“Worms”
Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities:
Germany volume 3
(Germany)

49°38' / 08°22'

Translation from Pinkas ha-kehilot Germanyah

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1992


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator and Translator

Selwyn Rose

 

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities, Germany
Volume 3, page 191, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1992


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[Page 191]

Worms, Germany

YearResidentsJews%
Population
1642 80 families 
1722 250 
1818 625 
1837 889 
186113,4939857.3
188019,0241,2166.4
190543,8411,3063.0
191046,8191,2812.7
192547,0151,1942.5
193351,3461,0162.0
31.12.1937 525 
193946,6543130.6
5.2.1942 190 

Apart from these, there were 9 converts to the Christian faiths, 21 half-Jews (of whom 2 proclaimed their Jewish allegiance), and 8 quarter-Jews (of whom 1 proclaimed Jewish allegiance).

Religious Affiliations of the Population in 1933

JewsCatholicsProtestantsOthers
2.029.164.14.8

The History of the City

Worms is one of the oldest German cities, dating back to antiquity.

In Roman times it held a strategic position on the upper Rhine, and was to become, later, a prosperous commercial centre. In the Middle-Ages the City was free and autonomous, and since the days of Charlemagne had been used on various occasions as the official residence of the Emperor and was the focus of many significant historical events. In the 14th Century the city already numbered 20,000 inhabitants (many more than Frankfurt).

For many hundreds of years the city, and especially the Jews, was ruled by the local Bishop. Until the 16th and 17th Centuries, the City still retained its status as a free and independent city and was a part of the Pfalz Principality. At the end of the 18th Century, the left bank of the Rhine was conquered by the French armies and remained so for almost 20 years. Later, together with all Rhinehessen, Worms became part of Hessen.

The Beginnings of Jewish Settlement

The beginnings of the Jewish community of Worms, the oldest of the Jewish communities in Germany, is hidden in the mists of history. There is archaeological evidence to show that Jews were residing in Worms as early as Roman times, as indeed they did in many other places along the Rhine. Later, several legends were woven regarding its establishment, such as - the founders of the Jewish community were brought from Jerusalem by the Roman commander, or that there was even a community as early as the days of the destruction of the First Temple (586 B.C.E.), and at the injunction of the High Priest to return to the Holy Land, they gave as their reply that Worms was for them “...our little Jerusalem” and their community's synagogue their Temple. Another legend tells that the Jews of Worms were the only Jews in the Diaspora who had protested against the crucifixion of Jesus, and it was for this reason that they were later somewhat less persecuted than their brethren.

The Middle-Ages

In a document dating from the year 960, Jews are mentioned for the first time as residents of Worms and Mainz, and as money merchants at a Fair in Köln. In the 11th Century, the number of Jews increased significantly, as did their influence; many Jews accumulated wealth in various forms and placed their mark on the commercial life of the city and the area in general. In recognition of the assistance which the Jews gave to the struggle for supremacy, Emperor Heinrich the Fourth, the erstwhile King of Worms, granted, in the year 1074, “...to the Jews and other citizens of Worms”, a privilege which exempted them from the payment of taxes - a document which proved to be a precedent of its type, used as an example for other privileges granted to various other cities. An additional privilege granted by Heinrich to the Jews of Worms, at whose head was the community leader, Salman, promised them religious freedom and the right to conduct their own intra-communal legislative affairs and a further release permitting them to invoke their own laws in disputes and judgements between themselves and Christians, to hold real estate, to move freely throughout the Empire, to engage in loans at interest and commerce (including the sale of medicines and wine to the Christians), and to employ Christian servants. The Christians were forbidden to harm them, infringe upon their rights or to force them to violate their religious laws.

From the 11-13th Centuries the Jewish community of Worms underwent an unprecedented spiritual blossoming and drew to itself scholars of note, through whose presence Worms became the spiritual centre of the whole of European Jewry. Adjoining the synagogue, which was built in 1034 through the generosity of Ya'acov Ben David and his wife Rachel, rose a renowned Yeshiva led by the greatest scholars of the generation and which produced of itself scholars of world renown, among them Rashi.

In the old cemetery at Am Judensand, adjoining the outside of the city wall, are buried some of the most noted Jews of Worms and the Upper Rhine, among them the Mahram (Rabbi Meir Ben Baruch of Rothenburg 1220-1293), who was born in Worms. In 1286, the Rabbi - the first Chief Rabbi of the Jews of the Holy Roman Empire - started out on a journey to the Holy Land, accompanied by a large retinue, intending to settle there. He was captured and held for ransom but forbade his followers from redeeming him and spent the rest of his life imprisoned in a tower. In 1307, Alexander Ben Shlomo Wimpfen of Frankfurt redeemed the Rabbi's bones in exchange for all his possessions, and brought them to Worms for burial On his own death that same year he was buried alongside the Rabbi.

Ha-Maharil of Mainz - Our Teacher, Rabbi Yehudah Leib, also died in Worms (1427). Many legends exist about the holiness of the cemetery of Worms.

The Communities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz

In 1150, the Congress of Rhine Area Rabbis officially recognized the existence of the combined communities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz as providing the spiritual leadership of the German Jews, and from 1220 the regular congresses of the Rabbis took place alternately in these three cities and the Rabbis handed down their religious decisions and interpretations on all matters pertaining to the daily conduct of the Jew, for the whole of European Jewry.

Rabbis and Spiritual Leaders

When at the peak of its spiritual splendour (until the middle of the 14th Century), the community of Worms and its Yeshiva, was the centre of activities for the most famous of Germany's Jews. In the middle of the 11th Century, Rabbi Meyer ben Yitzhak, the Cantor of Worms, made a revision of the order of prayers, and the poetical liturgy, which found wide acceptance in many other communities. Ya'acov ben Yakir of Mainz (d.1064), among the renowned legalistic interpreters of the Holy writings, spent the latter days of his life as the head of the Worms Yeshiva; Rashi referred to him as 'My Holy Teacher' and quoted him extensively in his own writings and commentaries.

During Rashi's own period in Worms, other Yeshiva leaders of note were:

Rabbi Elazar Halevi, a Talmudic scholar, commentator and interpreter of religious-legalistic matters; Rabbi Kalonymus ben Shabtai, legalistic commentator and liturgical poet; and the Talmudic commentator Rabbi Yitzhak ben Elazer Halevi, who was among the compilers of the order and styling of the prayers for the Rhine area; his son, Rabbi Ya'acov Halevi who was also among the renowned students of the Yeshiva of Worms, and was murdered, together with all his family during the riots of the Crusaders in 1096 (see below), and like him, Shlomo ben Shimshon ben Elyakim (apparently the same community leader 'Salman' mentioned in the decree of 1090, see above), who acquired for himself a name as a legalistic commentator and composer of liturgical poetry. Among the leaders of the Yeshiva, it is appropriate to mention both the names of Rabbi Shmuel ben Yitzhak (murdered by the Crusaders in 1146), and Menahem ben Ya'acov ben Shlomo ben Menahem, also known as 'Menahem of Worms'.
Most noteworthy of his generation was, perhaps, Rabbi Elazar ben Yehudah (circa 1160-1238), a descendant of the aristocratic Kalonymus family of Mainz, disciple and relative of Rabbi Yehuda Hassid, known as HaRokach, whose best-known work was 'A Book of Mixtures' - the central source of knowledge concerning the Righteous of Germany. As a young man, Rabbi Elazar officiated as Rabbi of Erfurt and afterwards settled in Worms, opened a Yeshiva in his house where the teachers and scholars lived together with the family. His wife Dolcza, who supported the family by processing parchment for holy books, and some of his children, were murdered by the Crusaders (see below). Rabbi Elazar was the teacher of Rabbi Avraham ben Ezriel, the author of 'The Spice Bed', who later moved to Bohemia.

In 1281, Rabbi Baruch the noted scholar in his own right and also as the father of the illustrious Mahram, died in Worms (see above).

The Crusades Persecutions

During the days of the First Crusade, many members of the Jewish community escaped and found sanctuary in the Bishop's palace from the threat of the Crusaders, who molested the Jews living in the Rhine area, while those who remained hid themselves in their houses. All their cash and valuables they deposited with respected citizens who had promised them protection. Nevertheless, the Crusaders had much influence on the common man and the rumour that the Jews had poisoned the wells of water lent wings to the incitement. On the 18th May, 1096, the Crusaders overran the 'Jews Lane'. Except for a few Jews who decided to put an end to their own lives, and a few more who renounced their religion, they were slaughtered to a man. For eight days the rioters plundered and destroyed the homes of the Jews and their property and even stripped the corpses of the their clothes, dragging the bodies naked through the streets, while the worthy citizens of Worms looked on, taking no action at the outrage. On the 25th May, a further group of Crusaders arrived who, together with some of the residents, sought out the Jews who had found refuge in the Bishop's palace and they too were slaughtered, although these fought valiantly against those who sought their lives. The estimated number of victims is put at 800 souls, among them scholars at the Yeshiva who had come from abroad to Worms. Within a few days the community had been almost entirely destroyed.

As Rabbi Shlomo ben Shimon described it:

“and on the 23 day of Iyar, the community of Worms divided itself into two, a portion of them remaining in their homes, while the other sought the sanctuary of the Bishop's palace. And they fell as coyotes upon those that had remained in their homes, robbing everyone - man and woman and child, youth and ancient, toppling stairways, destroying houses, plundering and abusing. And they took the Scroll of the Torah, trampling it underfoot into the mud, ripping it and burning it, and they utterly consumed the Children of Israel without restraint. And it was on the seventh day on the first day of the month Sivan...that they vexed and terrorized those who had remained secure until this in the Court of the Bishop, falling upon them as had the first of them before, putting them to the sword. And they found strength in the deeds of their brethren and they were killed sanctifying the name of God, even to stretching forth their necks to receive the sword of the slayer, in the name of their Creator.

And of those who put an end to their own lives, the mothers and fathers fell first upon their young ones and brother on brother and they were slaughtered with a terrible slaughter, father upon son, son-in-law upon betrothed and the merciful mother on her dear ones. All with a quiet heart received the judgment of heaven with complete understanding and sublime serenity and as their souls returned to He who gave them, were heard to cry 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the is One!' And the enemy stripped the bodies of their clothes, and dragged them around and around, without sparing a single one of them from being violated and they threw them into their stinking waters. And there were, on these two days of murder eight-hundred souls dispatched, and all of them were thrown into the grave naked and without rite…”

In 1097, Heinrich the Fourth returned from his Crusade and enacted a law stipulating heavy penalties on all who molested a Jew. Those who had been forcibly converted returned to their faith and rebuilt the community, which prospered as at the beginning of the 12th Century. In 1112 Heinrich's son and heir renewed the privilege of 1074.

