Jewish community of Warendorf

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Freckenhorster Strasse in Warendorf, 1905. Building far left: Jewish school; behind it was the synagogue.

The Jewish community of Warendorf existed approximately from the 14th century to 1941. From 1945 to 1947, the community was rebuilt in stages when the survivors of the Holocaust from the Münsterland celebrated services in Warendorf.

During its heyday from the middle of the 17th to the end of the 19th century, the Jewish community of Warendorf was one of the most important in the Münsterland with an outstanding position for the whole of Westphalia. To this day it is one of the better-known former Jewish rural communities in Germany, especially because Paul Spiegel , President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany until his death in 2006 , came from Warendorf.



The first documentary evidence of Jewish life in Warendorf dates back to 1387: In a Cologne city ​​bill, the name of the Jewish woman is named " Ailka von Warendorf ". Presumably this Ailka belonged to the Jews who left the Münsterland as a result of the plague pogroms around 1350. The name " Judenstrasse ", first mentioned in 1433, also speaks for Jewish life in the first half of the 14th century . Only after the end of the Anabaptist Kingdom of Munster Prince Bishop allowed Franz von Waldeck 1535/36 a permanent settlement of Jews in the Bishopric of Münster . From 1538 the Jews " Isaak " and " Simon " from Warendorf can be proven. After the death of Prince-Bishop Franz von Waldeck in 1553, the government of the prince-bishopric decided to expel the Jews from Münster in full and only allowed temporary stays with so-called " letters of conduct ". Through this regulation, rural places in the Münsterland, such as Warendorf or Coesfeld , gained in importance for the Jewish population.

Between expulsion and emancipation

Mohel book of the land rabbi Michael Meyer Breslau from Warendorf, around 1770.

In 1563 the Jew Bernt was “ seduced ” by the city for twelve years . No other Jews were allowed to live in Warendorf during the term of the letter of safe conduct. Bernt worked as a lender and butcher. When he could no longer pay the tribute for his escort, it passed to his brother Sander. After his death in 1570, a certain Wulf entered the contractual relationship. The estates of the Munster Abbey always spoke out against the seduction of Jews and demanded their full expulsion; in the end, however, Prince-Bishop Ernst of Bavaria prevailed as sovereign. In 1599, for example, two letters of safe conduct were issued in Warendorf for the first time and a census by the city council in 1602 revealed a total of 13 Warendorf Jews.

In 1627, Prince-Bishop Ferdinand of Bavaria pushed through the settlement of the Jew Nini Levi in ​​Warendorf against the resistance of the city. In the last years of the Thirty Years' War a Jew stayed in the village so often that he was named after her " Bär " or " Bernd von Warendorf ". Presumably he is a brother of Nini Levi, since his name was also Bernd Levi. " Bernd von Warendorf " later rose to be court Jew of the Great Elector of Brandenburg . During the Westphalian Peace Congress in Münster 1644–1648 he was one of the most important advisers to the ambassador of Brandenburg. In 1651, Prince-Bishop Christoph Bernhard von Galen appointed Nini Levi as " Commander and Predecessor " of the Jews in the Monastery of Münster. Since this appointment, the Warendorf community has traditionally provided the highest representatives of Munsterland Jewry - the " commanders and predecessors " and later the regional rabbis. The first reference to a separate prayer room in Warendorf comes from the year 1649.

In January 1709 there were anti-Jewish riots in Warendorf, as a result of which young people damaged the houses of Jewish residents and destroyed the windows and doors of the synagogue, which is mentioned for the first time in this context. In the following years, too, there were repeated riots, especially on Catholic holidays or on the occasion of processions. In 1768, Prince-Bishop Maximilian Friedrich von Königsegg-Rothenfels asked the Mayor of Warendorf to protect the Jewish minority from the insults and attacks of the Catholics. Nevertheless, around March 26, 1768, there were violent unrest lasting several days. In return, Prince-Bishop Maximilian Friedrich granted the Jews the right to freely elect a land rabbi in the future and refrained from appointing a “ commander and predecessor ” himself . On September 3, 1771, Michael Meyer Breslau was elected from Warendorf. The last collective convoy of the bishop for Jews in the monastery of Münster dates from March 11, 1795 and shows 15 families with around 90 people. After the death of Michael Meyer Breslau, the Jews of the Münsterland elected his son David Meyer Breslau as his successor as state rabbi on November 24, 1789. With his death in 1808 the period of Warendorf's prominent position among the Jewish communities ends; In the same year, however, the new synagogue was built in half-timbered style (today's address: Corridor 3). Thus 1808 for Warendorf can be said to be the beginning of a new era for the Jewish community.

