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.
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 is on the Uferweg, near the Kinzig River, at 50°11’57.94″ North; 9°11’19.77″ East.
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.
More information in German:
My photos in this post are from 2010. I revised the text in 2018.
See more posts on the town of Gelnhausen, Germany.