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The Jewish Community of Jungholz


A village in the Haut-Rhin department, France

There is evidence that there were Jews in Jungholz in the second half of the 15th century, but there is no further record of another settlement until the beginning of the 18th century. The community was at its height in 1784 with 215 members, but the number had fallen to 12 by 1880. At the end of the 17th century the elders of the Jewish community of Ribeauville acquired the right to bury their dead at Jungholz, in a site on the outskirts of the village. Around the end of the 18th century, this cemetery, successively and officially enlarged, served 35 communities in upper Alsace. The cemetery was vandalized during the French Revolution, out of about 2,000 graves existing in 1789, only about ten remain. The stones were used by the local populace for buildings. From the 19th century, when numerous communities acquired local cemeteries, the Jungholz burial ground lost its importance.

The six communities who continued to make use of it erected there a memorial to their 55 martyrs of World War II.

The building of the old synagogue of Jungholtz is still known under the name of Judaschuäl  ("School of the Jews") since it served both as a synagogue and a Talmud Torah. At the beginning of 20th century, the administration of the Jewish cemetery in Jungholtz rented the abandoned building to two families, each occupying one floor. Major restoration work had preceded the conversion of the building. The house still belongs to the Jewish community and is rented out to individuals.

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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 northeastern France on the Rhine River plain, bordering Germany and Switzerland. 


In German: Hartmannsweiler

A commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace, France. Hartmannswiller was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

It seems that Jews lived in Hartmannswiller during the Middle Ages. The chronicler Materne Berler mentions in Book of Fiefs of the bishopric of Strasbourg the existence of a Jewish cemetery in Hartmannswiller in 1355.

As in other parts of Alsace, Jews settled in Hartmannswiller in the second half of the 17th century after the end of Thirty Year War. At the end of the 18th century there were about 80 Jews in Hartmannswiller. During the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century their number decreased steadily from 76 in 1846 to 63 in 1861, 45 in 1880, 25 in 1895, and only 16 in 1910.  In 1936 there were 24 Jewish inhabitants in Hartmannswiller.

The community belonged to the Rabbinate of Soultz and after 1910 to the Rabbinate of Guebwiller. The Jews of Hartmannswiller used the Jewish cemetery of Jungholtz. However, the local community had a synagogue located in the main street behind the old grocery store, a school and a mikve.     

In the summer of 1940, after Alsace was occupied by the Germans, the Jewish residents who remained in the village were deported to southern France. Two Jewish women of Hartmannswiller perished in the Holocaust.

After 1945 there were no Jewish families in Hartmannswiller. The building of former synagogue building is still standing today


Horbourg-Wihr; in German: Horburg-Weier

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

The Jewish presence in Horbourg started in 1723, after Duke Leopold Eberhard of Württemberg, the ruler of the region at the time, at the request of the Jew Paul Filgert provided them with letters of protection and allowed them to settle on condition they would pay an annual payment of 10 florins and a fat goose, obey the orders of the duke, and would not to buy any house or property without special permission. Two Jewish families of Raphaël Jacob and Jacob Bolach lived in Horbourg in 1730. After mid-18th century additional Jews were granted permission to live in Horbourg. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Horbourg 18 Jewish families with a total of about 90 individuals. The proximity of Horbourg to the city of Colmar brought about a rapid demographic development of the Jewish community of Horbourg during the first half of the 19th century. In 1846 there were 410 Jews in Horbourg, a relatively high number when compared with most of the other Jewish rural communities in Alsace. Despite the constant decline in the number of the Jewish residents of Horbourg during the second half of the 19th century, the community continued to be one of the largest in the area with 366 members in 1861, 299 in 1876, 205 in 1895, and 134 in 1910. After WW I, the number of Jews in Horbourg decreased dramatically with only 60 Jews recorded in 1936.

The community belonged to the Rabbinate of Bergheim until 1910, then to the Rabbinate of Ribeauville. The local Jews obtained the right to have their own prayer house before the French Revolution, but the synagogue was erected in the mid-1830s. In 1931 it was renovated and re-inaugurated. The Jewish school operated until 1913, when it was closed due to the lack of students. The community also operated a school and a mikveh. The Jews of Horbourg used the Jewish cemetery of Jungholz until early 1870s, when’ along with the Jewish community of Wintzenheim, a local Jewish cemetery was opened; it was enlarged in 1906.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the remaining Jews of Horbourg were deported to southern France, of them twelve perished in the Holocaust.  

After WW II, a new Jewish community was founded in Horbourg-Wihr. In 1953 there were 20 Jews living in Horbourg.

The preserved synagogue building and the cemetery on the outskirts with around 250 graves still bear witness to Jewish history. A model of the Horbourg synagogue is on display in the Colmar Museum. Address of the synagogue: Rue de la Synagogue, 68180 Horbourg-Wihr.


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

First Jewish presence in Issenheim dates from around 1500. A relatively large Jewish community developed in Issenheim since late 17th century. In 1660 there was a Jewish family on site. The local Jews Joseph, Wolf and Adam are mentioned in contracts from the records of the Issenheim court in 1681. The number of Jewish families in Issenheim grew from two in 1690 to eight families in 1707 and fourteen families in 1768. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Issenheim 23 Jewish families with a total of about 120 individuals. In 1808 there were 147 Jews in Issenheim and that number remained unchanged during the first half of the 19th century with 145 Jews recorded in 1846. After mid-19th century the Jewish population of Issenheim decreased continuously. There were 57 Jews in the village in 1861, the number declined to 32 in 1895 and to 19 in 1910. In 1936 only 8 Jews were living in Issenheim.

