Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities:
Germany volume II

49°33' / 8°40'

Translation from Pinkas ha-kehilot Germanyah

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1972

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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities, Germany
Volume 2, page 332, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1972

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[Page 332]

Weinheim, Germany

No. of Jews
in Population
% of Jews
in Population
1722 10 families 
1743 12 families 
1800 8 families 
21.10.1940 46 

Religious Affiliations as a Percentage of the Population - 1933


History of the Community

The town of Weinheim belonged for many hundreds of years to the Pfalz Principality but in 1803 was incorporated into the state of Baden.

The Middle Ages

Jews were living in the town of Weinheim in the second half of the 13th Century but they were burnt at the stake during the 'Rindfleisch Edicts' (1298) - 70 souls, among them Rabbi Mevorach ben Kalonymous and his entire family. At the beginning of the 14th Century Jews were again to be found dwelling there but they were murdered in 1348/9 as a result of the 'Black Plague'.

After a few years Prince Ruprecht the First (1383-1390), accepted six Jewish refugee families from Worms and Speyer as residents of Weinheim, on payment of high 'Protection' fees. Counted among the refugees were the doctor Wahlen and Rabbi Leblanc, later to become 'State Rabbi' for the Jews of the right bank of the Rhine (at the beginning of the 15th Century). The Jews made their living in money-lending and other financial dealings. A few of them were owners of vineyards. They lived in 'Jews' Lane' where the synagogue was also situated. At the end of the lane was the Judenturm, whose foundations were discovered in the 19th Century. In 1831 all the Pfalz Jews were exiled on the orders of the ruler, Ruprecht the Second, and all their property confiscated and distributed to the citizens at the whim of the ruler.

In the 16th Century only one Jew was recorded as living in Weinheim - Charles Mackronberg, and on the eve of the 'Thirty Years' War' (1618-1648), there was again only one Jew known to be living in Weinheim and in 1627, a request by another Jew to settle in Weinheim was rejected by the ruler.

The Restoration of Jewish Settlement

After the 'Thirty Years' War' Seligman Maumpffen settled in Weinheim and after him came a few more Jewish families. In 1698, Prince Johannes Wilhelm granted a letter of asylum to the Jews of the Pfalz for a term of 12 years. Among other things, he granted them permission to occupy themselves in 'respectable trade and commerce', to build houses, to live according to Jewish practise and to open cemeteries.

Towards the end of the century, the number of incidents of acts against the Jews increased and in 1686 the town council was forced to publish a decree forbidding the stoning of Jews and the shouting of insulting remarks at them. The Jewish community of Weinheim grew to nine families in 1721, all of whom owned their own houses, and by 1743 there were 12 families living there.

In the 18th Century, the Jews of Weinheim were engaged in trading in livestock - beef and horses - and other, mainly agricultural products.

Community Life

In 1666 the Jews had a cemetery just outside the town on a hill nicknamed 'Jews' Hump' (Judenbuckel). The cemetery was abandoned after a few years and for many years the Jews were brought for burial in the local cemetery. At the end of the 18th Century the community joined the area 'Cemetery Society' situated in Hemsbach. In 1760 the community leader, Meir Oppenheim and his son Mordechai erected a synagogue while in the house of the Hertz family was a small prayer hall in which religious instruction was given. In the middle of the 18th Century the Cantor, Feibelman and the Rabbi Gershon acted as rabbis of the community.

The community of Weinheim belonged to the Pfalz organization 'Sons of the State'. In 1702 the tri-annual congress of the representatives of the organization took place in Weinheim. In 1739, Lazarus Leib from Weinheim was one of the two chief subscription collectors of the organization and Feitel, also a community member, was area collector.

The 19th Century

The Community and Its Institutions

In 1827 the community united with the Rabbinical area of Heidelberg. The Jewish children learned in the local general elementary and secondary schools and received religious instruction from the community's teacher and cantor. During the 30's and 40's the role was filled by the teacher Lehmann, and afterwards - from 1852-1892 - by Elkan Schreiber. For a time (1861-1863) the Oberrat maintained an institution in Weinheim for training teachers and also a class for commercial studies, under the direction of Dr. Flatto. The community was of a conservative character.

