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The Jewish Community of Mulhouse

Mulhouse

In German: Muelhausen

A city in Alsace, in the Haut-Rhin department, France

21st Century

Communauté Israélite de Mulhouse
2 rue des Rabbins
68200 Mulhouse
France
Phone : 03 89 66 21 22
Fax : 03 89 56 63 49
Website: http://www.cimulhouse.com/

 

HISTORY

The earliest documentation of the presence of Jews in Mulhouse dates from 1290, when one Salman was victim of a persecution. The existence of a synagogue is confirmed from 1311. The Jews of Mulhouse suffered during the Armleder riots in January 1338, and again during the outbreaks accompanying the black death (1349). By 1385, however, there were once more Jews living in Mulhouse. At the beginning of the 15th century, several Jews who had arrived from other places in Alsace were granted the freedom of the city. The nine families who were there in 1418 owned houses, engaged in money lending, and traded in livestock. Although there was no expulsion, no Jews lived in the city between 1512 and 1655. At the beginning of the 18th century, when they were still insignificant in number, their trade flourished to the extent of arousing the jealousy of the Christian merchants, who demanded that their rights be restricted. In 1784 there were 23 Jewish families (94 persons) in the city. As it was free from the anti-Jewish riots which broke out throughout Alsace in 1789, Mulhouse became a refuge for many Jews from the surrounding district. The synagogue, built in 1822, soon proved to be too small and was replaced by a larger one in 1849. A cemetery was purchased in 1831, and the community established several other institutions, including a vocational school in 1842, and an almshouse-hospital in 1863. Two periodicals catering for all the Jews of Alsace and even beyond were published during the second half of the 19th century. From about 5,000 in 1900 the community declined to around 3,000 in 1921, remaining stable until just before World War II. Jacob Kaplan, later chief rabbi of France, held office in Mulhouse in 1922.

Under German occupation in world war ii the Jews who had not managed to escape were expelled on July 16, 1940, along with the Jews in the rest of Alsace and Moselle. The synagogue, which had been partially damaged, was saved from total destruction when the edifice was requisitioned by the municipal theater. In 1970 Mulhouse had 1,800 Jewish inhabitants and a well-organized community.

Place Type:
City
ID Number:
133132
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

Related items:
He was the son of a wealthy manufacturer in Mulhouse, France, who moved to Paris out of French patriotism when Alsace came under German rule following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. Dreyfus entered the army as an engineer and overcame anti-Jewish prejudice to become a captain on the general staff, its only Jewish member. In 1894 it was discovered that intelligence was being leaked from the French army to the Germans and Dreyfus was convicted on the basis of documents that later proved forged. The "Affair" had enormous repercussions, headed by the Catholic, royalist and anti-Semitic press. Dreyfus was publicly degraded to cries of "death to the Jews". He was transported in chains to a prison on Devil's Island off the coast of South America. The "Affair" however, continued to divide France with a number of courageous liberals, convinced of his innocence, working for his release. Gradually the forgeries were exposed and in 1898 Dreyfus was brought back for a retrial. Despite the obvious evidence, he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but was immediately pardoned by the liberal President of France. Only in 1906 was Dreyfus exonerated by the court of appeal and reinstated in the army, serving in WW1 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Rein, Alfred (1910-1944), dentist, born in Mulhouse, France. During the WW I his father Nathan served in the French army in Romania. While father was away, his mother, Mother Sophie, took the children to stay with her parents in the Bas Rhin. The family returned to Mulhouse in 1919. Alfred, the fourth child in a family of 12, enjoyed studying both secular and religious subjects and was a keen sportsman. He tried (unsuccessfully) to gain his bacalaureat from school. Having left school he attempted to find work as a commercial representative but he failed in this field also. At a dead end, he devoted himself to learning Torah. In 1931-1932 he was called up for national service with the French army and served in a cavalry unit in Belfort. When discharged in 1935, he decided to return to his studies. This time he passed the examinations and was enrolled in the University of Strasbourg, France, to study dentistry. He qualified in 1939.

When WW2 broke out, and the Jews became refugees in their own country, Alfred went with his family to live in the small town of Boege in the Haute Savoie, north of Grenoble, and very close to Geneva in Switzerland. Boege was in the Italian occupation zone of France where the Jews lived in relative safety.

In Boege Alfred opened a dental practice. He worked there four days per week, one day per week in Annemasse, and one day in the village of Saint-Jeoire. He travelled from one place to the other on a a motor-cycle or, if there was no petrol, on a regular bicycle. In 1943 the area was occupied by the Germans and conditions for the Jews deteriorated. He was no longer able to practice his profession. Although not officially a member of the Resistance, he helped them on many occasions and in particular he helped a number of the refugees who passed through Annemasse on the way to the Swiss frontier. He contacted members of his family who lived in Switzerland and asked them to help the refugees when they had crossed the frontier.

In November 1943 he decided to leave for Lyon, France, where he could study Torah and work at a food distribution centre for refugees. He was arrested by the Germans on 13th March 1944. On 30th April his family received a postcard written from “Arbeitslager L II Haus I”, stating simply that he was in good health and was working. It was the standard wording permitted to Jews who wrote to their families on arrival at a death camp. Nothing more was heard from him. His father died 5 days after the postcard was written.
Meyer, Henri (1844-1899), caricaturist and illustrator born in Mulhouse, France, who was brought to Argentina when he was ten years old. Before he was twenty years old he became editor of the political humourous Argentinian magazine "El Mosquito" and held that position for 30 years between 1863 and 1893. Many leading politicians of the time were the object of his jibes and sharp paint brush. Meyer also illustrated the novels of Jules Verne for a French publisher. One of his most famous pictures was that of the degradation of Dreyfus. He returned to Paris shortly before his death.
Rein, Armand (1921-), French Resistance fighter and businessman, born 1921 in Mulhouse, France, into a large family of eleven children. From 1942 to 1945 he was an active member of the French resistance movement. Rein and others worked to free (legally or illegally) Jewish children from the infamous internment camps established by the French in Gurs and Rivesaltes in the south of the country. He found the children safe places to hide, mainly in the Italian occupation zone, where the Italian army refused to allow the French police to molest or deport them, and arranging for them to be fed and receive medical care. Often he went from village to village looking for surplus fruit, vegetables and eggs with which to feed his charges. In 1943 he was put in charge of a socio/medical centre for the refugees in the region of the Savoie in south-east France. The centre had been organized by OSE, the French Jewish welfare organization which at that time was largely financed by the American Joint Distribution Committee. The Italian Zone was occupied by the Germans in 1943 after the Italians reached an armistice with the Allies. Rein organised a special train to take some 400 Jews out of the zone in the direction of Rome. He arranged for a number of groups of Jewish children to walk over the Alps and so helped to smuggle them to safety in Switzerland. At the end of 1943, learning that the Gestapo was planning to arrest him, he himself together some family members and also his eight months’ pregnant wife Jeannette who subsequently gave birth to her first child several weeks later in Zurich, escaped to Switzerland in the same way. After the WW 2 he became OSE representative in Marseilles, France, where he organized the reception of deportees from many parts of Europe and arranged their passage to Israel. Two of his brothers were deported to Auschwitz Nazi death camp.

In the mid 1950s Rein started a successful business career and established connections with Ethiopia and several other African countries. He retired and immigrated to Israel in 1980.
Catane, Moshe, (1920-1995) academic, expert on Rashi, born in 1920 in Mulhouse, France, to an observant Jewish Alsatian family. He was an excellent student in both secular and Jewish studies. When WW II broke out his family, together with all other Jewish families, was ordered by the French authorities to leave their home in Strasbourg which was close to the German frontier. They found refuge in the small town of Cusset (population about 10,000 people) near Vichy, in central France. His three elder brothers had been mobilized so he supported the family as a secondary school teacher, In his spare time he continued his Jewish religious studies.
He also found ways to assist the many Jewish young people who found themselves hiding out in the Vichy unoccupied zone of France. He organized courses in Hebrew, Jewish history and Bible classes and other educational opportunities for many of them in study groups and by correspondence. As time went on the persecution of the Jews even in this zone become more serious, one of his brothers was shot for his part in the Resistance while two sisters were deported to Auschwitz where they were killed.

In 1941 Catane married and later, in order to avoid arrest by the Germans, fled to Switzerland with his wife and small baby. The Swiss sent him to an internment camp. After the war he resumed his studies and in 1949 he was awarded a degree in literature and later a diploma in the study of ancient writing and archivism to preserve old records for future generations. His thesis was on the life and works of Rashi. A staunch Zionist, he moved to Jerusalem together with his wife and five children a few months after the establishment of the State of Israel.

From 1956 to 1988 Catane was librarian at the Israel National Library in Jerusalem and at the same time also taught ancient French at Bar Ilan Universityin Ramat Gan, Israel. In 1968 the University of Strasbourg awarded him a doctorate in the study of ancient French. The French Ministry of Education made him a special award for his contribution to the study of French literature and the academic ties between France and Israel. He wrote many learned articles in both French and Hebrew. His books include "Les Juifs dans le Monde" (1962); "A History of the Jews" [in Hebrew] (1958), "Jerusalem a travers trois millenaires"; (1984), "Glossaires de Rachi sur la Bible et le Talmud" (1988); "Qui est Juif ?" (1990); "La vie en France au XI siecle d’apres les ecrits de Rachi" (1994).
Meyer, Henri (1844-1899), caricaturist and illustrator born in Mulhouse, France, who was brought to Argentina when he was ten years old. Before he was twenty years old he became editor of the political humourous Argentinian magazine "El Mosquito" and held that position for 30 years between 1863 and 1893. Many leading politicians of the time were the object of his jibes and sharp paint brush. Meyer also illustrated the novels of Jules Verne for a French publisher. One of his most famous pictures was that of the degradation of Dreyfus. He returned to Paris shortly before his death.
Meyer, Ernest Reuven (1863-1941, physician, born in Guebwiller, France, son of Cochel Meyer the locksmith. Meyer distinguished himself as a brilliant child with an amazing memory who on three occasions jumped a class at school. He could speak and read seven languages. He excelled in both secular and religious studies.

He was engaged to be married to a beautiful and rich young lady, but 15 days before the planned date of their marriage he decided that she was not sufficiently religious for him so he broke off the engagement. There is no record of the circumstances of this late change of mind; maybe it was an arranged marriage and he hardly knew the girl. He went on to marry the daughter of his brother Jacob and the couple gave birth to twelve children.

