The Synagogue of Gunzenhausen 1882 - 1938

The Synagogue and School in 1906 © Stadtarchiv Gunzenhausen
The Synagogue and School in 1906 © Stadtarchiv Gunzenhausen

The Synagogue of Gunzenhausen was built in 1882/1883 by the master builder EVORA from Fürth.
It stood in the Bühringerstraße, has been replaced by an underground garage (in 1981).

© Stadtarchiv Gunzenhausen
© Stadtarchiv Gunzenhausen

On November 8, 1938, one day before the “Reichskristallnacht” the city of Gunzenhausen bought it from the Israeli congregation (religious community) for 8,000 RM.

The SA was ordered to burn the Synagogues all over Germany on November 10th, the day following the Reichskristallnacht. But the fire chief of Gunzenhausen refused to follow the order, “because the neighboring houses would be in danger of burning as well”. There is however suspicion that the city was against the plan (to burn the Synagogue) because after all, they owned it now.

So instead a week later the cupolas were torn off the towers. On November 15th the (paper) “Altmühl-Bote” had published a call to all the citizens of Gunzenhausen to attend the event, and many did.

On November 17th around noon many citizens did indeed show up to witness the spectacle. Mayor Appler made a speech to the crowd. He pointed out very correctly that “this event was of great significance for the city and an hour to remember”. The meaning of his words, as we see it today, may not have been what it seemed (at that time).


The “Altmühl-Bote" noted that the “strong fists of the carpenters toppled the cupolas at 2:30 pm”.

At the beginning of November 1938 sixty-four Jewish citizens were reported to still be living in Gunzenhausen. But immediately following the Pogrom their congregation began to disintegrate because most of their houses had been vandalized and the anti-Semitic epithets became unbearable.
Consequently only a few Jewish citizens witnessed the blasphemous acts.

A few of the precious religious objects were rescued from the Synagogue, among them a “Silver Shield of the Holy Brotherhood of 1770”.

A great number of the artifacts (rescued from the Synagogue) should now be in the Jewish Museum in Fürth. We will report more about it after our next visit to the museum.

Faye Dottheim Brooks (Burgstallstrasse 1)  wrote from New York:
We received a letter from the Director of the Franken Jewish Museum that they have in their collection an item of property stolen from my grandfather during Kristallnacht and they are searching for direct descendants of Sigmund Dottenheimer. The item is a torah breastplate. ...
A breastplate is a Jewish ritual object, often made of silver and suspended by a chain. That is placed or hung over the torah.

Family members of Mrs. Dottheim Brooks still resided in Gunzenhausen on that infamous day. They were deported and lost their lives in concentration camps.

In January 1939 Gunzenhausen was declared free of Jews.

The Synagogue was used commercially from 1953 to 1980 Foto: Stadtarchiv Gunzenhausen
The Synagogue was used commercially from 1953 to 1980 Foto: Stadtarchiv Gunzenhausen
Free translation by Susanne Eisen
Free translation by Susanne Eisen

Am memorial plaque at the former site of the Synagogue now tells the story of the building.

IN MEMORY OF THE SYNAGOGUE AND SCHOOL OF THE FORMER ISRAELI CONGREGATION OF GUNZENHAUSEN.

AFTER THE SO-CALLED KRISTALLNACHT IN THE YEAR 1938 THE CUPOLA OF THE EAST TOWER WAS TOPPLED AND THE BUILDING WAS THEN USED IN A PROFANE MANNER.

THE ISRAELI CONGREGATION OF GUNZENHAUSEN WAS FORCED TO TRANSFER THE OWNERSHIP OF THE SYNAGOGUE AND SCHOOL TO THE CITY FOR POLITICAL REASONS.

FROM 1942 TO 1945 FRENCH PRISONERS OF WAR WERE HOUSED IN THE FORMER SYNAGOGUE FROM 1947 TO 1949 IT SERVED AS A STORE AND FROM 1953 TO 1980 IT WAS A WORKSHOP.

THE FORMER SCHOOL WAS USED AS A RESIDENCE TILL 1969, AND FROM 1969 TO 1980 AS AN OFFICE BUILDING.

DEMOLITION AND NEW CONSTRUCTION WERE DONE IN 1981.

After World War II the city of Gunzenhausen offered to return the Synagogue to the Jewish Congregation, but they declined the offer. The reason must have been that no Jews residet in the city anymore.

Postcard from 1898 © Stadtarchiv Gunzenhausen
Postcard from 1898 © Stadtarchiv Gunzenhausen