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

50°20' / 08°32'

Translation from Pinkas ha-kehilot Germanyah

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1992


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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities, Germany
Volume 3, pages 359-360, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1992


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[Page 359]

Usingen, Germany

A town in the Hochtaunus district.

by Henry Wassermann

 

Population

YearPopulationJews%
1801-31-
1842-32-
18711,798271.5
18851,884432.3
18951,900874.6
19051,896 894.7
19251,956774.0
19332,115713.4

Religious Affiliation by % in 1925

JewsCatholicsProtestantsOthers
4.016.079.70.3

From The History of the Community

In 1598 craftsmen in Usingen asked for a permit to borrow funds from the Jew Nachum, who still lived there in 1615, together with three other protected Jews. At the same time, the town leaders feared the increase of the Jewish population, in light of the Jews of Frankfurt being expelled following the Fettmilch riots there. It seems that the quota for Jews in town was limited then, as well as afterwards, and continued to the beginning of the 19th century when only six Jewish families lived in Usingen. Together with five family-less Jews there were 36 persons in the community.

The Jews of the town hardly made a living from small trade. In 1834 the head of the community was Elkin Hirsch, the owner of a soap production factory. Towards the end of the 19th century the economic situation of the Jews improved. Two members of the community dealt with real estate, two with textile, one was a wine wholesale supplier and the owner of an apple wine production factory, one was a butcher, and two were lawyers and notaries.

Everyday life in the community

At the beginning of the 19th century there was a small synagogue in Usingen, where public prayers were held with the participation of residents from nearby Eschbach and Graefenwiesbach. In 1852 a new synagogue was built and community regulations publicized, although only in 1868 were the Jews of Usingen formally recognized as an independent community. For many years the deceased were buried in an ancient regional cemetery. In 1885 a Jewish cemetery was opened in Usingen, on a lot received by the community from the municipality. In 1886 the synagogue was already in a very poor condition and the community built a new synagogue in a building which served previously as a storeroom; the prayer hall had 40 seats for men and 18 additional seats in the women's section. For many years (from 1890) Gustav Blum served as teacher and cantor in Usingen, also teaching the children of the neighborhood and serving as teacher at the general elementary school.

Among the prominent Jewish families in Usingen were the wealthy Hirsch family, whose members were often elected to head the community, and the Lilienstein family, of whom a member was invited to inaugurate as a first traveler the train from Usingen to Bad Homburg, and another one participated at the cruising of an airship in 1910 (or 1911).

In the First World War three members of the community were killed, one of them from Eschbach.

On March 3,.1928 the Nazis withdrew their intention to hold an election gathering in Usingen, following their claim that “the hall was filled with Jews and Marxists.”. On March 14, 1930, in the Reichstag elections, the Nazis received 48.6 % of the votes (compared with 20.8 % in all Hessen-Nassau), and in the April 24,1932 Landtag elections their power increased to 53 % (in Hessen-Nassau, 42.1 %).

On the eve of the Nazi's rise to power the community owned a synagogue and a cemetery; kosher slaughter took place. Thirteen children participated in the religion lessons of the veteran teacher and cantor Gustav Blum. The community was subordinated to the district rabbinate of Bad Ems-Weilburg and belonging to it were also 10 Jews from Eschbach, the nine Jews of Graefenwiesbach (in 1843, there were still 25 Jews and a cemetery that was closed in 1885), the two Jews from Anspach, the seven Jews of Rod am Berg and the 19 Jews of Schmitten (in 1843 it had 27 Jews and approximately until World War One an independent community), 126 persons all in all. Moritz Rosenberg, a former officer and a member of the town council, served as head of the community. An aid association operated in town, as well as branches of the “National Union of Jewish War Veterans ”, “The Central Association”, and the “Society for Protection against Anti Semitism”- the latter two under the leadership of Julius Hirsch.

Under the Nazi Regime

Most Jews of Usingen left before November 1938, others passed away in town, and one committed suicide (Leopold Stern, on June 1936); on September 1938 the last Jews from Usingen and its surroundings departed. When the teacher Blum left, community life actually terminated. During the same month anonymous persons shattered the synagogue windows, broke into the building and smashed the contents. On November 5 of the same year the building was sold to a local person who made it into a residence. On the eve of Kristallnacht (Crystal Night), 11 Jews were left in town.

On the morning of November 10, 1938 the Mayor (who served also as head of the Party in Usingen) ordered the Jews to stay in their homes and close their businesses, and placed SA guards nearby out of fear of looting. Later he summoned the commander of the “Hitler Jugend” and ordered him and his men to act against the Jews. At 18:00 the head of the “Hitler Jugend” assembled the members of his party together with the pupils of a local dormitory, held a speech of incitement in front of them, and brought them to the front of the shop of the Hirsch family, where they burst into shouts of scorn. After the Mayor moved the SA guards away, the boys, together with their commander and many passers-by, broke into the shop, and with hits and pushes pulled the 57 year-old Julius Hirsch, a war cripple missing his two hands, out to the street, as well as his wife whose hand was broken during this event. On the street they also caught his son-in-law, Rosenthal, hit him cruelly, loaded him wounded on a wheelbarrow, drove him to the creek and threw him into it, but the wounded man got out of the creek and ran for his life. The rest of the Jews were expelled from their homes with hits and curses and ran away to the woods; meanwhile the rioters looted with no disturbance. During a few nights the commander of the SA and his men moved the contents of Jewish houses and businesses to the party's headquarters in Weilburg, taking a lot of goods for themselves- and everything under the surveillance of the SA guards placed in front of the shops.

On February 1939 at least 24 of the looters were put on trial by the Nazi party court. Five of them were sentenced for stealing in the past, and 13 who were SA members, holding high positions in the organization, were punished with a rebuke and removal from their positions. The commander of the SA, a butcher and owner of a pub, was rebuked seriously for inciting his men to give false testimony to the police, and also for conducting business and social relationships with Jews as late as 1935.

After Kristallnacht the Jews of Usingen returned to their homes, but up to April 1940 all of them left town. Out of the 77 Jews who lived in Usingen in 1933, 28 persons immigrated: to the USA (20), Israel (2), Austria (2), Strasbourg (2), to the Netherlands and England (2). Six Jews passed away in town, and one committed suicide (the a.m. Leopold Stern). According to partial data six of the Jews of Usingen perished during the Nazi regime.

In 1943 a stonemason bought the Jewish cemetery and used part of the tombstones for his own needs.

After the War

In 1952 two of the Kristallnacht rioters in Usingen were sentenced, including the commander of the “Hitler Jugend,” for 10 and 15 months' imprisonment. The municipality is now taking care of the cemetery. In 1978 and in 1981 tombstones from the cemetery were stolen.


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