In 1146 the monk Radulf travelled along the Rhine and incited the population to convert forcibly the Jews, or to kill them. This time the Jews escaped to strongholds and hid themselves until the storm had passed. Rabbi Shmuel ben Yitzhak was caught and murdered by the Crusaders on his way from Mainz to Worms.

At the time of the Third Crusade (1187/88), Emperor Friedrich the First and his son took steps to prevent bloodshed; nevertheless, after a few years, in 1196, two Crusaders went berserk in Worms, broke into the house of Rabbi Elazar ben Yehuda - 'HaRokach' - slaughtered his two daughters and his wife Dolcza, while he and his son, together with one of the Yeshiva teachers and several students, were injured.

The Community After the Crusades

The disasters which struck at the Jews of Worms temporarily halted the development of the community, but in time it rehabilitated itself and again took for itself the position it had once held as the leading Jewish community. The synagogue, damaged beyond repair at the time of the First Crusade, was built anew on the same site in 1174/75. In the middle of the 13th Century, the community extended the cemetery on the Am Judensand, and even purchased and then demolished some nearby houses in order to do so. The vigorous community leader, Yechiel ben Ephraim, surrounded the cemetery with a stone wall (1260). In 1278 the community was obliged to pay a large ransom in order to prevent the city council from reducing the size of the cemetery. In 1272, Simcha ben Yehuda of Worms compiled the Worms Prayer Book for the High Holidays, a unique and artistic work, decorated by 'Shemiah the Artist' and now kept in the National Library in Jerusalem.

Towards the end of the 13th Century, Worms was again without noted scholars and in the 14th Century the spiritual centre of German Jewry was removed to other European cities. At the same time, the community's greatness lived on and in 1385 the Jews of Zurich, in Switzerland, still contacted the Worms Rabbi for legalistic and ritual decisions concerning their community, as they had done for countless generations.

The Political and Judicial Status of the Jews

The high taxes paid by the Worms Jews (according to records for 1241), testify to their economic viability, as does the increase in their numbers (the second largest along the Rhine, after Stuttgart). In 1254 The Jews of the city paid enormous sums of money to the Confederation of Rhine Cities, in whose founding constitution appeared articles protecting the Jews. The ability to support financially the rulers, and their participation in the defence of the city (1201), and especially their status among the Empire's Jews, bestowed upon the Worms Jews a rare political influence which came to an end after 'The Black Death'(1348/49, see below).

The Jews of Worms were under the authority of three official bodies at one and the same time - the Emperor, the Bishop and the city. In the 11th and 12th Centuries, it was the Emperor who levied upon them most of the taxes and decided their status before the law. In 1212 the Bishop received authority, as the ruler of the city, to levy the Imperial tax (in addition to which he levied his own, such as the flour-tax), and to appoint the community leadership. According to a contract of 1312, the community leader was chosen from among the 12 community council members, and the choice was dependent upon the concurrence of the Bishop, who, from time to time invoked his right to disqualify one or other of the candidates at will. With the death or continued absence of a committee member from Worms, the Jews were required to present themselves before the Bishop in order that he may choose a replacement. The appointment of the Rabbi was also in his hands.

The aristocratic, Catholic family, von Dalberg, related to the Bishop, was appointed in the name of the Church, in 1239, to be responsible for the inspection and control of Jewish weddings and funerals, and was obliged to ensure that funeral processions were accompanied and took place peaceably and without interference from within the city until it reached the cemetery.

The rights of the city over the Jews had their origins in an Imperial decree accepting the Jews as citizens. At the time of the signing of the treaty of 1312 between the Bishop and the community, representatives of the city were present and as the 14th Century, the influence of the city Guilds increased together with their encroaching pressure on the various commercial activities of the Jews. In 1335, the Emperor Ludwig The Bavarian, transferred his rights in the Jews' Tax to the city of Worms and in 1346 renewed those rights. Charles the Fourth, his success- or went further, and in 1348 transferred to the city all the Jews - their property, rights, debts and the incomes from them - as a gift.

Throughout the whole of the middle-ages the Jews lived in a separate quarter. Although until the middle of the 14th Century they were free to live where they chose, they preferred to live together, close to the synagogue.

The Black Death Persecutions and Rehabilitation of the Community

In January, 1349, the days of the Great Plague, hordes of people stormed the Jewish quarter, set fire to the synagogue and Jews' Lane and murdered about 400 of its residents. Those who survived fled the city. The Emperor, who in January 1348 had already given the Jews to the city, together with their property, now gave permission for the city to inherit the property of the murdered and the refugees. Since the city Fathers had learned that the banishment of the Jews had cost them dearly they affirmed their readiness, in 1353, to receive them back and to return to them the Jewish quarter and the property inside it. The survivors of the riots, and together with them a few Jews from other places, returned to Worms, rebuilt the quarter and the synagogue and appointed the 10th day of Adar, the day of the slaughter, as a day of mourning and fasting. From now on, the Jews were forbidden to live outside the ghetto and any property they owned elsewhere was sold.

In 1376, the Jews paid to Worms a special levy of 20,000 Guilden for the war between the local rulers; 36 house-holders signed a document concerning the levy and it is possible, therefore, to estimate that the inclusive Jewish population of Worms stood at around 180 souls - a small number compared to that of before the riots - while the high levy bears witness to their economic viability. By the middle of the 16th Century the population had increased to about 300.

The Status of the Jews in the Late Middle-Ages

After 1348, the Jews lost their status as second class citizens of the city (“Hintersassen”) and became the property of the city. About every 4 years, the city Elders and representatives of the Jews reaffirmed the conditions of their residence in Worms. The attempts of the city to banish the Jews (1487) were set at naught following the opposition of the Emperor.

In 1490 the city council invoked its right of jurisdiction over a blood-feud which had arisen among the Jews following a murder. A number of the city Elders, with the help of the synagogue sexton, Solomon, managed to bring the warring families to an agreement, while the murderer himself was banished from the city. As a result of this incident, the 'Jews' Oath' , for the residents of Worms was formulated.

In the years 1494 - 1496, the Jews of Worms granted Maximilian the First a large sum of money, following the Great Congresses of the Reich, and the Emperor, for his part, confirmed their rights and promised them protection. Philip, Prince of the Pfalz, came to the synagogue with his son in order to hear the singing of the Jews and in 1496, Queen Maria Blanca visited the synagogue and received several silver cups as a gift.

In 1498/99, with the publication of the new city constitution, the Emperor ratified the exclusive rights to ownership of the Jews by the city council (since 1348).

In 1410, the city defended the Jews against a blood-libel brought by the Bishop and Ruprecht, King of the Pfalz, on payment of a large ransom. In 1431, the bitterness of the local farmers increased, after the local authorities had rejected their demands to expunge their debts to the Jews. The horde of enraged farmers stormed the city gates and demanded that the Jews be handed over to them, and only a rescheduling of the debts and a reduction in the interest sufficed to calm the mob.

The perpetual fear gave birth to the legend of a miraculous event:

Once, a Christian woman was passing by the end of Jews' Lane when something was spilled from a window and hit a statue of Jesus. The enraged Christians demanded the surrender of the guilty party from the community or within a week or all the residents of Jews' Lane would be taken out and executed. The week passed and the Jews waited fearfully for the threat to be carried out. When the gates of the ghetto were opened on the fateful morning, two strangers stood there saying that they wished to admit their guilt for the event. The two were tried and executed, and the stunned Jews of Worms, who believed that they were none other than two angels sent to save them, thereafter lit two candles in the synagogue, in their memory.

The 16th - 18th Centuries

The Jewish Constitution

According to the Jewish constitution of 1505, signed by the King, the city council appointed the 12 community council members and the community leader, all of whom were obliged to swear an oath of allegiance to the city and to recognize the city as being the sole authority to which the Jews were subject. The constitution was renewed each year on payment of a levy of 28 Guilden. After the death of Maximilian (1519), some of the Bishop's earlier priviliges were reinstituted, especially that of appointing the community's committee. In 1524 the Mayor and his council guaranteed safety and security to the Jews for a period of 4 years and extended the validity of the 'Jews'Constitution' by a similar length of time. The Jews were obliged to apply for a renewal at a protection-fee of 800 (later 1,200) Guilden.

According to an arrangement of 1526 with the Bishop, the city also received back jurisdiction over the Jews, except in cases of fraud.

During market days in Frankfurt, the Jews were forced to forego several priviliges and rights which, in the past, had been an accepted part of their allotment. They were forbidden to accept as pledges Christian religious artifacts or weapons, to give loans to women without the consent of their husbands, to erect stalls outside the Jewish quarter and cry their wares, to leave the Jews' Lane on Sundays or Christian festivals and to wander in front of the Mint or the market. As the day drew towards evening, they were obliged to return to the 'Lane' A significant addition was the obligation to wear the yellow badge of shame, the Judenfleck.

The Jews' Constitution of 1584 contained a few concessions: permission to graze cattle on the public pasture - one cow to a family - to slaughter cattle for their own use and to sell non-kosher parts to Christians, to trade in imported textiles and used clothing (but not in new shoes and clothing) and to leave the Jewish quarter on Sundays and Christian festivals for the purpose of burying the dead. At the same time, the maximum permissible interest on loans was reduced to 10%. 93 home-owners signed the Constitution of 1620 - proof of the startling growth of the community. The Constitution of 1641 remained in force until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.

Persecution and Banishment

At the beginning of the 16th Century at the time of the apostate priest Pfefferkorn and his helpers' crusade in the Rhine area, with the intention of confiscating and burning 'Jewish books', 304 volumes of 28 Hebrew books, a large proportion of them study and prayer books, were destroyed - proof of the community's education and knowledge of Hebrew.

In 1563, false charges were made by an apprentice cobbler against Avraham of Worms, claiming that he had been carrying a Christian child under his coat. Avraham was interrogated under torture, but the accuser was also arrested. Avraham's brother-in-law petitioned the Imperial Legislature and the city council delayed debates for a long time, until eventually, after efforts by Frankfurt and Worms Jews, both Avraham and the apprentice were freed.

In the 16th Century, the complaints of the Guilds multiplied and in 1538 the Emperor granted the request of the city council and rescinded the special priviliges of the Jews and removed his objection to their banishment. The date of their exile was fixed for 1561 but the Bishop protested and indicated the large income he received from their residing in Worms, and the Emperor relented. In 1569 the inclusive debt of Worms' citizens to the Jews reached an extraordinary sum - 15,649 Guilden.

