The Jewish Cemetery of Gunzenhausen

The cemetery around 1935
The cemetery around 1935 © Stadtarchiv Gunzenhausen
The cemetery in 2004
The cemetery in 2004

There are very few records about the matters concerning the cemetery and the Jewish citizens of Gunzenhausen. We have studied, among other things, the work of  Johanna Schönborn, who compiled the information in 1992 as a history / social studies  special credit work. We quote passages from her  writings  at the beginning. We also found some materials in the city archives and also received interesting photos from the descendants of the TheilheimerFamily. The theologian and historian Dr. Hahn from Alemannia Judaica of the study group that researches the history of the Jews in Southern Germany and environs, sent us a newspaper clipping about the Jewish cemetery of Gunzenhausen of 1930. The web site  is a good source of information about the Jewish history of Southern Germany.

The citizens of the Gunzenhausen Jewish community were said to have been “numerous and well-to-do” and it appears to have been one of the more significant Jewish communities. The first indication of that was an annual report of the historical society of Mittelfranken of 1830, which states that the burial grounds of the Jewry  in Gunzenhausen were to be the permanent Jewish cemetery with the  official  name of “Judenkirchhof” (Jewisch Cemetery), which it is to this day. It was located outside the historic town, north of the current Nürnberger Street. The property has been developed and the exact parcel is hard to locate.

The Markgrafen (Margraves) Casimir and Georg of Ansbach” (1515-1527 and 1543) began to systematically expel the Jews from the “Fürstentum (principality) Ansbach”, and following the “Landtag” meeting, also from Gunzenhausen. Later, in 1561  “Georg Friedrich der Fromme” (the pious one) banished the remaining Jews from Ansbach.(per the records regarding Jewish matters in the registry of the magistrate in Ansbach, volume 5 #1.)

Consequently the remaining Jews were forced to bury their dead in Bechhofen. The first headstone/monument of one of the Gunzenhausen Jews appears to have been from the year 1607 and must have been erected for the David Broedel family. No exact data can be given, since the sources often contradict each other.

When the Jewish community regained more of their rights again, they started to look for a new location for the “Judenfriedhof”. Like most Jewish congregations they had to settle for a location far from the center of town.

This new cemetery  of the “Israelitische Kultusgemeinde” (local Israely  authority of worship)  is located  at the edge of the Burgstallwald. It dates back to 1875 and is about 3000 square meters in size.

Together those  of the Jewish faith in Gunzenhausen and the neighboring villages Cronheim, Heidenheim, and Markt Berolzheim  acquired the current property and created their own cemetery. It was dedicated by the district rabbi from Ansbach on August 26, 1875. The Jewish congregation gathered at the Synagogue at 7:00 am and after the morning service walked two by two to the new burial site. After the prayer  they circled the site three times and it was solemnly dedicated.

The congregation was required to fast till noon on this festive day, per Stadtkämmerer (Chamberlain, treasurer) Maurer.

The Jewish religious community of Bavaria offers further information on this cemetery's history:

The building contractor Frosch from Gunzenhausen built Tahara House with the prayer room. In these rooms the dead were cleansed and prepared for burial, and guarded till the burial, which was supposed to take place the following day, if possible. At the grave the “Hesped”, (funeral oration) was spoken. The Theilheimer family descendents have sent us the oration texts of their parent’s funerals. One of them can be found here.

In the Jewish religion the grave stone/monument is of great importance. They are often inscribed with symbols that tell about the meaning of the deceased’s life. Unfortunately on the gravestones in the Gunzenhausen cemetery the symbols of the “blessing hands” or the “ram’s horn” are a rarety .

Cemetery 1938
Cemetery 1938 © Stadtarchiv Gunzenhausen

The reason for that may be,that no Rabbi is buried here, or else, that no headstone/monument of that type exists anymore. In December of 1929 the cemetery had already been vandalized, when 18 headstones were toppled or smashed.

Dr. Hahn mailed us a newspaper article from 1930 which refers to that incident. It was also reported not only in the “Altmühl Bote”, but also in the Regional Jewish Central-Association-Publication.