Meyr became a doctor but never gave up his Torah learning. Every evening, after a ten or twelve hour workday carrying for the sick he would go to his study or learn Talmud. If a rabbi came for a medical consultation he would permit the visitor to leave only after they had learned a few lines of Talmud together. When his son Jean went to study at the Yeshiva of Montreux in Switzerland, he used to spend his vacations by renting a hotel room in the town and studying alongside his son.

Elected as a member of the Consistoire [Jewish communal representative body] for the Haut-Rhin district, Meyer was very disturbed by the growing tendency towards assimilation by the Jews of Alsace. As a proud citizen of France he argued that only a full Jewish education could equip Jewish children to maximize their contribution to the society of a “noble and beautiful free France where Jews enjoy all the rights of citizenship” [from an article written in 1929]. Meyer wrote many articles warning of the dangers of assimilation and spoke at many public meetings in favour of the establishment of Jewish day schools which he believed would stem the tide. Other articles written by him and published in the Jewish press included criticisms of anti-Semitic French politicians in the 1930s, suggestions for improving the functioning of the French rabbinate, his opinions of Jewish non-religious settlers in the Palestine, and ideas for improving the communal organization in order to better assist the refugees from eastern Europe who had arrived in France before the outbreak of WW2.

His home was always open to visitors, including Jewish refugees some coming from Russia or Poland, who had succeeded crossing the frontier into France illegally and then found themselves in Mulhouse. Some wanted just a little warmth and hospitality, others looked for financial help.
After the Nazi invasion of France in WW2, Meyer found refuge in Lyons. He died there in 1941. Shortly before his death, when the intentions of Nazi terror were already clear, Dr Meyer wrote a moving prayer imploring his co-religionists to redouble their acts of faith confident that God will reward the righteous gentiles and will save all those who live their lives according to moral principles. His wife Rose was deported to their deaths by the Gestapo in 1944 together with one of her daughters Lucie and her Lucie’s husband, Rabbi Robert Brunschwig.
Rein, Armand (1921-), French Resistance fighter and businessman, born 1921 in Mulhouse, France, into a large family of eleven children. From 1942 to 1945 he was an active member of the French resistance movement. Rein and others worked to free (legally or illegally) Jewish children from the infamous internment camps established by the French in Gurs and Rivesaltes in the south of the country. He found the children safe places to hide, mainly in the Italian occupation zone, where the Italian army refused to allow the French police to molest or deport them, and arranging for them to be fed and receive medical care. Often he went from village to village looking for surplus fruit, vegetables and eggs with which to feed his charges. In 1943 he was put in charge of a socio/medical centre for the refugees in the region of the Savoie in south-east France. The centre had been organized by OSE, the French Jewish welfare organization which at that time was largely financed by the American Joint Distribution Committee. The Italian Zone was occupied by the Germans in 1943 after the Italians reached an armistice with the Allies. Rein organised a special train to take some 400 Jews out of the zone in the direction of Rome. He arranged for a number of groups of Jewish children to walk over the Alps and so helped to smuggle them to safety in Switzerland. At the end of 1943, learning that the Gestapo was planning to arrest him, he himself together some family members and also his eight months’ pregnant wife Jeannette who subsequently gave birth to her first child several weeks later in Zurich, escaped to Switzerland in the same way. After the WW 2 he became OSE representative in Marseilles, France, where he organized the reception of deportees from many parts of Europe and arranged their passage to Israel. Two of his brothers were deported to Auschwitz Nazi death camp.

In the mid 1950s Rein started a successful business career and established connections with Ethiopia and several other African countries. He retired and immigrated to Israel in 1980.
He was the son of a wealthy manufacturer in Mulhouse, France, who moved to Paris out of French patriotism when Alsace came under German rule following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. Dreyfus entered the army as an engineer and overcame anti-Jewish prejudice to become a captain on the general staff, its only Jewish member. In 1894 it was discovered that intelligence was being leaked from the French army to the Germans and Dreyfus was convicted on the basis of documents that later proved forged. The "Affair" had enormous repercussions, headed by the Catholic, royalist and anti-Semitic press. Dreyfus was publicly degraded to cries of "death to the Jews". He was transported in chains to a prison on Devil's Island off the coast of South America. The "Affair" however, continued to divide France with a number of courageous liberals, convinced of his innocence, working for his release. Gradually the forgeries were exposed and in 1898 Dreyfus was brought back for a retrial. Despite the obvious evidence, he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but was immediately pardoned by the liberal President of France. Only in 1906 was Dreyfus exonerated by the court of appeal and reinstated in the army, serving in WW1 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Rein, Alfred (1910-1944), dentist, born in Mulhouse, France. During the WW I his father Nathan served in the French army in Romania. While father was away, his mother, Mother Sophie, took the children to stay with her parents in the Bas Rhin. The family returned to Mulhouse in 1919. Alfred, the fourth child in a family of 12, enjoyed studying both secular and religious subjects and was a keen sportsman. He tried (unsuccessfully) to gain his bacalaureat from school. Having left school he attempted to find work as a commercial representative but he failed in this field also. At a dead end, he devoted himself to learning Torah. In 1931-1932 he was called up for national service with the French army and served in a cavalry unit in Belfort. When discharged in 1935, he decided to return to his studies. This time he passed the examinations and was enrolled in the University of Strasbourg, France, to study dentistry. He qualified in 1939.

When WW2 broke out, and the Jews became refugees in their own country, Alfred went with his family to live in the small town of Boege in the Haute Savoie, north of Grenoble, and very close to Geneva in Switzerland. Boege was in the Italian occupation zone of France where the Jews lived in relative safety.

In Boege Alfred opened a dental practice. He worked there four days per week, one day per week in Annemasse, and one day in the village of Saint-Jeoire. He travelled from one place to the other on a a motor-cycle or, if there was no petrol, on a regular bicycle. In 1943 the area was occupied by the Germans and conditions for the Jews deteriorated. He was no longer able to practice his profession. Although not officially a member of the Resistance, he helped them on many occasions and in particular he helped a number of the refugees who passed through Annemasse on the way to the Swiss frontier. He contacted members of his family who lived in Switzerland and asked them to help the refugees when they had crossed the frontier.

In November 1943 he decided to leave for Lyon, France, where he could study Torah and work at a food distribution centre for refugees. He was arrested by the Germans on 13th March 1944. On 30th April his family received a postcard written from “Arbeitslager L II Haus I”, stating simply that he was in good health and was working. It was the standard wording permitted to Jews who wrote to their families on arrival at a death camp. Nothing more was heard from him. His father died 5 days after the postcard was written.
Catane, Moshe, (1920-1995) academic, expert on Rashi, born in 1920 in Mulhouse, France, to an observant Jewish Alsatian family. He was an excellent student in both secular and Jewish studies. When WW II broke out his family, together with all other Jewish families, was ordered by the French authorities to leave their home in Strasbourg which was close to the German frontier. They found refuge in the small town of Cusset (population about 10,000 people) near Vichy, in central France. His three elder brothers had been mobilized so he supported the family as a secondary school teacher, In his spare time he continued his Jewish religious studies.
He also found ways to assist the many Jewish young people who found themselves hiding out in the Vichy unoccupied zone of France. He organized courses in Hebrew, Jewish history and Bible classes and other educational opportunities for many of them in study groups and by correspondence. As time went on the persecution of the Jews even in this zone become more serious, one of his brothers was shot for his part in the Resistance while two sisters were deported to Auschwitz where they were killed.

In 1941 Catane married and later, in order to avoid arrest by the Germans, fled to Switzerland with his wife and small baby. The Swiss sent him to an internment camp. After the war he resumed his studies and in 1949 he was awarded a degree in literature and later a diploma in the study of ancient writing and archivism to preserve old records for future generations. His thesis was on the life and works of Rashi. A staunch Zionist, he moved to Jerusalem together with his wife and five children a few months after the establishment of the State of Israel.

From 1956 to 1988 Catane was librarian at the Israel National Library in Jerusalem and at the same time also taught ancient French at Bar Ilan Universityin Ramat Gan, Israel. In 1968 the University of Strasbourg awarded him a doctorate in the study of ancient French. The French Ministry of Education made him a special award for his contribution to the study of French literature and the academic ties between France and Israel. He wrote many learned articles in both French and Hebrew. His books include "Les Juifs dans le Monde" (1962); "A History of the Jews" [in Hebrew] (1958), "Jerusalem a travers trois millenaires"; (1984), "Glossaires de Rachi sur la Bible et le Talmud" (1988); "Qui est Juif ?" (1990); "La vie en France au XI siecle d’apres les ecrits de Rachi" (1994).

Alfred Sendrey (born Aladar Szendrei) (1884-1976), musicologist, conductor and composer, born in Budapest, Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary). He studied at the University of Budapest. He conducted opera in Koln (1905-1907), Mulhouse (1907-1909), Brno (1908-1911), Philadelphia and Chicago (1911-1912), Hamburg (1912-1913), New York (1913-1914), Berlin (1914-1916), Vienna (1916-1918) and Leipzig (1918-1924). From 1924 till 1932 he was the conductor of the Leipzig Symphony Orchestra. In 1933 he became the director of the Paris Radio and in 1940 left for the United States. In 1945 he moved from New York to Los Angeles, where he was the music director of Fairfax Synagogue (1952-1956) and Sinai Temple (1956-1964) and taught Jewish Music at the University of Judaism (1962-1972). His works include an opera, a symphony, choral music and chamber music. He wrote Bibliography of Jewish Music (1951), Music in Ancient Israel (1969) and The Music of the Jews in the Diaspora up to 1800 (1970). Alfred Sendrey died in Los Angeles, California.

Ensisheim

A town in Haut-Rhin department, Alsace, France, about 19 mi. (30 km.) south of Colmar.

R. Meir of Rothenburg was held prisoner there from 1286. The first evidence that Jews were living in the town dates from 1291. They were among the victims of the Armleder persecutions in 1338. The community had hardly been reconstituted when it suffered from the persecutions accompanying the black death in 1348-- 49. A few Jews again settled there from 1371. The small community welcomed the Jews expelled from Kaysersberg and Mulhouse at the beginning of the 16th century. After an ordinance of 1547, only one Jewish family was allowed to reside in Ensisheim and the surrounding localities, and the synagogue was closed for worship. In 1689, some Jews were again admitted for a short while on payment of a high protection fee. It was not until 1824 that some Jews again settled there. Only a few Jews were still living there in 1936. At an unknown date there was a blood libel in Ensisheim and the
Jews there were put on trial.

