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:

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

See more posts on the town of Gelnhausen, Germany.
See more posts on Jewish topics.

12 thoughts on “The Jewish Cemetery in Gelnhausen”

  1. I found out that one of my ancesters, Hirsh Kunreuther was a Rabbi in Gelnhausen and two of his sons became rabbis. I wonder if he and his son Feivel (Phillip) are buried there.

  2. i had no idea of the history of this cemetery. for myself and my cohorts, passing through this cemetery was a convenient shortcut back to our billets after a night at the pubs.

      1. yes, indeed i was 1989-1991. i had no idea that this cemetery was destroyed at one time, it looked pretty intact for the most part. Coleman Kaserne during that period was a base utilized by the Luftwaffe, more than likely for anti-aircraft guns defending Frankfurt Am Main. at the foot of the hill is an airfield, where gilders remain popular. i didn’t have any idea that the populace contained fervent, committed Nazi officials, but with further study, that was very much the case. non withstanding this dark period, Barbarossastat was an amazing, quaint, rustic place, and i enjoyed the marketplatz and cafes whenever free time was offered, and the pastry shops were second to none. my stay there was rather historical, as when i arrived, the country was still divided between East and West Germany, and by the time i left, Germany had gone through unification. i never took for granted my stay in Gelnhausen as a young soldier, and i had much respect for its citizenry. maybe i will return some day – Scott

        1. I too was there during the same years as you as the wife of an infantry soldier. I would walk daily by the cemetery on my way to the train station and would peer over the wall at the tombstones on occasion. I could see that they were quite old and they all had the Star of David on them. At the time, I had no idea of the part Gelnhausen played in WWII and as a Wehrmacht base. I have returned twice since I left in ‘91. Somehow t always eels like home to me. Thanks to the internet so much more information is available now to read about the history of Gelnhausen.

  3. 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

    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.

  4. 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. we used to use this cemetery as a shortcut to return to our billets after a night out at the pubs, otherwise we had to walk over a bridge and tack on several additional minutes on to our hike

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