In 1613, the Guilds and shopkeepers renewed their demands to banish the Jews, apparently on the inspiration of the enemy of the Jews, Fettmilch of Frankfurt. This time, the city council claimed that the Jews' Constitution and the Imperial priviliges tied their hands, and thus they were left unable to complain and could only accept the high interest, or alternatively, to allow the Jews to compete with them in many fields of business previously closed to them. In reaction, the Guild members, together with a mixed crowd of people, broke into the ghetto, beating up and robbing the residents. At the beginning of 1614, the Jews were banished to the other side of the Rhine, but with the intervention of the Archbishop of Mainz, were allowed to return. At Passover, 1615, the disturbances repeated themselves; the Jews were robbed and their homes severely damaged and themselves banished from the city. The community Rabbi Avraham ben Shmuel Yitzhak Bachrach, escaped with his family to Gernsheim, where he died the same year. The synagogue was partially destroyed and according to Yashfa, (see later) the beadle of the synagogue, only the Ark, the entry gate and part of Rabbi Yehuda the Hassid's wall remained. In the cemetery, many grave-stones were uprooted and smashed. The Prince-Elector of the Pfalz, Friedrich the Fifth, suppressed the riots, and in January, 1616, the Masters of the Guilds were banished from the city, the Jews returned to Worms and the city was obliged to compensate them.

Economy and Business

According to the community register of 1500, 37% of the Jews were described as well-founded, 17% - as being able to pay their various taxes and 34% as poor; the economic position of the remaining 12% is undefined. The Jews of Worms as a community were regarded as people of means, as shown by their high taxes. The main sources of their income were: trading in horses, horse-breeding for hire, trading in all kinds of moveable property, food, spices, honey, wax, skins, second-hand clothing, metals (copper, lead, bronze and silver), decorations, and financial transactions and pledges. The community also numbered a few doctors, barbers, bath-attendants, a card manufacturer, a sword maker, and some community workers - a Rabbi, cantor, ritual slaughterer, beadle and chief community leader. In the 17th Century, the importance of the wine trade increased. The largest of the wine traders was a member of the community committee, Beifus, a doctor by profession who lived in a house called “The Golden Swan” treated Jews and Christians alike.

In 1611, the city council placed a ban on the practise of medicine and wine-trading by Jews at the same time, and Beifus' offspring chose to trade in wine. The 'Jewish Constitution' of 1619, confined the distillation of spirits and their sale to Jews alone, but apparently the Christians also bought and drank the spirits from the 'Jews' Lane'. Yashfa the Beadle tells in 'The Book of Miracles', that in the flood of 1651 the cellars were flooded in 'Jews' Lane' and the barrels of wine were floating around in them.

During the 'Thirty Years' War' (1618-1648), the number of impositions and various forced payments grew, as did also the payments that the Jewish merchants and suppliers were obliged to pay for the guards and other forms of assurance that were forced to arrange for their journeys out of town on business trips. In 1618 the Pfalz principality authorities contracted out to the Jews of Worms to issue to the Jews of the Principality - individuals as well as communities - 'documents of accompaniment' which were now obligatory and cost much money. After the destruction of the city (1689), the impoverished Jews were again unable to cope with the payment of the contract fees in advance, and the privilege was therefore granted to Jews from out of town.

The Destruction of the City, 1689

During the wars of Louis the Fourteenth, Worms was captured by the French armies (1688). Through the influence of the Synagogue Beadle Avraham Zur Kante - the brother of the Imperial Court Agent, Shimshon Wirtheimer, but an owner of property and a man of standing in the community in his own right - the Jews of the city received from the conquerors, on payment of a lot of money, a deed of protection and recognition of their rights. In order to obtain this, they sold the French oats and wood, and asked to exchange the German guard's at the gates of the ghetto for French ones (an act for which the community council was later accused of treason), and even supplied the French with timber to destroy the city's walls. According to the account of the head of the Lutheran church in Worms, who was hostile to the Jews the City Fathers prepared a great feast for the French officers in the hope of winning their support, when suddenly the Beadle Avraham appeared on the scene and bribed the commander with two roast geese stuffed with gold coins. In any case, the competition between the two different groups was of no avail; the French destroyed a part of the town wall and its towers, burned all the public buildings and about 100 dwelling houses (May 1689), and 'Jews' Lane', with all its houses and buildings, was similarly put to the torch. Of the synagogue, there remained only the skeleton and the entrance hall to the Womens' gallery. The community leadership managed to transfer the Scroll and other religious articles to Metz. The residents fled to the surrounding villages while the affluent among them went as far afield as Frankfurt. Among the refugees were Rabbi Ya'ir Haim Bachrach and the city Rabbi, Wallestein. According to the account of the Rabbi, the Jews were forced to give assistance in the destruction of the wall, work which they performed with great trepidation since many of their homes abutted on to the wall.

The Rehabilitation of the City and the Jewish Quarter

In 1695, only about 1000 people were still dwelling in the destroyed city, and only in 1697, with the signing of the peace treaty, did the City Council return from its years of exile. The Imperial Court Agent, Shimshon Wertheimer, a son of Worms (1658-1724), financially supported his coreligionists for the duration of their exile and their return to the city.

For the city of Worms he obtained a moratorium on its taxes for a period of 10 years, and this was later extended for a few times; he defended them against unjust financial claims, made against them by lay rulers and assisted them in the financial management of their municipal affairs. In return, the city agreed to his request to release the Jews from the House Tax and to sell him a flour mill, which was once a sign of degredation for the Jews and considered a mark of their serfdom.

The priest, Zeidenbender, one of the City Fathers, insulted the Jews with serious accusations and in a detailed memorandum demanded that their return to the city be made conditional upon a long list of new and strict impositions, especially restricting the age at which they may marry (for women 18 and for men 20), hoping by these means to reduce the birthrate. In spite of the fact that most of his recommendations were rejected, this one returned in a document of 1746 - evidence of the spirit of the times in the city. In 1699 an agreement was signed between the city council and authorized representatives of the “Holy Community of Worms”, which included the annulment of mutual debts, a rescinding of the city of its ownership of the Jews (who since 1348 had been considered as property - Leibeigene) and their becoming second class citizens (Hintersassen), exemption from House Tax for a period of 10 years and a halving of their taxes for the following years, an equalizing of their taxes with the rest of the citizens during 10 years; and without infringing upon the rights of the Archbishop and the aristocratic family von Dalberg the Jews undertook to acknowledge their legal subjection to the city, to obey its instructions and to pay to the city a one-time levy of 1,200 Guilden and thereafter an annual tax of 60 Guilden. The council was precluded from publishing the terms of the new constitution and in the event of dispute (questions like accepting new Jews into the community, especially exemption from the Protection Fee, the quota of ritual slaughter allowable, etc.), relied upon the old constitution of 1641.

For more than 220 years, the Jews of Worms were unable to recover from the effects of the destruction and the heavy levies laid upon them because of the numerous wars, and their debts swelled continuously. At the beginning of the 18th Century, they were forced to mortgage to the city of Worms the various silver religious articles, and when that proved insufficient to cover the debts two of the community leaders were put under arrest. As a reprisal, the Archbishop of Mainz temporarily jailed two members of the Worms city council who came to Mainz. In 1722, the Emperor bowed to the pleas of the Pfalz Bishop and granted the Jews a slight relief in the burden of taxes.

The Community and the Jewish Quarter

In the 16th Century the Jews of Worms had in their service a cemetery with a purification room, a synagogue, a ritual bath, a hospital, dance hall, bakery, slaughter-house and 'cold bath-house'. At the head of the community stood the leading representative, the community council of 12 members (the same number as the Tribes of Israel), and a Rabbi.

In 1521 the Emperor named Shmuel of Worms as 'The Chief Rabbi of the Jews of the Holy Roman Empire'. His functions included the settling of internal arguments and economic matters connected with dealings with the Christian population and he was also authorized to impose bans of varying nature. In 1559, by request of the general community of German Jews, Rabbi Ya'acov Yehuda of Worms (d.1574), was nominated to the post, the third and last of the Chief Rabbis of Worms. The congress of Rabbis, which convened in 1603, in Frankfurt, decreed that Worms was one of the 5 Jewish Courts of Law in south and west Germany. Until the expulsion of 1615, Avraham Shmuel ben Yitzhak Bachrach (1575-1616), born in Moravia, the descendant of a noted Rabbinical family, himself noted as a scholar and astronomer, officiated as Chief Rabbi and President of the Beit-Din in Worms. As head of the Yeshiva of Worms and Cantor to the congregation was Eliahu ben Moshe Loans (1555-1636), accepted and known throughout Germany by his nickname of 'Eliahu the Renowned', who had officiated during his youth as Rabbi of Fulda, Hanau and Freiburg. His liturgical poems and many Cabbalistic writings came to light only after his death.

In 1650 Rabbi Moshe Shimshon Bachrach (1607-1670), the son of Rabbi Avraham Shmuel, was invited to officiate as Rabbi of Worms, as 'State Rabbi' and as President of the Beit-Din. After his death, his place was taken by Rabbi Aharon Taumim (1630-1689), who also came of a respected Rabbinical family in Prague, who, at the time of the destruction, fled the city (1689) and became a Rabbi in Krakow.

In 1699, with the rehabilitation of Worms and its community, Rabbi Ya'ir Haim Bachrach (1632-1702), was nominated as 'State Rabbi' and President of the Beit-Din of Worms. The author of Ya'ir's Farm, his noted treatise of Enquiries and Responsa was published the same year. Rabbi Ya'ir Haim, the grandson of Avraham Shmuel, the most famous of the family Rabbis, achieved fame both in Germany and abroad and was accepted as a specialist in Jewish and secular sciences.

After the return of the exiles to Worms (1616), David ben Yehoshua Yosef Oppenheim repaired the synagogue with his own money, erected the Womens' Gallery and adjoining the western wall The Rashi Chapel was raised, which functioned as a Yeshiva. The construction work was completed in 1624 as shown by a plaque set in the southern wall. Oppenheim also improved the wall of the cemetery and the Purification room.

Rabbi Yiftah Yosef Yashpha (1604-1678), Beadle and clerk of the community between the years 1623-1653, collected together the special mores of the Worms community in a manuscript discovered in 1899 in Amsterdam which is the most important source for research into the customs of Germany's Jews. Rabbi Yashpha also compiled the 'Book of Departed Souls' and 'A Book of Miraculous Events' , stories and fables on the sources of the community from it's beginnings, which went to 9 editions from 1698 to to 1788.

In Jews' Lane, where in 1500 the Jews were still living in uncrowded conditions, with agricultural plots between the houses, the increase in the Jewish population began to cause overcrowding, especially towards the beginning of the 17th Century. Every strip of available ground was exploited and existing structures had additions built on to them obstructing the sunlight. In the plagues which struck Worms from 1632 the residents of the quarter were also affected; in 1635 200 of them fell victim and in 1666 - 136. Nevertheless the high birth rate among the Jews reached the mortality rate.

