Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities:
Germany volume 3

50°26' / 09°12'

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 118-119, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1992

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[Page 118]

Gedern, Germany
(a village, today a city in the region of Wetterau)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

YearNumber of
of Jews
1806 20 families 
1820 155 individuals 

Religious Affiliation by Percentage in the year 1933

[Page 119]

History of the Community

The first Jews settled in Gedern during the latter half of the 17th century, as can be seen from the lists of deceased Jews that were preserved. A Jewish cemetery was opened at the end of that century. For many years, communal prayer was conducted in a prayer hall. The community, which reached its pinnacle in size (183 individuals) in 1861, opened a new cemetery in 1865 adjacent to the location of the old cemetery. In 1866, the synagogue was completed, in which public worship was conducted accompanied by a choir. In 1867, a Jewish women's organization was founded, that occupied itself primarily with caring for sick members. A men's organization with a similar objective, also operated locally.

The synagogue was renovated in 1904. That year, the nearby communities of Wenings and Ober-Seemen (see entries) wished to form a common Jewish organization with the community of Gedern, but this did not come to fruition. In 1881, during the time that Leib Vöhl served as the leader of the community and Bornstein served as teacher and cantor, the members of the community voted to continue along the moderate liberal stream, and even decided that the religion teacher should first and foremost be familiar with German. The following religion teacher, Lazer Cohen, a native of Poland, declared in opposition to this: “First a Jew, and only after that a citizen of the country”.

In 1884, some of the residents performed a prank and changed the text of the announcement of the Tisha BeAv services that was posted on the bulletin board of the synagogue from the prayers for a day of mourning to “a festive program”. They even added several pitiful jokes. The communal council issued a legal complaint regarding this.

During the First World War, three members of the community fell.

During the time of the Weimar Republic, most of the Jews of Gedern were merchants and cattle traders. There were also several tradesmen – a clockmaker, a shoemaker, a pipe connector, a baker and a butcher. Their economic situation was relatively good.

In 1818, Meir Vöhl was elected as head of the community. He was one of the wealthy men of the community, who would often donate significant sums of money to the communal coffers. Through his merits, the coffers had a large surplus. In 1927, Leopold Vöhl was elected in his stead. In 1920, the women's organization changed its charter. Klara Vöhl headed this organization from the years 1920-1930. During this era, the community was under the Orthodox rabbinate of Upper Hessen in Giessen (see entry). In 1926, Rabbi Hirshberg presided over the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the synagogue. The community conducted kosher slaughter. In 1932, 23 students studied in the classes of the veteran teacher and cantor (since 1903) Adolf Bauer. Some came from the nearby communities of Wenings and Ober-Seemen (see entries).

In the elections to the Reichstag of September 14, 1932, the Nazis won 8% of the votes of the residents (as opposed to 18.5% throughout Hessen, and 41.2% for the Social Democrats). In the elections of July 31, 1932 to the Reichstag, they already received a decisive majority of 58.6% (as opposed to 43.1% throughout Hessen)[1].

Under Nazi Rule

On March 13, 1933, the local members of the S.A. conducted a search for weapons in the homes of the local Jews. Toward evening, the S.A. men, some of them with blackened faces, broke into the home of a local Jew, accused him of damaging their bicycle, forced the members of the household to stand with their backs to the wall at gunpoint, and beat the head of the family with their fists and bicycle chains. In response to his question as to who would pay for the broken glass, he was struck in his head with a blunt object, and had to be hospitalized in the Jewish hospital in Frankfurt. After this, the hooligans set out for the homes of several other families, brought the men to a field under the pretext that they were to clean the swastikas, and beat them severely until they required medical care. On September 26, 1933, the local Nazis marched a group of Jews through the streets of Gedern, beat them as they were walking, and forced them to remove the electoral writ of the presidential candidate of the Communists. On another occasion, a young Jew was beaten severely and lost one of his eyes, and two Jews were taken outside the city where they were whipped with a whip until one of them collapsed, and his daughter protected him with her body. Furthermore, the Jewish cemetery was desecrated several times, and many of the monuments were toppled and damaged. In June 1935, a seasonal fair took place in Gedern, which was the first to be declared as judenrein. Nevertheless, there were still some residents who acted humanely toward the Jews. For example, many of them participated in the funeral of the wife of the communal head Vöhl in November, 1935.

During the era of Nazi rule, the town of Gedern conferred honorary citizenship upon Hitler.

On account of the persecution, which was worse than in other locations, the Jews of Gedern left as quickly as they could. The last of them left in April 1937, after the residents refused to sell him food anymore. Five of the Jews of Gedern made aliya to the Land of Israel, four immigrated to the United States, two to South Africa, four to other countries of Europe, and 105 Jews went to other places in Germany. We have no information on the fate of these Jews. The fact that they left their town relatively early may imply that some of them succeeded in emigrating.

The community of Gedern was not able to sell the synagogue, and the local authorities took over the building without paying anything for it. Bank offices were set up in it. Before this time, the Jews succeeded in transferring the synagogue pews to a synagogue in Frankfurt (see entry).

After the War

On April 14, 1949, seven residents of Gedern were brought to judgment in the regional court of Giessen with charges of torturing the local Jews in 1933. A Jew who had immigrated to Mexico issued sworn testimony in writing against one of the accused, but the court did not accept this testimony as sufficient proof. Several of the hooligans were accused of disrupting the communal order and perpetrating acts of violence. They were issued prison sentences ranging from six months to two and a half years. In 1951, the investigation file against the person who apparently was the commander of the hooligans was closed.

The Jews cemetery was desecrated in 1977. The perpetrators were not caught. Today the town of Giessen takes care of the cemetery. The former synagogue building serves today as a coffeehouse.

At the end of 1986 and in 1987, a communal storm arose regarding threats, plotting and acts of violence of the local Neo-Nazis against a Jewish doctor, Dr. Dan Kizell and his girlfriend friend Lechaim. Dan

[Page 120]

Kizell, a physician who had emigrated from Israel, settled in Gedern and opened a private medical clinic. In April, 1987, the house he owned was set on fire and badly damaged. Anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi slogans were drawn on the walls of his house, his clinic and in other places in Gedern. Massive demonstrations in support of the Jewish doctor took place in Gedern, but he informed the people of his decision to leave the place. The demonstration was accompanied by violent interactions between members of the Greens and other liberals and the neo-Nazis. This matter was discussed as well in the Landstag of Hessen. Legal cases were opened up against several residents who were involved in the setting of the fire and the drawing of slogans. The mayor waited a long time until he restricted the actions of the neo-Nazis. In this regard, a recommendation was made to revoke the honorary citizenship that was conferred upon Adolf Hitler, but the mayor opposed due to various legal reasons.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. There is obviously an error in at least one of these dates. My suspicion is that the first date is really 1930. Return

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