Berlin, January 3, 1930
Volume IX - Nr. 1
Single issue 20 Pfennig

Central Association Newspaper
Leaflets for German and Jewish Culture - The Voice of the "Central Society of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith"

Desecration of the Cemetery In Gunzenhausen

Who are the Perpetrators?
Between December 20th  and 23rd (1929) someone maliciously toppled  and partially destroyed 18 grave stones in the Israeli Cemetery in Gunzenhausen (Bavaria). The local police department began their investigation immediately. In a statement by the first mayor he states: “To anyone with even a shred of decency this is a mean and vile act. The Israeli Cultural Community has offered 500 RM (Reichsmark) for information leading to the apprehension of the perpetrators. The City of Gunzenhausen is also very anxious to find the contemptible villains as soon as possible."
Unfortunately the search has not been successful yet. A few days ago Hitler appeared in the Court of Misdemeanors (destruction of property etc) in Schweidnitz as a witness, where he disassociated himself from the case. We hear that the National Socialists (NAZIS) of Gunzenhausen are trying to put the blame on their opponents. Far be it from us to place the blame on any one party.  But it is not unreasonable to assume that the incident, even if not intentionally, might have been the result of National Socialist  hate propaganda, which was (from mouth to mouth) rampant in Gunzenhausen. So it is indeed in the interest of all decent people, Jews or Christians, to apprehend the guilty parties.

At that time the Jewish Community offered a reward of 500 Reichsmark for the apprehension of the perpetrators, but the city offered 100 RM as well.

The search for the perpetrators was unsuccessful, even though everybody knew where to look for them.

In 1938 the cemetery in Gunzenhausen was again targeted, this time  by the National Socialists  (Nazis), who on the night of the Pogrom destroyed most of it, demolishing the headstones or even carrying them off.

By now, nobody dared to offer a reward toward the discovery of the offenders.

In the three graves in the front row, which today cannot be located anymore, lie the victims of the pogrom of March 25, 1934: Max Rosenau, Jakob Rosenfelder and Simon Strauss. The photo was taken by the children of the Theilheimer family, who sent it to us.

The desecration of the headstones and graves is always an unforgivable disturbance of the peace of the departed. These misdeeds hit the Jewish believers  particularly hard, because the cemetery is to them the “House of Eternity” where the departed would rest undisturbed (peacefully) forever.

It is the place of everlasting rest (peace) till the end of time, and the location for the timeless and intimate connection of the Jews with their tradition and history, as written by Renate Khoschlessan in her “History of Jewish Cemeteries”. Jewish cemeteries however are not places of sadness, and that is why in the Hebrew language they are called “House of Life” or “House of Eternity”. The departed are honored as “those who lived” who continue to exist  because of their immortal souls, therefore live forever. In the Yiddish language the cemetery is called the “Good Place".

Any disturbance of the peace of the departed also effects the immortal soul, because the body in the grave remains forever connected to the hereafter. The grave rightfully belongs to the departed, it cannot ever be sold. The cemetery is an honorary gathering place for the living, for memories and prayers. Even if they are no longer in use, they continue to function with those purposes. Therefore it would be incorrect to speak of a “former Jewish cemetery”.

Over time the headstones can sink completely into the ground. But unlike in the Christian cemeteries, nobody can ever be buried in the same space. Relatives visit the graves regularly and leave a small stone behind as a sign of reverence and remembrance. At the burial sites of prominent Rabbis visitors may leave a note under the stone, on which they may have written a request for the Rabbi to present to God.

Photo of the cemetery wall
Photo of the cemetery wall

Unfortunately many of the gravesites in the cemetery in Gunzenhausen can not be located anymore. Although many of the headstones that were left after WWII were re-erected and individual ones incorporated into the wall that surrounds the cemetery, the relatives who continue to visit often have great difficulties in locating the graves.

Guest book and Prayer book
Guest book and Prayer book

After the war some individual gravestones were replaced with new ones to keep the memory of the departed alive.
Today barely 50 headstones are left. Many of them are very weathered and the text is barely legible.

In 1963 the "Israelitische Kultusgemeinde” donated  a guest book to the caretakers of the cemetery so the visitors could leave their names and Addresses.

Mr Mühlhäußer, the archivist, keeps the book handy for visitors in the town hall. A prayer book in Hebrew script is also available to visitors.

The guest book begins with this entry:
Ludwig Waldmann, formerly a confectioner in Gunzenhausen, now living in Herzlia in Israel, recently spent several days in his home town and also visited the Jewish cemetery where his parents were buried. But the ground over their graves had been leveled.

Mr. Waldmann has provided the guest book, which is entrusted to the cemetery caretaker. It is hoped that all members of the former “Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Gunzenhausen” who visit the cemetery will enter their names and addresses in the book. The community hopes that contacts can be re-established. Mr. Waldmann himself started the book with his own entry.

