grussenheim, Jacob and Nathan, who paid the toll in 1628 and 1631 to gain access to the city of Bergheim[3]. In Jebsheim, a village near Grussenheim, the name of a Jewish physician, Lazar, was spotted; he requested permission in 1581 to enter the city of Colmar - which at the time was forbidden to Jews - to buy medicine at the city's apothecaries[4]. It can be assumed that as early as the 17th century, Jews lived in Grussenheim, poor Jews in a poor village that had only 48 homes in 1699, according to Joseph Lévy in his “Notes about Grussenheim” (Geschichtliche Notizen über Grussenheim im Ober-Elsass, published in 1911).

The same Joseph Lévy, who at the time was the Catholic priest in Grussenheim, lists the number of Jewish families residing in Grussenheim before the French Revolution: 1689: 4 J. families; 1693: 5 J. families out of a total of 30 families; 1716: 14 J. families; 1778: 17 J. families out of a total of 85 families; 1780: 26 J. families; 1784: 29 J. families out of a total of 87 families; 1804: 173 souls; 1825: 200; 1849: 257; 1865: 329; 1871: 347; 1890: 324; 1895: 314; 1905: 193; 1910: 145.

Further mentions of Jews in our village are rare: in Premier Annuaire de la Société des Etudes Juives, Paris 1881, Isidore Loeb writes that in 1754, in the Houssen affair, a certain Feiss, son of Simson, from Grussenheim had been indicted though he was innocent and kept in jail for 2 months[5].

Also Jacob bar Mordechai from Grusse is mentioned in Procès-Verbal de l'Assemblée des Notables juifs à Niedernai du 28.5.1777[6]. He is probably identical with Jacob Wurmser who, as “Judenschultheiss” (President of the Jewish community) of Grussenheim, had signed the purchase agreement of a ground for the enlargement of the Jewish graveyard of Mackenheim, where the Community of Grussenheim buried its dead until 1810[7].

We find, in « the General Status of the Jewish families residing in Alsace, composed of private reports provided to the provincial leaders of the said Jews by the local community heads » that there were 18 Jewish families in Grussenheim in 1766; the Status carries the date of 04 Mar 1766 and is signed by Cerf Berr; but in 1751 they had already counted the same number of families[8]. At the same time there were 8 Jewish families in Riedwihr, and 37 in Biesheim.

In the files of Notariat Meyer (Departmental Archives of Haut-Rhin), we were able to consult the transaction that occurred between the Lords of Rathsamhausen, owners of the village, and some Jews, in a trial between these two parties. It dates from 22 Nov 1781 and gives some information on the fees which Jews had to pay to their Lords. In view of the importance of this document, we reproduce essential passages in extenso:[9]

22 Nov. 1781 — Transaction on the pending trial before the Sovereign Council of Alsace made between Leopold Eberhard, Charles Leopold and Louis Samson, all Barons of Rathsamhausen of Ehnweyer, the first in Grussenheim, the two others in Strasbourg… Lords of Grussenheim on one hand, and the Jewish community as well as four other Jews, the four acting for themselves personally, and all of Grussenheim on the other hand.

«…Before the King's Councilors, Notaries of the Province of Alsace and the residence of Colmar undersigned have appeared Master François Thiébault Schwendt, tax collector of the Seignory of Grussenheim and other places, residing in the city of Marckolsheim...

and Meyer Kahn, community head , Seeligmann Weyll and Nathan Wormser, both officials of the Jewish community of the aforementioned Grussenheim, representing themselves as well as the entire Jewish community in the aforementioned Grussenheim, Joeckel Wormser, Paul Soultzer, Aron Heimedinger and Jacob Wormser, all four Jews of aforesaid Grussenheim...

…The said Jews named above both for themselves personally and for the entire Jewish community of the aforementioned Grussenheim currently living there, and for all their successors, heirs and descendants, obligate themselves and submit themselves to pay and to fulfill the obligation to the Lords of Grussenheim

  1. For the fee of admission: the amount of 36 livres tournois by every Jew who will be married for the first time to a current resident or their descendants; and to continue or make continue forever on the same basis, which will serve as a fixed fee in this respect irrevocably between the parties of this transaction and their successors.

    And as for the fee of protection, it will be continued on the previous basis in the same way as it has up to now, without change, in regard to the same fee, payable yearly on the St Martin of November of each year to count and to begin three months after the establishment of each.

  2. In compliance with the contents of the above all present at the signing of this arrangement, Aron Heimedinger, Jacques Wormser, the youngest, Salomon Gaïsmar, Marx Heimedinger and Lazarus Soultzer, each of the five paid to the appointed Collector of the aforesaid Lords of Grussenheim the sum of 36 livres tournois for the fee of admission, and then since Joeckel Wormser and Paul Soultzer have already paid the above their fee for admission in the meantime they can demand back the amount above the 36 livres; for the fee of protection owed by Aron Heimedinger and Jacob Wormser the younger since the first of St Martin of November after their establishment on the former basis observed in last ten years; they have each of them at present paid to the aforesaid Sir Schwendt, in the name of those for whom he acts, the sum of 24 livres, which makes for both 48 livres, reckoning and in deduction of what is owed by them for aforementioned fee for protection: The same two, Aron Heimedinger and Jacob Wurmscr the younger, promise to pay the remainder of the same fee since their establishment in three months from this day, under the penalty of a fine: for these Sums to be paid thusly Sieur Schwendt in the name of those for whom he acts gives receipt and exoneration. »

(Aron Heimedinger and Paul Soultzer signed in Hebrew, the others in German.)

It results from this transaction that the fee for admission (after marriage) is hereafter fixed to 36 livres tournois, while previously it appears to have been higher, because two among the present six Jews which had already fulfilled this right, could “repeat” (that is ask again) that which they had paid beyond the 36 livres. The fee of protection « will be continued on the previous basis » (24 livres a year), payable on St Martin of November, and this three months after the establishment of each person

Besides, the representative of the Lords gives a receipt for sums received on this occasion. Aron Heimedinger and Jacob Wormser promise to pay out « in three months from this day » what they still owed.

