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Photo of Flight Engineer Dr. Katzenstein under the Bridge of the River Fulda in Kassel, Germany, 1925

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Photo of the famous flight engineer Dr. Katzenstein under the bridge of the river Fulda in Kassel, Germany, 1925

The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU - Museum of the Jewish People, Dr. Paul Arnsberg Collection.

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12759682
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Kassel

A city in Hesse, Germany; former Hesse-Kassel state capital.

21ST CENTURY

Following Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, the Jewish community of Kassel numbered about 1,220 in 2004.

As the synagogue had become too small, it was torn down and a new one designed by architect Alfred Jacoby was built and consecrated in 2000. It was financed by the Jewish community of Kassel, the Association of Jewish Communities in Hesse, the Federal state (Land) of Hesse, and the city of Kassel.

HISTORY

A 1293 record maintains that a Jewess had been in possession of some property in Kassel at an earlier date. A Jews' street was in existence in 1318. During the Black Death persecutions (1348-1939), the Jews suffered but some managed to escape and were living in Frankfort (1360) and Erfurt. By 1398, there was an organized community in Kassel, with a synagogue and cemetery.

The Jews' street is mentioned again in 1455 and 1486 and the "Jews' well" might also date from this period.

In 1513, Master Falke contributed to the construction of a local bridge; in 1520, he paid the rent for the cemetery, as did his widow in 1526. Landgrave Philip of Hesse expelled the Jews from Hesse-Kassel in 1524. However, in 1530, he admitted Michel Jud of Derenburg as court agent for 10 years and in 1532, issued a Jewry toleration law, amplified in 1539. Though restrictive and ordering Jews to attend Christian sermons, it was less severe than the extreme anti-Jewish proposals of the reformation theologian Martin Butzer. Only a few Jews were allowed in Kassel during this period, a physician and several silk knitters. In 1602, the court Jew Hayum was admitted as mint master.

In 1577, landgrave William the Wise had initiated Hesse-Kassel Jewry assemblies, first held in Kassel. The kehillah Hebrew constitution papers, begun in 1633, and a pinkas (records and decisions) were ordered to be translated into German in 1734-1740. Hesse-Kassel Jewry was under the civic jurisdiction of the Fulda rabbinate until 1625, and that of Friedberg until 1656.

During the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), the Jews were compelled to leave Kassel. However, the court Jew Benedict Goldschmidt received a residence privilege in 1635; it was extended in 1647 to include his two sons. From 1650 to 1715, private prayer services were held in the Goldschmidt's house, led by the rabbi of the nearby village of Bettenhausen (later part of Kassel), where a cemetery was acquired in 1621.

In 1714, a synagogue building was erected and enlarged in 1755; the community had grown by then to approximately 200 persons. A Memorbuch was begun in 1720, and a Chevra Kaddisha founded in 1773. In 1772, the rabbinate was transferred from Witzenhausen, seat of the yeshivah, to Kassel.

From 1807 to 1813, Kassel was the capital of the short-lived kingdom of Westphalia. The emancipation law of 1808 granted civil rights to Jews and made possible an influx of Jews from other areas. A consistory headed by Israel Jacobson introduced synagogue and educational reforms. The government of the reestablished principality of Hessen-Kassel issued a more restrictive Jewry ordinance in 1823, which remained in force until 1866, when Kassel came under Prussian rule and Prussian emancipation laws prevailed.

In 1836-1839, a new synagogue was built, accommodating around 1,000 persons. An Orthodox faction separated after 1872 and built its own synagogue in 1898. The main synagogue was rebuilt in 1890-1907. The Hesse-Kassel yeshivah was transferred to Kassel as a teachers' seminary and elementary school. The community had a library of Judaica and Hebraica and, in the Landesmuseum, a display of ceremonial objects, as well as arts and crafts, which was restored after 1945. It also possessed an orphanage and an old age home.

In 1905, 2,445 Jews lived in Kassel, 2,750 (1.62% of the total) in 1925, and 2,301 (1.31%) in June 1933, after the Nazis came to power in Germany.

HOLOCAUST

On November 7, 1938, two days before Kristallnacht started, the main synagogue was set on fire. Local firemen extinguished the blaze, something they were explicitly told not to do on Kristallnacht. Two days later, the Liberal synagogue was burned down and the Orthodox synagogue destroyed. A completed manuscript of the second volume of the history of the Jews in Kassel, prepared under community auspices, was destroyed,

Over the following year, 300 Jews including the rabbi were sent to Buchenwald and 560 Jews emigrated. Of those remaining, 470 were deported to Riga in 1941, 99 to Majdanek in 1942, and 323 to Theresienstadt the same year.

POST-WAR

In 1945-1946, 200 Jews - mainly displaced persons - lived in Kassel; 102 in 1955; 73 in 1959; and 106 in 1970.

With municipal aid, a synagogue and a community center were built in 1965.