With the destruction of the city in 1648, Jews' Lane was also emptied of its residents, but after about ten years (July 1699), the rebuilding and rehabilitation works of the Jewish quarter were completed, the synagogue rebuilt and prayer meetings reinstituted.

In 1722 the community numbered 120 families and in 1760 there were 99 houses in Jews' Lane whose addresses were identified in German nomenclature, a basis for the family names of the future. The Jews were already called by the family name (a habit which did not become usual in Hessen and other local areas until the beginning of the 19th Century).

The Jewish community of Worms was in close touch with that of Prague, and several Rabbis born in Worms officiated there, among them David ben Avraham Oppenheim (1664-1736), well-known for his extensive library.

After the death of Rabbi Ya'ir Haim Bachrach (1702) his place was filled by Naphtali Hirsch Spitz of Moravia (d.1712). His successor was the Rabbi Menachem Mendel Rotschild (d. 1732), erstwhile preacher in Prague, Rabbi of Bamberg and 'State Rabbi' of Hessen who had published many Talmudic and Cabbalistic essays. The Rabbi Moshe Barod, of Barod, Moravia, officiated in Worms as rabbi until his death (1742).

In the 'Dance-Salon' was the Klause - a private synagogue owned by the Sinsheimer family and there also several rabbis officiated, one after the other, among them David Shlomo Schiff and Hirsch Auerbuch, who died in 1778. In 1763 he was Chief Rabbi of the community and 'State Rabbi'. At the end of the 18th Century he was followed by Rabbi Samuel Loewy, a native of Pfersee (1751-1813), who was noted for his wide-ranging rabbinical and general knowledge, his extensive specialized knowledge of the French language and his gentle manners. In 1808 he moved to Mainz (see below).

A separate section was allotted in the cemetery at Am Judensand for the burial of the community's rabbis.

In 1726 a 'Selichot' prayer-book was published in Sulzbach according to the usages of the Worms community.

The office of Chief Community Leader (Judenbischof), which in the past had bestowed much prestige, and wide authority on its holder, lost much of its importance in the 18th Century. Although the Jews' Constitution required that he dwell in Worms, Shmuel Oppenheimer, the chief Imperial Court Agent during the 'Thirty-Years' War', lived most of the time in Vienna (and like him, also Aharon Levi Frenkel, the community leader in the years 1715-1742), and his son, Emmanuel Oppenheimer (1743-1753), who sought time after time to extend his stay outside Worms. Eventually they removed him from his post and appointed in his place Dr. David Canstatt, an eminent doctor, who found great difficulty in imposing his authority on the community council; the 5 years of his tenure (1754-1759), were notable for the increase of internal arguments, to the extent that on several occasions the municipal authorities were asked to intervene. In 1759 Michael Grensheim (1705-1792), son of a respected family and founder of the family leather business (see below), replaced him and like some of his predecessors had officiated as manager of the community's hospital. Grensheim officiated for 33 unbroken years as leader of the community and on his death the post remained vacant a further 5 years because of the wars taking place. In 1797 the last of the community leaders to be appointed under the authority of the Bishop was Hertz Ebbenheim.

Under French Rule, 1792-1813

Worms was conquered for the first time in 1792 and passed from hand to hand a number of times and only in October, 1797 did the French stabilize their rule along the left bank of the Rhine, granting to the Jews rights of citizenship. In 1792, Hertz Kaahn was elected to the new Municipal Council which the French had nominated and in August 1799 the first Jew to do so exercised his rights, registered with the municipal registrar, and two weeks later married a woman in a civil ceremony at the Town Hall. Following the signing of the peace agreement (1801), the French imposed, over the whole of the conquered area, their revolutionary consititution, and as a symbolic act tore down the iron gates of the Jewish quarter (in spite of the feelings of some of the residents). The French put an end to the existence of the community as a political entity ruled by an appointed committee and leader, and the Jews exploited the opportunity to seek a dispensation allowing them to organize as a religious community.

At 'The Great Sanhedrin', convened by Napoleon in Paris in 1807, a highly active part was taken by Rabbi Samuel Loewy of Worms, not least because of his fluent French, and in 1808 he was nominated Chief Rabbi of the 'Donnersburg' consistory, whose centre was in Mainz, and to where he removed his seat of office. His successor was Rabbi Yitzhak Adler (1810-1823).

The Grand Duchy of Hessen

Advancement and Reactionism

In 1816 Rhenish Hesse [Rheinhessen] was part of the Duchy of Hessen. The Jews remained subject to the 'Shameful Decree' of Napoleon from 1808, and the community of Worms stood in the vanguard of the struggle for its abrogation. In 1832, on their return from a local national celebration, the citizens of Worms rioted and there were anti-Jewish disturbances during which Jews were beaten up and their stores and stalls damaged. At the same time, there was a surprisingly high response in Worms, from Jews and non-Jews alike, to the campaign of 'The Society for the Improvement of the Status of the Children of Israel in the Grand Duchy of Hessen' (founded 1833). In 1835, the municipal authorities reacted to the demand to remove the 'Shameful Decree' with a critical attack on the community and its institutions, bringing the claim that the main obstacle to its repeal was the lack of (formal) education of the Jews, their traditional involvement in trade and commerce, and their 'Talmudic' Weltanschauung. Only in July 1847 was the 'Decree' finally rescinded, thanks to the intensive activities of the Landtag delegate Dr. Yosef Glaubrach. To his credit and to the credit of the stubborn fight put up by Worms community the removal of the 'Jews' Oath' at the same time.

As a reaction to the claim that the Jews were uneducated, the community leadership instituted obligatory education for its children between the ages of 6-14. In 1853, 72 Jewish children were studying in the Worms Municipal School, 46 of the community's children were studying in the city Gymnasium and 70 girls were studying in the Girls' Secondary School, the founder of which was the wife of the preacher, Adler. In 1857 26.1% of the student population in the Worms Secondary School were Jewish children, while the Jewish population of Worms was only about 7% of the whole. The 1848 revolution brought a turning point in the status of the Jews of the city, as it did in their political activity. Many of the community members joined the Republican faction, although they were still some who were active in the conservative camp. Among the active Republicans was to be found the Jewish Mayor, Ferdinand Auerstatt (see below). In 1873 a Jew, Captain Yosef Grensheim (1852-1912), was chosen to head the Union of Discharged Soldiers of Hessen, and in 1894 received a medal from the hands of the Grand Duke.

At the same time, the level of academics within the Jewish community rose, in the free professions and commerce, and the number of active people in general public life and politics also increased (especially in the liberal parties). An exceptional achievment was the election, in 1849, of Ferdinand Auerschtatt (1808-1888), - an affluent, widely educated merchant, son of an old, respected, Jewish Worms family, as the Mayor of Worms. The vigorous Auerschtatt introduced other Jews into the circle of active public service in Worms; thus, for example 13 Jews were included in the list of jurymen in Worms, of whom 5 bore the name Auerschtatt - a fact which earned an ironic comment in the local Wormser Zeitung.

Following a legal claim laid against him and two of his colleagues in 1850 (in which he was subsequently vindicated), Auerschtatt resigned his position in 1852, and in 1858 moved to Mannheim. Most of the remaining branches of the family later emigrated to the United States.

Dr. Avraham Adler, son of the community Rabbi and expositor (see later), and one of the active workers in the Republican camp, was editor of the Wormser Zeitung in the spring 1848 and for a time edited his own paper.

Oskar Canstatt was Chief-Editor of the Wormser Zeitung from 1885-1895.

At the time that Auerschtatt was Mayor (1852), another Jew was active as a City Councillor and two Jews were senior Government clerks - and one of them a collector for the Municipal Treasury; in the years 1865-1901, 7 members of the community were elected to the Town Council, until 1917 - an additional 3 and after 1918 a further two; the merchant and member of the community committee Ya'acov Fulda Jr. (in the years 1856-1868), the industrialist Marcus Eddinger (see below), Ludwig Melaas (1862-1865, owner of a leather factory), the industrialist Ludwig Schlösser (1874-1881), the merchants Max Michaels (1874-1896), Albert Goldschmidt (1894-1901), Dietrich Lohenstein (1887-1908), Ludwig Josef Pfungast (1899-1901, see below), Sigmund Meier Jr. (1902-1916), Heinrich Hüttenbach (1911-1917), the flour-mill owner Otto Baruch of the German Peoples' Party (1911) and the merchant Max Guttmann of the German Democratic Party (1919-1922 and 1926-1930). Heinrich Hüttenbach together with the 'Commercial Adviser' and arbitrator Otto Baruch also officiated as Presidents of the Worms Chamber of Commerce. From 1865-1878 Marcus Eddinger was a member of the Landtag of Hessen. Apart from his public functions, he was also a member of the community's committee and one of the founders of the Jewish hospital and other welfare institutions, the well-being of the labourer and educational foundations. Some of his offspring also attained positions of influence. Ludwig Schlösser was elected to the Kreistag in 1891 whose members all belonged to a small group paying the highest rate of taxes. The jurist, Dr. Heinrich Hugo Fulda (1860-1943, Auschwitz) was the Social-Democrat delegate to the Landtag and in 1920-1921 the Interior Minister of Hessen; the economist Dr. Paul Hertz (1888-1961), from 1920 was Reichstag the delegate for the Social-Democrats and Budgetary officer for the Party; after the Second World War he was returned from the United States and became Senator for economic matters in Berlin; Hugo Sintzheimer (1875-1945), Professor of Labour Legislation at the University of Frankfurt, was a member of the National Assembly in Weimar for the Social-Democrats in 1919-1920.

Quite a number of Jewish lawyers and doctors belonged to the Intelligentsia of Worms, but it appears that the number of Jewish academics who left Worms was greater than the number who remained. Among the first worthy of mention must be Friedrich Grensheim (1839-1916), composer, violinist and conductor (son of the medical doctor Avraham Grensheim and Josephine Kaulla), who was elected to the Senate of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin in 1897 and in 1901 was Director of the Academy of Composers; the composer and violinist Josef Abenheim (1804-1891), nephew of the community Elder Hertz Abenheim (above), was director of a musical institute in Stuttgart; the sculptor Alfred Huettenbach (1897-1960), won international recognition for his work which was exhibited in the Hague Museum; Arnold Kaahn (1858-1927), Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Strasbourg and the discoverer of antifibrin; the neurologist Dr. Ludwig Eddinger (1855-1918), son of Marcus Eddinger (see above), appointed associate Professor at Frankfurt University; and Ludwig Josef Pfungast (1842-1905, the son of Community Leader Yitzhak Pfungast 1801- 1872), who was the proprietor of the liberal Wormser Volkszeitung.

