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The Holocaust in Germany - Dortmund


The City and the Holocaust



The city of Dortmund circa 1647

Dortmund a major city in Germany is located in Westphalia and records show that there were transient Jewish merchants present in the late 11th Century.
A Jewish settlement was established during the 13th Century with an organized community with a synagogue. A cemetery was opened outside the city walls in 1336 and in 1350 during the Black Death, the Jews were accused of poisoning wells, they were arrested and expelled under an agreement between the Count of the Mark and the municipality to divide up their property, some Jews did not survive this ordeal.
In 1372 the Jews were invited to return, so that the municipality might again benefit from their financial acumen, ten protected Jewish families were present by 1380 with Shimshon ben Shemuel of Dueren as their Rabbi. The Jewish population dropped with the decline of the city as a political and economic force and by the mid fifteenth century no Jews remained in the city.

Residence rights were again granted in 1543, but in 1596 the Jews were expelled, effectively signaling the end of a Jewish presence in Dortmund until the modern era.
Only after equal rights were accorded to the Jews in the Grand Duchy of Berg in 1808 were residence restrictions lifted and merchants and peddlers living in nearby villagers allowed to settle. In 1846, 38 Jewish families were living in difficult economic circumstances.

In the middle 19th Century with the accelerated economic and demographic development of the city, the situation of the Jewish community improved and its population began to expand rapidly, reaching a figure of 1,942 out of a total of 142,733 in 1900.

A synagogue was built in the mid-19th Century and a new synagogue, one of the most beautiful in Germany, with a seating capacity of 1,200 was consecrated in 1900.
A Jewish elementary school was founded in 1840 by 1871 it had over one hundred students, which increased to 220 by 1910, when it became part of the public school system. Religious classes were provided for children attending non-Jewish schools and a Talmud torah with an enrolment of 50 was opened in 1916 under Orthodox auspices.
Agudat Israel became active in 1914, the Zionist group active in 1899 was the earliest in Westphalia. In 1907, 62% of the Jewish population were engaged in trade and transport services; 23% in crafts and industry; and 5.2% belonged to the free professions.


Jews took an active part in public life following emancipation, with three serving on the municipal council in 1910 and one serving as chairman of the local medical society.
In the late 19th Century Dortmund became a focus of anti-Semitic propaganda in Westphalia. The anti-Semitic Westfaelische Reform was published there from 1882, attacking Jewish merchants and inciting occasional mob violence.
In the Reichstag elections of 1890 the anti-Semites won 3% of the vote, but this anti-Semite faction all but practically disappeared by the end of the century.

Battalions of Nazi street fighters salute Hitler during an SA parade through Dortmund. Germany, 1933

Anti-Semitic outbursts were renewed after the First World War against a background of economic crisis, during the Great War many East European Jews settled in Dortmund, representing a third of the Jewish population in 1925 which had now increased to 3,820.
The established Jewish population comprised the middle class, mostly businessmen, but with some professionals, musicians, theatre people and artisans. The Jews from Eastern Europe constituted the lower class, living in slum neighborhoods and earning meager livelihoods in petty trade, peddling, and crafts.

It was they who strengthened the city’s Orthodox circles as well as the Zionist movement. Hebrew courses were offered from 1921 under Zionist auspices. The struggle for representation between the East European and German Jews created a public outcry echoed in the Jewish press throughout Germany, with the old guard accusing the Zionists of endangering the “patriotic German character” of the community.


Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/dortmund.html


The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team



Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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