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The Jewish Community of Waldwisse


In German: Waldwiese 

A commune in the Moselle department in the historical region of Lorraine, France. Waldwisse is located on the border with Germany.

There was a small Jewish community in Waldwisse during the 19th century. A synagogue was opened in 1847 and a school in 1854. The community also had a cemetery opened in 1837.

After the German occupation of France in 1940, the synagogue was destroyed at the orders of the Nazis.

The Jewish cemetery was vandalized in 2014 and again on March 29, 2017. The 40 damaged matzevot were restored and a ceremony took place on September 10, 2017 in the presence of representatives of the Jewish communities in Moselle and of the local authorities. Reinhold Jost, Minister for the Environment in the Government of the German State of Saar, contributed to the restoration of the graves. On the same day a plaque was fixed on the place of the former synagogue.  

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Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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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

Consistoire Central de France – Union des Communautés Juives de France
19, rue St Georges
75009 Paris
Phone: 01 49 70 88 00
Fax: 01 42 81 03 66
e-mail :



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.


A historical region in northeast France bordering Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.


A town in the department of Moselle, France

There is evidence confirming the presence of Jews in Thionville from the 15th century. In 1546 the physician of the count of Nassau-Sarrebruck was a Jew who originated from Thionville. A place known as the "cemetery of the Jews" is mentioned about 1560, but by then the Jews had disappeared from the town. After the French conquest, two Jewish families from Metz were authorized to settle in the town in 1656, in spite of the objections of the inhabitants. In 1780 there were about 20 Jewish inhabitants. Four Thionville Jews were compelled to give up their merchant licenses, which they had purchased in 1767, in spite of a famous speech by their counsel Pierre Louis de Lacretelle. There were 14 Jewish families in Thionville in 1795; 40 in 1812; 310 persons in 1831; 183 in 1880; 332 in 1910; and 281 in 1931. From 1909 to 1940, Thionville was the seat of a rabbinate.

During the Nazi occupation five Jews were shot and about 30 families were deported. In 1970 the Jewish community consisted of some 450 people. The synagogue, established in 1805, has been rebuilt on several occasions, most recently in 1957, after it had been burned down by the Nazis during World War II.


A town and the capital of the district Merzig-Wadern in Saarland, Germany.

First Jewish presence: 17th century; peak Jewish population: 223 in 1846; Jewish population in 1933: 200

Merzig authorities closed this community’s prayer room, which was located in a private residence, in or around the year 1729, and it was not until 1780 that Jews were permitted to establish another. The town was home to a Jewish cemetery (consecrated before 1748 and enlarged in 1904 and again in 1910) and, after 1842, to a synagogue on the corner of Rehstrasse and Neustrasse. Merzig Jews maintained a Jewish school from 1823 until 1876, after which the community employed a teacher of religion, who also performed the duties of chazzan and shochet. In 1933, approximately 200 Jews still lived in Merzig. Seventeen children studied religion that year, and nine Jewish associations were active in the community, with which the Jews of Brotdorf and Hilbringen were affiliated. Most Jews left Merzig after the Saarland region was returned to the German Reich in March 1935. Accordingly, the community was disbanded in 1937. On Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), the synagogue was set on fire, Jewish-owned homes and businesses were vandalized and the cemetery was largely destroyed. The synagogue building was subsequently repaired and used by the municipality until 1944, when the building was destroyed during an air raid. On October 22, 1940, at least seven Merzig Jews were deported to Gurs concentration camp in France. At least 44 local Jews perished during the Shoah. The cemetery, restored in 1949, houses a memorial plaque (unveiled there that same year). A plaque was also erected at the former synagogue site in 1961; and in 1976, one year after the street on which the synagogue once stood was renamed Synagogenstrasse (“synagogue street”), a new plaque was unveiled at the site.


This entry was originally published on Beit Ashkenaz - Destroyed German Synagogues and Communities website and contributed to the Database of the Museum of the Jewish People courtesy of Beit Ashkenaz.


A city in the Saarland, Germany.

First Jewish presence: 1685; peak Jewish population: 480 in 1925; Jewish population in 1933: 364

The earliest record of a Jewish presence in Saarlouis is dated 1685. Although many of the town’s Jewish-owned business were attacked and severely damaged after the decision was made (in 1919) to place the Saarland region under the auspices of the League of Nations, Saarlouis’ Jewish community continued to grow and peaked in 1925. Jews conducted services in prayer rooms until 1828, when the community inaugurated a synagogue, with a mikveh and an elementary school, on Silberherzstrasse (Postgaesschen). The school was closed in 1875, after which the community employed a teacher/chazzan; another functionary served as shochet and as an aide to the chazzan. Saarlouis’ Jewish cemetery was consecrated in 1905, and we also know that the synagogue was renovated in 1878 and again in 1915. In 1933, 364 Jews lived in Saarlouis and the nearby villages; several Jewish associations and branches of nation-wide organizations were active in the community that year. Most Jews left Saarlouis after the Saarland was returned to Germany in March 1935. On Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), the five remaining Jewish owned businesses were destroyed and looted, as was the synagogue’s interior. Several Jews were assaulted that night. In September 1939, Saarlouis’ remaining 18 Jews were forced to leave the town: 15 emigrated from Germany; three were deported to the Gurs concentration camp in France on October 22, 1940. Saarlouis’ Jewish cemetery, severely damaged during the war, is now a memorial site. The synagogue building—it served as a carpenter’s shop at some point—was converted into a church in 1968. In 1986, three years after the structure was demolished, a new building was erected on the site; inside, a memorial room was built in honor of the destroyed Jewish community and its former synagogue.