This transaction, made “forever” (in 1781), was made null and void by the Revolution which marked the end of the Seignory of Rathsamhausen.

The Census of 1784. — As in all Alsace, in Grussenheim, the number of Jews had grown — their number had doubled from 1716 till 1784. —Poor people from abroad settled there. The government, searching a means to restrict this immigration, then ordered a « Census of Jews tolerated in the Province of Alsace in compliance with the Letters Patent of his Majesty. » The report of the village of Grussenheim carries the date of 27 Sep 1784. It indicates 29 families with 138 individuals (see pp. 26 and 27).

« The Letters Patent of 10 Jul 1784 order those who do not have fixed or known domicile, or who have not paid the fees owed to the King, to the Lords or to Cities, to leave the province within three months, at the risk of being prosecuted as vagrants. The admission of the foreign Jews is forbidden until a new order; the stays which they will be able to make are restricted to four and a half months, no one can lodge them or give them accommodation note. Neither Jew nor Jewess of Alsace will [not - delete] be able from now on to get married, even abroad, without the permission of the King under the penalty of expulsion”[10]

This Census constitutes the first nominal inventory of the Jews of our villages. The communities were organized and had to have a head of the community. That of Grussenheim was in 1775, as we have already seen it, Jacob Wurmser “Judenschultheiss “, in 1784 it was Meyer Kahn.

But this important document does not inform us about the trades of the Jews except for the rabbis, assistant[s-delete]-rabbis, teachers, the poor, servants and maidservants. It indicates the names of the family heads and gives the level of family relation of the declared persons.

If the Jews sometimes registered several servants and maidservants, it was not because they were rich, but to justify the presence of parents, foreigners in the village.

In Grussenheim, almost all already had surnames which, by the way, they kept. Elsewhere where it was not the case, the people appeared in the Census with their forenames followed by the forenames of their fathers. That is how in 1784 are recorded in Grussenheim 1 Bickert family, 2 Bloch families, 7 Geismar families, 4 Hemmendinger families, 1 Kahn family, 3 Sultzer families, 1 Weyl family, 1 Woog family and 8 Wormser families. The teacher was Loew Ulmann and the cantor, Isaac Meyer. As surnames for the wives we find in addition: Dreyfus, Franck, Hildenfinger, and Kromback.

The Census gives no indication about places of residence in the village, but with the help of Civil Records - which exist[s-delete] in France since 20 Sep 1792 - we could note that most families lived in the “Judenhof” (courtyard of the Jews) which was part of the “Vordergasse” (front alley). In the “Obere Hintergasse” (upper back alley) resided in 1784: David Woog (in the house of his father-in-law Abraham Wormser, later the Picard house) and Jekell Wormser; in the “Hintergasse” (back alley), Isaac Wormser, Wolf Wormser and Paulus Sultzer (in the butcher's shop which existed until 1939 and was always run by the same family). Signatures in Hebrew included the name of the father with his forename, what allowed us to identify families and to follow their filiation. The women signed in general with Hebrew letters.

The names Bickert, Bloch, Kahn, Weil were quite common in Alsace, but not those of Geismar, Hemmendinger, Sultzer and Woog. According to Hemerdinger, Le Dénombrement des Israélites d'Alsace en 1784 (R.E.J. 42, p. 253-264), there were in Alsace in 1784: 187 Weil (or Weill) families, 109 Bloch families, 103 Cahn or Kahn families, 68 Bickert, Picard, Piquer families, 50 Wormser families, 17 Hemendinger families (among whom 4 in Grussenheim), 16 Woog families (among whom 1 in G.), 13 Geismar families (among whom 4 by us). Here are the villages where families in 1784 carried the same names as those of G.: Bickert, in 20 villages; Bloch, in 50; Weill, in 57 villages there were Geismar in Grussenheim, Herrlisheim (Haute Alsace), Muttersholtz, Romanswiller and Turckheim; Hemmendinger, in Blotzheim, Fegersheim, Grussenheim, Guebwiller, Hattstatt, Niedernai, Scherwiller and Stotzheim; Sultzer, only in Grussenheim; Hildenfinger, only in Voegtlinshoffen; Woog in Bouschwiller (Haute Alsace), Château de Hartmannswiller, Grussenheim and Hagenbach.

Our community of 29 families with 138 souls was rather important, but, as it is relevant to know, in 1784 Ribeauvillé counted 58 families, Bergheim, 67; Durmenach, 73; Hegenheim, 83; Wintzenheim, 88 families.

The Revolution liberated them from the « fees of reception and protection » owed to the lords of Rathsamhausen as well as the restriction of marriages and their settlement. Since the creation of Civil Records, they appear there without distinctive mention. They used the freedom which they could now enjoy to contract marriage in large numbers and this sometimes at a very young age. Aware of their citizens' rights, they claimed justice and that is how the municipality of Grussenheim having refused communal wood to some of the requesting Jews, the Directoire du Departement du Haut-Rhin decided on Frimaire 29th of the year VII (1799) « that the agent of the village of Grussenheim will deliver to each of the petitioners (Salomon Geismar and consorts) an equal share of firewood to that of the other citizens of the said village »[11].

Compulsory adoption of forenames and surnames: In 1808, the Jews were forced to take fixed surnames and forenames; so there are 203 persons registered in the register of 1808 with their now official names among which only 8 took a new surname. They also changed forenames, especially those of the women; so we had some Gertrud, Hélène, Richardis, Rosine, Madelon, Christine, Luivisia, Feronica, Catherine etc. but this “fashion” did not last long. (See statements p. 30 and ff.).

In 1836, during the first general census, the Jews appeared at the end of the list of Grussenheim, but since the following census (1841), the record is made home by home, without distinction of religion.