From the beginning of the 19th Century, Jews joined general associations of society, culture and sport, although many exclusive ones remained closed to them. The Association of Music and Voice accepted a number of Jews by virtue of their talents, among them Friedrich Grensheim and after him the composer Rudi Stefan (1887-1915); 16 of a total of 117 members of the Municipal choir were Jews, among them the community's Cantor, Leopold Agulnik.

Economics and Employment

During the third decade of the 19th Century, most of Worms' Jews were still struggling for existence and were bowed beneath the weight of old debts from the past - the residue of the heavy, enforced levies of the wars, the payment of which required heavy loans at usurious interest rates. Eventually, a rescheduling of the payments was arranged with the debtors; to finance them, the Jews were obliged to purchase bonds at 5% interest. Jewish charities placed their reserves at the service of the community at especially low rates. In 1856 the community had succeeded in discharging all its outstanding debts.

At the same time a conspicuous turning point was marked in the financial position, as it was also in the social status of the city's Jews.

In a reasonably short time their importance as a part of the established classes increased out of proportion to their numbers in the population, and the process of leaving the Jewish quarter, which began in the 20's, gradually intensified. In 1880 a third of the houses in the quarter were already under the ownership of non-Jews, and other houses, while remaining the property of their original Jewish owners, were rented to Christians.

Many members of the community exchanged their stalls and tiny shops for large stores. Apart from businesses in insurance and shipping agencies, which many of them treated as a second trade, nearly all the trade in fruit and other agricultural produce was in their hands, as was also the textile and weaving trade; a notable number of them were also to be found engaged in the wine trade, brokers or middle-men (part-time), leather merchants and manufacturers, manufacturers and traders in clothing, haberdashery and household goods. Their shops were found in the shopping centres of Worms. Julius Mannheimer was the proprietor of a large and prosperous printing-house. In 1854 two Jewish traders from Worms, in the leather trade, Melas and Grensheim, received awards at an industrial exhibition in Munich and also exhibited in Paris. At about this time, Julius Pfungast founded his Nexus Union factory; in 1918 a Trust for the benefit of the community was founded in the name of his son, Dr. Artur Pfungast. The industrialists Ludwig Schlösser and Bondheim were the proprietors of large leather enterprises. There were two banks in the town under the proprietorship of the Loewy and Guggenheim families. Karl Guggenheim's bank (founded in 1835 by Daniel Guggenheim) still existed in the 20th Century. For several generations the family played many roles in the public life of the community and its various institutions.

Among the family of Loeb, of whom quite a few were active in the community of Worms and the Jewish life of Germany in general, it is worth mentioning Solomon Loeb, founder of a bank in New York (1864), and a noted philanthropist.

With the establishment of the Society of Antiquities (1879), to which most of the influential people of Worms belonged, numbered among its 617 members 79 Jews - 9 industrialists, a banker, 3 flour-mill owners, 53 large merchants (among them 5 wine-merchants and a book-shop owner), 3 factory owners, 4 men of independent means, a printing-house proprietor, a doctor, 2 elementary school teachers, a secondary school teacher and a Rabbi. Among the large commercial houses of Worms at the end of the 19th Century, must be counted the department stores of Landauer, Goldschmidt, Isay, Tietz, Knopf and Kaufhof, the music- and book-shop of Julius Stern, the large clothing- and textile-stores of Heinrich Huettenbach (founded 1810), and Triebus, a few shops selling lighting accessories, porcelain, furniture, carpets and curtains.

In the 20th Century, there were in Worms 8 doctors (30% of the total number of doctors in the city), 6 Jewish lawyers, 3 department store owners, 5 metal manufacturers, 5 business establishments dealing in leather-goods, 8 haberdasheries and fancy-goods shops, 15 textile and general shops, 5 millinery and fashion accessory shops, a shoe-shop, a wine-store and bank (see above). From 1907 - 1933, Ludwig Lohenstein, the industrialist, was vice-chairman of the Worms Chamber of Commerce, (the family's leather factory business was founded in 1832). Numbered among the well-known doctors of Worms was Dr. Alfred Levine (b. 1891), surgeon and owner of a private hospital in Worms (30 beds; after his emigration to Palestine became head doctor at the Danciger hospital in Tel-Aviv); and Dr. Ernst Triefuss, head of the local Zionist branch and office of the Bnei-Brit in Worms.

Anti-semitism at the End of the 19th Century

In 1885, 17 gravestones were uprooted and shattered in the Jewish cemetery. The community committee offered a reward for information leading to the perpetrators, but to no avail. In 1890 the anti-Semitic leader, Theodor Fritsch, distributed a signed pamphlet calling for the banishment of Jews from the land. In 1892 the Worms Chamber of Commerce published a condemnation of the attempts of the German-National Association of Shop Assistants (Anti-semitic), to appeal against the good relationship which existed between Jews and non-Jews in the city.

The Community and Its Institutions

The main Synagogue in 'Jews' Lane', was first built in 1034, destroyed many times throughout the centuries, but rebuilt, and its site preserved. 'Rashi's Chapel' which was founded and financed in 1624 by David ben Yehoshua Yosef Oppenheim, as a Study-House (the continuation of the Yeshiva from early times which had been razed in 1615), and abandoned in 1760, but rebuilt as a historical site in the middle 19th Century. 'The Dance-Salon' which was now used as a hospital and old-peoples' home, contained also the Klause, in which prayer meetings were held during week-days. In 1842 the synagogue was renovated and the divider between the synagogue proper and the Women's section, removed. In 1875 a second synagogue was erected (see below). In 1876 the community acquired a large house, renovated and extended it and fitted it out as a community centre; the rich and extensive community archives were also removed to there. In 1877 the old Mehlstube building, which had been adjacent to the synagogue and which, apart from its use for Passover flour had also been the old home for the archives, was demolished.

After the death of Rabbi Yitzhak Adler (1823) his place was filled by Rabbi Ya'acov (Koppel) Bamberger (1824-1864), who was particularly known for his wide Talmudic learning. It was due to his influence that the community continued to use the old cemetery, which contained also a new section with graves from the 18-20th Centuries. The Rabbi also succeeded in uniting the two Burial Societies, which had, in the past, been at loggerheads, and the Womens' Society and the 'Torah-Study' society (1849). To them, as the century progressed, were added several other aid and social welfare societies, among them the Assistance Association (Unterstuetzungsverein, 1861), at whose head was the doctor, Professor Ludwig Eddinger, which continued to exist into the 20th Century, the Womens' Society (no later than 1866) and an association for funding the education of young people who had no means (1870).

The orthodox Rabbi Bamberger tried to stop the tendencies to reformism which became marked among the Jews of Worms; nevertheless, commencing 1839, the community began appointing academic religious teachers, in addition to the Rabbi, who also acted as preachers in German and conducted confirmation ceremonies for boys. The first, Dr. Samuel Adler, (1809 -1891), the son of the Rabbi Yitzhak Adler, transferred to Alzey, where he officiated as Rabbi; His replacement was his brother Dr. Avraham Adl- er (see above), who founded the Secondary School for Jewish Girls (his wife was later Headmistress there). In spite of the unequivocal support which he gave to the extreme reformist ideas, which also found expression in the Rabbinical Congresses of 1845/6, tension was nevertheless generated within the community. Even though the community council supported him, the government rejected him as a preacher (1850), because of his vigorous activities on behalf of the Republican camp in 1848, and after a few years he died, broken in spirit (1856). During his active years the Verein der Reformfreunde, was formed in Worms, whose aim was to guide religious life through radical reform (1848).

In 1851, he was replaced by Dr. Ludwig Loewisohn (1819-1901), who succeeded in creating an excellent working relationship with Rabbi Bamberger, more than once at the cost of surrendering innovations. At the same time, confirmation ceremonies of boys and girls became the norm.

Apart from his normal work, he occupied himself deciphering the ancient gravestones in the cemetery and published his findings in 'Souls of the Righteous' (1855). In 1859 he moved to Stockholm. From 1860-1864, his place was filled by Dr. Y. Rosenfeld, who assisted Rabbi Bamberger in his latter days; with his death, the post of preacher was abolished. The new Rabbi, Dr. Marcus Yastrub (1829-1903), one of the heroes of the Polish uprising in 1863, was considered a most brilliant speaker. In the new synagogue constitution which he composed in 1865, in cooperation with the community council, several changes were instituted in the form of prayers notably that of delivering the sermon in German and the introduction of a prayer for the well-being of the Archduke. The Psalm 'Come, let us exalt before the Lord' and the hymn 'Let us welcome the bride Sabbath', were excluded from the Friday evening service and the standards of dress and behaviour in the synagogue were updated. However, within only two years, Dr. Yastrub moved to Philadelphia where he officiated as Rabbi.

His successor, Dr. Alexander Stein (1843-1914), remained in office for 43 years (1867-1910). He was a graduate of the Breslau Rabbinical Seminary, young and energetic, who achieved renown equally in his studies and knowledge of both the Jewish and Christian faiths. Through his influence Jewish religious teachers were invited to participate in all professional congresses, religious instruction for all denominations was introduced equally, and the salary of the Rabbi brought into line with that of the Priests. He also founded the Unterstuetzungsverein (see above).

In 1868 a harmonium was introduced into the synagogue causing the orthodox section of the congregation to form a separate prayer-quorum at whose head was the Cantor, Moses Mannheimer (1810-1892) and Daniel Guggenheim, who instituted public prayers in their own prayer hall. In 1877, when the harmonium was exchanged for an organ, which was played by a non-Jewish organ-player (especially employed for performing duties normally prohibited Jews on Sabbaths and festivals), the internal opposition in the community intensified and the services took place without an organ by his specific demand. Nevertheless Rabbi Stein managed to arbitrate between the opponents and prevent an open breach. In 1875 a second synagogue was erected alongside the main one, the donation of the produce merchant Leopold Levy, - without organ, by his specific demand - and this replaced the original which could no longer contain the large number of worshippers. The new synagogue (named after Levy), did not supplant the prayer hall of the orthodox group, which continued to function and exist until the death of Daniel Guggenheim at the end of the 19th Century. In addition, a second orthodox group formed of immigrants from Poland, formed a prayer quorum, and in time prayer meetings began to take place in the Old Peoples Home as well (until the rise of the Nazis to power).

In addition to the mixed choir of the synagogue, which had been founded in 1864, by the community leader Grensheim, a Jewish choir under the conductorship of Cantor Green, was founded in 1897, giving concerts to a wide audience.

