Varel

General information: First Jewish presence: 1683; peak Jewish population: 90 in 1875; Jewish population in 1933: 39
Summary: The Jews of Varel initially conducted services in a rented prayer room, first documented in 1717. The community unsuccessfully petitioned the authorities for a synagogue in 1760, and it was not until 1806, when a local Jew, Abraham Schwabe, provided the community with a building, that a synagogue was established in Varel. This synagogue had been abandoned by 1843, as the structure had fallen into disrepair. Later, on July 28, 1848, the community inaugurated a synagogue on Osterstrasse; the building, which had been acquired in 1840, housed an elementary school, an apartment for the teacher and a mikveh. Records also tell us that in 1900, the community opened a hostel for indigent Jews. Varel’s Jewish cemetery was consecrated in 1711. Seventeen Jews lived in Varel on Pogrom Night (November 1938), when SA troops set the synagogue on fire and plundered the remaining Jewish homes. Jewish men and several women were imprisoned in police headquarters, from where they were sent to Oldenburg and, later, to Sachsenhausen, where one man was so badly beaten that he died of his wounds. Those who survived the ordeal were eventually released, after which eight more Varel Jews emigrated from Germany. Varel’s last Jewish family left town in 1940. On July 23, 1941, after the remaining Jewish residents of the old-age home were deported to Theresienstadt, the town was declared Judenfrei (“free of Jews”). Approximately 43 local Jews perished in the Shoah. The site of the Jewish cemetery was taken over by the Nazis, who used some of the gravestones for construction; several gravestones were retrieved after the war. The synagogue site was acquired by a local resident in May 1939. In 1990, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the public school opposite the plot where the synagogue once stood.
Photo: The synagogue of Varel. Courtesy of: Town Archive of Varel.
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans
Sources: JGNB1, YV
www.bethhahayim.info/varel.htm
Located in: Lower Saxony