Jewish Personalities

The affluent and influential families in the community and later on in the general public sphere were Rotschild, Kaufmann and Hirsch. Yaacov Rotschild founded a textile factory in 1856. He acted as head of the community for many years. One of his sons, Wolf, a noted scholar was a sometime honorary member of the Heidelberg Rabbinical Council. Aaron Kaufmann (d.1895), was for many years a member of the community council and acted as prayer leader on the High Holydays. He was active in other areas of the community particularly in giving assistance to the needy. Berthold Kaufmann was head of the community at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries and was energetic in the development of community institutions, especially in the building of a new synagogue (see below).

The Hirsch Family was especially conspicuous in the economic life of Weinheim. The patriarch of the family, Zigmund Hirsch (1845-1908), by profession a stockbrocker, settled in Weinheim in 1867 and acquired a factory for processing horse skins. The factory was failing and insolvent but under his hands it became a prosperous business, which, in time became the largest factory of its type in the whole of Europe. In 1894, he transferred the factory to his two sons, Max (b.1871), and Julius (b.1874). At that time, the factory employed about 150 workers and exported its products to other European countries.

Zigmund Hirsch was conspicuous in community affairs as well, contributing much to its institutions and functioning as member of its community committee. He was also elected to the Inspection Committee which was an adjunct of the municipal framework.

The Beginning of the 20th Century

Commerce and Industry

In 1905 there were 44 Jewish leaders in Weinheim. Of them 28 were traders, 5 industrialists, 3 travelling salesmen or agents, a doctor, a lawyer, an interior decorator a shoe-maker and three paid officials. The factory founded by Zigmund Hirsch, exported its products principally to Belgium and Holland and in 1908 had in its employ 150 people.

Community Life

At the head of the Community stood the lawyer, Moritz Pfalzer (1869-1936), one of the leaders of Baden's Jews, who was elected as life member to the 'Synod' of Baden's Jews and in 1914 chosen as its vice-chairman. In 1920 he was elected to the 'Upper Council' and was the chairman of the council for religious matters attached to the Council and was among the leading members of the Zionist movement in Baden.

During this period Max Hirsch (see above), was numbered among the active members of the community was a member of the community council and a supporter of all its institutions, and was a member of the council of the local villages. His brother, Julius Hirsch who was also elected to the community council and municipal institutions was especially dedicated to the development of art and its institutions in Weinheim.

In 1906, the community, after many years of strenuous effort succeeded in raising the money to finance the building of a new synagogue. The building was consecrated with an impressive ceremony which was attended by many guests of high standing, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

The First World War and the Weimar Republic

The Jewish community of Weinheim was at its most populous on the eve of the First World War, reaching 188 souls in 1910. Many members of the Jewish community volunteered for service in fighting units and of them 5 fell in battle - Karl David, Bernhard Lehmann, Max Lehmann, Zigmund Rotschild and Moritz Rotschild.


The spirit of anti-Semitism which flooded Germany after the First World War did not pass Weinheim by. Open incitement was evident. Inflammatory posters were to be found on the streets while meetings of anti-Semitic groups took place and Jews were subjected to open insult and humiliation on the streets. The attorney, Dr. Moritz Pfalzer filed a complaint with the municipal authorities complaining that no action was being taken to protect the Jews. After a keen debate on the subject the local council decided in 1919 - with the support of the 'German National list' group - to prohibit the display of anti-Semitic posters. At the root of the incitement were the students at the local technical college who, in May 1920, introduced into the constitution of their Students' Society the 'Aryan' clause.

Community Action and the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism

In the presence of the social and political pressure from outside, the Jewish community of Weinheim increased its intramural activities. In 1923 local branches of the 'Central Verein Deutscher Staatsbürger Jüdischen' were formed, at whose head stood Max Hirsch and the teacher Marcus Meier, and the Zionist wing of the 'Histradut' under the leadership of Dr. Pfalzer.
The life of the community was rich in cultural activities. At the same time the community did not over-indulge itself in its general cultural life. The teacher, Marcus Meier (d.1932), a gifted musician, founded a Chamber Music society in 1918 which, in a few years became the most important artistic institution in the town and its environs. Musicians and orchestras of note throughout Germany appeared in concerts and solo pe- formances in the town. Marcus Meier also functioned as religious teacher at the local Pestalozzi Municipal School. He also organized and taught the children of the synagogue choir. The well-known pianist, Paulina Rotschild (d.1937), also a resident of Weinheim, dedicated herself to the musical education of the youth of Weinheim - Jewish and non-Jewish alike, with the help of Freda Braun, who was herself involved in the development of the childrens' choir.