Jewish emancipation in Warendorf

In 1810 the ban on Jews to settle in Münster was lifted. As a result, the number of Jewish residents of Warendorf decreased from 67 in 1812 to 63 four years later. In return, the number of Jews residing in Münster quadrupled. The shift in importance in favor of the Jewish community of Münster , meanwhile the capital of the new Prussian province of Westphalia , was completed with the departure of the regional rabbi Abraham Sutro . As a result of the Prussian Jewish edict of 1812 , the Jews were now largely granted legal equality. In Warendorf's case, the letter from Mayor Johann Caspar Schnösenberg dated March 13, 1818, calling on President Ludwig von Vincke to promote the “ merging of the Jewish nation ” with the Christian population, is particularly characteristic of this beginning of social integration . The Marks Haindorf Foundation founded by Alexander Haindorf in Münster , which also supported some Warendorf residents with monetary donations, played an important role in this . The social position of Warendorf Jews at the beginning of the 19th century ranged from wealthy textile traders to junk dealers and peddlers to servants and maids. The majority, however, were in some form of commerce.

In 1833 the Jewish community of Warendorf reached its numerical peak with 99 members. From now on, the number of members steadily decreased, but fluctuated until 1870. With the law on the conditions of the Jews passed on July 23, 1847, the Kingdom of Prussia imposed on the high presidia to divide the Jewish communities into synagogue districts. Therefore the government in Münster decreed on June 20, 1848 that Warendorf, Beelen , Freckenhorst , Harsewinkel and Westkirchen should form a synagogue district based in Warendorf. Further steps towards the integration of the Jewish community into Warendorf society were the adoption of fixed surnames in 1845. Jewish students at the Warendorfer Gymnasium Laurentianum , memberships in societies or associations, but also the participation of Jewish soldiers in military campaigns also testify to growing social emancipation a Jewish Warendorf volunteer for the War of Liberation in 1813/14 , another took part in the Franco-German War in 1870/71 . In 1918, Joseph Hertz, a parishioner “ for God, King and Fatherland ”, fell during the First World War . In 1897 a larger synagogue made of brick was built.

National Socialism and Destruction of the Community

When the NSDAP came to power , open anti-Semitism was now part of everyday life. The first sad climax of the anti-Jewish actions of the National Socialists was the so-called Jewish boycott , which also took place in Warendorf, although there was only moderate support there. By September 1938, however, all Jewish shops in Warendorf were closed or “ Aryanized ”. The cattle dealer Hugo Spiegel , Paul Spiegel's father, was among those affected .

On the evening of November 9, 1938, the night of the pogrom , various Nazi organizations participated, including a. of the SA, to violent riots. A total of four residential buildings were damaged, seven apartments were almost completely destroyed, the windows of the synagogue smashed and its interior desecrated. In addition, the two Jewish cemeteries were destroyed . Six Jewish Warendorf residents had to be treated in the hospital. In the following days, there was also rushing against non-Jews, who had shown solidarity in the previous months with the Jewish community, about rushing of the striker against Hermann Stückenschneider because it in September 1938 at the funeral of Pauline mirror in the Jewish cemetery had participated. On November 11th, the police arrested all male Jews between the ages of 18 and 50 who were fit for work and interned them in the Warendorf police prison. In the trials that took place after the end of the Nazi regime because of the events on November 9th, the thesis arose that the perpetrators in the Warendorf case had traveled from Ahlen. However, according to numerous contemporary witnesses, this does not correspond to the actual course of events; rather, neighbors of the victims were also among the perpetrators of the Reichspogromnacht.