France

République française

A country in Western Europe, member of the European Union (EU).

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 450,000 out of 65,000,000 (0.6%). France is the home of the third largest Jewish population in the world and the largest Jewish community in Europe. 

Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France - Representative Council of Jews of France
Phone: 33 1 42 17 11 11
Fax: 33 1 42 17 11 13
Email: infocrif@crif.org
Website: www.crif.org

Consistoire Central de France – Union des Communautés Juives de France
19, rue St Georges
75009 Paris
France
Phone: 01 49 70 88 00
Fax: 01 42 81 03 66
Website: https://france.consistoire.org/consistoire-central/
e-mail : administration@consistoirecentral.fr

 

HISTORY

The Jews of France

1040 | In Rashi Veritas

Brain drain is not a new phenomenon. Between the eighth and tenth centuries a mass movement began of Jewish merchants from Babylon – then the largest Jewish population center in the world – migrating to Western Europe, where international trade centers began to emerge. These Jews joined a larger and older group of fellow Jews, who had migrated back in 2nd Temple times, through the Mediterranean to Gaul, the land that we know as France.
As befits a goose laying golden eggs, the Jews received special rights and sheltered under the protection of French nobles, who shielded them from the maws of the Catholic Church. The economic prosperity allowed them to establish yeshivas and Torah centers which produced many scholars. One of these, a genius who made his living as a vintner, was born in 1040 in the province of Champagne in France, and bequeathed to posterity a comprehensive commentary on the Torah. Legend has it that the incomparable Rashi script was invented by his daughters, who were scholars themselves, but the truth is that it's the font of a Sephardi cursive script that was used in the Jewish printing presses in 16th century Italy to distinguish it from the biblical text itself. His name was Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi), and his monumental work is still the authoritative commentary on Holy Scripture in the rabbinical world.

1240 | Where They Burn Books...

The crusades, which spread from Europe beginning in 1096, ended the idyll of Jewish existence in the lands of Ashkenaz in the early second millennium. Blood libels, persecutions and expulsions were the lot of the Jews for hundreds of years afterward.
One of the low points was reached in the year 1240 and is known as “The Trial of Paris”. At this trial, initiated by King Louis IX and Pope Gregory IX, the defendant was not a person, but a work of literature - The Talmud, to be precise, which according to the Catholic Church holds messages of hatred towards all gentiles and disparagement of Jesus.
One fine day an incited mob gathered in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, to watch the condemned criminal – 12,000 hand-written copies of the Talmud – burned at the stake. 600 years later Jewish-German poet Heinrich Heine would comment on this event: “Where they burn books, they will eventually burn people.”

1481 | The Provenance of Provence

When speaking of the Jews of France, one cannot help but pay special attention to a singular group of Jews who lived in what is now the south of France and was called “The Sages of Provence”.
These sages were the advanced placement class of the Jewish world. They created a unique brand of thought and Bible exegesis and also engaged in philosophy and Kabbalah. The teachings of these sages was spread throughout Europe, Spain and North Africa, and their genius was a byword among Jewish intellectuals of Western Europe.
Among the main writers of this group are Hameiri, Rabbi David Kimchi (aka Rada”k), Rabbi Zarhia HaLevi (aka Raza”h), Abraham Ben David (aka Raba”d) and his son, Rabbi Isaac the Blind, and of course the great translator Judah ibn Tibbon, the man who disseminated the thought of Maimonides after translating it from Arabic into Hebrew.
The Jews of Provence as a cultural phenomenon came to an end in the year 1481, when King Louis XI of France annexed Provence to his realm.

1498 | The Odyssey of Expulsions

To the Jews of France, the late Middle Ages were an agonizing ping-pong affair of expulsions and recalls. In 1306 King Phillip IV issued an edict banning the Jews from residence in French territory. 11 years later his son, Louis X, recalled the Jews – provided they wear an identifying patch on their clothes. A mere seven years went by and the Jews were expelled again. This time it was King Charles IV, who claimed that the Jews, in their temerity, failed to pay their full amount of taxes to him.
In 1357, under Jean II and later under Charles V, the Jews returned to France, but once again suffered persecution, restriction of their freedom of occupation to the sole field of money-lending, and finally – abduction of their children.
The odyssey of expulsions ended on September 17th, 1394, when Charles VI succumbed to the pressure of the masses and issues an edict of expulsion for all Jews in his domains. To his credit, it must be noted that he gave the expelled Jews ample time to sell their property and decreed that any Christian who borrowed money from them must repay it. By 1498 there was not a Jew left anywhere in France, save for a smattering of small communities that lived in Avignon and its environs in the south of France, which was then under Papal control.

1791 | No Bread? Eat Challa

The French Revolution, which broke out in 1789, costing many their lives through the services of “Madame Guillotine”, heralded the idea of the liberal democratic state as we know it today. From a tyrannical class-based society France transformed (albeit through much bloodshed), to a democratic regime in which each person can be master of their own fate.
The first to enjoy the fruits of emancipation were the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine, an area conquered by France back in 1630. The Jews of France, then numbering some 40,000 people, were as mentioned above the first in Europe to enjoy the fruits of the revolution, but their release from the burden of being the “other” and “alien” was not easy. At first the leaders of the revolution claimed that the Jews were “a nation within a nation” and as such not eligible for treatment as equal citizens. But in 1791 the General Law Relating to the Jews was issued, granting the Jews full equality, and there was much rejoicing in the Jewish quarter of Paris.

1806 | The Twelve Question Program

It would not be off the mark to characterize the history of Europe's Jews in general and those of France in particular as a series of “almosts”. Almost equality. Almost Emancipation. Almost liberty.
As though the Law Relating to the Jews had not been passed 15 years prior, in 1806 the question of Jewish status was raised once again, this time under Napoleon, the legendary general known for his unlimited ambition.
Napoleon took a creative approach. In 1806 he gathered an assembly of leading Jews and presented them with the “12 Question Test”, designed to assess their loyalty to France. Among other things the Jews were asked how Jewish halacha views mixed marriages, whether a Jew may charge interest from a gentile, how the Jews view France and more.
The answers the Jews gave, declaring France their motherland and non-Jewish Frenchmen their brothers, did not satisfy Napoleon, and a year later he issued the “Shameful Edict”, limiting the Jews' freedoms of occupation and movement, yet forced them to enlist in the army. Shameful indeed.

1860 | All Israel Are Friends

The story of the first global Jewish organization, Alliance Israelite Universelle, established in Paris in 1860, begins with a Jewish 3 year-old from Bologna named Edgardo Levi Mortara, who one day was kidnapped from his parents and taken to the Vatican, where he was “reeducated” in Catholic institutions.
The Mortara affair created great furor throughout liberal circles in Europe and was the main impetus for the founding of “Alliance”, a Jewish cultural organization meant to protect Jewish rights, which was active mainly in education.
During this period, 12 years after the “Spring of Nations” revolution, a wave of nationalism broke out and swept over France. As though through Pavlovian conditioning, the Jews were once again blamed for all the ills that had befallen the land of good taste. 12 years later, one of the main accusations hurled at the Jews was that they had gotten rich lending money to the French government for the disastrous war against the hated enemy of Prussia.

1894 | A Legendary Story

It was a winter he would never forget, and it seems that neither shall we. He was the Paris correspondent for the Austrian newspaper Neue Freie Presse, a handsome man with a thick black beard and burning eyes. He would not forget the toxic hatred, the obvious lie; he would not forget the shouts of “Death to the Jews” and the pleas of the accused, a Jewish-French military officer named Alfred Dreyfus, reprimanding those who were his subordinates but a moment ago, in a cracked voice: “I forbid you to curse me”, to no avail of course. To this day, the ripped-off ranks of Dreyfus appear in the all-Jewish nightmares.
Many historians believe that it was the Dreyfus trial that pushed the “Visionary of the Jewish State,” Binyamin Zeev (Theodore) Herzl, to dedicate his life to establishing a state for the Jews. For if in France, the country that had committed itself more than any to the ideals of equality, liberty, and fraternity, such anti-Semitism raged – what would become of the Jews huddled in the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe?
"If you will it", the young journalist thought to himself, "it is no legend".

1914 | Bloom of Life

On July 31st, 1914, Jean Jaures, leader of the Social-Democrat camp in French politics, sat and ate dinner at the famous Cafe du Croissant in the ninth arrondissement of Paris. All around the tempest was raging. The winds of WW1 began to blow, and Jaures, who had done everything in his power to stop the war, but in vain, was bitterly disappointed. This did not last long. During the meal an assassin appeared behind him and put two bullets in his head.
The murder of Jaures made a deep impact on his pupil and friend, Leon Blum, a socialist Jewish intellectual who would make history 22 years later by becoming the first Jewish Prime Minister of France. Blum, an attorney with a well-developed social conscience, who was defined by his biographer as a “man of words”, embodied the spirit of French Jews between the world wars. He was a man of French culture through and through, and at the same time deeply aware of his Jewish identity, an avowed Zionist, and was admired by the leaders of the Hebrew population in mandatory Palestine, who often sought his advice.

1942 | Vichy-ing The Jews Away

During WW2 France showed its ugly side. The Vichy government, a puppet regime under German protection, took part – and according to German testimony, with great zeal – in the deportation of the Jews of France (mostly Jews without French citizenship, including many who had fled from Nazi-controlled areas) to the extermination camps in the east.
One of the events that will live in infamy in French history was the deportation of 12,500 of the Jews of Paris, who were led in the dark of night, in the middle of July 1942, to the Velodrome d'hiver, where many of them died due to the harsh sanitary conditions and a severe shortage of food and water.
True, proud Francophiles will say – and rightly so – that there was a French resistance movement that abhorred the treatment of the Jews. To strengthen their argument for the republic, perhaps they will also offer the story of the nun Mother Maria Skobtsova, a Righteous Among the Nations, who managed to sneak into the velodrome along with her son disguised as waste removal workers, and hid several dozen Jewish children in the trash cans she took out. But these were the exceptions that did not indicate the rule. The numbers show that some 76,000 of the Jews of France (about a quarter of the Jews in the country) were sent to the death camps, of whom only 2,500 or so survived.

