Koethen

General information: First Jewish presence: 14th century; peak Jewish population: 350 in 1875; Jewish population in 1933: 156
Summary: Official documents from 1620 mention five Jewish families in Koethen, after which, during the reign of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Koethen, more Jews received letter of protection. Koethen was home to several important Hebrew printing houses from 1622 until 1717. Prior to 1777, the year in which the Jewish community was officially established, Jews conducted services in a prayer room on Schalaunische Strasse; that same year, a small cemetery was consecrated on Am Welschen Busch. Records suggest that Koethen was home to a mikveh after the beginning of the 18th century. In 1802, the community, of which Jews from several neighboring towns, for example, Guesten, Nienburg and Woerbzig, were members, inaugurated a synagogue at 5 Burgstrasse; next to the synagogue were classrooms and a teacher’s residence. Later, in 1891 (after the community had grown to 250 members), the Burgstrasse synagogue was demolished and replaced with a domed synagogue whose architectural style incorporated both Romanesque and Moorish features. The new Jewish cemetery on Maxdorfer Strasse was consecrated in 1888. Over 30% of the town’s Jews either emigrated from Germany or moved to larger cities after the Nazis rose to power. On Pogrom Night (November 1938), the synagogue was looted, desecrated and set on fire; both cemeteries were destroyed, but the cemetery hall remained undamaged. Many local Jews were deported to the East; the remaining Jews, most of whom were elderly, were deported to Theresienstadt. At least 80 Koethen Jews perished in the Shoah. The cemetery on Maxdorfer Strasse, which housed approximately 150 tombstones, was restored after the war. In 1962, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the former synagogue site; the plaque was desecrated in the 1990s, and later disappeared. Jewish inventor Rudolph Herzberg, who came up with the main concept of the mechanical sewing machine, was born in Koethen in 1837.
Author / Sources: Beate Grosz-Wenker
Sources: AJ, EJ, EJL, JL, YV
Located in: Saxony-Anhalt