Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities:
Germany volume 3

50°45' / 9°28'

Translation from Pinkas ha-kehilot Germanyah

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1992



Project Coordinator

Tamar Amit


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 132, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1992

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[Page 132]

Grebenau, Germany

Grebenau (once in Vogelsberg district, now in Alsfeld district)

Translated by Tamar Amit in memory of the Gottlieb and Apt families



Year Total
Jews As a %
1770   6
1828   122  
1861 692 186 26.9
1880 666 170 25.5
1895 660 127 19.2
1910 640 128 20
1925 687 86 12.5
1933 659 60 9.1
1939 676 14 2.1


Religious ascription percentages in 1933



From the Times of the Community (Kehila)

The Jewish community of G' was one of the oldest and most important in Upper Hessen.

Six families were there in 1770 and by 1814 there were 18 families with 56 children. Their overall assets are estimated at 4,700 guldens. The two wealthiest families each had assets estimated at 500-600 guldens; the others held assets worth only 100-200 guldens. For many years, the dead were buried in the Angenrod Jewish community's cemetery nearby. A Jewish cemetery was consecrated in G' in 1780 and it was extended in 1800. Public prayers were held in private homes for many years. A nice spacious synagogue was consecrated in 1864 (with 96 seats for men and 52 seats for women).

In 1839 the Jewish community opened an elementary school for its children, approved by the authorities. Many non-Jewish respected members of G' also took part in the opening ceremony. S. Buchsweiller, a young teacher from Friedberg, was put in charge of the school. By the end of the 19th century, the Jewish school taught crafts as well as the regular curriculum. The Jewish teacher received his pay from the state treasury and taught Christian children as well. On the eve of the First World War, A. Kahn served as the teacher. His successor, H. Lichtenstein, stayed on until the closing of the school in 1929.

The community belonged to the Upper Hessen Rabbinate in Gießen.

The community continued to grow and in 1861 reached its peak with 186 members (26.9% of G' population); towards the end of the century there was a gradual decline as a result of urbanization and immigration.

At the beginning of the 20th century, most Jews made their living from different types of commerce; others were craftsmen – butcher, baker, tailor, two shoemakers, leather worker and upholsterer.

From the second half of the 19th century, Jews took an active part in the general G' society and public activities and also enlisted to the Army. A local Jewish sergeant was awarded the Iron Cross in 1871. During the 1st world war there were many local Jewish soldiers who later joined the veterans' club of G'. Jews were also standing out in the local sports club. The teacher, Lichtenstein, made a speech at the opening of the local sports hall and David Jacob was a member of the board of the sports club up until 1935(!).

Towards the end of the 19th century, a chapter of the anti-Semitic party by Bekel was founded in G' (disassembled in 1904).

In the Reichstag elections on 14th September 1930, the Nazis got 26.4% of the overall votes and became the largest party in G' and by the elections to the Landtag on the 19th June 1932 they gained 81% - almost twice as the Hessen average (44%).


Under Nazi Rule

The last to head the Jewish community was Sigmund Schwab. David Jacob served as prayer leader. In 1933 the embargo on the Jews of G' was almost absolute; more than half of them have left G' by the autumn of 1938.

At first light of 7th November 1938, local youths set the synagogue on fire. It seems that the whole village knew about their plans. On 'Kristallnacht', some local citizens tied the baker, Moses Kahn to a pole and beat him until his blood spattered the wall. According to the testimony of William Steinberger, who left G' and returned as a US Army sergeant, the rioters stuffed the baker into his oven and cut off his tongue. He was sent along with the rest of the Jewish men to Buchenwald where he died after several weeks.

After 'Kristallnacht' the remaining Jews hurried to leave. The last two Jews left for Gießen on October 1939. 23 of G' Jews immigrated – to the US (10), France (4), Israel (4), Netherlands (2), Switzerland, England and Rhodesia, 34 Jews moved to other places in Germany mostly to Frankfurt, one Jew died in G' and another as a result of the 'Kristallnacht' riots. Some of the Jews, who moved to other towns in Germany, were transported to the camps and perished. In 1941, the Gestapo arrested a non-Jew from G' who was accused of showing sympathy to Jews in public; he was released after an investigation. During the Nazi rule, both cemeteries were desecrated; headstones were used as curb stones in policemen's gardens until they were returned after 1945.


After the War

The charges against the arsons of the synagogue were dropped when it came to light that the two main perpetuators died on the Russian front.  

The Jewish cemeteries are cared for today by the local council. A memorial was set there in 1975 to commemorate the Jewish community.


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