In 1910, on his retirement, Rabbi Stein was presented with an Award of Excellence, by the Duke of Hessen, and the community council elected him Honorary Rabbi. During the years 1910-1935, the Rabbi of Worms was Dr. Yitzhak Holzer (1873-1951), a native of Krakow. Rabbi Holzer investigated the history of the community, and in celebration of the 900th anniversary of the founding of the synagogue in Worms, (1934), published part of the 'Book of the Leaders' by the Beadle Yospha, which was donated in 1910 to the community library by Jews from Vienna. Dr. Holzer gave courses in Hebrew and lectures in Judaical subjects. During his tenure a new cemetery was opened, close to the municipal one; the lion's share of the financing being borne by the municipal budget.

The Development of the History and Archaeological Remains of the Worms Community

Towards the middle of the 19th Century, both Jews and non-Jews alike began to develop a lively interest in the rich archives of the congregation and community as they did also in its buildings and other ancient sites. In 1842 Moses Mannheimer - congregation cantor and sometime community leader - published an essay on the history of the Jews of Worms, the customs and regulations pertaining to the prayers, synagogue and cemetery, and in 1854 a collection was organized throughout the Jewish communities of Germany to finance the rehabilitation and reconstruction of materia antiquaria and Judaica in Worms.

The 'Rashi Chapel' which, since 1760 had not been in use, was refurbished in the middle of the 19th Century as an historic site, and in 1895 the Purification Miqvah (Ritual Bathhouse, 1185), in the court-yard of the synagogue was refurbished, with the help of the General Association of History and Antiquaria and the Municipal Archivist, and the old cemetery declared an 'Historic Monument' after its closure (in 1911).

The work of deciphering the gravestones in the old cemetery, and their refurbishment, was begun by the preacher Loewisohn and was continued by the congregation's cantor (from 1889-1928) Julius Rosenthal and the teacher Shimshon Rotschild (1848-1939), who, from 1874, also functioned as a teacher in the municipal general elementary school - a remarkable achievement for a Jewish teacher in Hessen. The teacher Rotschild, who also acted as treasurer and archivist for the community, frequently published articles on the history of the community, and the cemetery in the periodicals of the antiquarian society Vom Rhein and Heimat am Rhein, and laid the foundation for research into the history and antiquities of the Worms Community. In 1912 the banker and 'court adviser' Max Moses Levy (1858-1936, the grandson of Leopold Levy, see above), launched the creation of a Jewish historical museum. Apart from his activities in the public and artistic life of the city, the community and general Jewish societies like the 'Aid' society and 'The Central Association', M.M. Levy also acted as a member of the board of the General Association for History and Antiquities in Worms (until 1933) and published his historical articles in its journals. He also donated large sums of money to the arts and sciences. He owned a large, valuable collection of artistic works including, among others, works of Van Dyke. The historical museum was created in 1924 by the industrialist Isidore Kiefer (1871-1961), president of the Worms branch of the Bnei-Brith, who became famous for his organization of carnivals and other popular public festivals. Kiefer published a whole string of articles on the history of the burial society, the old synagogue, the Rashi Chapel, and more. In the museum, which was situated on the first floor of the adjoining building to the synagogue, a rich, varied collection of historical documents from the early days of the community was displayed, together with religious artifacts, prayer-books, manuals of customs and usage, and pictures.

In the First World War 19 of Worms' Jews fell. One of the fallen, Paul Gussdorf jr. who endangered himself by infiltrating Germany in order to volunteer for active combat at the front, won praise and recognition in the press.

In 1916 the community leader and businessman, Sigmund Meyer jr., died and Max Levy was elected in his place. In 1917 an independant branch of the Zionist Youth movement, 'Blue and White' was founded in Worms, led by Shragai Agolnick, the son of the Cantor. In February 1918, still before the end of the war, a conselling office for Jewish professionals living in and around Worms was founded.

In a prisoner-of-war camp situated close to Worms between 1914-1918 Russian captives were held and among them several Jews, some of whom settled in Worms after the war and added to the population of 'Eastern Jews' in the city.

The Weimar Republic

Community Organization

In 1920, the community erected a monument to the Jewish fallen of the Great War, in the new cemetery. 11 communities belonged to the area Rabbinate of Worms, under the leadership of Rabbi Holzer. After the war, a branch of the 'Covenant of Jewish Front- Line Soldiers' was formed, led by the officer Moritz Meier, a winemerchant by trade. At the head of the 'Central Association' branch stood the banker Karl Guggenheim, and the head of the branch of the Zionist Federation and the office of Bnei-Brit (named after Dalberg) - Dr. Ernst Triefuss. The Bnei-Brit accepted only the wealthy and important, while the others had to content themselves with being members of 'Old Fellows' alongside the Christians. Apart from these organizations, others which were brought into being in Worms, were branches of the 'Hilfsverein', under the leadership of Ernst Mey, the youth movements 'Blue and White' and the 'Jewish Boy Scouts', which was allied to Zionism, and the 'Society for the History and Literature of Israel' (from the end of the 19th Century). Among the local charity organizations were to be found the Burial Society, The Mens' Benevolent Society (apparently founded in the middle-ages); The Society of Jewish Women; The Womens' Society for Charity (The Womens' Fund); The Welfare Society (founded 1860); The Widows' and Orphans' Support Society (founded 1875); The Sick Visit Society; The Society for Supplying Fuel to the Needy; The Synagogue Society; The Synagogue Choir (founded 1864). A number of different funds stood at the service of the community, among them the Rozin and Leopold Loeb Fund. Apart from the Central synagogue and the Rashi Chapel there were also in Worms the Levy Synagogue, the community centre in which was situated the museum, a historical cemetery and a new one, A ritual purification bath - both historical and new a Jewish hospital and old peoples' home and 'The Hostel for Jewish Sisters' (a private clinic).

Activity within the Jewish organizations - Zionist and others - in Worms was vibrant and encompassed other communities. The Zionist Club was used as a social centre for many members of the community. In 1923, 23 Shekels were sold for the Zionist Congress and in January 1925 the 'All-National' congress of the 'Blue and White' movement was convened in Worms. On the other hand the passiveness towards religion grew; in 1922 the congregation was forced to pay a few community members in order to coerce them into attending prayers in the main synagogue (liberal), so providing the minimum number for a prayer quorum on Saturdays. Most of the Jews of Worms were non-observant and their shops remained open on Saturdays.

In 1932 the head of the community was the lawyer Dr. Klemens Goldschmidt, his deputy was Dr. Leopold Nikelsberg and the Beadle and Cantor was Jakob Hohenemser. 159 children attended religious classes. The annual budget (for 1932) was 50000 Marks.

A few Jews, residents of neighbouring Hornsheim, were also members of the community. In the past there had been an independent community there with its own burial ground.

The Rise of Nazism and the Intensification of Anti-semitism

At the end of 1922, an active Nazi cell was formed in Worms whose members engaged in vigorous anti-Semitic incitement. In November 1926 the Völkischer Kurier accused a Jew named Fürchheimer of inciting communists among the residents of Worms to attack Nazis in the streets. A charge of libel was pressed against those responsible for the publication who were fined. In 1927 the anti-Semitic Nazi weekly - Die Faust, was founded in Worms.

Its editor Klaus Zeltzner had been convicted many times for libel, virtually all instances of which he was unable to prove or offer any evidence for his defamatory statements. He and two more of his Nazi colleagues were elected to the City Council in November 1929 (out of a total of 42 Councillors).

In 1930, following the return to France of the conquering forces, the aggressiveness of the Nazis increased. In March 1931 gravestones in the Jewish cemetery in Hornsheim were uprooted and defaced. On Christmas Eve 1932, men of the SA perpetrated a number of violent acts against commercial establishments and shops whose owners were Jewish.

Against them the Left and Liberal Parties increased their struggle.

At a meeting of the 'Central Association' in Worms on 13th. March 1930, a large audience of Jews and non-Jews alike took part.

At the elections for the Reichstag on the 14th. September 1930, the Nazis won 18.8% of the votes (in the whole of Hessen - 18.5%) - and in second place after the Social Democrats (19.6%); the Communists and 'The German Peoples' Party' received 18.0% each and the 'Central' Catholic - 10.4%. In the Landtag elections on 19th. June 1932 the Nazis got 43.2% of the votes in Worms (in the whole of Hessen - 44%), and in other following elections their gains in Worms were similar to those in the whole of Hessen.

Under Nazi Domination

Repression and Acts of Violence

Immediately after the March elections to the Reichstag, left wing activists and supporters were mobilized among them respected members of the city and its community, for the task of cleaning the streets of Worms of all the political slogans of the parties. On the night of the 7th March, Julius Franck, who in the past had been head of the socialist defence movement 'Reichsbanner' in Dolgsheim was abducted from his apartment in Worms and hanged in a barn by members of the SA from that village. On the 9th March 1933, local Nazis caught three Jews, dragged them to a pub used as a meeting place by the SA, beat them up mercilessly and forced them to whip one another, while their companions looked on with evident pleasure. Hugo Mann was cruelly beaten up in the street, while his brother, Alfred, died in the summer following a similar 'treatment'. Incidents such as these found no response in the German press.

On 19th March 1933 Sigmund Resch, a man of Polish extraction, was arrested and three days later his blood-stained clothing was returned to his father. In reply to the Polish Embassy's enquiry the authorities replied that the young man had been imprisoned because of his past activities as a communist, and that his injuries probably arose out of his resistance to being arrested. In May, Resch was transferred to a new concentration-camp at Osthofen. Apart from him many Jews, accused of various crimes like forbidden political activity, 'odious propaganda' abroad and relationships with German women, and so on, were also transferred there.

In August 1933, a large group of Jews from Worms was sent to Osthofen.

In the summer of 1935 a local edition of 'Stürmer' the 'Wormser Mit-Stürmer' as published. In April 1938, two Jews still dared to remove copies of the 'Stürmer' from various notice-boards in the city streets; a German who witnessed them informed the newspaper of their names but it is not known what happened to them as a result.

The Removal of the Jews From Economic and Social Life

On the night of the 21st March the shop windows of 4 Jewish-owned department stores were shattered by shots and in reaction to that the police closed all Jewish commercial enterprises in the city for 24 hours. On 'General Boycott Day (1st April 1933), SA guards were posted in front of all Jewish business premises and prevented the public from entering. From that day onwards, the Boycott propaganda steadily increased. Aryan shops displayed posters stating that 'This is a Christian shop' which was later changed to 'German shop'. In January 1934, the employees of the Goldschmidt commercial undertaking prevented the owner from making a speech to them and flooded his premises with anti-Semitic proclamations.

In 1933 several commercial undertakings had either been closed or 'transferred to Aryan ownership' their owners emigrating, a tendency which became more pronounced in the following years. In September 1935 the butcher, David Kapp committed suicide. The Goldschmidt clothing business was transferred to 'Aryans' in the spring of 1936 and in the summer of the same year a similar fate fell upon the leather business of Klapholz.