After these events, on November 15, the community sold the synagogue and the neighboring Jewish schoolhouse. Private individuals now also hastily sold their houses - mostly well below their value. The beneficiaries were local farmers or innkeepers and the Volksbank . By 1939, 32 Jews from Warendorf had been able to travel abroad; Belgium, South America and the USA were among the most frequent destinations for emigration. The Jews who remained in the village were crammed into a “ Jewish house ” in November 1941 and finally deported to the Riga ghetto . None of the Jews from Warendorf who were transported to the east survived the Holocaust.

A new beginning and commemoration after 1945

Paul Spiegel.

Hugo Spiegel returned to Warendorf from the Dachau concentration camp in the early summer of 1945 . There, the Torah scroll and some prayer books that had survived the desecration of the synagogue in November 1938 were given to him. On the Jewish New Year's Day , September 7, 1945, the first Jewish service in the Münsterland after the Holocaust took place in the prayer room of the former synagogue . In addition to a few survivors, Jewish soldiers from the British Army and local politicians also took part. In the prayer room, Warendorf's mayor Aloys Zurbonsen unveiled a memorial plaque in memory of the murdered, which later became the property of the Spiegel family and has been hanging in the entrance area of ​​the town hall since 1987. In October 1946, Hugo Spiegel submitted an application for the repair of the synagogue, which was granted and the district and the city of Warendorf shared the costs. From 1947 they met regularly for church services, from 1949 also in the rebuilt Marks Haindorf Foundation in Münster. Given the vanishingly small number of nine Jews in the entire Warendorf district in 1947, community life could not be revived. Hugo Spiegel was a representative of the " Warendorf Israelite Community ", but this was transferred to the Münster Jewish Community from 1949 at the latest . The former synagogue was sold and used as a residential building from then on. Due to numerous renovations, not much is reminiscent of the building's former function.

On November 15, 1970, Mayor Hans Kluck and Hugo Spiegel were able to unveil a memorial stone in the Jewish cemetery. Since August 12, 1990, a memorial stele has been attached to the former synagogue to commemorate the community center. In 1999 a small street in the immediate vicinity of the Jewish cemetery was named after Hugo Spiegel. The history of the Jewish community in Warendorf temporarily came into the public eye in 2000 with the election of Paul Spiegel as President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Numerous visits by Paul Spiegel to his hometown intensified the city's engagement with the history of the Jewish community. In 2002 the city of Warendorf joined the “ German Riga Committee ” to commemorate the victims at the destination of the deportations. Since 2005 there has been a plaque in memory of the Warendorf victims in the forest of Biķernieki near Riga. The name Warendorf can also be read in the Israeli Yad Vashem memorial .

Today the Jews in the Warendorf district belong to the Jewish community of Münster. The “ Jewish Life in Warendorf ” working group was founded in 2002 and regularly organizes events such as themed city tours. The building of the former synagogue is a listed building and, according to the city's plans, will also be used for public use in the future. In 2005 a memorial service took place in the former prayer room. A new memorial stele was erected on the Jewish cemetery in 2006.

Since the arrival of Jewish contingent refugees from the CIS states after 1990, some Jews have been living in Warendorf again. You belong to the Jewish community of Münster.


  • Matthias Ester: Warendorf , in: Publications of the Historical Commission for Westphalia: Historical manual of the Jewish communities in Westphalia and Lippe. The localities and territories in today's Münster administrative district , pp. 725–748.
  • Elfi Pracht-Jörns : Jewish cultural heritage in North Rhine-Westphalia . Volume IV: Münster administrative district. JPBachem Verlag. Cologne 2002. pp. 593-504, pp. 528-533.
  • Meier Schwarz (Ed.): Put a fire on your sanctuary. Destroyed synagogues in 1938 North Rhine-Westphalia , Bochum 1999.


  1. a b Ester, p. 725.
  2. ^ Ester, p. 726.
  3. ^ Ester, p. 738.
  4. Fire lit up at your sanctuary, p. 544.
  5. Ester, p. 728.
  6. ^ Ester, p. 729.
  7. ^ Ester, p. 731.
  8. ^ Ester, p. 732.
  9. Ester, p. 734.