Jewish life in Thuringia - 19th century
After being driven out of the towns at the end of the Middle Ages, the Jews were subjected to bans and discriminating restrictions and lived on the edge of society. It was not until the 19th century that the situation of the Jews began to improve throughout Europe and they were allowed to live in the larger Thuringian towns again.
Equal rights laws and Jewish emancipation led to a renewed and very rapid blossoming of Jewish communities. Synagogues were built in Erfurt, Mühlhausen, Sonderhausen and southern Thuringia in the middle of the 19th century.
Jewish entrepreneurs shaped the business life of towns as traders and factory owners, and artists and scientists made a decisive contribution to social and cultural life. Some names are still remembered today, such as the Moses brothers and Löb Simson who made motor vehicle history in Suhl.
Small synagogue in Erfurt
Some 350 years after their enforced departure during the pogrom in the 14th century, Jews returned to Erfurt around 1800. As the community grew and the Large Synagogue was built, the Small Synagogue consecrated in 1840 was deconsecrated a mere 44 years later. As a result of conversion and use as home and storeroom, it was not identified as a synagogue and thus avoided destruction by the Nazis. In the 1980s, architectural researchers found the mikwe, the torah shrine and the women's gallery. After restoration, the interior has now almost been returned to its original condition. The exhibition in the Small Synagogue, which is used as a meeting place, can be viewed during opening hours. The resettling of the third Jewish community in Erfurt in the 19th and 20th century is the topic of the exhibition in the basement of the Small Synagogue.
Currently, the content of the exhibition is only available in German and English.
More information about Jewish life in Erfurt can be found at www.juedisches-leben.erfurt.de.
Synagogue in Mühlhausen
"So enter into his gates with grateful hearts - into his courts with praise" - this verse from Psalm 100 is written in Hebrew above the middle door of the synagogue in Mühlhausen, which can still be visited today. It was built in the rear court of the Jewish community centre in Jüdenstrasse in 1840. The Mühlhausen "Rechtsbuch", the oldest town charter register in German, records the existence of Jews in this Imperial town as early as 1230. In 1938, the synagogue was defiled but not destroyed. After reconsecration, it has again been available for religious services since 1998 and is used as a meeting-place. The Jewish cemetery consecrated in 1842 is situated by Eisenacher Strasse. Some gravestones were moved here from the old Jewish cemetery by the castle, first mentioned in records in 1417 and closed in 1900.
The synagogue and the community house with a small exhibition can be visited on a guided tour by prior appointment.
Contact details and further information can be found at www.muelhausen.de