Parallel to all these events, Jewish doctors, lawyers, teachers and civil servants were removed from their places of work and heavy pressure applied on their private 'Aryan' clients. In 1933 there were 16 Jewish doctors in Worms, two Jewish dentists and 8 Jewish lawyers (30% of all the lawyers in the city); at the end of 1934, there were only two Jewish lawyers left in Worms. On the 29th July 1938, Dr. Fritz Grensheim, a well-known pædiatrician, and his wife committed suicide. The Gestapo instituted a search of the premises and began an investigation of a German family whose son's name was found in the filing-cabinet among the list of the doctor's patients. The last doctor, Dr. Elizabeth Spiess, attempted suicide together with her mother in October 1940 but was saved by a non-Jewish doctor, Dr.Julius Hochsand, who failed, however, to save the mother. She later died in Auschwitz.

Either of their own volition, or under pressure, all the various societies began removing Jews from their ranks in 1933, and social relationships between Jews and Germans broken off. Jews were no longer invited to participate in Heroes' Day ceremonies (in 1932 the Rabbi was invited to speak at a ceremony dedicating a monument to the City's fallen). A short while before its dissolution, in February 1937, the 'Covenant of Jewish Soldiers' invited its members from the Hessen communities to a Jewish 'Heroes' Day' which took place in the “oldest synagogue in Germany”.

Within the framework of the growing Boycott, streets, named after Jews had their names altered. The suggested change, in 1933, of 'Rashi's Gate' in Worms, to 'Klaus Zeltzner Gate' (in honour of the Nazi activist above), was, for some reason, not acted upon.

Jewish Life

During the first years of Nazi rule, Jewish communal life continued to function, to the extent that new bodies and organizations were still being founded to assist its members in distress. The Zionist branch instituted the creation of cultural and social activities, lectures and films on Palestine, parties for the community and assistance for those wishing to emigrate to Palestine. In the autumn of 1933 a Worms branch of 'The Pioneer' was founded by the Jewish Scout Movement. The teacher, Weiner, founded a branch of the 'Alliance of German Jewish Youth'. At the same time a branch of the sports society 'Maccabi' was also formed. In December 1933 the deputy community leader Dr. Leopold Nickelsburg established an educational and cultural enterprise Bildungswerk, which put on artistic programmes - especially musical and theatrical. At the same time, courses in Hebrew were being instituted. That same month the 'Central Association' convened its congress in Worms and the first concert took place in the old synagogue.

The 'Central Association' still maintained its operation at the end of 1936; in December of that year it held an additional area congress in Worms.

In January 1934 a central bureau for welfare and assistance was opened under the management of Gretel Meyer. In the winter of 1935/36, the Jewish 'Winter Help' organization instituted a collection in Worms distributing clothing to the needy. In March 1937 the 'Young Maccabee' held an educational seminar for the area, while in spring 1938 the area Womens' Societies convened in Worms and held a collection for the benefit of the 'Winter Help' organization. The local Women's Society prepared hot meals for the needy.

An event which, at other times would have undoubtedly reverberated inside and outside Germany, was the celebration of the 900th anniversary of the founding of the synagogue in Worms. However, after taking counsel with Jewish leaders throughout Germany, the community leaders decided to make a more modest event, with the participation of Jews alone. The responsibility for the preparations was placed upon a special committee created for the occasion, at whose head was Dr. Nickelsburg, and among the guests of honour was the Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck. The event was not mentioned in the non-Jewish press at all, including the local press, and the one non-Jew invited, the community historical investigator, politely declined the invitation.

In 1933, the veteran Cantor, Leopold Agolnick died and his place was taken by Jakob Hohenemser - until 1936. In the summer of 1935, the Rabbi Holtzer resigned and emigrated after 25 years' service and his place was taken by Rabbi Manfred (Meyer) Rosenberg. In 1937 he left and his place was filled by Dr. Helmut Franck of Wiesbaden. The head of the community, Dr. Ernst Triefuss emigrated to Palestine, and was replaced by Bernhard Spiess. His wife, Elsa Spiess, replaced Dr. Triefuss as head of the Zionist branch in Worms. In December 1936 Max Levy (b. 1848), the 'adviser on business matters' and son of the builder of the synagogue named after him, and community leader for many years, died.

During this period, public prayer meetings were still being held as normal, but following the departure of the last Cantor, Kurt Wimpfheimer in the spring of 1938, a cantor from outside Worms was invited, but only for the High Holyday Services. In September 1938, the last Jewish marriage ceremony was held in the synagogue. In November there were still 17 aged Jews living in the community's old people's home.

The Jewish School

On the 2nd May 1935, an elementary school for the Worms community's children and the surrounding area, was opened in the Community House. Displaced teachers found work there but a young baker was also accepted as a physical training teacher and a furniture manufacturer as a teacher of handicrafts. In its first year, the school numbered 120 children in 4 classes but as time passed the numbers dwindled following the increase in emigration and other departures, among the young especially. The first Principal, Dr. Rosenbusch, whose political views were not in tune with the Zionist outlook and stand of Rabbi Rosenberg, moved to Wiesbaden in 1936 and in the middle of the school year 1936/37, Dr. Strauss came in as his replacement. As a temporary replacement, Herta Mansbacher (1885-1942) - a qualified teacher, who had been removed from her job in 1934 and was a staff member of the Jewish School from its beginning until its closure in 1941 - acted as principal. Mrs. Mansbacher, who in the past had been noted for her position on the Jews remaining in Germany and the keeping of German culture and traditions, now put the emphasis on the preparation of her students for exile, and her educational programme was formed with that end in view. In 1934, she commenced registering the names of all the Jews who emigrated from Worms and her lists are today used as a basis for investigations into the fate of the Worms Jews of that era.

The Deportation to Zbaszyn (Poland)

At the end of October 1938, at least 37 Jews of Polish nationality were deported to Poland at the crossing point of Zbaszyn.

The Kristallnacht Riots

Towards morning on the 10th November 1938, the synagogue went up in flames. The community leader Spiess, alerted Rabbi Franck who arrived at 6 o'clock and from the apartment of the community's sexton Weiss, telephoned to the fire-brigade but was told that they “...were too busy to come”. To his question - “Can we put the fire out ourselves?” the rabbi did not receive a clear answer so he organized some of the pupils from the local school and a few young Jews, who quickly extinguished the flames with buckets of water carried from the sexton's house. The damage was light. At 8 o'clock in the morning the Rabbi and 4 other Jews, found in the vicinity of the synagogue, were arrested and after a few hours the synagogue was again set on fire.

Herta Mansbacher tried to block the path of the arsonists but was rudely pushed aside. The synagogue and the Rashi chapel were engulfed by the flames. The Levy synagogue was destroyed together with all its internal fittings and religious articles; the community building was also badly damaged. The rioters were kept from damaging the archives of the community after receiving a clear instruction from the local authorities not to destroy archive material but to transfer it to the S.D. In the Jewish museum, housed in a building next to the synagogue, most of the exhibits were destroyed. The city archivist, Dr. Elrath, saved some of the religious articles, exhibits and partially burned Torah scrolls from the old synagogue, from the piles of rubbish and hid them in the cellar of the City Hall, where they remained until the end of the war. Elrath also managed to obtain from the Gestapo in Darmstadt, manuscripts, community archive documents and old prayer books and to return them to Worms, after he promised to translate them. Among the prayer books rescued was the celebrated Worms Machsor.

At the same time gangs of rioters were spreading through the town attacking Jewish business establishments and dwelling places. In all the business establishments the windows were shattered, the fittings and the merchandise destroyed and thrown into the street. There is information on 11 shops, but the number was probably greater (in April there were still 51 businesses in the hands of Jews, of which 20 were shops). In about 130 apartments the windows were smashed and the contents destroyed - furniture, porcelain, pictures, valuables and even the feather-beds cut with knives and the feathers strewn in the streets. The art collection left by the previous community leader, Max Levy (see above), was destroyed during the day. On one of the windows a mattress was hung and feathers flew from the other windows like snow-flakes. In the centre of the road furniture and other household articles were piled up, while most of the apartments became emptied of all their contents. Towards noon the Rabbi and a few other arrested Jews were forced to clean the streets of the rubbish. In one of the houses the rioters tried to throw a four-month old baby from the window but the mother managed to snatch him from their hands and escape to the hospital where her husband was lying sick. The doctor, Dr. Danschlag, courageously protected her and her baby and prevented the rioters from entering the hospital and the baby remained in the hospital under the care of the nuns. In another apartment, a man was thrown from the window in a cupboard in which he had been hiding and although injured was sent to Buchenwald; after his release in December 1938 he died. Apart from him, The furniture manufacturer, Herman Gussdorf, who had suffered with asthma since serving at the front, also died in Buchenwald, and two other Jews died after their release in January and February 1939. In all, 46 Jewish men from Worms were sent to Buchenwald, including the Rabbi, and a man from Hornsheim; 40 Jews from the surrounding communities were also sent to Buchenwald via Worms, and 46 people (32 men, 10 women and 4 children), were held for a period, under arrest, in the police cells in Worms. An elderly couple committed suicide on 8th December 1938 as a result of their Kristallnacht experience. A number of Jewish residents of Worms were tortured and beaten up on the same day and required hospitalization as a result. Apparently they received all necessary treatment with no reservations.

Apart from the local SA men and members of the drivers' organization, SA men from out of town also took part in the riots. A local priest who dared to reprimand the rioters for their actions was severely beaten.

Early Deportations to Concentration-Camps

Apart from those arrested on Kristallnacht, other Jews were also incarcerated in Buchenwald and other concentration camps. Friedrich Klein of Worms had been in Buchenwald before Kristallnacht, had been released for a while in the winter of 1938/9 but returned there and died in the camp in April 1942. In spring 1940 Leo Lang from Worms was imprisoned in Buchenwald and died in November 1942 in Ravensbrueck. His father was also incarcerated in Buchenwald before the end of the war. Marcus Schauder was sent to Buchenwald at the end of 1939 and died there in March 1942, as did Jakob Zacharias, who died there in February 1940. In Dachau Peter Spaatz died (December 1940) and the matzot manufacturer Moritz Guttmann (June 1942).

Julius August David died in May 1939 in Sachsenhausen camp; Leopold Kaufmann, married to a German woman, died in Sachsenhausen in February 1940. Augusta Luduchovski-Lang died in April 1942 in Ravensbrück; her Aryan husband was not deported but two of her children died in the camps.