The spelling of names changed from one five-year census to another: Wormser became Wurmser; Hemmendinger became Hemendinger, Hemerdinger, Hemedinger, Heimendinger; Bickert became Bickart, Piquard, Picard and vice versa etc. Later we find new families: the Dreyfuss, Schwed, Schwob, Weil who came from Riedwihr, the Lévy from Westhouse and Thillot; the Gerst from Baden; the Picard from Horbourg; new Hemmendinger families from Stotzheim and Gerstheim.

From 1784 on, the number of the Israelites of the village increased until 1851, then it remained almost constant until 1866, year when the maximum was reached; then the numerical importance of the community diminished. In the village of Grussenheim, the total population and the Jewish population follow the same trends, as shown in the table below:

Year Jewish Population Total Population Source
1784 138   Census
1804 173   Father J. Levy
1808 203   List of names
1825 200 886  
1833 255 1001 census
1841 279 985  
1849 257 1024 J. Levy
1851 339 1114 Census
1865 329 1101 J. Levy
1866 352 1154 Census
1871 347 1135 J. Levy
1875 345 1066 J. Bloch
1890 324   J. Levy
1895 314 1049 J. Levy
1900 277 988  
1905 193 875 J. Levy
1910 145 853 J. Levy
1936   716  
1946   605  
1954   590  

The annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by Germany in 1871 was at the origin of emigration flows towards France, Switzerland and even America of a large number of families eager to shield their sons from service in the German army. Finally towards the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century, in our village, as in so many others, the exodus towards cities becomes noticeable. The young people relinquish the trades of their fathers who were mostly merchants, and settle in more important centers of population, and their families often follow them.

The war of 1914-1918 already had calamitous consequences for the community: seven young men called up in the German army fell to the battlefield: the brothers Bloch Maurice and Julien, sons of Joseph; Heimendinger Léon, son of Salomon; Heimendinger Sylvain, son of Elie; the brothers Lévy Jules and Fernand, sons of Isaac; Wormser Marcel, son of Seligmann; therefore two families had each lost two sons, a very heavy loss for a small community.

During that war, in 1917, the Jewish elementary school ceased to exist.

But the worst part was still to come! What the first war had spared was destroyed, or almost, by the atrocity of the second one: From the beginning (in September, 1939), many Jewish families left the village, due to the proximity to the border. In 1940 the complete evacuation of the civil population was ordered; the last of our fellow believers, Arthur Heimendinger, member of the commission of maintenance, left the village, on 16 Jun 1940, under the fire of the German artillery.

At the end of the war (in 1945), the survivors from Nazi persecutions found, upon their return, ruins everywhere: the synagogue destroyed, the graveyard devastated by battles, its fence taken away, their houses unfit for habitation if not destroyed as it was for the rest of the village. Of the 18 houses that were still inhabited by Jews in 1939, only 4 still stood and when in 1955 the last family left the village, its house threatening to collapse, it was the final end of a community that had an existence of at least 3 centuries.

Five members of the 1939 Community,who had taken refuge in other areas of France, were deported by the Germans, only one of them (Mrs. Emile Heimendinger) came back.

Having left G. in 1939, the following people were killed in extermination camps: Bloch Léon, son of Abraham; Mrs. Berthe Samuel widow of Gerst Justin, Heimendinger Emile; Mrs. Nathalie Weil widow of Schwed Henri.

But some others, born in G., were subject to the same fate; the names of all were engraved in the 1914-18 War Memorial, erected in the graveyard. We are copying down here the long list in alphabetical order, adding in brackets () the names of other members of their families also deported, but born elsewhere and not listed on the monument:

  1. Bloch Julien, (his wife nee Flora Lévy and their son Francis), lived in Lille;
  2. Bloch Léon, son of Abraham, from Grussenheim, brother of Marthe (No. 5).
  3. Mrs. Berthe Heimendinger, (her husband, Bloch Theophile and their son Jacques), lived in Krautergersheim;
  4. Mrs. Fernande Schwed, (her husband Braun Gustave and their son Claude), lived in Offendorf, daughter of Nathalie (No. 16), sister of Estelle (No. 20).
  5. Mrs. Marthe Bloch, sister of Léon (No. 2) (and her husband Dreyfus Henri), lived in Luxembourg;
  6. Mrs. Juliette Hildenfinger, (her husband Dreyfus Jules and their son Léon), lived in Colmar, sister of Basile (No. 19) and of Aron (No. 13);
  7. Mrs. Berthe Samuel widow of Gerst Justin, of Grussenheim;
  8. Mrs. Goldring, nee Sara Lévy, widow, lived in Paris;
  9. Heimendinger, Dr Arthur, lived in Strasbourg and his brother
  10. Heimendinger Emile, of Grussenheim;
  11. Heimendinger Léon, son of Lucien, lived in Colmar;
  12. Mrs. Marguerite Netter wife of Heimendinger Sylvain, (and her son Claude) lived in Haguenau, sister-in-law of Nos. 9 and 10;
  13. Hildenfinger Aron, son of Leopold, lived in Colmar, brother of Juliette (No. 6) and of Basile (No. 19) and their cousin
  14. Hildenfinger Léon, son of Samuel, lived in Colmar;
  15. Mrs. Lehner, nee Pauline Bloch, lived in Paris, aunt of Nos. 2 and 5;
  16. Mrs. Nathalie Weil widow of Schwed Henri, mother of Estelle and of Fernande (Nos. 4 and 20), lived in Grussenheim;
  17. Mrs. Schwob, nee Florence Wormser, lived in Metz;
  18. Sulzer Edouard (and his 3 sons André, Jean and Pierre) lived in Strasbourg;
  19. Mrs Basile Hildenfinger (and her husband Weill Sylvain) lived in Haguenau;
  20. Mrs Estelle Schwed, (her husband Weill Moïse , and their daughter Marlise) lived in Barr, sister of Fernande (N ° 4) and daughter of Nathalie (N ° 16).