Unfortunately not all names can be deciphered, but we believe that Mr. Waldmann would approve our publishing the names of those who have signed in and their current country of residence:

1963 Ludwig Waldmann, Islrael 1977 Lisa Seeberger, Israel
1963 Fritz Rahner 1978 Max Weinmann, Argentinien
1963 Lina Hellmann, Holland 1978 Edith Weinmann, Argentinien
1963 Albert Rosenfelder, Deutschland 1979 Annemarie Heidenheim, Deutschl
1964 Gerhard Stoll, USA 1979 Gustav Heidenheim, Deutschland
1964 Bruno Waldmann, USA 1979 Gisela Levi, Israel
1964 Walter Reed, USA 1979 Bianka Hainebach, Israel
1964 Albert Rosenfelder, Deutschland 1980 Paula Pariser, Israel
1964 Jack Joelsohn, USA 1980 Robert Altmann, Israel
1965 Martha Cohem, Rhodesien 1981 Familie Richard, USA
1965 Albert Rosenfelder, Deutschland 1981 Stanley Hellmann, USA
1965 Hedl Meier, USA 1981 Elissa Hellmann, USA
1965 Lina Sommer de Juda, Argentinien 1981 Lisel und Fritz ?, USA
1966 Kiriath ...thalon, Israel 1982 Elisa Hilbert, USA
1966 Simon Richard, USA 1982 Ben Hilbert, USA
1966 Ludwig Marx, Südafrika 1982 ? Wallach?, Israel
1966 Richard Hellmann, USA 1982 Betty Hellmann, USA
1966 Stanley Hellmann, USA 1982 Jennifer Greenfield, USA
1967 Meta Mendelsohn, USA 1982 Julius Gutmann, USA
1967 Herbert Mendelsohn, USA 1982 Lore Gutmann, USA
1968 Frieda Baer/Graf, USA 1982 Helen Gutmann, USA
1968 Lina Sommer de Juda, Argentinien 1982 Rachel Theilheimer, USA
1969 Albert Hellmann, USA 1984 Gertrud Heß, Israel
1969 Richard Lehmann, Israel 1985 Simon Richard, USA
1970 Joseph Sommer, USA 1985 Ilse Richard, USA
1970 John (Hans) Bergmann, USA 1985 Berthold Weinmann, Argentinien
1970 Hannah Bergmann, USA 1985 Frau Weinmann, Argentinien
1970 Michael Bergmann, USA 1985 Max Weinmann, Argentinien
1970 Berta Holtz, Schweiz 1985 Edith Weinmann, Argentinien
1970 Nora Holtz, Schweiz 1985 Familie Richard, USA
1970 Familie Waldmann, Israel 1985 Betty Hellmann, USA
1970 Walter Cromwell, USA 1985 Ruth Hellmann/Greenfield, USA
1971 Berthold Weinmann, Argentinien 1985 Ilse Unger?, Israel
1971 Justin Richard, USA 1985 Gideon Unger?, Israel
1971 ? R. Strauss, USA 1986 Ludwig Lehmann
1971 Sohn von Dr. Joseph Wolff, Israel 1988 Simon Richard, USA
1972 Familie Richard, USA 1988 Ilse Richard, USA
1973 Simon Richard, USA 1988 Robert Altmann, Israel
1973 Ilse Richard, USA 1988 Ruth Altmann, Israel
1973 Julius Gutmann, USA 1989 R. Ortal, Israel
1973 Lore Gutmann, USA 1989 Robert Altmann, Israel
1973 Alan Gutmann, USA 1989 Ruth Altmann, Israel
1973 Helen Gutmann, USA 1992 Hubert Richard, USA
1974 Michael Levi, Israel 1992 Joan Richard, USA
1974 Getrude Schwarz, USA 1993 Familie Richard, USA
1974 Bertold Weinmann, Argentinien 1994 Karl Kraus, Österreich
1976 Betty Hellmann, USA 1998 Walter D. Stoll, USA
1976 Susan Hellmann, USA 1998 Hubert Richard, USA
1977 Ludwig Marx, Südafrika 1998 Joan Richard, USA
1977 Robert Altmann, Israel 2004 Rachel Theilheimer, USA
1977 Rudolf Seeberger, Israel 2004 Jonathan Beard, USA
2005 Thekla und Jakob Schuster, New York 2005 Uri und Duba Kellermann, Nov Ayalon, Israel
2005 Moshe und Ruth Weiss, Israel 2007 Dorothy Thekla Richard Bloch und Dr. Raphael Bloch, Stamford, Connecticut USA
2007 Diane Thekla und Jakob Schuster, New York 2007 Uri und Duba Kellermann with eight children, Israel
2008 Walter, Diane und Kira Stoll, USA 2008 Lucille Roussain, New York
2008 David, Faye und Joanna Dottheim Brooks, New York 2008 Alan Kellermann, akellermann@sbcglobal
2008 Samuel Green, London 2009 Uri und Duba Kellermann, Nov Ayalon, Israel
2009 Moshe und Ruth Weiss, geb. Kellermann, Israel 2009 Nancy Kellermann Zombeh, Florida
2011 Linda Levi, geb. Theilheimer und Roy Levi, Old Bridge New Jersey, USA 2011 Richard Oppenheimer, Florida, USA
2011 Diane Thekla, Jakob und Gabriel Schuster, New York, USA 2013 Merav Levy, Jerusalem, Israel
2013 Dottheim Brooks Family, New York 2014 Shulamit Reinharz, Boston, USA
2015 James und Ina Strauss, USA 2015 Jim und Jill Bauer, USA
2016 Tirza Routtenberg, Israel 2016 Netanel Yechieli, Israel
2018 Walter und Eli Stoll, USA 2018 David und Zachary Stoll, USA
2018 Uri und Duba Kellermann, Israel 2018 GadI, Rivka, Maron, Ariel und Shoham Kellermann, Israel
2019 Miriam Stoll mit David, Eva and Annabelle 2021 Max und Hannah Roberts, München und USA
2022 Ronald Landau, USA 2022 Jaclyn Roberts, nèe Landau with son Hillel Roberts, USA
2022 Abraham Stoll with Lucy, Marion und Jannis, USA 2022  