After Kristallnacht, Herta Mansbacher devoted all her energies to rehabilitating the partially destroyed community house, in order to recommence there a teaching schedule. In December 1938, 22 pupils were studying there. Public prayer meetings were also renewed, in the Levy Synagogue. In 1941 the school was finally closed and put an end to the community life of the Jews of Worms. That same year the archivist, Dr. Elrath, succeeded in frustrating the attempts of the city to destroy the Jewish cemetery, claiming that Himmler had been very impressed by it in 1940, when he visited Worms. In contrast to that, he was unable to save the remains of the burnt synagogue walls from total destruction under a steam-roller in 1942.

The emigration continued, with the help of the Zionist branch office, at whose head was Elsa Spiess and the lawyer Nathan who assisted the prospective emigrants in respect of acquisition of documents and general property matters.

Incidence of Suicide and Death Among the Emigrants

A few of the emigrants were unable to cope with the stresses of the upheaval in their lives and either died, or committed suicide after their emigration. A 25 year-old dentist, Dr. Erich Cohen, killed himself in Scotland in 1934.

The baker, Solomon Mey, emigrated with his family to Holland but died in 1938, broken in body and spirit. Friedrich Strauss, a slater, studied an adult course in agriculture during 1937/8, near Berlin, and emigrated to Argentina intending to bring his family there, but died from the rigours of the work in June 1938. His widow married his brother, but the entire family (including 5 children, two of them from the first marriage), were sent to the camps where they perished. Johanna Baekerlang died in Shanghai because of the difficult conditions, at the early age of 42. Ella Mannheimer-Wallach (1883-1937), died only a few months after emigrating to Amsterdam. A similar fate fell upon Elvira Huettenbach, Isabella Kiefer and the aged religious teacher Shimshon Rotschild, who emigrated to London after Kristallnacht and died there after only a few months (in June 1939).

The Last Jews of Worms

In September 1941, with the implementation of the programme of forced labour for Jews, at least 12 men and 7 women were sent from Worms to Mainz for manual labour (documentation regarding the work of all other Jews has been lost). In the winter of 1941/2 the last Jews were evicted from their homes and compelled to cram themselves into 'Jews' Houses' - the Community Centre, the Jewish Old Peoples' Home and two additional houses which were apparently used as old peoples' homes - and a few private houses in 'Jews' Lane' , which had again been turned into a ghetto.

During the years 1933-1945 there dwelt in Worms 1345 'Jews by Racial Definition', of whom 1016 people who were defined as Jews in the census of June 1933 (the number of 'Jews by Racial Definition' at that time was 1054), 21 children who were born in Worms during the Nazi era and 308 Jews who arrived in Worms after 1933. In March 1940 there remained in the city 214 'Jews by Racial Definition'. 18 of them managed to emigrate before it became forbidden (September 1941), and in all, 802 of the Jews of Worms emigrated.

At the beginning of 1942 there were 195 Jews living in Worms, a few of them marriage partners of 'Aryans'. On the 20th March 1942 77 Jews were deported from Worms and 4 from Hornsheim to Piaski, near Lublin and from there they were transferred to other camps in Poland. All these deported people, among them the teacher Herta Mansbacher, Moritz Meier and a child of three, were later killed.

After the first deportations the remaining Jews were forced to evacuate more dwelling-places and crowd themselves into the remaining ones.

On the 27th September 1942, 93 additional Jews were deported from Worms to Theresienstadt; only 5 of them survived: two of them were freed under an exchange deal at the beginning of 1945 (one of whom died in Switzerland at the time of his release), and 3 were released at the end of the war.

five additional Jews were deported to Poland on 30th September 1942, and perished there. In January 1944 another Jewess, the mother of 4 children who was married to an 'Aryan' was deported to Theresienstadt. This woman and similarly a Jewish apostate, mother to a half-Jewish daughter, who was deported there at the end of 1944, survived. A third Jewess, who was paralysed and married to a German, was saved from deportation by a policeman who gave early warning to her husband and later conveyed her to a place of safety. On 19th December 1944, three Jewish apostates, married to 'Aryans', were taken to the Gestapo prison at Bensheim. One perished later in Buchenwald and two were shot to death in the courtyard of the Worms Church in March 1945.

During the years 1942-1945, 186 Worms Jews were either arrested or deported to the camps, of them 180 died before the end of the war. Other Jews, natives of Worms, perished after transfer to other places in Germany or emigrated to countries later overrun by the Nazis, committed suicide or died in Buchenwald or other camps in Germany. To these must be added the Jews of Worms who were deported in October 1938 to Zbaszyn and other Jews who perished or died under various circumstances as a direct result of Nazi persecution. According to estimates at least 435 (not including a number of deaths from uncertain causes), detailed as follows:

Acts of murder and deaths due to torture 5
Suicides and unnatural deaths 15 (one from Hornsheim)
Death following emigration 8
Deported to camps between 1942-1944 176 (4 from Hornsheim)
Deported to camps on unknown dates 2
Deported to camps from other cities 147
Deported to camps from other countries 46
Deported to Zbaszyn in 1938 and perished 37
Others 8
Total 444 (5 from Hornsheim)
On 20th and 21st March 1945 with the capture of Worms by the American Forces, not a single Jew was found in Worms.

After the War

In 1949, on the initiative of Dr. Elrath, the entrance gate to the old synagogue was reerected and in 1950 a monument to the victimizations of Worms citizens during the Nazi era was consecrated. In the same year 8 Jews were living in Worms, and later the number increased to 20, most of them refugees from eastern Europe, who made a living from cafes and bars and who belonged to the Mainz community.

In 1958 the rebuilding of the synagogue on its original site was financed by the German government and commenced by them, and consecrated in December 1961 at an impressive ceremony attended by Konrad Adenauer, the Prime Minister, and other central personalities of the previous community, among them Dr. Alfred Levine and Dr. Ernst Triefuss. In 1957, after prolonged negotiations between Government and Jewish bodies in Germany, the various articles and documents saved by Dr. Elrath were examined and separated; the documents from the community archives were transferred to the 'Central Archives for the History of the Jewish Nation' in Jerusalem, the Worms Machsor was transferred to the National Library of the Hebrew University, while the burned and partially destroyed religious artifacts and other exhibits were transferred to the Municipal Archives and the reconstructed synagogue.

In 1958 renovations were also commenced on the ancient cemetery at am Judensand. The cemetery was also vandalized after the war, in 1952.

In 1968 a society of scientists, theologians and writers was founded in Mainz, which set itself the task of preserving and rehabilitating the hospital building and the old Jewish Old People's Home, on the site of which stood, in the middle-ages, the famed Yeshiva of Worms, and to turn it into a meeting-place for study and research. However, the ruined building was demolished due to lack of funds in 1971. In the meantime, the Municipality had rebuilt the old 'Jews' Lane' and the Rashi Gateway as it appeared in former times and at the initiative of the Municipal archives a 'Rashi House' has been erected on the site of the demolished Old Peoples' Home, which contains the Municipal Archive, a museum of Judaica and a place for educational meetings (consecrated in 1982).

On the initiative of 'The Council for Preserving the Memory of the Jewish Victims of Nazism, Citizens of Worms', which was formed following the activities of Professor Henry Hüttenbach, a New York historian born in Worms, and a researcher into the Holocaust, two memorial tablets were erected in the synagogue in November 1980, in memory of the perished of the Worms Jews and a separate tablet to the memory of Herta Mansbacher.

Dr. Karl Schlesser, an ex-SA man who was blinded on the eastern front, and who had been the Principle of a Worms secondary school, published a detailed list of the fate of the members of the community. in 1984/5 the National Library in Jerusalem published the Worms Machsor as an illuminated facsimilia.

Bibliography (selected):

Hüttenbach, Henry R.: The Deportation of Worms Jews, November 1938 - October 1941, Hopes and Expectations; Attempts and Life-saving Operations During the Holocaust Era, Jerusalem, 5736 (1975), pp 218-237, 295-305.
Una, Avigdor (editor): Burial Society of the Worms Benevolent Society, Jerusalem 5740 (1980).
Boecher, Otto.: Der alte Judenfriedhof zu Worms, Rheinische Kunststätten, No. 148 (1976).
Festschrift zur Wiedereinweihung der alten Synagoge zu Worms. Eds. Ernst Roth et al., Frankfurt a.M. 1961.
Hüttenbach, H.R.: Das Auswandererbuch der israelitischen Religionsgeme inde in Worms 1933-1941, Dokumentation zur Geschichte der jüdischen Bevölkerung in Rheinland-Pfalz und im Saarland von 1800 bis 1945, vol. 7, Koblenz 1974, pp 1-110.
The Destruction of the Jewish Community of Worms 1933-1945, New York 1981.
Herta Mansbacher. Portrait einer jüdischen Lehrerin, Heldin und Märtyrerin (1885-1942), Wormsgau, Beiheft 27, Worms 1981.
Metzler, G.: Die neue Friedhofsanlage. Zur Geschichte der Wormser jüdischen Gemeinde, ihrer Friedhöfe und ihres Begräbniswesens. Gedenkschrift zur Eröffnung des neuen Friedhofs. Worms 1911.- Reuter, Fritz.: Warmaisa - 1000 Jahre Juden in Worms, Worms 1984.
Leopold Levy und seine Synagoge von 1875. Wormsgau, vol. 11(1974/75) pp 58-68.
Jüdisches Worms, von Juden beschrieben. Wormsg. Heimblätter, No. 18 (1973).
Rosenthal, B.: Die Letzten Wormser Judenbischöfe. Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums, N.F.47, 1939, pp. 313-324.
Das Wormser Machsor, Udim, vol. 11/12 (1981) pp. 219-233.
Rotschild, S.: Aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Israelitischen Gemeinde Worms, Frankfurt a. M. 1929.
Beamte der Wormser Jüdischen Gemeinde, Mitte des 18. Jahrhunderts bis zur Gegenwart, Worms 1920.
Die Abgaben und die Schuldenlast der Wormser Jüdischen Gemeinde 1563-1854, Worms 1924.- Schlösser. A. & K.: Keiner blieb verschont. Die Judenverfolgung 1933-1945 in Worms (Der Wormsgau, Beiheft 31) Worms 1987.
(eds.):Die Wormser Juden 1933-1945, Dokumentation, Worms 1986.
Stern, Moritz.: Der Wormser Reichsrabbiner Samuel, Berlin 1937.
Zum 900 jährigen Bestehen der Synagoge zu Worms. Eine Erinnerungsgabe des Vorstands der Israelitischen Religionsgemeinde Worms (Sonderheft der Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland, vol. 5) Berlin 1934.
Yagod, Leon J.: Worms Jewry in the Seventeenth Century, Ph.D. thesis, New York 1967.

Bracha Freundlich,
“Yad Vashem”, Jerusalem


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