This listing becomes all the more impressive, knowing that very often several members of the same family became victims of deportation, without having been arrested together (we indicated the family relationship in our list). The list does not contain the name of Marcel Dreyfuss (born in Grussenheim) shot by the Germans in Lyon in 1944.


II. Trades

The first Jews established in the village were rather poor, but other inhabitants of the village were no less so. Most of them were peddlers. The Bloch and the Sulzer were the first cattle-dealers and butchers (the priest J. Levy, in his work on Grussenheim, calls them: Fleischhaendler, the non-Jewish population called them: Fleischjud) (they also sold their goods in the near-by villages, where there were no butchers). The Heimendingers and the Wormsers traded horses, others were traders of cattle, (calves, lambs, goats), brokers, innkeepers, linen-traders, grocers, traders of flour and traders in leather and skins. One also knows of a fish-trader (”Fesch-lippmann” with his wife “Feschbuna”), of another who bought and sold gold (Gold-Doved), of drivers of stock who led the cattle on foot to the markets of Colmar and Sélestat or to the customers, rag-gatherers and scrap dealers. Manual jobs were exercised by butchers, bakers, a shoemaker, a tailor, a tinsmith. Also let us mention the women peddlers, the dressmakers, ironers, the cooks and the day workers.

Since the end of the 19th century however some more important business existed in the trade of agricultural products, barley, wheat, etc, but especially of hops which were also cultivated by many Jews of the village. Thus Grussenheim had become a trading center of the Ried. Others were real estate agents; some people exercised an even more curious occupation: that of “Conscrithaendler”, intermediaries who bought for those who had money, a substitute for military service, a system that was allowed at that time. Our village also had - perhaps unique in Alsace – two small factories (in a very primitive sense) for making wax. These “industrialists” themselves picked up the honey-combs, without the honey, from the bee-hives of the beekeepers of the region and the neighboring country of Baden and melted them to sell the wax to the pharmacists, the druggist and of course also to the housewives of the village. Some people also cultivated a piece of land.

In Grussenheim were born a Rabbi (Joseph Bloch), several cantors (Mathias Levy, Abraham Hildenfinger, Jules Wormser, Moïse Levy), a teacher (Henri Stüffel), an engineer (Charles Schoengrun]), a senior officer (Gabriel Wormser), a medical doctor (Arthur Heimendinger), a secondary school teacher (Maurice Dreyfuss). Felix (Vasi] Geismar (General Gedeon Geismar's grandfather) who died in Dambach-la-Ville, was also born in Grussenheim[11a].


III. The Synagogues

The first synagogue to be known as well as a Mikve (ritual bath) stood in the courtyard of the Mathias Geismar building (Vordergasse] at the entrance of the village (named then “Krendel”). This courtyard which had been called “Schülhof” for a long time was in those days a garden belonging to Jacob Wormser.

On 1 Aug 1768, an agreement was closed, with the purpose of building a synagogue, between Andre Ludwig, bricklayer of Jebsheim and Heymann Wormser and Max Geismar acting on behalf of the Community. Andre Ludwig committed himself to build a house and a synagogue for 3100 livres tournois. The synagogue “was to be built like the one in Biesheim”[12]. The contract document is quite explicit but also very difficult to decipher.

To get an idea of what seats were worth in this synagogue, records show that Keïle Brunschwig sold two for 120 livres.

This synagogue was used until 1850. In 1852, one wanted to turn it into a school but since the building threatened to collapse and because the community refused to participate in the expenses of repairing one of its walls, it was sold to be demolished for 500 francs to Salomon Bloch, a butcher, on 24 Oct 1866

The new synagogue, a nice spacious building was built in 1850 in the Riedgasse. The Community had asked the town administration for a subsidy. The town council's answer to the “Prefecture” (main administration office) in its session of 24 May 1850 was “that there was no opposition; the will is to participate in the building expenses of the said synagogue but only after the complete payment of our church” and added: “taking into consideration that the Jewish population represents one third of the whole village, it naturally has the right to draw on the communal funds but the timing does not allow it”[12].

After the intervention of the “Prefecture”, the town council in its session of 22 Jun 1850, granted a subsidy of 3000 francs in several installments. To get payment of the last installment of 400 francs from the municipality, Hirsch Geimar had once again to ask the Prefecture to intervene on 13 Oct 1855.

Restored twice, in 1888 and in 1924, it was completely destroyed in 1940 upon the German civil authority's arrival, on an order « coming from Colmar », and not due to gunfire, as they wanted people to believe.

A new Mikvé had been installed in the garden of the new synagogue around 1895.


IV. The Cantors

The first 'Hazen which we know of, was Meyer, son of Isaac, recorded as such in the 1784 Census. He was called Meyer Ulmann in 1794, living in the “Hintergasse”, and still occupied this position in 1801. In Civil Records we find, in 1805, declaring himself «Vorsinger », Isaac Dantzig who is called in 1814 Isaac Cerf « jandeur des Juifs » and appears in 1819 as « chandaire des Juifs ». According to his first statement, he or his ancestors were originally from Dantzig, therefore beyond the Rhine, from where came the majority of cantors and teachers of the Alsatian communities until about 1830.

Isaac Cerf died on 14 Oct. 1832 and left a large family of which we have still known the 2 daughters Zelté and Daylé.[13] His successor was Cerf Lévison «s'Hassenlé». Born on 18 Feb 1797 in Hamburg, he was appointed to Grussenheim on 26 Jun 1833. His wage was 300 francs a year. He died in Grussenheim, 17 May 1881. After an interim service by Mathias Lévy, son of Lippmann, of Grussenheim, who was the student of his predecessor, the position was occupied from 1881 to 1887 by Isidore Isaac, who came from Holland; then, after a new interim service of Achille Fuerst from Kolbsheim, the position was occupied by Alexander Bloch (born in 1867 in Krautergersheim, previously cantor in Hatten) from 1887 to 1929. Alexander Bloch died during the exercise of his functions of Chô'het (jewish ritual slaughterer). He was also a very good sôfér (scribe). After his death, the position was successively in the hands of Arthur Heimendinger (of Grussenheim), Isaïe Deutsch (now in Saverne), Ellenbogen (died in Lyon) from 1936 till 1939. Ellenbogen was the last 'Hazen of the community.

