Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities:
Germany volume 3

50°38' / 9°24'

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, pages 220-221, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1992

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[Page 220]

Lauterbach, Germany

Lauterbach (Vogelsberg district)

Translated by Tamar Amit in memory of the Gottlieb family


Year Total
Jews As a %
1864   11  
1880 3,295 32 1.0
1895 3,287 64 1.9
1905 4,050 121 3.0
1910 4,328 115 2.6
1925 4,788 139 2.9
1933 5,141 132 2.6
1939 5,632 12 0.2


Religious ascription percentages in 1933



From the Times of the Community (Kehila)

In the late middle ages, L' was owned by an aristocratic family that did not allow Jews to settle on its lands. During the day time, Jewish peddlers from the surrounding area were allowed to enter but all other types of commerce such as setting up stalls for the annual fairs were forbidden and with the chiming of bells for evening prayers, they had to leave.

To return to their homes, the Jews used the shortest available roads and paths called to this day – 'Jewish Paths' (Judenpfade).

It seems that in the 16th century there were some Jews temporarily living in L'; in 1543 the city council complained that the aristocrat allowed some Jews to live on his estates in the boundaries of L' and these Jews who made a living from peddling, do not pay taxes to the town.

In 1571, Michael Mayer purchased a house in L' in exchange for a debt he was owed but as Jews were not permitted to live in L', the purchase was annulled.

A Jew from L' is mentioned on a tax list from 1746 with assets of 1,400 florins. In 1760, the mayor and the council complained to the landlord of his lessees that allowed Jews to trade at its gates. From that time and until the beginning of the 19th century, there was no mention of Jews in L' apart from a case of conversion from Judaism in 1743 when a Jewish boy was baptized and a year later the daughter of a Rabbi from Emden who came to L' specifically for that.

In 1828, Meir Strauss of Grebenau asked for a permit to live and open shop in L', claiming that for 30 years he has been peddling in it and supplying goods that cannot be gotten in a different manner. Even after fulfilling the requests of the city council and receiving a citizenship and shop opening permit from the Duke of Hessen, the council refused the permit and even approached the courts. In 1829 he was finally allowed to open a shop but without living in the city and only in 1841 he was allowed to move in considering his advanced age.

In 1864 there were 11 Jews registered in L' for the first time yet some of them were considered temporary citizens even a decade later. Since then, the number of Jews was on the rise and by the eve of World War 1 the Jewish community numbered more than a hundred members.

Community life: In 1890 the L' Jews opened a cemetery and in 1894 asked for a permit to start a community. The request was rejected and they had to found a private association and pray in private houses. In 1898 the community was founded with 22 households from L' and the surrounding villages belonging to the Orthodox Rabbinate of Upper Hessen in Gießen. Members of the first community committee were: Sigmund Strauss (died 1934), Samuel Strauss and Aharon Stein. In 1908 a synagogue was consecrated with 100 seats for men and 74 seat s for women and a backside apartment for the religious teacher and cantor. For more than 40 years – since 1885 – Emanuel Tzadik served that post.

During the First World War, one of the community's sons fell.


In the Days of the Weimar Republic

Unlike in other small towns in Hessen, the community continued growing even after the war. Just before the Nazis came to power, Joseph Weinberg headed the community. The community had a synagogue, a bath house (Mikve) and a cemetery. It employed a religion teacher, cantor and practiced kosher butchering. 21 children, most from L' and some from the surrounding areas participated in the lessons of the religion teacher, Max Stern at that time. Rosa Stern, the teacher's wife, headed the women's association.

Most of L's Jews made a living from commerce of different kinds. Some were also craftsmen and one was a dentist. Several of the merchant families were very prosperous and became part of the higher class as well as some of the cattle and livestock traders but most of L's Jews belonged to the middle class; a minority, some peddlers and craftsmen had a hard time making ends meet.

After the First World War, L' became one of the Nazi strongholds in Hessen. The "Dukhart" pub served as their meeting place and Jews were barred from entering it. In the elections to the Reichstag in May 1924 the Nazis won 11.6% of the local votes (7% in the whole of Hessen) and in the elections of 19 June 1932 to the Landtag they won 60.5% (compared to 44% in Hessen).

