The Jewish Cemetery in Gelnhausen

The most distressing place in Gelnhausen is the Jewish Cemetery, with gravestones from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries.

There were Jews living in Gelnhausen as early as 1242, but as in many other German towns (such as Bacharach on the Rhine) they were massacred in 1348-49 during the Black Plague, a pandemic which killed a third to a half or more of the European population in just a few years and also led to widespread persecution of the Jews and other minorities. 

The Jewish Cemetery in Gelnhausen

During the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) the Jewish Synagogue was destroyed along with nearly everything else in Gelnhausen, but it was re-built after the war in 1656. From then on, a small Jewish community flourished in Gelnhausen for over two and a half centuries, until the rise of the Nazis in the 1920s and 30s.

The Jewish Cemetery in Gelnhausen

The Jewish Cemetery is on the Uferweg, near the Kinzig River, at 50°11’57.94″ North; 9°11’19.77″ East.

A gravestone in the Jewish Cemetery

In October 1938, earlier than in most other German cities, the local Nazi rulers in Gelnhausen proudly announced that their city was “judenfrei”, free of Jews, or even “judenrein”, cleansed of Jews.

This was the result of a systematic six-year campaign of repression, boycotts, threats and attacks against the Jewish population, which had numbered over two hundred people before the Nazis came to power.

Some of the Gelnhausen Jews managed to leave Germany during the 1930s. Others moved to Frankfurt, where they were later rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Altogether one hundred and nine Jews from Gelnhausen are known to have been killed during the time of the Nazi dictatorship.

Gravestones in the Jewish Cemetery

More information in German:
http://www.alemannia-judaica.de/gelnhausen_synagoge.htm

My photos in this post are from 2010. I revised the text in 2018.

See more posts on the town of Gelnhausen, Germany.

5 thoughts on “The Jewish Cemetery in Gelnhausen”

  1. My wife and I passed through Bleicherode in 1993, and stayed overnight; as we parked i noticed a stone in the grass verge, and this proved to have been laid there to indicate the site of the Synagogue, destroyed on Kristallnacht, A town map showed the site of the Jewish Cemetery, and despite walking up and down, and identifying the whereabouts from a bend in the road and so on, there was absolutely no trace of anything – only an overgrown orchard, but i must admit that i wasn’t inclined to climb over the gate to investigate further.

    1. Actually, Jewish cemeteries were traditionally not taken care of in the sense of mowing the lawns and such, even if descendants were still living nearby.

      1. Oh really! I didn’t know that because we have a lovely Jewish cemetery here in the San Fernando Valley and it is very well taken care of with mowed lawns and such. Is that only in Europe? We’ve been to other cemeteries from the 1800’s in the U.S. where there are Jewish sections and they are taken care of also.

  2. I remember reading about that massacre in Bacherach when I researched the town for my VT page about the Rhine cruise we did, but I hadn’t realised how widespread that reaction to the Black Death was in Germany

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