The house of the 'Hazen and the «Kàhlstubb ». The house was located in the Riedgasse, next to the synagogue. It had been purchased by the cantor Levison from the shoemaker Joseph Schmitt, on 4 Jan 1854.

His heirs (Isaac Wurmser, cantor in Pont-à-Mousson, and his wife Charlotte, the daughter of Levison), sold it to the Community for amount of 2,560 marks. They had purchased it themselves from their father by bill of sale dated 20 Jul 1875. The administrative board decision concerning this purchase, dated 1 Oct 1881, is signed by Abraham Wormser, president, Salomon Bloch son of Joseph, Isaac Geismar, Jacques Geismar son of Simon.

A room was converted in this house by 1890, to serve as prayer hall (Kahlstubb) where, during inclement season, weekday services where held, and even sometimes on Sabbath.


V. The Rabbis

The Community was first part of the rabbinate of Bergheim, then of Ribeauvillé and finally of Wintzenheim. The rabbis were: Isaac Bigard (from Muttersholtz)[13a], Michel Cerf[14], born 1835, from Altkirch; Kauffmann Weill, from Ensisheim, Anselme Debré, from Westhoffen, Joseph Zivi, from Biesheim, and Simon Fuks, currently Chief Rabbi of Colmar.


VI. The School and the Teachers

At all times Jews considered the education of their children to be one of their most important duties so that the illiteracy was extremely rare among them. As state schools did not exist yet, they hired teachers with their own means, or, in lack of them, wandering students coming mostly from Germany. The first known teacher in Grussenheim is Loew Ulmann, school teacher according to the 1784 Census. On the list of names adopted in 1808, none can be assigned to a teacher, unless it is the name that appears last: Israel Goldenblum.

For a long time education was done in private homes, but in 1834 the Community, represented by Salomon Geismar le jeune (Parnes), Baruch Wormser and Hirsch Geismar, submitted a request to the Town Council to acquire a venue that could serve as school and as residence for the teacher. But the Town council decided (8 Jul 1834) that: « the building of a place for the residence of the teacher and a children's school is deferred until the village ends communal building for the Catholic children ». They had also asked for a subvention for the repairing of a wall of the old synagogue in 1852. The Town council expressed then the opinion that « the repairing of a wall of the synagogue should remain at their charge, since that for this purpose, they (the Jews) could create sufficient funds if they had goodwill ».[15]

The number of the students was rather high: there were already 48 students - in 1835; their teacher was Marx Risser, of Herrlisheim, who received from the Prefecture a wage supplement of 100 frs. a year and 100 frs. for the furniture.

Let us note by the way that in the same year (1835), the school of Colmar whose teacher was called Samuel Rosenfeld, numbered 46 students; in Biesheim, it was Hirz Loeb with 47 students; in Horbourg the enrollment was 64 students with the teacher Samuel Baer, and in Wintzenheim the teacher Samuel Weyl had 100 students in his class.

The request for subsidy was renewable every year, and this gave to Hirsch Geismar, then Parnes, the possibility of obtaining a supplement of 100 frs. and an allowance of 50 frs. for the heating. He mentioned in his application that there were in Grussenheim, 36 students, of whom a part was of poor parents, and that 20 children did not attend school regularly. In 1837, the teacher is called Samuel Klotz (holder of the advanced diploma), with 37 students[15], his fixed salary was at 500 frs. a year « independent[ly-delete] of his food which he receives in turns from his fellow Jews ». We see therefore that the situation of the teachers was rather precarious - their salary was meager, their food and their lodging supported only by the parents of the children. There existed neither classroom or school nor lodging for a married teacher; so the teachers were, as a rule, single men.

Such a private school was under the supervision of the High Committee for Elementary Education of Colmar, which was also the case for those of Biesheim, Colmar, Horbourg and Wintzenheim.

The Academy of Colmar even granted prizes to the students of these private schools. In 1838 the following books are mentioned as such: 1 copy of “Tableau de l'Histoire Juive”, 4 copies of “Moïse Mendelssohn”, 4 copies of “Rachel Opty”, 4 copies of “Instruction morale et religieuse”, 3 copies of “Du culte mosaïque au 19e siècle”.

In 1839 the application for a subsidy to be renewed yearly was refused by the Prefect under the following excuse: « I know by experience that there are precautions to be taken in order to avoid abuses, to which the Israelites are strongly inclined in the use of the assistance which is allotted to them »[15].

After Klotz, they allow themselves the luxury of having two teachers who compete: Simon Spiegel and Aron Lévy (1840). The one, Spiegel, had no diploma and held school at the home of the innkeeper Marx Geismar (later “Schlommès”). He kept pieces of furniture provided by the government, while the other one had a diploma and had the support of the Parnes. The latter intervened in favor of Aron Lévy, and Spiegel was forced to close his school, but Marx Geismar returned the pieces of furniture only when compelled by the Prefect. The mayor gave an account to the Prefecture of his request to Marx Geismar; this latter had answered him « with a Jewish effrontery ».

In 1841, the teachers were Blum David and Grossmuth; in 1846,it was Bloch Gustave who was forced to live on no more than an annual salary of 400 frs .; he had 44 students of whom 20 were paupers and found that the community « cannot pay more besides the location and the heating », also he remained only one year.

In 1847, Dreyfuss; in 1851: Goldschmitt Philippe who gave his resignation on 17. Mar 1852; through him we know the reason of the so frequent change of teachers: The “Hazen” wanted to keep religious education for himself, which of course, deprived teachers of a supplementary income.

