General information: First Jewish presence: 1293; peak Jewish population: 779 in 1905; Jewish population in 1933: 648
Summary: Although the Jewish community of Kaiserslautern was annihilated in the Black Death pogroms of 1348/49, a new Jewish presence was established there in 1383. Kaiserslautern’s medieval Jewish community maintained a synagogue and a mikveh. It was during the 19th century, however, that the community, with which the Jews of Mehlingen and Gunbach were affiliated, experienced substantial growth. Beginning in 1828, Kaiserslautern was home to a district rabbinate. The 19th-century community conducted services in prayer halls until 1849, when a synagogue was dedicated in the city. Later, in 1866, a new synagogue—with 400 seats for men and 200 for women—was established on Fruehlingsstrasse. The Jews of Kaiserslautern also maintained a cemetery and an elementary school, the latter of which was established in 1838 and closed in 1875. We do not know when the community hired a teacher/chazzan, but records do tell us that in 1931/32, he instructed 98 children in religion. Six hundred and forty-eight Jews lived in Kaiserslautern in 1933. Dr. Solly Baron was rabbi, and the community ran four Jewish associations and a branch of the B’nai B’rith organization. Local Jews were forced to give up their synagogue in August 1938, after which they were permitted to establish a prayer room in a former prison. The synagogue building was demolished in September or October of 1938, and the site was used as a parade ground after 1939. On Pogrom Night, 110 Jewish homes and many Jewish-owned businesses were ransacked. Torah scrolls were burned, and approximately 50 Jewish men were sent to Dachau. In 1939, 90 Jews lived in Kaiserslautern. On October 22, 1940, 48 local Jews were deported to the concentration camp in Gurs, France. Deportations from Kaiserslautern continued until March 1945, and more than 200 Jews originally from Kaiserslautern perished in the Shoah. The new Jewish community, founded after 1945, inaugurated a synagogue in 1965. In 1980, the site on which the destroyed synagogue once stood was renamed Synagogenplatz (“synagogue square”); a plaque and a memorial were unveiled there in 1980 and 2003, respectively
Photo: The synagogue of Kaiserslautern in 1896. Courtesy of: City Archive of Kaiserslautern.
Author / Sources: Heike Zaun Goshen
Sources: AJ, EJL, FJG