[Page 221]

Under Nazi Rule

L' was under a very heavy anti-Semitic atmosphere as early as the first weeks after the Nazis came to power. The socio-economic boycott was kept even after the "General Day of Boycott" (1st April 1933). First to be affected were small store owners, some of which had to sell their businesses at a loss. In 1933 5 Jews liquidated their businesses and left the city and in 1934 this happened for 16 more. The Jewish high school students were also hurt as they were barred from the Technological Gymnasium. Trucks carrying Nazi activists drove throughout the city and these used megaphones to call out anti-Semitic slogans with the publication of the Nuremberg Laws (autumn 1935). More and more 'Arians' put up signs in their stores with contents like 'Jews are not welcome here'. The city council forbade the Jews to enter the municipal swimming pool, to use the public bath-house or the municipal hearse. A Jewish cattle-dealer was accused of harassing animals and was sentenced to a year in jail (the court in Gießen reduced the sentence to 4 weeks). In the years 1936 to 1938 the economic decrees were getting harsher and harsher: Jewish businesses were expelled from the chamber of commerce and all business permits were cancelled.

Even with the prosecution, the community continued its activities for a few more years. A fiftieth anniversary celebration was modestly held for the synagogue in August 1933. Sigmund Strauss, major contributor to the synagogue and a pillar of the community, passed away in 1934.

Up until the autumn of 1938, about 140 Jews left L', some from the surrounding villages that settled temporarily in L'. From the L' immigrants, 11 went to Israel. Many moved to other places within Germany, mainly to Frankfurt. By October 1938 there were only about 50 Jews left in L'.

On the night of the 10th November 1938, local hooligans broke into the synagogue and wrecked the internal part of it along with all contents. A few hours later, as evening was setting, SA & SS men set fire to the building – it burned throughout the night. Only when there was danger to adjacent houses were the neighbors allowed to call the fire squad.

On the same day SS and SA squads forced their way into Jewish homes and businesses doing so first to these families known to be wealthy. In the Bauman home there was much plundering and what was left behind was destroyed with machinery oil – carpets, drapes, blankets and other linens. The damages were estimated at 3,000-4,000 marks. In the Jacob home, three SS men forced the mother to pack silverware and linens and pass them on to them, they also demanded things that were not there to give. The son, Julius was taken to a concentration camp and incarcerated there for about a year. In the Heckster home, one of the oldest in L', the rioters plundered silverware and shattered furniture and housewares. In the Friedlander dentist's home, the phone was ripped out and everything was smashed to smithereens. Similar events took place in the homes of the other Jews. The rioters were joined by many locals that joined in the looting. Youths and children also came to the scene to let free their darkest urges and take their part of the spoils. After 'Kristallnacht', Yehuda Bauman was forced to sell his house to the city for a meager sum even though there were private buyers willing to pay higher prices. The impoverished Jews of L' continued to migrate; in 17 May 1939 only 12 Jews remained and in November 1940, the last Jewish woman left L'. In all, 55 Jews immigrated from L' directly and 102 others moved during the Nazi era through other cities in Germany, mostly Frankfurt. Some managed to immigrate while others were deported to the camps where they perished. A Jewish woman married to a German and her son, half-Jewish, were deported in February 1945 to Theresienstadt.

From nearby Hochwaldhausen, an elderly couple was deported to Theresienstadt in September 1942. In Herbstein, also near L', three Jews were still living in 1942 and it seems that they too were deported and perished.


After the War

The Jewish cemetery (1,548 square meters), now cared for by the local municipality, has been declared a protected historic heritage site. The city placed a plaque on the location where the synagogue once stood.


Siegmar, Karl: Lauterbach in Hessen, Geschichte einer stadt und ihrer Bürger, vol . iii, Neustadt an der Aisch 1965, pp. 393-396
Becker, Eduard Edwin: Der erste Jude in Lauterbach, Heimatblätter für den Kreis Lauterbach, vol. 10, no. 40, 20.4.1940-

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