In 1852: Lewis Salomon who gave his resignation « because he, could not live decently in the conditions granted to him. » His successor was Weil Isaac. The situation had improved. The school was recognized as an elementary school on 13 Jun 1852; there were 39 students (27 boys, 12 girls). In 1853 the teacher was Dreyfuss Isaac, of Westhoffen. But, as always, they were still in search of a location. It had been considered to use the former synagogue as a school, but it was in too poor a condition. In 1853, Emile Schoengrun offered a room for a rent of 180 francs per year, a sum which the Prefecture estimated be too high[19]. Finally, on 20 Mar 1854 the community rented a place from the widow of Jacques Schoengrun « having served in the past as a room of weaving » (later Netter warehouses), known as “die Fabrik” and “die École” and; on the other side of the courtyard, a place to live for the teacher (later, the Haumesser house)

It is only in 1869 that the elementary Israelite school was built in the Hintergasse with a nice flat for the teacher. It had cost, according to the bill of the contractor Michel Deufel of ' Rouffach, 19 250 francs It is this school which existed until 1917.

The maximum enrollment had been between 80 and 90 students. The archives of the Academy of the Haut-Rhin, as well as those from the Consistory having disappeared for this period, it is necessary to take the following from the notes of the priest J. Lévy, which give us information about the names of the teachers:

1855 Isaac Blum, of Durmenach, died in Bischheim;
1857 Israel Wurmser, son of the rabbi David-Raphael W. of Soultz (Haut-Rhin), later in Bionville (Moselle)[15a];
1858 Lazarus Lévy, of Dettwiller (Bas-Rhin);
1858-69 Samuel Cahn, of Turckheim, died as head teacher in Colmar;
1869-81 Joseph Stuffel, of Haguenau, first teacher in Hattstatt, died in 1911 as retired teacher in Horbourg;
1881-84 Simon Haguenauer (of Bergheim), came from Sarre-Union, later teacher in Reguisheim, died in Colmar;
1884-98 Abraham Eppstein (of Saarwellingen), came from Kuttolsheim, later in Durmenach, died in the private hospital of Fribourg (Baden);
1898-99 Calmann Lévy (of Schalbach, Moselle), came from Durmenach, later to Mulhouse where he died;
1899-1902 Gabriel Schwartz (of Dambach-la-Ville), came from Hattstatt, later also in Mulhouse where he died;
1902-05 Henri Stuffel, born in Grussenheim, son of the teacher Joseph St; later teacher in Horbourg, died in Colmar;
1906-17 Joseph Samuel (of Weiterswiller), died in Strasbourg.

After his departure from G., the school ceased existing. The religious education of the few children was then given by the cantor.


VII. The Presidents

In the course of our account we have already mentioned one person or another who was at the head of the community. Here is a list of those whom we know attended to its fortunes:

Jacques Wurmser (Judenschultheiss, 1775); Meyer Kahn, Provost or Head (1784); Salomon Geismar le Jeune (1834); Cerf (Hirsch) Geismar (1836); Salomon Geismar (1849); Hirsch Geismar (1855); Salomon Geismar, « commissaire israélite» (1866 ); Abraham Wormser son of Raphael (1874-1890); Salomon Heimendinger (1890-1912); Emile Picard (1912-1915); Jacques Heimendinger (1915-1926); Seligmann Wormser (1926-1929); Emile Heimendinger (1929-1939) Arthur Heimendinger (1945).


VIII. 'Hévrôth

These charitable and mutual aid societies were named according to the time of the day their Shabbat gatherings were held: one was called « of the morning », one was called « of the afternoon » and one was called «of the evening ». Besides these Shabbat meetings, they cared for the sick and for the dead, the Taharàh (Purification) and funerals. The «Lernen» (religious classes) held at Châbhauôth and Hôchanâ Rabbâ were also within their jurisdiction. A traditional statute regulated rights and duties of their members. Women also had their 'Hévrah but with reduced activities.


IX. The Cemetery

The cemetery located at the exit of Neudorf at the place called «Jedewaid» (meadow of the Jews)[16], was inaugurated on 24 Iyar (28thMay) 1810. Previously, the Jews of Grussenheim buried their dead in the Jewish cemetery of Mackenheim as did those of Biesheim, Breisach, Marckolsheim, Riedwihr, Diebolsheim, Boesenbiesen, Gerstheim[17]; some of them had bought a plot in the cemetery of Sélestat.

The cemetery of Mackenheim already existed in 1608. Due to the expansion of affiliated communities, it became necessary to extend it again and again - in 1629, when the Rhine River carried away part of it, in 1685 and on 7 Jun 1775. On this day, Jacob Wurmser, «Judenschultheiss» in Grussenheim, and Alexander Weil, «Schurmverwandter Jude» in Grossenbiesen (Biesheim) purchased a piece of land from the village of Mackenheim of « 60 Schuh» (feet) by «120 Schuh » for the sum of 400 Gulden. It is stipulated in the act: “The gracious lordship of

Flaxlanden from here shall receive, as before, from the Jewry 4 Gulden for the burial of an adult and 2 Gulden for a child. The community gets as wage for the graves 1 Gulden for each adult and 5 Schilling for a child.”[18] (Translated in English from the original in German)

The number of Jewish inhabitants of Grussenheim was then about 100; it was about 200 in 1810, when they opened their own cemetery.

The first burial register was lost during the war of 1939-45. Fortunately Emile Picard had copied some notes in a new register (which was kept). Thus, we know the administrators (Gabboïm) who succeeded one another since the founding of the cemetery: Wolf b. Nathan Wormser and Nathan b. Mordechaï Geismar (1810); Schlome b. Meschulem Geismar and Baruch b. Mordechaï Wormser (1814); Mordechaï b. Schlome Geismar and same Baruch b. Mordechaï Wormser (1823); the same and Joseph b. Meschulom Bloch (1825); Eisik b. Zwi Heimendinger and Hirsch b. Schimeon Geismar (1837); Libmann b. Jehuda Picard and Mordechaï b. Baruch Wormser (1857); Leïb b. Jizhok Sulzer (1862); Libmann b. Matisjahu halévi (1874); Matisjahu b. Libmann halévi (1875); Eisik b. Schimeon Geismar and Sussmann-Meschulom Bloch (1882).