2000 | From Rothschild to Levinas

After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Jews of France became the largest Jewish community in Europe: Some 600,000 Jews, most of whom migrated to France in the 1950s and 1960s from North Africa, as the French colonies there came to an end. The Six Day War represented a sort of messianic moment for the Jews of France as well. Their identification with Israel following the war was expressed in rallies and marches in the streets of Paris, financial support for Israel and the establishment of the “National Coordination Committee”, which united the vast majority of Jewish organizations in France.
In the 1980s the Jewish community in France was a hotbed of intellectual ferment, that included youngsters considered assimilated as well. Jewish radio stations were launched, departments of Jewish studies at universities received funding and resources, and research and publications on Jewish topics flourished. Among the celebrated Jews of France one may find intellectual Bernard Henri Levi, filmmaker Claude Lelouche, philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, thinker Jacques Derida, the famous Rothschild family and more.
But even in the 21st century France is not yet completely rid of anti-Jewish expressions and actions, this time led mostly by Muslim immigrants. These outbreaks, which included rock throwing, vandalism at synagogues and even murderous terror attacks, have led to another wave of aliyah to Israel.

Alsace

A historical region in northeastern France on the Rhine River plain, bordering Germany and Switzerland. 

Habsheim

A commune in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Between 1871-1918 Alsace was part of Germany.

Jews are mentioned in Habsheim during the 15th century. The modern community was established after Jews began settling in Habsheim in the 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Habsheim 29 Jewish families with a total of 128 individuals. The next count from 1846 mentions a total of 187 Jewish inhabitants in Habsheim. After mid-19th century, the Jewish population decreased steadly with 174 Jews recorded in 1861, 68 in 1900, and only 11 in 1936.

There was no organized Jewish community in Habsheim. Until 1910 the local Jews belonged to the rabbinate of Rixheim rabbinate, then to that of Dornach and Mulhouse. During the 19th century the community employed a teacher who was in charge of the children’s education and also acted as a prayer leader and schochet. After WW I, the community dissolved with only a few elderly people still living in Habsheim. The synagogue was founded during early 19th century and it was sold in the 1926. The building, currently used as a shed, still displays Jewish ornamental motifs and Hebrew inscriptions. The building of the Jewish school and teachers' house along with a mikve in the basement were located next to the synagogue. The edifices have been renovated and serve as residential building.  

The Jews left in Habsheim were deported to southern France after Alsace was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940. At least nine Jews of Habsheim perished in the Holocaust: Henriette Aron (b.1886), Johanna Baum (b.1872), David Brunschwig (b.1910), Arlette Dreyfus (b.1925), Clemence Dreyfus (b.1880), Marcel Dreyfus (b.1887), Jules Haas, Isabelle Picard (b.1879), Henriette Szpinak née Levy (b.1865).     

Hirsingue 

In German: Hirsingen 

A commune in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Hirsingue was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Jewish settlement in Hirsingue is documented from the end of the 17th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Hirsingue 20 Jewish families with a total of 95 people. In 1846 there were 127 Jewish inhabitants in Hirsingue, after that year the Jewish population decreased continuously with 94 Jews recorded in 1861, about 80 in 1910 and only 28 in 1936.  

In 1848, during the unrest in Sundgau region - now part of Haut Rhin and Belfort, the homes of Jewish families in Hirsingen were looted and the old synagogue was partially destroyed. 

The synagogue was repaired and returned to function a few years later. A new synagogue was built during 1911-1912. It was inaugurated in 1913 by Rabbi Dr. Auscher from the nearby community of Altkirch. The Jews of Hirsingue belonged to the rabbinate of Altkirch. During the 19th century the community temporarily employed a teacher who, in addition to teaching the children religiously, also acted as a prayer leader and schochet. The Jews of Hirsingue used the Jewish cemetery of Altkirch.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Hirsingue were deported to southern France, of them nine perished in the Holocaust:  Mathilde Cerf née Levy (b.1885), Justin Hubschwerlin (b.1915), Marguerite Meyer (b.1886), Rose Meyer (b.1874), Juliah Meyer née Schwob (b.1888), Henriette Picard (b.1886), Armand Schwob (b.1902), Alexandre Weill (b.1876), and Julie Weill née Meyer (b.1870).

The building of the old synagogue was sold in 1920. The new synagogue was closed in 1940 and in 1962 it too was sold and turned into a residential building.

Cernay 

In German: Sennheim 

A town in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Cernay was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

The Jewish community of Cernay dates from the Middle Ages. It suffered violent persecutions in 1309 during riots against Jews in Upper Alsace, then in 1338 during the Armleder massacres against Jews in southwestern Germany, including Alsace, and again during 1348/1349 following the Black Death epidemic. Despite these persecutions, Jews are documented again in Cernay after 1370. During the 15th century a Judengasse (“Jewish street”) located in the southern part of the city near the wall along with a synagogue are documented in Cernay. In 1470 the Jews were again expelled from Cernay. A few Jewish families were allowed to return by mid-16th century.

The beginnings of the modern Jewish community in Cernay date to the end of the 17th century and early 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Cernay 30 Jewish families with a total of about 140 people. The number of the Jewish inhabitants of Cernay reached a peak in 1849 when a total of 340 Jews were recorded in the town. After mid-19th century the Jewish population declined to 291 people in 1861, and then 122 in 1900 and 113 in 1910. In 1936 there were 41 Jews in Cernay.

Around 1750/1755 the community had a synagogue. It was demolished in 1846, and a new synagogue was built on Haffnerstrasse. The community employed a teacher who also served as a prayer leader and shochet.

The Jews of Cernay belonged to the rabbinate of Uffholtz until it was dissolved in 1878. Cernay became the seat of a new rabbinate until 1910. There was a Jewish cemetery in Cernay since the late Middle Ages. It was used even after the expulsion of the Jews from Cernay. A new burial area was opened within the communal cemetery in the 19th century, separated from the Christian area by a wall.

The synagogue on Haffnerstrasse was destroyed in the First World War. In the mid-1920s, the community hold their prayers in a new building. At that time, the Israelite community already consisted of very few families. 

After the German occupation of France in WW II, fifteen Jews of Cernay perished in the Holocaust.

The Jewish community of Cernay was not renewed after WW II and no Jews lived in the city. The Jewish cemetery of Cernay was completely destroyed during the German occupation. The last prayer room of the community has been preserved and it has been used as a grain store. The ancient Judengasse of the Middle Ages today is called "rue de l'Eglise".

Sierentz 

In German: Sierenz 

A commune in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Sierentz was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Sierentz was home of one of the first Jewish communities that were established in Alsace after the Thirty Year War in the 17th century.

The roots of an Israelite community in Sierentz go back to the time immediately after the end of the Thirty Years War. In 1689 there were three Jewish families in the village. Their number grew to 10 families in 1716 and then to 41 families in 1766. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Sierentz 43 Jewish families with a total of about 217 people. In 1808 there were 256 Jews in the village and their number reached a peak of 312 in 1849.  After mid-19th century the Jewish population decreased steadily. In 1861 the village had 248 Jewish inhabitants, in 1900 there were 95 Jews in Sierentz and in 1936 only 33.

The synagogue was opened in the 1757 and was in use for almost 150 years until 1901, when it was replaced by a new building. Sierentz had a yeshiva during the 18th century and during the 19th century there was a Jewish private school in the village. The community employed a teacher who also acted as a prayer leader and shochet. Sierentz was the seat of a regional rabbinate. Rabbi Marcel Meyer Nathan Hirsch served in Sierentz for forty years, from 1849 until his death in 1889. The last rabbi in Sierentz was Henri Levy who served from 1900 to 1909, when the rabbinate was moved to Dornach. Deceased members of the community were buried in the Jewish cemetery of Hegenheim.

The community of Sierentz was disbanded in 1940. The last Jews of the village were deported by the Germans to southern France in 1940. Nine Jews of Sierentz perished in the Holocaust.

The building of the synagogue was bombed and partially destroyed in 1939 at the start of WW II and demolished in the 1965.

Saint-Louis

In German: St. Ludwig

A town in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Saint-Louis was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Jews began to settle in Saint-Louis during the first half of the 19th century. In 1846 there were 10 Jews in Saint-Louis and in 1861 their number stood at 12. It was during the second half of the 19th century and then after WW I that the Jewish population of the town increased significantly. In 1910 there were 173 Jews in town and in 1936 their number reached a total of 275. The demographic growth was triggered by the arrival in town of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe and in the 1930s from Germany.

The Jewish community was organized in early 20th century and the synagogue was opened in 1907 and at the same time Saint-Louis became the seat of a rabbinate that was moved from Hegenheim. Earlier the Jews of Saint-Louis prayed in the synagogue of the neighboring village of Huningue. The community also operated a school and a mikveh. Deceased members of the community were buried in the central Jewish cemetery in Hegenheim.

Following the German occupation of France in WW II, some Jews of Saint-Louis managed to cross the border to Switzerland. Those who remained were deported and of them twelve perished in the Holocaust.

The Jewish community of Saint-Louis was re-established after WW II. In 1953 the town had a Jewish population of 62 people. Saint-Louis continues to be the seat of a rabbinate and of a yeshiva. The 100th anniversary of the synagogue was celebrated in 2007. Address of the synagogue: 5, rue de la Synagogue, Saint-Louis.  

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The Jewish Community of Mulhouse

Mulhouse

In German: Muelhausen

A city in Alsace, in the Haut-Rhin department, France

21st Century

Communauté Israélite de Mulhouse
2 rue des Rabbins
68200 Mulhouse
France
Phone : 03 89 66 21 22
Fax : 03 89 56 63 49
Website: http://www.cimulhouse.com/

 

HISTORY

The earliest documentation of the presence of Jews in Mulhouse dates from 1290, when one Salman was victim of a persecution. The existence of a synagogue is confirmed from 1311. The Jews of Mulhouse suffered during the Armleder riots in January 1338, and again during the outbreaks accompanying the black death (1349). By 1385, however, there were once more Jews living in Mulhouse. At the beginning of the 15th century, several Jews who had arrived from other places in Alsace were granted the freedom of the city. The nine families who were there in 1418 owned houses, engaged in money lending, and traded in livestock. Although there was no expulsion, no Jews lived in the city between 1512 and 1655. At the beginning of the 18th century, when they were still insignificant in number, their trade flourished to the extent of arousing the jealousy of the Christian merchants, who demanded that their rights be restricted. In 1784 there were 23 Jewish families (94 persons) in the city. As it was free from the anti-Jewish riots which broke out throughout Alsace in 1789, Mulhouse became a refuge for many Jews from the surrounding district. The synagogue, built in 1822, soon proved to be too small and was replaced by a larger one in 1849. A cemetery was purchased in 1831, and the community established several other institutions, including a vocational school in 1842, and an almshouse-hospital in 1863. Two periodicals catering for all the Jews of Alsace and even beyond were published during the second half of the 19th century. From about 5,000 in 1900 the community declined to around 3,000 in 1921, remaining stable until just before World War II. Jacob Kaplan, later chief rabbi of France, held office in Mulhouse in 1922.