Unfortunately not all visitors entered their names in the guest book. They were probably not aware of it's existence.

We have taken a photo of each of the gravestones that were in reasonably good condition, and added the names of those that we could decipher.

Gravestones of the Jewish Cemetery of Gunzenhausen

Entrance gate to the cemetery Ida Blumenthal, born (maiden Name) Frank
* 12. Juni 1849 + 26. Nov. 1912
Gunzenhausen, Hensoltstraße 27
Rosa Epstein, geb. Burger
geboren in Eichstetten
* 12. Februar 1846 + Januar 1936
Jette Eisen
1839 - 1920
Gunzenhausen, Auergasse 1
Mathilde Fleischmann
* 17. Jan. 1869 + 16. Aug. 1924
Philipp Fleischmann
* 21. Nov. 1849 + 22. Nov. 1919
Therese Gerst
* 02. Jan. 1830 + 02. Jun. 1906
Backside of Therese Gerst's Gravestone
with the inscription:
Restored 1948 by the Victims of
Persecution of the third Reich.
Johanna Guggenheimer
1876 - 1924
Gunzenhausen, Gerberstraße 13
Salomon Guggenheimer
* 28. Feb. 1870 + 09. Dez. 1918
Gunzenhausen, Gerberstraße 13
Dr. Sally Gutmann
1885 - 1921
Gunzenhausen, Sichlingerstraße 1
Elias Gutmann
* 13. Apr. 1841 + 12. Nov. 1910
Gunzenhausen, Burgstallstraße 5
Albert Hellmann
* 17. Nov. 1864 + 06. Feb. 1929
Gunzenhausen, Kirchenstraße 13
Fanny Hellmann, geb. Brandeis
1866 - 1921
Gunzenhausen, Kirchenstraße 13
Berta Hellmann, born Lauchheimer
* 1. Juli1878 + 16. Juli 1938
und Ehemann
Hermann Hellmann
* 9. Aug. 1876 + 24. Juni 1930
Gunzenhausen, Kirchenstraße 13
Salomon Hellmann
* 31. Okt. 1861 + 30. Nov. 1921
Gunzenhausen, Bahnhofstraße 15
Moritz Joelsohn
* 30. Mai 1865 + 8. Jan. 1929
Gunzenhausen, Waagstraße 2
Grave of an unknown
with Hebraic inscription
Samuel Lauchheimer
* 13. Jan. 1846
Gunzenhausen, Kirchenstraße 11
Sarah Lauchheimer
* 1850
Gunzenhausen, Kirchenstraße 11
Julie Lehmann
* 3. Juli 1850 + 15. Sept. 1917
Gunzenhausen, Burgstallstraße 7
Elias Lehmeier
1844 - 1922
Gunzenhausen, Gerberstraße 3
Gerda Lehmeier
* 29. April 1903 + 11. Aug. 1925
Gunzenhausen, Gartenstraße 8
Moses Marx
* 3. Nov. 1859 + 14. Jun. 1930
Emilie Marx
+ 18. Nov. 1919
Bertha Neuburger
* 26. Dez. 1863 + 17. Feb. 1924
Amson Neuburger
* 14. Mai 1858 + 29. Feb. 1936
Thekla Richard
*25. Mai 1882 + 31. Dez. 1935
Inscription: Our Grandparents
Simson and Zilli Richard.
Moses and Therese Fleischmann are
also buried in this cemetery.
Rosa Rosenau
28. Jul. 1834 + 11. Jun. 1905
Gunzenhausen, Burgstallstraße 7
Gravestone without inscription.
Nathan Rosenfelder
* 21. Jun. 1868 + 27. Aug. 1923
Babette Rosenfelder
* 25. Mär. 1869 + 28. Oktober 1929
Gunzenhausen, Bahnhofstraße 12
Hermann Rosenfelder
* 10.12.1899 + 15.11.1923
Gunzenhausen, Bahnhofstraße 12
Gabriel Theilheimer
* 16. Feb. 1841 + 17. Apr. 1925
Gunzenhausen, Spitalstraße 9
Rosa Theilheimer, geb. Waldmann
* 26. Dez.1869 + 08. Sep. 1929
Gunzenhausen, Brunnenstraße 15
Jakob Thormann
* 20. Juni 1846 + 15. Aug. 1918
Not this gravestone,
But one's life is the memorial.
Lina Weinmann, geb. Rosenfelder
* 26. Dez. 1894 + 26. Juli 1929
Gunzenhausen, Luitpoldstraße 1
Grave of an unknown child Grave of an unknown child
Grave of an unknown child Grave of an unknown
with weathered insciption
Grave of an unknown Gravestone without inscription
Grave at the cemetery wall with weathered insciption Grave of an unknown
with Hebraic inscription
Grave of an unknown
with Hebraic inscription
Flora Rueck
*5.7.1882 +20.3.1920
Widow des
prakt. Arztes Dr. D. Rueck
Grave stone with Hebraic inscription Leopold Seeberger
* 15. Nov. 1900 + 28. Sept.1922
Burgstallstraße 9
Musikschüler in Würzburg