Jews Who Were Active in General Public Life

In spite of anti-Semitic propaganda, many Jews were active in the communal life of the town. Max Hirsch and Dr. Pfalzer were active members of the Municipal Council during this period. The fur trader, Sali Noi was a member of the Control Committee which was a part of the council. Marcus Meier and Paulina Rotschild cultivated the local musical life. Other Jews were also active and respected citizens in the general public life of Weinheim, like Alstaadter, the agricultural merchant, the owners of the large commercial and business houses Lehmann and Rotschild, the owner of the sports equipment shop Adolf Braun, the agents, Benjamin, Bergen, David, Heil and Noi, the chemist Dr. Ernst Löwy, the doctors, Dr. Hermann Hausemann and his son-in-law Dr. Friedrich Reiss.

Under the Nazi Government (1933-1938)

In 1933 the Jewish community of Weinheim (168 souls) was included in the Rabbinical jurisdiction of Heidelberg, whose Chief Rabbi at the time was Dr. Fritz Pinkus. It possessed a synagogue and community house. At its head stood the lawyer Dr. Moritz Pfalzer. The community budget in the year 1930 was 5,800 Marks. The Weinheim Jews had created two societies - 'The Burial Society and Visits to the Sick' (founded 1868) - and the 'Women's Society' (founded 1928) besides branches of other general Jewish organizations, like 'The Central Verein' (see above), 'The Zionist Organization', 'The Association of Fighting Soldiers', 'The Association of German-Jewish Youth', and the youth organization, 'Kamaraden'.
At the service of the community's needs was 'The Loan and Savings Fund', to which members of the community could turn for loans without interest; a Charity Fund was available for those in distress. 22 pupils attended the classes in religion of the Cantor, Sigbert Silbermann.

The Jews of Weinheim owned 19 commercial houses and shops, the Hirsch Brothers' factory for leather processing and shoe manufacture, which all together employed close to 400 people. 12 Jews were engaged in other, varying forms of trade and commerce, 9 were clerks or sales-staff, and 6 were artisans. Among the free professions were found the attorney, Pfalzer, the doctor, Friedrich Reiss, the chemist Ernst Löwy and the pianist, Paulina Rotschild.

The Jews of Weinheim were subjected to persecution in all its manifestations from the very beginning of the change-over of the government to the Nazi regime. In March 1933, the Municipal Council, under pressure of the National Socialist Party, prohibited the ritual slaughter of animals according to Jewish precepts, and on the eve of 'Boycott Day' (April 1, 1933), Party members daubed the fronts of Jewish business premises with yellow circles. The anti-Semitic incitement became more and more fierce and at the same time the economic boycott tightened, while the financial distress of the community grew in proportion. The isolation of the Jews within the community was virtually total. In reaction to their growing distress, the Jews increased their efforts to maintain the vitality of the religious, cultural and social life of the community by closing the ranks and giving mutual assistance to each other. The teachers Sigbert Silbermann (b.1911, emigrated to France 1934), and his replacement Artur Auerbacher (b.1898), instituted courses in Hebrew and lectures by guest speakers on Judaism and Zionist topics, bringing the community closer to the Zionist movement and its activities. In March 1936, Dr. Moritz Pfalzer died and was taken for burial to his birth-place Hemsbach.

By November 1938, 43 of Weinheim's Jews had emigrated (14 to the United States, 6 to South America, 5 to Palestine, 7 to Italy and the rest to various other destinations); 21 people moved to other places in Germany from whence some of them later also emigrated.

The Hirsch brothers, who managed to maintain their hold on their factory until the end of 1937, were forced to close at the beginning of 1938 but not before they had secured from the purchasers an obligation to continue the employment of the factory's workers (all of whom were 'Aryans').

The Holocaust

On the 10th November, 1938 local squads of the SA and SS, who were joined by other local citizens, broke into the synagogue, destroying the furniture, equipment, religious articles and the Holy Scrolls with axes, and blew up the building with explosives after having made sure that the people living close-by were evacuated to safety. The private homes and business premises of the Jews were also severely damaged by the rioters.