Under German occupation in world war ii the Jews who had not managed to escape were expelled on July 16, 1940, along with the Jews in the rest of Alsace and Moselle. The synagogue, which had been partially damaged, was saved from total destruction when the edifice was requisitioned by the municipal theater. In 1970 Mulhouse had 1,800 Jewish inhabitants and a well-organized community.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Saint-Louis
Sierentz
Cernay 
Hirsingue 
Habsheim
Alsace
France
Ensisheim

Saint-Louis

In German: St. Ludwig

A town in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Saint-Louis was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Jews began to settle in Saint-Louis during the first half of the 19th century. In 1846 there were 10 Jews in Saint-Louis and in 1861 their number stood at 12. It was during the second half of the 19th century and then after WW I that the Jewish population of the town increased significantly. In 1910 there were 173 Jews in town and in 1936 their number reached a total of 275. The demographic growth was triggered by the arrival in town of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe and in the 1930s from Germany.

The Jewish community was organized in early 20th century and the synagogue was opened in 1907 and at the same time Saint-Louis became the seat of a rabbinate that was moved from Hegenheim. Earlier the Jews of Saint-Louis prayed in the synagogue of the neighboring village of Huningue. The community also operated a school and a mikveh. Deceased members of the community were buried in the central Jewish cemetery in Hegenheim.

Following the German occupation of France in WW II, some Jews of Saint-Louis managed to cross the border to Switzerland. Those who remained were deported and of them twelve perished in the Holocaust.

The Jewish community of Saint-Louis was re-established after WW II. In 1953 the town had a Jewish population of 62 people. Saint-Louis continues to be the seat of a rabbinate and of a yeshiva. The 100th anniversary of the synagogue was celebrated in 2007. Address of the synagogue: 5, rue de la Synagogue, Saint-Louis.  

Sierentz 

In German: Sierenz 

A commune in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Sierentz was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Sierentz was home of one of the first Jewish communities that were established in Alsace after the Thirty Year War in the 17th century.

The roots of an Israelite community in Sierentz go back to the time immediately after the end of the Thirty Years War. In 1689 there were three Jewish families in the village. Their number grew to 10 families in 1716 and then to 41 families in 1766. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Sierentz 43 Jewish families with a total of about 217 people. In 1808 there were 256 Jews in the village and their number reached a peak of 312 in 1849.  After mid-19th century the Jewish population decreased steadily. In 1861 the village had 248 Jewish inhabitants, in 1900 there were 95 Jews in Sierentz and in 1936 only 33.

The synagogue was opened in the 1757 and was in use for almost 150 years until 1901, when it was replaced by a new building. Sierentz had a yeshiva during the 18th century and during the 19th century there was a Jewish private school in the village. The community employed a teacher who also acted as a prayer leader and shochet. Sierentz was the seat of a regional rabbinate. Rabbi Marcel Meyer Nathan Hirsch served in Sierentz for forty years, from 1849 until his death in 1889. The last rabbi in Sierentz was Henri Levy who served from 1900 to 1909, when the rabbinate was moved to Dornach. Deceased members of the community were buried in the Jewish cemetery of Hegenheim.

The community of Sierentz was disbanded in 1940. The last Jews of the village were deported by the Germans to southern France in 1940. Nine Jews of Sierentz perished in the Holocaust.

The building of the synagogue was bombed and partially destroyed in 1939 at the start of WW II and demolished in the 1965.

Cernay 

In German: Sennheim 

A town in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Cernay was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

The Jewish community of Cernay dates from the Middle Ages. It suffered violent persecutions in 1309 during riots against Jews in Upper Alsace, then in 1338 during the Armleder massacres against Jews in southwestern Germany, including Alsace, and again during 1348/1349 following the Black Death epidemic. Despite these persecutions, Jews are documented again in Cernay after 1370. During the 15th century a Judengasse (“Jewish street”) located in the southern part of the city near the wall along with a synagogue are documented in Cernay. In 1470 the Jews were again expelled from Cernay. A few Jewish families were allowed to return by mid-16th century.

The beginnings of the modern Jewish community in Cernay date to the end of the 17th century and early 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Cernay 30 Jewish families with a total of about 140 people. The number of the Jewish inhabitants of Cernay reached a peak in 1849 when a total of 340 Jews were recorded in the town. After mid-19th century the Jewish population declined to 291 people in 1861, and then 122 in 1900 and 113 in 1910. In 1936 there were 41 Jews in Cernay.

Around 1750/1755 the community had a synagogue. It was demolished in 1846, and a new synagogue was built on Haffnerstrasse. The community employed a teacher who also served as a prayer leader and shochet.

The Jews of Cernay belonged to the rabbinate of Uffholtz until it was dissolved in 1878. Cernay became the seat of a new rabbinate until 1910. There was a Jewish cemetery in Cernay since the late Middle Ages. It was used even after the expulsion of the Jews from Cernay. A new burial area was opened within the communal cemetery in the 19th century, separated from the Christian area by a wall.

The synagogue on Haffnerstrasse was destroyed in the First World War. In the mid-1920s, the community hold their prayers in a new building. At that time, the Israelite community already consisted of very few families. 

After the German occupation of France in WW II, fifteen Jews of Cernay perished in the Holocaust.

The Jewish community of Cernay was not renewed after WW II and no Jews lived in the city. The Jewish cemetery of Cernay was completely destroyed during the German occupation. The last prayer room of the community has been preserved and it has been used as a grain store. The ancient Judengasse of the Middle Ages today is called "rue de l'Eglise".

Hirsingue 

In German: Hirsingen 

A commune in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Hirsingue was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Jewish settlement in Hirsingue is documented from the end of the 17th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Hirsingue 20 Jewish families with a total of 95 people. In 1846 there were 127 Jewish inhabitants in Hirsingue, after that year the Jewish population decreased continuously with 94 Jews recorded in 1861, about 80 in 1910 and only 28 in 1936.  

In 1848, during the unrest in Sundgau region - now part of Haut Rhin and Belfort, the homes of Jewish families in Hirsingen were looted and the old synagogue was partially destroyed. 

The synagogue was repaired and returned to function a few years later. A new synagogue was built during 1911-1912. It was inaugurated in 1913 by Rabbi Dr. Auscher from the nearby community of Altkirch. The Jews of Hirsingue belonged to the rabbinate of Altkirch. During the 19th century the community temporarily employed a teacher who, in addition to teaching the children religiously, also acted as a prayer leader and schochet. The Jews of Hirsingue used the Jewish cemetery of Altkirch.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Hirsingue were deported to southern France, of them nine perished in the Holocaust:  Mathilde Cerf née Levy (b.1885), Justin Hubschwerlin (b.1915), Marguerite Meyer (b.1886), Rose Meyer (b.1874), Juliah Meyer née Schwob (b.1888), Henriette Picard (b.1886), Armand Schwob (b.1902), Alexandre Weill (b.1876), and Julie Weill née Meyer (b.1870).

The building of the old synagogue was sold in 1920. The new synagogue was closed in 1940 and in 1962 it too was sold and turned into a residential building.

Habsheim

A commune in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Between 1871-1918 Alsace was part of Germany.

Jews are mentioned in Habsheim during the 15th century. The modern community was established after Jews began settling in Habsheim in the 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Habsheim 29 Jewish families with a total of 128 individuals. The next count from 1846 mentions a total of 187 Jewish inhabitants in Habsheim. After mid-19th century, the Jewish population decreased steadly with 174 Jews recorded in 1861, 68 in 1900, and only 11 in 1936.

There was no organized Jewish community in Habsheim. Until 1910 the local Jews belonged to the rabbinate of Rixheim rabbinate, then to that of Dornach and Mulhouse. During the 19th century the community employed a teacher who was in charge of the children’s education and also acted as a prayer leader and schochet. After WW I, the community dissolved with only a few elderly people still living in Habsheim. The synagogue was founded during early 19th century and it was sold in the 1926. The building, currently used as a shed, still displays Jewish ornamental motifs and Hebrew inscriptions. The building of the Jewish school and teachers' house along with a mikve in the basement were located next to the synagogue. The edifices have been renovated and serve as residential building.  

The Jews left in Habsheim were deported to southern France after Alsace was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940. At least nine Jews of Habsheim perished in the Holocaust: Henriette Aron (b.1886), Johanna Baum (b.1872), David Brunschwig (b.1910), Arlette Dreyfus (b.1925), Clemence Dreyfus (b.1880), Marcel Dreyfus (b.1887), Jules Haas, Isabelle Picard (b.1879), Henriette Szpinak née Levy (b.1865).     

Alsace

A historical region in northeastern France on the Rhine River plain, bordering Germany and Switzerland. 

France

République française

A country in Western Europe, member of the European Union (EU).

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 450,000 out of 65,000,000 (0.6%). France is the home of the third largest Jewish population in the world and the largest Jewish community in Europe. 

Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France - Representative Council of Jews of France
Phone: 33 1 42 17 11 11
Fax: 33 1 42 17 11 13
Email: infocrif@crif.org
Website: www.crif.org

Consistoire Central de France – Union des Communautés Juives de France
19, rue St Georges
75009 Paris
France
Phone: 01 49 70 88 00
Fax: 01 42 81 03 66
Website: https://france.consistoire.org/consistoire-central/
e-mail : administration@consistoirecentral.fr

 

HISTORY

The Jews of France

1040 | In Rashi Veritas

Brain drain is not a new phenomenon. Between the eighth and tenth centuries a mass movement began of Jewish merchants from Babylon – then the largest Jewish population center in the world – migrating to Western Europe, where international trade centers began to emerge. These Jews joined a larger and older group of fellow Jews, who had migrated back in 2nd Temple times, through the Mediterranean to Gaul, the land that we know as France.
As befits a goose laying golden eggs, the Jews received special rights and sheltered under the protection of French nobles, who shielded them from the maws of the Catholic Church. The economic prosperity allowed them to establish yeshivas and Torah centers which produced many scholars. One of these, a genius who made his living as a vintner, was born in 1040 in the province of Champagne in France, and bequeathed to posterity a comprehensive commentary on the Torah. Legend has it that the incomparable Rashi script was invented by his daughters, who were scholars themselves, but the truth is that it's the font of a Sephardi cursive script that was used in the Jewish printing presses in 16th century Italy to distinguish it from the biblical text itself. His name was Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi), and his monumental work is still the authoritative commentary on Holy Scripture in the rabbinical world.