In October 1907 Eisik Geismar returned the register of the cemetery and funds, to the Community, and Emile Picard managed the cemetery until the nomination of new two Gabboïm which took place on 19 Apr 1908. At the proposal of the President of the community, Salomon Heimendinger, were nominated the following Gabboïm: Jacques Heimendinger (Jacob b. Meïr), secretary and treasurer, Joseph Bloch (Joseph b. Meschulom) assessor. The treasurer took care then of the finances of the administration of the cemetery, that is 225,62 Mark and 4 Municipal Bonds of Paris. The minutes of this meeting carry the signatures of: Salomon Heimendinger, Emile Picard, Joseph Netter, Jacques Heimendinger, Salomon Geismar, Samuel Gerst, Jacques Geismar, Joseph Bloch.

The last adminstrator before 1939 was Arthur Heimendinger, son of the former Gabbaï, Jacques Heimendinger. It was he, who after the war continued attending to the business of the cemetery as President of the Committee for Maintenance.

As in many other localities, the friends of those who fell on the battlefields of the war of 1914-18 (we have cited their names above), had erected a monument to their memory. This monument, which came from the workshops of the Maison Brutschi of Ribeauvillé, remained undamaged in spite of the battle which devastated the village in 1945; on the other hand the wall of the graveyard had been taken away to serve as antitank defense; numerous headstones had been harmed by shells. A new wall was constructed thanks to war damages granted by the M. R. U.; a plaque carrying the names of the 20 Jews from Grussenheim, who died in deportation, was added to the first Monument to the Dead (see their names above, pp. 13 and 14.)

The consecration of this plaque took place on 5 Sep 1948 under the presidency of Chief Rabbi Fuks of Colmar and in the presence of Rabbi Bloch of Haguenau. In front of a large audience both rabbis paid emotional honors to the victims of Nazi atrocity.

Since 1955 the Maintenance Committee organizes every year, in the month of Eloul, a memorial ceremony which brings together the former inhabitants of the community in great numbers in the cemetery of their native village. Rabbi Bloch, a native of Grussenheim, has made his contribution, to this date, with a sermon at the event. The one from the first of these meetings (on Aug 28 1955) was introduced by words which can find their place here:

« While we had been expelled from our native country during the war, our cemeteries were closed, often also devastated, and awaited in vain the visit of the pious crowd of habitual pilgrims. But we did continue this old tradition in the places of our exile. As for us, we met in the small graveyard of Clermont-Ferrand to create the ambience of meditation for prayers, dedicated to the memory of those who slept their last sleep in the distant earth of our dear Alsace. For five years we lived thus in a terrible nightmare, five years which saw the tragic disappearing of so many of ours who had been dearest to us. Since the hour of liberation another ten years passed by, which allowed us to sadly assess our painful losses and to register on monuments on our cemeteries, the countless names of those of whom we only have the memory…

Dispersed in all corners of our country and even outside of its borders, we came back today in the cemetery of our native village where we lived a happy youth – happy, without having always appreciated it. We came back, driven by a feeling of melancholic nostalgia, to do an act of devotion and live again one hour with the living and the dead.

What changes have occurred since our youth: the beautiful synagogue where we prayed so often, is not any more, the huge school where we sat on the benches, is not any more, the modest houses which had sheltered us, are not any more, the good people who saw us growing up, and a lot of those who grew up with us, are not any more. Of a big and beautiful Jewish community there only remains this field of rest for those we loved and who loved us.

You can imagine how heavy hearted I am to recall such memories. And if I must thank God who gave me the grace to speak to you as your elder, the more difficult it is for me to control my emotions when seeing so many known faces, reminding me their parents and grandparents.

Allow me to dedicate my first thought to those, who the whole of Jewish France memorializes during the last days of Eloul. Indeed, the first day of Seli' hôth which is near and always was dedicated to the memory of our deceased, also was intended to be a day of mourning, of Jahrzeit, in memory of those - and their number is huge - who became the victims of both wars : the heroes of the battlefield, these who were cruelly and without conscience shot by the enemy and finally - what touches us most profoundly, because it is the most bloody page of our long and painful history - the men, the women, the elders and the children, obscure martyrs of death camps, and whose day nor place of decease is known. Because we offer a stout resistance to those who would wipe out of our memories the unheard sufferings that cruel men did force us to undergo. We can't forget, we shouldn't forget. Our martyrs have a steady eye on us, they would not know the peace of heaven, and below here, our conscience would not have any rest. No, we will not forget them and French Jewry, by honoring them, will honor itself.

After the commemorative ceremony of 20 September 1959 an assembly took place to create a new association, “Les Amis du Cimitière Israélite de Grussenheim” (Friends of the Jewish Cemetery of Grussenheim). Rabbi Jospeh Bloch was named Honorary President.

Replacing the “Comité d'Entretien” (Maintenance Committee), the Association will be in charge of the care and conservation of the cemetery.


X. Notes

1. Baquol (Dictionnaire, Strasbourg, 1865) cites Grosinhain in 726, Grucinhein in 768, Grutzinhaim in 777. Return
2. Two hamlets located between Sélestat and Muttersholtz. Return
3. M. Ginsburger in Souvenir et Science, V, 6, p. 6. He adds: Grussenheim was a fiefdom of the regency of Ensisheim and was given as such to the Rathsamhausen family before 1361. A member of this family allowed the Jews to settle in Grussenheim, but M. Ginsburger cites no source for this. According to Joseph Lévy (Geschichtliche Notizen) most non-Jewish families came to Grussenheim after the Thirty Years War (which devastated the country). Before 1700 he knows only of the families Dietsch , Haumesser, Jehl, Schmitt, Schueber, Selig and Strauel. As the presence of Jews in the village is already documented in 1628, one can say that their settlement in the village is older than the settlement of many Christian families. Return
4. Mossmann, Etude sur l'histoire des Juifs de Colmar (Colmar, 1866); M. Ginsburger, Die Medizin und Hygiene der Juden in Elsass-Lothringen (Gebweiler, 1911) tells us: “The physician Lazarus who lived in Jebsheim obtained a recommendation from Count Reinhold Wetzel von Marsilian and from Egenolf von Berckheim. Accordingly the City Council of Colmar granted him permission in 1581 to purchase from the town's apothecaries those drugs that were needed to practice his trade. At the time, Jews were not allowed to enter the city. His father is said to have already been a physician; Lazarus himself would grant his help to anybody regardless of religion.

