Jewish Culture in Coburg

Mr. and Mrs. Hirsch
Mr. and Mrs. Hirsch with students of the boarding school. Photograph from the twenties Photograph from the twenties

1918 Foundation of a boarding school at Hohe Strasse 30 by the congregation’s Rabbi , Hermann Hirsch, in response to the educational needs of the time and the decline of several private Jewish schools in Germany.
1933 Hirsch prepares the conversion of the boarding school into a day school. In addition, after the closure of the synagogue (in May), the services of the congregation are held in the foyer of the house.
1935 Official recognition as an elementary school. In the spring, the school begins operations. Classes are moved to the rented house Hohe Straße 16 in October 1935. The house Hohe Straße 30 is used to accommodate the external school.

1936 In October, 76 students attend the educational institution. 16 come from Coburg.

1938 During the night of November 9 to 10, students are forced to break the windows of their own school. On November 10, the principal Hermann Hirsch is arrested and the school is closed. 9 to 10, of November students are forced to break the windows of their own school. Am 10. November wird der Schulleiter Hermann Hirsch verhaftet und die Schule geschlossen.

1939 The Hirsches emigrates to Palestine. The Jewish children no longer have their own school. All former students are able to flee the country along with their parents.

[“I’m on the move from early in the morning until late at night. In return, it is a job that gives me pleasure. You can do so much good for the little human children. They really have a home here.”]
The teacher Rudolf Kaufmann in a letter, quoted from: Reinhard Kaiser, Königskinder, Frankfurt am Main 1996

[“Above all, it is important that the sophomores feel completely free and undisturbed and have a youthful, carefree time in a like-minded community.”]

The “Bayerische Israelitische Gemeindezeitung” about the private school Prediger Hirsch in Koburg, 1933

[“To the more than 40 children who live here with me and with me, I strive, together with my staff, to provide a lively and varied education: Science, art, culture, sports – everything goes side by side and the children never have an unfulfilled minute.”]

Hermann Hirsch in the article “Happy learning”.

The education provided by the institute is indeed very versatile and also tailored to meet the needs of a possible emigration to Palestine. The children are physically fit and equipped with the necessary manual skills to be able to contribute to the newly founded state.

[“For the boys is also nice here in the huge garden. In the evening we (…) ride our bikes (…). That’s great fun for all of us. Of course, we also study hard. It is not easy to keep so many Jewish boys in check. They are quite temperamental and headstrong. You have to be so energetic, strict and patient. In return, they pick things up easily and are quite interested.” ]

The teacher Rudolf Kaufmann in a letter, quoted from: Reinhard Kaiser, Königskinder, Frankfurt am Main 1996

The Jewish cemetery on the Glockenberg

1873 The Jewish religious community acquires its own burial grounds.

1923 The first vandalism in the cemetery occurs. The perpetrators are not identified. The perpetrators are not identified.

1936 The city prohibits its Jewish citizens from using the main path within the cemetery on Glockenberg, which leads to the Jewish cemetery. As a result, Jewish mourners have to carry their dead around the Christian cemetery. As a result, Jewish mourners have to carry their dead around the Christian cemetery.

1942 In September, after the last Jewish citizens have been deported, the city decides to use the unused part of the Jewish cemetery for the burial of Russian “civilian workers”, i.e. forced laborers.

1943 The city decides to postpone the acquisition and abandonment of the Jewish cemetery until the end of the war. The cemetery is currently the only Jewish site in Coburg that is still in use. Although the Jewish religious community ceased to exist in 1942, burials can still take place in the cemetery maintained by the city of Coburg, most recently in 1988.

Some gravestones in the Jewish cemetery show two hands.

In the Jewish cemetery, tombstones that have fallen over or sunk into the ground are not put up again, as the originality of the burial place is to be preserved. Instead of a floral decoration, small stones are placed on the gravestones. The small stones remind of the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. The dead in the desert were honored and loved by placing as many stones as possible on their graves. The feet of the dead lie in the direction of prayer to Jerusalem.

In Coburg the older graves with the children’s graves are located in the upper part of the cemetery. All gravestones already bear, in addition to the Hebrew inscription, information about the deceased in German.

The scheme of the inscriptions: The grave inscription is preceded by the Hebrew characters פנ (P. N). = “Here rests” = „Hier ruht“
This is followed by the name, date of death and other personal details or tributes or at least a Bible verse.

The inscriptions are completed with the Hebrew characters: תנצבח (T.N.Z.B.H.) = May his/her soul be bound in the bundle of life.

Special signs also inform about the status, origin and/or the special activities of the deceased. Several gravestones of the Jewish cemetery bear some of these symbols:

Two hands: they identify the deceased as a member of the Ahronid tribe. These had the privilege of the priesthood: therefore two blessing hands.

A pitcher:it indicates the descent from the tribe of Levi. This was responsible for the cultic purity in the temple.