1240 | Where They Burn Books...

The crusades, which spread from Europe beginning in 1096, ended the idyll of Jewish existence in the lands of Ashkenaz in the early second millennium. Blood libels, persecutions and expulsions were the lot of the Jews for hundreds of years afterward.
One of the low points was reached in the year 1240 and is known as “The Trial of Paris”. At this trial, initiated by King Louis IX and Pope Gregory IX, the defendant was not a person, but a work of literature - The Talmud, to be precise, which according to the Catholic Church holds messages of hatred towards all gentiles and disparagement of Jesus.
One fine day an incited mob gathered in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, to watch the condemned criminal – 12,000 hand-written copies of the Talmud – burned at the stake. 600 years later Jewish-German poet Heinrich Heine would comment on this event: “Where they burn books, they will eventually burn people.”

1481 | The Provenance of Provence

When speaking of the Jews of France, one cannot help but pay special attention to a singular group of Jews who lived in what is now the south of France and was called “The Sages of Provence”.
These sages were the advanced placement class of the Jewish world. They created a unique brand of thought and Bible exegesis and also engaged in philosophy and Kabbalah. The teachings of these sages was spread throughout Europe, Spain and North Africa, and their genius was a byword among Jewish intellectuals of Western Europe.
Among the main writers of this group are Hameiri, Rabbi David Kimchi (aka Rada”k), Rabbi Zarhia HaLevi (aka Raza”h), Abraham Ben David (aka Raba”d) and his son, Rabbi Isaac the Blind, and of course the great translator Judah ibn Tibbon, the man who disseminated the thought of Maimonides after translating it from Arabic into Hebrew.
The Jews of Provence as a cultural phenomenon came to an end in the year 1481, when King Louis XI of France annexed Provence to his realm.

1498 | The Odyssey of Expulsions

To the Jews of France, the late Middle Ages were an agonizing ping-pong affair of expulsions and recalls. In 1306 King Phillip IV issued an edict banning the Jews from residence in French territory. 11 years later his son, Louis X, recalled the Jews – provided they wear an identifying patch on their clothes. A mere seven years went by and the Jews were expelled again. This time it was King Charles IV, who claimed that the Jews, in their temerity, failed to pay their full amount of taxes to him.
In 1357, under Jean II and later under Charles V, the Jews returned to France, but once again suffered persecution, restriction of their freedom of occupation to the sole field of money-lending, and finally – abduction of their children.
The odyssey of expulsions ended on September 17th, 1394, when Charles VI succumbed to the pressure of the masses and issues an edict of expulsion for all Jews in his domains. To his credit, it must be noted that he gave the expelled Jews ample time to sell their property and decreed that any Christian who borrowed money from them must repay it. By 1498 there was not a Jew left anywhere in France, save for a smattering of small communities that lived in Avignon and its environs in the south of France, which was then under Papal control.

1791 | No Bread? Eat Challa

The French Revolution, which broke out in 1789, costing many their lives through the services of “Madame Guillotine”, heralded the idea of the liberal democratic state as we know it today. From a tyrannical class-based society France transformed (albeit through much bloodshed), to a democratic regime in which each person can be master of their own fate.
The first to enjoy the fruits of emancipation were the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine, an area conquered by France back in 1630. The Jews of France, then numbering some 40,000 people, were as mentioned above the first in Europe to enjoy the fruits of the revolution, but their release from the burden of being the “other” and “alien” was not easy. At first the leaders of the revolution claimed that the Jews were “a nation within a nation” and as such not eligible for treatment as equal citizens. But in 1791 the General Law Relating to the Jews was issued, granting the Jews full equality, and there was much rejoicing in the Jewish quarter of Paris.

1806 | The Twelve Question Program

It would not be off the mark to characterize the history of Europe's Jews in general and those of France in particular as a series of “almosts”. Almost equality. Almost Emancipation. Almost liberty.
As though the Law Relating to the Jews had not been passed 15 years prior, in 1806 the question of Jewish status was raised once again, this time under Napoleon, the legendary general known for his unlimited ambition.
Napoleon took a creative approach. In 1806 he gathered an assembly of leading Jews and presented them with the “12 Question Test”, designed to assess their loyalty to France. Among other things the Jews were asked how Jewish halacha views mixed marriages, whether a Jew may charge interest from a gentile, how the Jews view France and more.
The answers the Jews gave, declaring France their motherland and non-Jewish Frenchmen their brothers, did not satisfy Napoleon, and a year later he issued the “Shameful Edict”, limiting the Jews' freedoms of occupation and movement, yet forced them to enlist in the army. Shameful indeed.

1860 | All Israel Are Friends

The story of the first global Jewish organization, Alliance Israelite Universelle, established in Paris in 1860, begins with a Jewish 3 year-old from Bologna named Edgardo Levi Mortara, who one day was kidnapped from his parents and taken to the Vatican, where he was “reeducated” in Catholic institutions.
The Mortara affair created great furor throughout liberal circles in Europe and was the main impetus for the founding of “Alliance”, a Jewish cultural organization meant to protect Jewish rights, which was active mainly in education.
During this period, 12 years after the “Spring of Nations” revolution, a wave of nationalism broke out and swept over France. As though through Pavlovian conditioning, the Jews were once again blamed for all the ills that had befallen the land of good taste. 12 years later, one of the main accusations hurled at the Jews was that they had gotten rich lending money to the French government for the disastrous war against the hated enemy of Prussia.

1894 | A Legendary Story

It was a winter he would never forget, and it seems that neither shall we. He was the Paris correspondent for the Austrian newspaper Neue Freie Presse, a handsome man with a thick black beard and burning eyes. He would not forget the toxic hatred, the obvious lie; he would not forget the shouts of “Death to the Jews” and the pleas of the accused, a Jewish-French military officer named Alfred Dreyfus, reprimanding those who were his subordinates but a moment ago, in a cracked voice: “I forbid you to curse me”, to no avail of course. To this day, the ripped-off ranks of Dreyfus appear in the all-Jewish nightmares.
Many historians believe that it was the Dreyfus trial that pushed the “Visionary of the Jewish State,” Binyamin Zeev (Theodore) Herzl, to dedicate his life to establishing a state for the Jews. For if in France, the country that had committed itself more than any to the ideals of equality, liberty, and fraternity, such anti-Semitism raged – what would become of the Jews huddled in the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe?
"If you will it", the young journalist thought to himself, "it is no legend".

1914 | Bloom of Life

On July 31st, 1914, Jean Jaures, leader of the Social-Democrat camp in French politics, sat and ate dinner at the famous Cafe du Croissant in the ninth arrondissement of Paris. All around the tempest was raging. The winds of WW1 began to blow, and Jaures, who had done everything in his power to stop the war, but in vain, was bitterly disappointed. This did not last long. During the meal an assassin appeared behind him and put two bullets in his head.
The murder of Jaures made a deep impact on his pupil and friend, Leon Blum, a socialist Jewish intellectual who would make history 22 years later by becoming the first Jewish Prime Minister of France. Blum, an attorney with a well-developed social conscience, who was defined by his biographer as a “man of words”, embodied the spirit of French Jews between the world wars. He was a man of French culture through and through, and at the same time deeply aware of his Jewish identity, an avowed Zionist, and was admired by the leaders of the Hebrew population in mandatory Palestine, who often sought his advice.

1942 | Vichy-ing The Jews Away

During WW2 France showed its ugly side. The Vichy government, a puppet regime under German protection, took part – and according to German testimony, with great zeal – in the deportation of the Jews of France (mostly Jews without French citizenship, including many who had fled from Nazi-controlled areas) to the extermination camps in the east.
One of the events that will live in infamy in French history was the deportation of 12,500 of the Jews of Paris, who were led in the dark of night, in the middle of July 1942, to the Velodrome d'hiver, where many of them died due to the harsh sanitary conditions and a severe shortage of food and water.
True, proud Francophiles will say – and rightly so – that there was a French resistance movement that abhorred the treatment of the Jews. To strengthen their argument for the republic, perhaps they will also offer the story of the nun Mother Maria Skobtsova, a Righteous Among the Nations, who managed to sneak into the velodrome along with her son disguised as waste removal workers, and hid several dozen Jewish children in the trash cans she took out. But these were the exceptions that did not indicate the rule. The numbers show that some 76,000 of the Jews of France (about a quarter of the Jews in the country) were sent to the death camps, of whom only 2,500 or so survived.

2000 | From Rothschild to Levinas

After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Jews of France became the largest Jewish community in Europe: Some 600,000 Jews, most of whom migrated to France in the 1950s and 1960s from North Africa, as the French colonies there came to an end. The Six Day War represented a sort of messianic moment for the Jews of France as well. Their identification with Israel following the war was expressed in rallies and marches in the streets of Paris, financial support for Israel and the establishment of the “National Coordination Committee”, which united the vast majority of Jewish organizations in France.
In the 1980s the Jewish community in France was a hotbed of intellectual ferment, that included youngsters considered assimilated as well. Jewish radio stations were launched, departments of Jewish studies at universities received funding and resources, and research and publications on Jewish topics flourished. Among the celebrated Jews of France one may find intellectual Bernard Henri Levi, filmmaker Claude Lelouche, philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, thinker Jacques Derida, the famous Rothschild family and more.
But even in the 21st century France is not yet completely rid of anti-Jewish expressions and actions, this time led mostly by Muslim immigrants. These outbreaks, which included rock throwing, vandalism at synagogues and even murderous terror attacks, have led to another wave of aliyah to Israel.

Ensisheim

A town in Haut-Rhin department, Alsace, France, about 19 mi. (30 km.) south of Colmar.

