Schmitten

General information: First Jewish presence: 1800; peak Jewish population: unknown: Jewish population in 1933: unknown (14 in 1932)
Summary: The Jews of Schmitten conducted services in the living room of a Jewish residence until November 15, 1844, when the community celebrated the inauguration of a synagogue. The single-story, half-timbered building, built on an area of 55 square meters close to the center of the village (the street would later be called Synagogenstrasse, or “synagogue street”), contained 52 seats for men and, in the gallery, 24 seats for women. In 1890, at which point 20 Jews lived in the Schmitten, the regional council attempted to dissolve the Jewish community and merge it with nearby Anspach. The Jews of Schmitten, however, aided by the election of Sina Hess as leader of religious services, managed to keep their status as an independent community. Years later, in 1920, the community was affiliated with Unsingen. From 1883 onwards, many non-local Jews, attracted by the spas in Schmitten, spent their summers there, attending the synagogue and enriching the service. Schmitten’s kosher health resort (named Strauss), established in or around 1910, had a prayer room. Prominent local Jews included: Josef Herz, who fell in World War I; Moritz Hess, a cattle dealer and the last head of the community; and Hermann Strauss, a hotelkeeper and an honorary prayer leader. Four Jewish families—Strauss, Hess, Herz and Loewenstein—remained in Schmitten after 1933; by 1937, only the four members of the Loewenstein family still lived there. Some community members moved to other towns; others immigrated to the United States, South Africa and South America. At least five Schmitten Jews perished in the Shoah. On November 9, 1938, rioters damaged the defunct synagogue. The village authorities purchased the building after Pogrom Night and, later, sold it to a private buyer. In 1995, the building, which had served its owner as a garage and storehouse, was pulled down, soon after which, on July 15, 1996, a memorial was unveiled in Schmitten. At the cemetery—consecrated on a hill outside Schmitten in 1820—nine tombs and one tombstone are still intact (the tombstone was transferred there from neighboring Arnoldshain).
Author / Sources: Wolfgang Breese
Sources: AJ, LJG
Located in: Hesse