This entry was originally published on Beit Ashkenaz - Destroyed German Synagogues and Communities website and contributed to the Database of the Museum of the Jewish People courtesy of Beit Ashkenaz.

Dillingen an der Saar

A town in the district of Saarlouis in Saarland, Germany.

First Jewish presence: 1800; peak Jewish population: unknown; Jewish population in 1933: 135

The Jews of Dillingen belonged to the Diefflen community until 1929, when Dillingen became an independent Jewish community. In 1927, 122 Jews lived in Dillingen. During the mid-19th century, local Jews attended synagogue services in Diefflen. Services were later conducted in a private residence, but it is not known when the community decided to congregate there. Records mention, however, that a proper synagogue was inaugurated in Dillingen in 1924. In 1933, 27 schoolchildren studied religion under the guidance of a teacher/chazzan. Three charity associations were active in the community, with which the Jews of Nalbach and Pachtlen were affiliated. In December 1934, a Jewish councilman was voted out of office on the pretext that he had missed some meetings. Most Jews left Dillingen after the Saarland region was incorporated into the German Reich in 1935, and the community was disbanded later that year, when only 11 Jews of voting age still lived in the town. On Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1939), the synagogue was burned down, the remaining 14 Jews were assaulted, one of whom was brutally beaten with a hammer, and Jewish homes were vandalized. A Jewish piano merchant was forced to watch hammer-wielding rioters destroy his pianos, after which his home and business were destroyed.


This entry was originally published on Beit Ashkenaz - Destroyed German Synagogues and Communities website and contributed to the Database of the Museum of the Jewish People courtesy of Beit Ashkenaz.


In German: Bad Sierck; also Siirk, Siirck

A commune in the Moselle department in the historical region of Lorraine, France. Between 1871 and 1918 it was annexed by Germany.

It seems that there was a Jewish presence in Sierck-les-Bains at the end of the 13th century, when the Duke of Lorraine mentioned his right to allow Jewish money-lenders to live in the town.

The beginnings of the Jewish community date from mid-17th century. In 1661 the town was captured by France, and some Jews from Germany settled in Sierck a short time later. An agreement from 1690 between the local municipal authorities and the Jewish inhabitants mentions the right of the Jews to open a prayer room in a private house and to lay to rest their dead in a ditch, near the Porte Neuve which overlooked the road to Sarrelouis in exchange for a payment of annual taxes for each family and a rent for the cemetery.

The Jews settled in rue de la Porte de Trèves. New Jewish families were admitted to the town during the 18th century. Most Jews made a living as horse dealers for the French military strongholds in the area. They also were active as money-lenders for the peasants in the neighboring villages as well as for the local municipal authorities.

In November 1791, only two months after Jews were granted equal civil rights in France, Isaac Lévy, a local Jew, was elected to the municipal council.

At the beginning of the 19th century a synagogue was built on the current rue des Juifs. It was renovated in 1886 and destroyed by the Germans in 1940.

The Jewish population declined during the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, when many local Jews moved to Thionville. The Jewish community ceased to exist after WW II.

There was a Jewish cemetery in Sierck-les-Bains during the 17th century. In 1720 a new burial place was opened close to the old one on the road to Sarrelouis, the current rue du Cardinal Billot, but no longer in the ditch. A new cemetery was established in 1819 on the same street. This cemetery also served the neighboring communities of Montenach, Sentzich, Fixem, Koenigsmacker and Monneren, in addition it contains graves of Jews from a large number of communities in Lorraine, among them Boulay-Moselle, Bouzonville, Buding, Cattenom, Ennery, Garche, Hettange-Grande, Hellimer, Koenigsmacker, Louvigny, Manom, Metzervisse, Monneren , Niedervisse, Rettel, Thionville, Uckange, Volmerange-lès-Mines, Yutz, and also a number of Jews from some more distant Jewish communities, such as Bouxwiller in Alsaxce, and Sarrelouis, Freudenburg and Schweich in Germany.


In German: Sentzig

Sentzich was united with Cattenom to form a commune in the Moselle department in the historical region of Lorraine, France. Between 1871 and 1918 it was annexed by Germany.

Jews settled in Sentzich during the first half of the 19th century and they belonged to the Consistoire Israélite of Metz. A synagogue was opened in 1854.

The community dissolved in early 20th century and the building of the synagogue was sold in 1928.

The building of the former synagogue, first used as a carpenter’s shop and then as a storage room, is located at 4 rue de la Synagogue, Sentzich.