R. Meir of Rothenburg was held prisoner there from 1286. The first evidence that Jews were living in the town dates from 1291. They were among the victims of the Armleder persecutions in 1338. The community had hardly been reconstituted when it suffered from the persecutions accompanying the black death in 1348-- 49. A few Jews again settled there from 1371. The small community welcomed the Jews expelled from Kaysersberg and Mulhouse at the beginning of the 16th century. After an ordinance of 1547, only one Jewish family was allowed to reside in Ensisheim and the surrounding localities, and the synagogue was closed for worship. In 1689, some Jews were again admitted for a short while on payment of a high protection fee. It was not until 1824 that some Jews again settled there. Only a few Jews were still living there in 1936. At an unknown date there was a blood libel in Ensisheim and the
Jews there were put on trial.

Alfred Sendrey 
Meyer, Ernest Reuven
Catane, Moshe
Rein, Armand
Meyer, Henri
Rein, Alfred
Dreyfus, Alfred

Alfred Sendrey (born Aladar Szendrei) (1884-1976), musicologist, conductor and composer, born in Budapest, Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary). He studied at the University of Budapest. He conducted opera in Koln (1905-1907), Mulhouse (1907-1909), Brno (1908-1911), Philadelphia and Chicago (1911-1912), Hamburg (1912-1913), New York (1913-1914), Berlin (1914-1916), Vienna (1916-1918) and Leipzig (1918-1924). From 1924 till 1932 he was the conductor of the Leipzig Symphony Orchestra. In 1933 he became the director of the Paris Radio and in 1940 left for the United States. In 1945 he moved from New York to Los Angeles, where he was the music director of Fairfax Synagogue (1952-1956) and Sinai Temple (1956-1964) and taught Jewish Music at the University of Judaism (1962-1972). His works include an opera, a symphony, choral music and chamber music. He wrote Bibliography of Jewish Music (1951), Music in Ancient Israel (1969) and The Music of the Jews in the Diaspora up to 1800 (1970). Alfred Sendrey died in Los Angeles, California.

Meyer, Ernest Reuven (1863-1941, physician, born in Guebwiller, France, son of Cochel Meyer the locksmith. Meyer distinguished himself as a brilliant child with an amazing memory who on three occasions jumped a class at school. He could speak and read seven languages. He excelled in both secular and religious studies.

He was engaged to be married to a beautiful and rich young lady, but 15 days before the planned date of their marriage he decided that she was not sufficiently religious for him so he broke off the engagement. There is no record of the circumstances of this late change of mind; maybe it was an arranged marriage and he hardly knew the girl. He went on to marry the daughter of his brother Jacob and the couple gave birth to twelve children.

Meyr became a doctor but never gave up his Torah learning. Every evening, after a ten or twelve hour workday carrying for the sick he would go to his study or learn Talmud. If a rabbi came for a medical consultation he would permit the visitor to leave only after they had learned a few lines of Talmud together. When his son Jean went to study at the Yeshiva of Montreux in Switzerland, he used to spend his vacations by renting a hotel room in the town and studying alongside his son.

Elected as a member of the Consistoire [Jewish communal representative body] for the Haut-Rhin district, Meyer was very disturbed by the growing tendency towards assimilation by the Jews of Alsace. As a proud citizen of France he argued that only a full Jewish education could equip Jewish children to maximize their contribution to the society of a “noble and beautiful free France where Jews enjoy all the rights of citizenship” [from an article written in 1929]. Meyer wrote many articles warning of the dangers of assimilation and spoke at many public meetings in favour of the establishment of Jewish day schools which he believed would stem the tide. Other articles written by him and published in the Jewish press included criticisms of anti-Semitic French politicians in the 1930s, suggestions for improving the functioning of the French rabbinate, his opinions of Jewish non-religious settlers in the Palestine, and ideas for improving the communal organization in order to better assist the refugees from eastern Europe who had arrived in France before the outbreak of WW2.

His home was always open to visitors, including Jewish refugees some coming from Russia or Poland, who had succeeded crossing the frontier into France illegally and then found themselves in Mulhouse. Some wanted just a little warmth and hospitality, others looked for financial help.
After the Nazi invasion of France in WW2, Meyer found refuge in Lyons. He died there in 1941. Shortly before his death, when the intentions of Nazi terror were already clear, Dr Meyer wrote a moving prayer imploring his co-religionists to redouble their acts of faith confident that God will reward the righteous gentiles and will save all those who live their lives according to moral principles. His wife Rose was deported to their deaths by the Gestapo in 1944 together with one of her daughters Lucie and her Lucie’s husband, Rabbi Robert Brunschwig.
Catane, Moshe, (1920-1995) academic, expert on Rashi, born in 1920 in Mulhouse, France, to an observant Jewish Alsatian family. He was an excellent student in both secular and Jewish studies. When WW II broke out his family, together with all other Jewish families, was ordered by the French authorities to leave their home in Strasbourg which was close to the German frontier. They found refuge in the small town of Cusset (population about 10,000 people) near Vichy, in central France. His three elder brothers had been mobilized so he supported the family as a secondary school teacher, In his spare time he continued his Jewish religious studies.
He also found ways to assist the many Jewish young people who found themselves hiding out in the Vichy unoccupied zone of France. He organized courses in Hebrew, Jewish history and Bible classes and other educational opportunities for many of them in study groups and by correspondence. As time went on the persecution of the Jews even in this zone become more serious, one of his brothers was shot for his part in the Resistance while two sisters were deported to Auschwitz where they were killed.

In 1941 Catane married and later, in order to avoid arrest by the Germans, fled to Switzerland with his wife and small baby. The Swiss sent him to an internment camp. After the war he resumed his studies and in 1949 he was awarded a degree in literature and later a diploma in the study of ancient writing and archivism to preserve old records for future generations. His thesis was on the life and works of Rashi. A staunch Zionist, he moved to Jerusalem together with his wife and five children a few months after the establishment of the State of Israel.

From 1956 to 1988 Catane was librarian at the Israel National Library in Jerusalem and at the same time also taught ancient French at Bar Ilan Universityin Ramat Gan, Israel. In 1968 the University of Strasbourg awarded him a doctorate in the study of ancient French. The French Ministry of Education made him a special award for his contribution to the study of French literature and the academic ties between France and Israel. He wrote many learned articles in both French and Hebrew. His books include "Les Juifs dans le Monde" (1962); "A History of the Jews" [in Hebrew] (1958), "Jerusalem a travers trois millenaires"; (1984), "Glossaires de Rachi sur la Bible et le Talmud" (1988); "Qui est Juif ?" (1990); "La vie en France au XI siecle d’apres les ecrits de Rachi" (1994).
Rein, Armand (1921-), French Resistance fighter and businessman, born 1921 in Mulhouse, France, into a large family of eleven children. From 1942 to 1945 he was an active member of the French resistance movement. Rein and others worked to free (legally or illegally) Jewish children from the infamous internment camps established by the French in Gurs and Rivesaltes in the south of the country. He found the children safe places to hide, mainly in the Italian occupation zone, where the Italian army refused to allow the French police to molest or deport them, and arranging for them to be fed and receive medical care. Often he went from village to village looking for surplus fruit, vegetables and eggs with which to feed his charges. In 1943 he was put in charge of a socio/medical centre for the refugees in the region of the Savoie in south-east France. The centre had been organized by OSE, the French Jewish welfare organization which at that time was largely financed by the American Joint Distribution Committee. The Italian Zone was occupied by the Germans in 1943 after the Italians reached an armistice with the Allies. Rein organised a special train to take some 400 Jews out of the zone in the direction of Rome. He arranged for a number of groups of Jewish children to walk over the Alps and so helped to smuggle them to safety in Switzerland. At the end of 1943, learning that the Gestapo was planning to arrest him, he himself together some family members and also his eight months’ pregnant wife Jeannette who subsequently gave birth to her first child several weeks later in Zurich, escaped to Switzerland in the same way. After the WW 2 he became OSE representative in Marseilles, France, where he organized the reception of deportees from many parts of Europe and arranged their passage to Israel. Two of his brothers were deported to Auschwitz Nazi death camp.

In the mid 1950s Rein started a successful business career and established connections with Ethiopia and several other African countries. He retired and immigrated to Israel in 1980.
Meyer, Henri (1844-1899), caricaturist and illustrator born in Mulhouse, France, who was brought to Argentina when he was ten years old. Before he was twenty years old he became editor of the political humourous Argentinian magazine "El Mosquito" and held that position for 30 years between 1863 and 1893. Many leading politicians of the time were the object of his jibes and sharp paint brush. Meyer also illustrated the novels of Jules Verne for a French publisher. One of his most famous pictures was that of the degradation of Dreyfus. He returned to Paris shortly before his death.
Rein, Alfred (1910-1944), dentist, born in Mulhouse, France. During the WW I his father Nathan served in the French army in Romania. While father was away, his mother, Mother Sophie, took the children to stay with her parents in the Bas Rhin. The family returned to Mulhouse in 1919. Alfred, the fourth child in a family of 12, enjoyed studying both secular and religious subjects and was a keen sportsman. He tried (unsuccessfully) to gain his bacalaureat from school. Having left school he attempted to find work as a commercial representative but he failed in this field also. At a dead end, he devoted himself to learning Torah. In 1931-1932 he was called up for national service with the French army and served in a cavalry unit in Belfort. When discharged in 1935, he decided to return to his studies. This time he passed the examinations and was enrolled in the University of Strasbourg, France, to study dentistry. He qualified in 1939.

When WW2 broke out, and the Jews became refugees in their own country, Alfred went with his family to live in the small town of Boege in the Haute Savoie, north of Grenoble, and very close to Geneva in Switzerland. Boege was in the Italian occupation zone of France where the Jews lived in relative safety.

In Boege Alfred opened a dental practice. He worked there four days per week, one day per week in Annemasse, and one day in the village of Saint-Jeoire. He travelled from one place to the other on a a motor-cycle or, if there was no petrol, on a regular bicycle. In 1943 the area was occupied by the Germans and conditions for the Jews deteriorated. He was no longer able to practice his profession. Although not officially a member of the Resistance, he helped them on many occasions and in particular he helped a number of the refugees who passed through Annemasse on the way to the Swiss frontier. He contacted members of his family who lived in Switzerland and asked them to help the refugees when they had crossed the frontier.

