In the Middle Ages the towns of Speyer, Worms and Mainz, with their Rabbis and scholars, determined the Jewish life far beyond the boundaries of Germany. In Frankfurt the Jews stayed throughout the Middle Ages but were driven into a Ghetto in the middle of the 16th century, which became their home for more than 300 years. Berlin was once the 8th biggest Jewish city worldwide and home to the philosopher and founder of the ideas of Jewish enlightenment. In the process of enlightenment, the one-sided love affair of the German Jews started. After the Shoa, the question arose as to whether a Jew should or could live in the land of the perpetrators. Looking at Jewish life in contemporary Germany, we find a clear answer. The country of the perpetrators has changed tremendously.
Frankfurt: At about 1150 there were Jews living in Frankfurt. They were driven into a ghetto in 1562; it was torn down as a result mainly of the French Revolution, when a very slow process of equality for Jews started. This is really something very special and here we ask ourselves how the community went about with daily life. In the museum “Judengasse” we find the excavated foundations of five houses of the former ghetto and answers to the question above. Next to the museum is the first Jewish cemetery with a breathtaking memorial to the Frankfurt Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. The Westend Synagogue today unifies all different congregations of the Frankfurt community and is the only Frankfurt synagogue that survived Chrystal Night in 1938. Also worth a visit is the second Jewish cemetery, with tombs of the Rothschilds, Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Berta Pappenheim, Paul Ehrlich or the Rabbi of Stolin to name a few.(2 Tours)
Mainz: Mainz belongs to the so-called Shum communities (ש for Speyer, ו for Worms and ם for Mainz, שום means garlic in Hebrew), which were – in the Middle Ages – centers of Jewish scholarship. The Synagogue designed by Manuel Herz that opened in 2010 is an outstanding building that inspires us to reflect on Jewish life in Germany. Today the city remembers its long Jewish history with different memorials.(Tour)
Worms: The “Holy Sand” is considered the oldest remaining Jewish cemetery in Europe. It is where important rabbis of the Middle Ages are buried, in the so-called “Valley of the Rabbis.” Not far away from the entrance we find the tomb of Rabbi Meir from Rothenburg – one of the outstanding rabbis and Talmud scholars of the 13th century, who was born in Worms. Each time I visit the cemetery it is for me a fascinating and vivid journey into the Jewish medieval history. Worth a visit are also the Mikve and the rebuilt old synagogue nearby, which is today a museum and a place for various activities and services of the Jewish community of Worms and Mainz.(Tour)
Speyer: Speyer is famous for its cathedral and the nearby „Judenhof“. The „Judenhof“ houses remnants of the medieval synagogue as well as a Mikve – one of the oldest in Germany. Several representatives of the Kalonymus family worked and lived here as rabbis and scholars. Jewish life returned to Speyer with immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Today Speyer has its own synagogue again. In Speyer one can really sense the hesitation of the Germans how to deal with the Jewish past after WWII.(Tour)
Friedberg: This little town north of Frankfurt has a fascinating Jewish history. Here we find what may be the largest Mikve still in existence. From the very beginnings of the town’s history in the 12th century there has always been a Jewish community until its final deportations on September 17th, 1942. Therefore Friedberg is one of the few towns like Prague, Frankfurt am Main and Worms, from which the Jews were not expelled but driven into a ghetto. On a very small area we can illustrate the century-long history of this small town.(Tour)
Bad Nauheim: Bad Nauheim is a wealthy town. It became a bath in the 19th century and thus attracted guests from all over the world: Bismarck and the Russian Czar Nicolas II came here. For this reason the small Jewish community grew when Jewish doctors, patients and nurses moved to the city at the same time. One of the most beautiful synagogues in the Bauhaus style is here and the Jewish community has about 300 members today.(Tour)
Munich / Dachau: Munich is for the Jewish traveler interesting for its national socialist history and for its own Jewish history. Like in many other German towns, the Jewish history here is characterized by the constant ups and downs up through the second half of the 19th century, when a Jewish community was born again. Munich has one of the most influential Jewish communities of Germany, with a fascinating synagogue and a community center right in the heart of the Bavarian capital.
But it was also here where a man called Adolf Hitler started a movement which would spellbound millions of Germans. Munich is for the Jewish traveler also associated with one of the first concentration camps – Dachau.
Nuremberg & Fuerth: A Jewish traveler remembers the Nuremberg Laws or the Nuremberg Rallies, which thousands of Germans voluntarily attended. From 1945 to 1949 the Nuremberg trial took place here. The city also has a Jewish history that is very typical for many German cities: for about 350 years leading up to the middle of the 19th century, Jewish life was virtually impossible. Later, Nuremberg and neighboring Fuerth became cities with a very vibrant Jewish life.