The Jewish community of Issenheim belonged to the Rabbinate of Soultz (Soultz Haut Rhin) and after 1910 to the Rabbinate of Guebwiller. The synagogue was built during the the first half of the 19th century. In a pogrom that broke out in the wake of the turmoil of the revolution in 1848, the local synagogue was badly damaged, and a Jewish woman is said to have been killed. The community operated a Jewish school and a mikveh. The Jews of Issenheim used the Jewish cemetery of Jungholz.

After WW I, the Jewish community in the process of dissolution. In 1929 the synagogue building was sold and after renovations it has been used for residential purposes.

One Jew of Issenheim perished in the Holocaust.


In German: Sulzmatt

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

From late 15th century and until the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century, Soultzmatt was the only place in the county of Rouffach that allowed settlement of Jews. In 1612 the family of Moÿses Dreÿfus der Jud is recorded in Soultzmatt. In 1616 a second Jew called Levi and his family is documented in the village. Four years later, in 1620, a total of six Jews and their families are mentioned in the lists of taxpayers. An indication of Jewish population size can be inferred from the circumcision register (Mohelbuch) of the itinerant rabbi Simon Blum that mentions fourteen male children of Soultzmatt circumcised between 1668 and 1690. In none of the other communities listed in his register the circumcising rabbi did perform so many circumcisions during the same period.

The community started to organize towards the end of the 17th century. In 1688 there were 10 Jewish families in Soultzmatt. Their number increased to 15 in 1700, and then to 25 in 1770. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Soultzmatt 41 Jewish families with a total of 230 people, at the time one of the largest Jewish communities in Alsace. The demographic growth continued during the first half of the 19th century with 321 Jews recorded in 1833 and 349 in 1846. After mid-19th century most of the Jews moved out of the village by either emigrating to other countries or moving to France following the annexation of the area by Germany. There were 309 Jewish inhabitants in Soultzmatt in 1861, but in 1900 their number was reduced to 76 and in 1910 to 46. In 1936 only 17 Jews still lived in the village.

Soultzmatt was the seat of a rabbinate for most of the 19th century, then it was transferred to Bollwiller in 1910. The building of the first synagogue from early 19th century was located at the lower end of the village, at the junction of the rue de la Vallée and the rue d'Orschwihr, also known as Judenweg (“Jewish path”). A new synagogue was opened in 1850. In addition, the community operated a school and a mikveh and employed a teacher who also served as a prayer leader and a shochet. Deceased members of the community were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Jungholtz.

After the German occupation of France during WW II, the remaining Jews of Soultzmatt were deported to southern France and then to the Nazi death and concentration camps in Eastern Europe. At least two Jews of Soultzmatt perished in the Holocaust.

The building of the synagogue was destroyed in 1940.


In German: Felleringen 

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

A small Jewish community was established in Fellering during the 18th century. They had a prayer room opened in 1855 in a building belonging to the Schick family, a religious school and a mikveh. The deceased were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Jungholz.

After Thann was badly damaged during the First World War, Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Meyer moved his school with eleven students to Fellering for some time. During the 1920s there were about 30 Jews living in Fellering.

Three Jews of Fellering perished in the Holocaust.


In German: Türkheim

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

First Jewish presence in Turckheim is documented during early 14th century, when a few Jewish families were permitted to settle in what was then an imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire. Jews were sometimes tolerated in Turckheim, sometimes expelled. They were persecuted during the Armleder anti-Jewish riots in 1338 and again in the wave of anti-Jewish massacres that followed the Black Death plague in 1348. In 1397 a Jew of Turckheim was arrested and tortured for allegedly poisoning a well and in 1410 another local Jew was murdered by a Christian. There are additional mentions of Jewish inhabitants in Turckheim during the 15th and the first half of the 16th century. The maximum interest rate for Jewish money dealers was also strictly regulated and Jews were banned to leave their houses during Christian processions. Eventually the few Jewish families of Turckheim were expelled in 1570.

In 1701, the Jew Jacques Borach was allowed to come and live in Turckheim with his family. In 1705, there were three Jewish families in Turckheim and in 1716, the Borach and Geismar families consisted of 9 people. The modern Jewish community of Turckheim was established during the second half of the 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Turckheim 10 Jewish families with a total of 42 people. In 1806 there were 72 Jews in Turckheim; their number grew to 97 in 1846 and reached a peak of 100 in 1861. During the second half of the 19th century the Jewish population decreased to 35 people in 1900 and 42 in 1910. There were 30 Jewish inhabitants in Turckheim in 1936.

The community belonged to the rabbinate of Wintzenheim. The Jews of Turckheim did not have a synagogue. Until early 20th century they used a prayer room in a residential building owned by the Borach family, then they prayed at the synagogue of Wintzenheim. In the Middle Ages the Jews of Turckheim apparently used the Jewish cemetery of Colmar. The modern community used the Jewish cemetery of Jungholtz and from the end of the 18th century that of Wintzenheim.

The community was dissolved during the 1930s.

After the German occupation of France in WW II, the few Jews who still lived in Turckheim were deported to southern France in October 1940. Five Jews of Turckheim perished in the Holocaust.

Address of the former prayer room: 7 rue des Vignerons, Turckheim.