In November 1943 he decided to leave for Lyon, France, where he could study Torah and work at a food distribution centre for refugees. He was arrested by the Germans on 13th March 1944. On 30th April his family received a postcard written from “Arbeitslager L II Haus I”, stating simply that he was in good health and was working. It was the standard wording permitted to Jews who wrote to their families on arrival at a death camp. Nothing more was heard from him. His father died 5 days after the postcard was written.
He was the son of a wealthy manufacturer in Mulhouse, France, who moved to Paris out of French patriotism when Alsace came under German rule following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. Dreyfus entered the army as an engineer and overcame anti-Jewish prejudice to become a captain on the general staff, its only Jewish member. In 1894 it was discovered that intelligence was being leaked from the French army to the Germans and Dreyfus was convicted on the basis of documents that later proved forged. The "Affair" had enormous repercussions, headed by the Catholic, royalist and anti-Semitic press. Dreyfus was publicly degraded to cries of "death to the Jews". He was transported in chains to a prison on Devil's Island off the coast of South America. The "Affair" however, continued to divide France with a number of courageous liberals, convinced of his innocence, working for his release. Gradually the forgeries were exposed and in 1898 Dreyfus was brought back for a retrial. Despite the obvious evidence, he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but was immediately pardoned by the liberal President of France. Only in 1906 was Dreyfus exonerated by the court of appeal and reinstated in the army, serving in WW1 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Catane, Moshe
Rein, Armand
Meyer, Henri
Rein, Alfred
Dreyfus, Alfred
Catane, Moshe, (1920-1995) academic, expert on Rashi, born in 1920 in Mulhouse, France, to an observant Jewish Alsatian family. He was an excellent student in both secular and Jewish studies. When WW II broke out his family, together with all other Jewish families, was ordered by the French authorities to leave their home in Strasbourg which was close to the German frontier. They found refuge in the small town of Cusset (population about 10,000 people) near Vichy, in central France. His three elder brothers had been mobilized so he supported the family as a secondary school teacher, In his spare time he continued his Jewish religious studies.
He also found ways to assist the many Jewish young people who found themselves hiding out in the Vichy unoccupied zone of France. He organized courses in Hebrew, Jewish history and Bible classes and other educational opportunities for many of them in study groups and by correspondence. As time went on the persecution of the Jews even in this zone become more serious, one of his brothers was shot for his part in the Resistance while two sisters were deported to Auschwitz where they were killed.

In 1941 Catane married and later, in order to avoid arrest by the Germans, fled to Switzerland with his wife and small baby. The Swiss sent him to an internment camp. After the war he resumed his studies and in 1949 he was awarded a degree in literature and later a diploma in the study of ancient writing and archivism to preserve old records for future generations. His thesis was on the life and works of Rashi. A staunch Zionist, he moved to Jerusalem together with his wife and five children a few months after the establishment of the State of Israel.

From 1956 to 1988 Catane was librarian at the Israel National Library in Jerusalem and at the same time also taught ancient French at Bar Ilan Universityin Ramat Gan, Israel. In 1968 the University of Strasbourg awarded him a doctorate in the study of ancient French. The French Ministry of Education made him a special award for his contribution to the study of French literature and the academic ties between France and Israel. He wrote many learned articles in both French and Hebrew. His books include "Les Juifs dans le Monde" (1962); "A History of the Jews" [in Hebrew] (1958), "Jerusalem a travers trois millenaires"; (1984), "Glossaires de Rachi sur la Bible et le Talmud" (1988); "Qui est Juif ?" (1990); "La vie en France au XI siecle d’apres les ecrits de Rachi" (1994).
Rein, Armand (1921-), French Resistance fighter and businessman, born 1921 in Mulhouse, France, into a large family of eleven children. From 1942 to 1945 he was an active member of the French resistance movement. Rein and others worked to free (legally or illegally) Jewish children from the infamous internment camps established by the French in Gurs and Rivesaltes in the south of the country. He found the children safe places to hide, mainly in the Italian occupation zone, where the Italian army refused to allow the French police to molest or deport them, and arranging for them to be fed and receive medical care. Often he went from village to village looking for surplus fruit, vegetables and eggs with which to feed his charges. In 1943 he was put in charge of a socio/medical centre for the refugees in the region of the Savoie in south-east France. The centre had been organized by OSE, the French Jewish welfare organization which at that time was largely financed by the American Joint Distribution Committee. The Italian Zone was occupied by the Germans in 1943 after the Italians reached an armistice with the Allies. Rein organised a special train to take some 400 Jews out of the zone in the direction of Rome. He arranged for a number of groups of Jewish children to walk over the Alps and so helped to smuggle them to safety in Switzerland. At the end of 1943, learning that the Gestapo was planning to arrest him, he himself together some family members and also his eight months’ pregnant wife Jeannette who subsequently gave birth to her first child several weeks later in Zurich, escaped to Switzerland in the same way. After the WW 2 he became OSE representative in Marseilles, France, where he organized the reception of deportees from many parts of Europe and arranged their passage to Israel. Two of his brothers were deported to Auschwitz Nazi death camp.

In the mid 1950s Rein started a successful business career and established connections with Ethiopia and several other African countries. He retired and immigrated to Israel in 1980.
Meyer, Henri (1844-1899), caricaturist and illustrator born in Mulhouse, France, who was brought to Argentina when he was ten years old. Before he was twenty years old he became editor of the political humourous Argentinian magazine "El Mosquito" and held that position for 30 years between 1863 and 1893. Many leading politicians of the time were the object of his jibes and sharp paint brush. Meyer also illustrated the novels of Jules Verne for a French publisher. One of his most famous pictures was that of the degradation of Dreyfus. He returned to Paris shortly before his death.
Rein, Alfred (1910-1944), dentist, born in Mulhouse, France. During the WW I his father Nathan served in the French army in Romania. While father was away, his mother, Mother Sophie, took the children to stay with her parents in the Bas Rhin. The family returned to Mulhouse in 1919. Alfred, the fourth child in a family of 12, enjoyed studying both secular and religious subjects and was a keen sportsman. He tried (unsuccessfully) to gain his bacalaureat from school. Having left school he attempted to find work as a commercial representative but he failed in this field also. At a dead end, he devoted himself to learning Torah. In 1931-1932 he was called up for national service with the French army and served in a cavalry unit in Belfort. When discharged in 1935, he decided to return to his studies. This time he passed the examinations and was enrolled in the University of Strasbourg, France, to study dentistry. He qualified in 1939.

When WW2 broke out, and the Jews became refugees in their own country, Alfred went with his family to live in the small town of Boege in the Haute Savoie, north of Grenoble, and very close to Geneva in Switzerland. Boege was in the Italian occupation zone of France where the Jews lived in relative safety.

In Boege Alfred opened a dental practice. He worked there four days per week, one day per week in Annemasse, and one day in the village of Saint-Jeoire. He travelled from one place to the other on a a motor-cycle or, if there was no petrol, on a regular bicycle. In 1943 the area was occupied by the Germans and conditions for the Jews deteriorated. He was no longer able to practice his profession. Although not officially a member of the Resistance, he helped them on many occasions and in particular he helped a number of the refugees who passed through Annemasse on the way to the Swiss frontier. He contacted members of his family who lived in Switzerland and asked them to help the refugees when they had crossed the frontier.

In November 1943 he decided to leave for Lyon, France, where he could study Torah and work at a food distribution centre for refugees. He was arrested by the Germans on 13th March 1944. On 30th April his family received a postcard written from “Arbeitslager L II Haus I”, stating simply that he was in good health and was working. It was the standard wording permitted to Jews who wrote to their families on arrival at a death camp. Nothing more was heard from him. His father died 5 days after the postcard was written.
He was the son of a wealthy manufacturer in Mulhouse, France, who moved to Paris out of French patriotism when Alsace came under German rule following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. Dreyfus entered the army as an engineer and overcame anti-Jewish prejudice to become a captain on the general staff, its only Jewish member. In 1894 it was discovered that intelligence was being leaked from the French army to the Germans and Dreyfus was convicted on the basis of documents that later proved forged. The "Affair" had enormous repercussions, headed by the Catholic, royalist and anti-Semitic press. Dreyfus was publicly degraded to cries of "death to the Jews". He was transported in chains to a prison on Devil's Island off the coast of South America. The "Affair" however, continued to divide France with a number of courageous liberals, convinced of his innocence, working for his release. Gradually the forgeries were exposed and in 1898 Dreyfus was brought back for a retrial. Despite the obvious evidence, he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but was immediately pardoned by the liberal President of France. Only in 1906 was Dreyfus exonerated by the court of appeal and reinstated in the army, serving in WW1 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Dreyfus, Alfred
He was the son of a wealthy manufacturer in Mulhouse, France, who moved to Paris out of French patriotism when Alsace came under German rule following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. Dreyfus entered the army as an engineer and overcame anti-Jewish prejudice to become a captain on the general staff, its only Jewish member. In 1894 it was discovered that intelligence was being leaked from the French army to the Germans and Dreyfus was convicted on the basis of documents that later proved forged. The "Affair" had enormous repercussions, headed by the Catholic, royalist and anti-Semitic press. Dreyfus was publicly degraded to cries of "death to the Jews". He was transported in chains to a prison on Devil's Island off the coast of South America. The "Affair" however, continued to divide France with a number of courageous liberals, convinced of his innocence, working for his release. Gradually the forgeries were exposed and in 1898 Dreyfus was brought back for a retrial. Despite the obvious evidence, he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but was immediately pardoned by the liberal President of France. Only in 1906 was Dreyfus exonerated by the court of appeal and reinstated in the army, serving in WW1 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Dreyfus, Alfred
He was the son of a wealthy manufacturer in Mulhouse, France, who moved to Paris out of French patriotism when Alsace came under German rule following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. Dreyfus entered the army as an engineer and overcame anti-Jewish prejudice to become a captain on the general staff, its only Jewish member. In 1894 it was discovered that intelligence was being leaked from the French army to the Germans and Dreyfus was convicted on the basis of documents that later proved forged. The "Affair" had enormous repercussions, headed by the Catholic, royalist and anti-Semitic press. Dreyfus was publicly degraded to cries of "death to the Jews". He was transported in chains to a prison on Devil's Island off the coast of South America. The "Affair" however, continued to divide France with a number of courageous liberals, convinced of his innocence, working for his release. Gradually the forgeries were exposed and in 1898 Dreyfus was brought back for a retrial. Despite the obvious evidence, he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but was immediately pardoned by the liberal President of France. Only in 1906 was Dreyfus exonerated by the court of appeal and reinstated in the army, serving in WW1 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.