On Adolf Gutmann’s gravestone, a shofar commemorates his activity as a shofar blower.

A shofar: this indicates that the deceased was a shofar blower. The shofar is a ram’s horn blown on New Year’s Day.

There are other symbols on the memorial to the Jewish martyrs of the First World War:

the Star of David:It is called the Shield of David and is formed of two triangles interlocked. In the 17th century it became the emblem of the Jewish community in Prague. Since 1948 it has adorned the national flag of Israel. It has various meanings. Among other things, its six points represent the six days of creation.

A Menorah: the seven-armed candelabrum. The seven arms of the candelabrum symbolize the seven directions of the world: East, West, North, South, Up, Down, and human’s point of view. Also, the seven days of the week, as well as the task that Judaism sets for itself: to be a light for the nations of the world.

“Temple, prayer room, shul’, Bejt ha-Knesset – the functions of a synagogue are as versatile as its names. Here people pray and learn, meet with friends and exchange ideas.”

(Nils Ederberg,„Understanding Judaism“ . Sympathie Magazin Nr. 38,1997)

“Judenkirche” was the popular name given to the Chapel of St. Nicholas in Ketschendorfer Strasse, which served as a synagogue from 1873 to 1933

The synagogue is an important place of prayer. It forms the center of Jewish life. The word synagogue comes from the Greek and means “place of assembly”. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the rabbis developed the idea of a house of prayer to keep the faith alive among the people in the Diaspora. The significance of the temple was never forgotten.

Unlike Christian churches, there are no rules for the design of a synagogue. Its architecture often reflects the culture of the country in which it is located.

(Charing, “Judaism”, London, 2003)

The interior of all synagogues is designed according to the same pattern. The Jewish community in Coburg also designed their synagogue according to this principle:

A women’s area (in Orthodox synagogues there is a gallery for the women).

The bima is a platform from which the Torah is read.

The Torah shrine, the holy ark, contains the Torah scrolls. It is the centerpiece of all synagogues. It is always opposite the wall facing Jerusalem. The Torah is the most sacred object in Judaism. That is why it is often richly decorated. The holy ark is flanked by two pillars. They are said to recall the first temple of Solomon, at the entrance of which there were two pillars.

An eternal light burns in front of the Torah shrine.

The Torah shrine on the east wall of the synagogue

“Do we not all have one Father, did not one God create us all?”

(Hermann Hirsch, preacher of the Israelite religious community in Coburg, Bayerische Israeltische Gemeindezeitung, 1929)

In 1873, the St. Nicholas Chapel, built in the 15th century and unused since 1806, is made available to the Jewish community for its services. No rent is charged by the city of Coburg.

“Judenkirche” was the popular name given to the Chapel of St. Nicholas on Ketschendorfer Strasse, which served as a synagogue from 1873 to 1933, probably the only example of the conversion of a church into a synagogue in Germany.

During the 60-year period of use, several changes are made by the religious community, always in consultation with the city. The costs for these alterations must be paid for by the Jewish community.

In order to increase the income of the religious community, place cards are issued and a place fee is set.

Concerts are also held in the synagogue.

1923First anti-Semitically motivated damage: window panes are broken.

1930 The congregation complains that in previous years visitors to the service were harassed on their way to the synagogue and asks for police protection.

1932 Window panes were broken again. The municipality offered a reward of RM 100 to find the perpetrators – without success. In addition, the city cancels the usage contract for the synagogue.

1933 The synagogue is closed.

For the “reconstruction” of the St. Nicholas Chapel, the Nazis extort the payment of 6000 RM from the Jewish community. Only after receipt of two installment payments is part of the inventory returned in April 1936.

1935A request by the Deutsches Jungvolk to be allowed to use the church as a youth center is rejected.

1962The church is given to the Old Catholic parish for use.

The Jewish life of Coburg is also reflected in various associations that were founded over the course of time.

The Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith
There is a Coburg chapter of the Central-Verein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith), which works to preserve the civic rights and social equality of the as well as to cultivate German sentiment.

Israelite Women’s Association
The female members of the Jewish Community were united in the Jewish Women’s Association, founded in 1878, whose main purpose is to support women in need.

Jewish Youth Association
The young people of the Jewish Community came together to found the Jewish Youth Association in 1918. It dissolved in 1933 at the instigation of the Nazis. Afterwards, a youth group of the Jewish Federation “Hechaluz” and a scout group “Makkabi Hasair” were formed. Since the group advocated emigration to Palestine, they are initially tolerated by the Nazis.

Association for the Defense against Anti-Semitism
This association can be traced back to 1929 in Coburg. Among its members were two non-Jewish citizens of Coburg, namely Clemens Avril, Councilor of Commerce and Brewery Director, and Alwin Hahn, Councilor of Commerce and General Director.