Jewish Community

A plurality of tracks

Judaism experienced an eventful history in Rothenburg

There has been, in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, since the 12th Century, a Jewish community with all facilities such as a cemetery, synagogue, mikveh and community center. In 1180 the first Rothenburg Jew was named. In the 13th Century 500 to 600 Jews lived in the city. The spiritual leader of contemporary Judaism in Germany, Rabbi Meir ben Baruch (c. 1220-1293) had lived for many years in Rothenburg. But in Rothenburg the relationship with Jewish citizens, as in many cities and towns, was frequently marked by misunderstandings and cruel assaults. In the so-called ” beef – tracking ” in 1298 about 450 Jews in the city were killed, their bodies burned at the cemetery. Some years later, Jews lived in the city again. With the pogroms of the plague, the newly created community was destroyed again in the years 1349 and 1350.

There are double portals that look like giant prayer stone tablets, in a building that has a mikveh in the basement in the ” Jewish quarter “. A few steps further on ” Schrannenplatz “, there was a synagogue in the second Jewish quarter from the year 1407. The weathered wall letters are difficult to decipher in the wall of Rabbi Meir‘s little garden, there is also the White Tower where once stood a Jewish dance house, and history buffs can nowadays see old Jewish grave stones, and also the Judaica collection of the imperial City Museum.

In the second half of the 14th Century some Jews moved back into the city. The old residential area in the chapel lane remained closed to them for new settlements. But in the filling of the moat in front of the old city walls there were apartments for rent in the city. A ghetto was formed in the course of this settlement in “Jewish street “, although Christian families also lived here. A synagogue was able to build its church in 1407 on the edge of the Jewish cemetery. After the expulsion of the Jews the Rothenburg synagogue was looted and consecrated on 8 January 1520 In April of this year it was converted to the ” Chapel of the Virgin Mary.” In 1525 it was destroyed in the Peasants’ War. Its walls were torn down in 1560. The stones were used as building material for the new church cemetery near the Rödertor.

In 1520 Jews were finally banned from entering the city of Rothenburg altogether. Those who still lived there, had to flee. It was not until 350 years later, in 1870, that Jewish families settled again in Rothenburg . At the beginning of the twentieth century, trouble flared again, driven by the hate propaganda of the Nazis, anti-Semitism rose again. Even before the pogrom in November 1938, all citizens of Jewish descent were expelled from Rothenburg. Within a few years Rothenburg had no Jewish community.

A variety of tracks and historical evidence from the centuries of Jewish history have been preserved in the town. The famous Talmudic expert Rabbi Meir ben Baruch of Rothenburg taught here for forty years. He founded a yeshiva at Chapel Place, a school for Talmudic studies, which attracted students from all over Europe. There is a bronze plaque to the Meir of Rothenburg at the chapel ranked No. 5 in place around the chapel, and there was also the center of Jewish culture with an everyday synagogue, a ballroom and commodities for daily use. The district had several waves of persecution but it was rebuilt again. The ballroom street corner Jews / White tower, the so-called “Jewish Dance House “, is a reminder of the community. This building is, just like the Rabbi Meir garden, a replica. Jewish grave stones are embedded in the walls of the little garden, but are all replicas.

Shaped by its timber, the Jews Alley has borne its name since 1371, Jews and Christians lived next door to each other. It is the only surviving late medieval Jewish quarter in Europe. It is not publicly accessible – a Jewish ritual, called mikvah, can be found in the house No. 10. It is still filled with groundwater. Its replica can also be found in the Imperial City Museum. In addition, valuable ritual objects, typical of the Jewish community of 1410, such as an oven and a crutch Chanukah candelabra made of sheet iron can be seen.

We offer individual and group tours for all interesting sights in Rothenburg. Contact for further information.