Research results from city archivist Werner Mühlhäußer.

City archivist Werner Mühlhäußer has been researching the history of the former Jewish community in Gunzenhausen for many years. One of the results of this work is the comprehensive documentation 'Jews in Gunzenhausen', consisting of numerous individual biographies of Jewish inhabitants between the 15th century and the final expulsion in 1939. Together with his research results on a Gunzenhausen house book, these two documentations formed the basis for the project 'Jewish Life in Gunzenhausen' of the Stephani School.

For some time now, he has devoted himself to researching the history of the two Jewish cemeteries in Gunzenhausen. The first existed from the Middle Ages until its destruction in the 1560s at the Nürnberger Straße. Relatively few historical documents exist about it.

The starting point for the second Jewish cemetery, built in 1875 on Leonhardsruhstraße, is different. Mühlhäußer found significant file material on this in the Gunzenhausen City Archives, the Nuremberg State Archives, the archives of the Association of Jewish Religious Communities in Bavaria in Munich and in The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People Jerusalem.

Mühlhäußer placed the special focus of his research on the determination of the persons buried in the cemetery. After the expulsion of the Jewish population from Gunzenhausen, the local National Socialist rulers massively desecrated the cemetery grounds. The grave monuments were removed and sold to various

stonemasonry companies, and the area was partly used for agriculture or as a prisoner of war camp. Towards the end of the Second World War, almost nothing reminded of its original use.

Already in July 1945, the local American military government ordered the immediate restoration of the Israelite cemetery. However, only a fraction of the gravestones sold could be secured.

As a result, knowledge and memory of the people buried in the cemetery disappeared and the perpetual rest period of the dead in the cemetery, which is firmly anchored in the Jewish faith, was significantly violated.

Werner Mühlhäußer was able to identify almost 300 people by name, most of whom came from Gunzenhausen, but also from Heidenheim or Altenmuhr and found their last resting place in the Jewish cemetery of Gunzenhausen. Thus it is possible to snatch them from oblivion.

It is planned to publish the results of this research, along with short biographies of the deceased, numerous illustrations of historical documents and photographs.

In addition, a plaque with the names of the buried could be put up in the entrance area of the Jewish cemetery. Descendants of the former Jewish inhabitants of Gunzenhausen, who today live scattered all over the world, often visit the place of origin of their ancestors, but rarely find a gravestone of their relatives in the cemetery.

Thought book and blackboard, could represent further mosaic pieces of the local culture of remembrance and relationship, which has been successfully cultivated in recent years between Gunzenhausen and the descendants of its expelled Jewish fellow citizens.