Most of the men were sent to Dachau where they were detained for several weeks.

On the eve of the Second World War, the 'Bureau for Adult Education' of the 'National Association' tried to open foreign language courses for local Jews but was prevented from putting the scheme into operation by the authorities.

After 'Kristallnacht', another 24 Jews managed to emigrate - (6 to the United States, 5 to England, 4 to Switzerland, 2 to France, 2 to Portugal, 2 to Cuba, 2 to Palestine and 1 to Holland). 15 Jews moved to other places in Germany. The Hirsch Family which was among those who emigrated to the United States, opened there a factory for the processing of leather and the manufacture of shoes.

In the Autumn of 1940 there were only 50 Jews remaining in Weinheim. 46 of them (20 men, 24 women and 2 children), were deported to Guers on the 22nd October. In Weinheim remained a Jewish youth named Carl Heinz Klausemann. He escaped from there in April 1942 but all further trace of him was lost, and three Jewish women who were married to Germans and were not deported but suffered from severe persecution throughout the duration of the war.

From the time of the rise of the Nazis to power 200 Jews altogether dwelt in Weinheim - (168 in the Spring 1933, 8 children who were subsequently born and 25 people who joined the community). 102 emigrated, 24 of them died locally and 62 were sent to camps. 49 of them were exterminated there and 13 survived, among them the children Doris Hirsch (b. 1933) and Kurt Alstaadter (b.1930). Among the dead were the teacher Artur Auerbacher with his wife and two children, who were deported in April 1942 to Izbice. The fate of all the remaining Jews is unknown.

In Weinheim there was a hospital for the mentally ill in which there were also 26 Jews. These Jews were transferred to Heppenheim where they were executed in the 'Euthanasia' programme.

The Liquidation of the Jewish Community *

1934823 2 
19361152 4 
1942    1 

* The numbers relate to the 168 Jews who dwelt in Weinheim in June 1933, 8 children who were subsequently born and 5 Jews who joined the community during the Nazi Era.

One of the community, born in 1904, was married to a non-Jewish woman and emigrated to Holland with his wife in 1936. During the war he was arrested and in order to save himself from deportation to the East, he and his wife agreed to be sterilized.

After the war 3 Jewish women, married to 'Aryans' were still living in Weinheim but not one of the surviving Jews who were citizens of Weinheim returned to live there. On the site of the original synagogue now stands a private dwelling-house. In 1960 the Municipality erected a plaque on the street where the old Prayer-house had been situated.

Yad Vashem Archives:

08/33, pp. 105-106.- 08/80, p. 14.- PKG/Q/226, 511; PKG/Weinheim/1960, 1962; PKG/Municipality of Hemsbach to Yad Vashem, 22.3.1977.-


JM/1796.- BD-23/Gestapo, r.6, f.26b.-


Fresin, Josef: Die Geschicte der Stadt Weinheim, Weinheim, 1962.-
Horsch, Daniel: Sie waren unsere Bürger. Die jüdische Gemeinde in Weinheim. Weinheimer Geschichtsblatt, no. 26(1964), Weinheim.-
Pflästerer, Philipp: Weinheim um 1721. Weinheimer Geschichtsblatt, no.26 (1974) 98.- Weiss, Johann Gustav: Geschichte der Stadt Weinheim, Weinheim, 1922, pp. 468-470, 504-505, 511.- Zinkgräf, Karl: Bilder aus der Geschichte der Stadt Weinheim, Weinheim, 1911.-


AWZ, 25.6.1965.-
AZJ, 29.8.1906, 11.9.1908, 31.3.1911, 19.12.1919.-
CV, 8.3.1923, 23.8.1929, 9.9.1932, 12.3.1936.-
IFB, 27.5.1920, 4.12.1930, 21.5.1931, 20.8.1931.-
IGB, 23.8.1929, 20.2.1935, 18.3.1936.-
Isr 1.11.1860, 16.1.1861, 21.8.1861, 8.10.1862, 25.3.1863, 24.9.1863, 28.4.1892, 15.7.1929, 26.3.1936.-

Bracha Freundlich
Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

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