This very Lazarus is perhaps a descendant of the Jewish physician mentioned in the Missivenbuch of Sélestat (B.B. 18, p. 117). Several citizens in Sélestat had lost their sight. The city council therefore wrote to the city council of Colmar on the Saturday after Epiphany 1519 about having been informed that there was a Jew in Colmar skilled in all sorts of drugs. They requested that this Jew be sent to Sélestat in order to examine the sick people. He would be well rewarded for his work and art”. (Citation translated from the German-language original) Return

5. On 31 Dec 1754, Hirtzel Lévy, a Jew from Wettolsheim perished in Colmar on the scaffold, as the innocent victim of a judicial error. He was rehabilitated through a judgment of the Parliament in Metz of 24 Sep 1755. He had been accused by a widow, Madeleine Koppe (Kaufin) of Houssen near Colmar, of breaking into her home during the night of 9-10 Dec 1754 and stealing money, metal and other goods such as smoked pork (!) hanging in the kitchen's fireplace. Also involved in this case were: Feiss, son of Simson (Geismar) of Grussenheim, Menke Lévy of Wettolsheim and Moïse Lang of Ribeauvillé. The latter were acquitted after spending a few months in jail. (See Isidore Loeb. “Hirtzel Lévy, mort martyr à Colmar en 1754” in “ Annuaire de la Société des Etudes Juives, Paris, 1881). The manuscript in Jewish-German which Isidore Loeb used for the writing of his article is on our possession. It is a contemporary account written in Jewish-German dialect; the 28-page manuscript is written on school copy-book paper. (J. Bl.) Return
6. Isidore Loeb, in Deuxième Annuaire de la Société des Etudes Juives, Paris, 1883, p. 180. A literal German translation of this document written in Jewish-German (interspersed with several Hebrew expressions) that exists only in two original copies, has been published by us in Tribune Juive de Strasbourg, 1937. (J. Bl.) Return
7. Joseph Lüdaescher, Geschichte des Dorfes Mackenheim, Strasbourg (1922) and Jos. Bloch, Le Cimetière juif de Haguenau, Paris, 1953, p. 8, excerpt from R. E. J. 1951/52, p. 143. Return
8. Archives départementales du Bas-Rhin, C. 366. Return
9. Many deeds between Jews and non-Jews can be found in the files of the former Colmar notary offices (Archives départementales du Bas-Rhin, Série IV) because at that time the Jews had to have all their commercial contracts drawn up by a Notary. At Notary Drouineau, in 1724, one finds mainly the names of Jews from Colmar, Eguisheim, Hattstatt, Herrlisheim, Horbourg, Wettolsheim and Vieux-Brisach; At Notary Brueder, in 1737/39, the marriage contract of Lazar bar Mauché, Herrlisheim with Edel bas Morké (probably Mortsche); IOUs of Jews from Bergheim and Wintzenheim; At Braconnot, in 1768, the marriage contract of Sallomon Geismar from Biesheim with Berrlen Netter, daughter of Getschel (witness: Marx Geismar, “Jew from Grussenheim”), the deed of inheritance of Leïb Hildenfinger from Voegtlinshoffen (head of the Hildenfinger family), the will of Sallomon Geismar from Biesheim, sales agreements of Jews from Grussenheim, Voegtlinshoffen (Leïb Hildenfinger) and Wintzenheim. At that time, the main businessmen in Grussenheim were, according to these documents, Jacob Wormser, Fassy Geismar and Meyer Kahn. Wormser worked alone and thus must have been rather well off, the two others worked together. The villages where they traded were, among others, Artzenheim, Durrenenzen, Muntzenheim and Sundhoffen. Return
10. See Robert Anchel, Les Juifs de France, Dijon, 1946, p. 213. Return
11. Revue des Etudes Juives, July-September, 1922: Arrêtés du Directoire du Haut-Rhin relatifs aux Juifs du 1. 7. 1790 au 19 Brumaire VIII. Return
11a. See Souvenir et sciences III, 3 p. 13 et III, 4, p. 16 and further p. 42 under Vasi (Geismar). Return
12. Archives dépt. Haut-Rhin I. O. 110, 5. and M. Ginsburger, Souvenir et Science, June 1934 ; Arch. dépt. Haut-Rhin, IV, Notariat Braconnot. Return
13. See Souvenirs p. 51. Return
13a. See Univers Israélite, May, 1856, p. 421. Return
14. Michel Cerf was born in Saverne in 1792 and died a victim of cholera that raged in Bergheim in 1855 (Univers Israélite, Dec. 1855). Return
15. Archives dépt. du Haut-Rhin I T. (56, 68, 69, 257). Return
15a. See Univers Israélite., June, 1864, p. 465. Return
16. A meadow where Jews could graze their stock; this prevented protests against their right to use communal pasture. Return
17. Jos. Bloch, Le Cimetière juif de Haguenau, Paris, 1953. Return
18. Joseph Lüdaescher, Geschichte des Dorfes Mackenheim, Strasbourg, 1922. Return
19. In 1810 Nathan Levi (Schoengrun) owned the Salomon Heimendinger building (Hintergasse). On the large courtyard portal one can still read: Nate Segal (in Hebrew letters) 1810. (Segal = Levi). A pitcher (Levi-Krug) is depicted as the emblem of the Levites. Return

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