The History of the Jews in Breisach

Members of the former Jewish communityThrice in seven hundred years Jews have lived, suffered, and prayed in this city: "Only for God wait thou in stillness, my soul; for from him cometh my hope. He only is my rock and my salvation, my high tower, I shall not be moved. Upon God resteth my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge is in God."




1301 - 1349

"Smariant the Jew of Breisach Our citizen" and his sons, his neighbor Salmann of Bern, Viveli, Loewe and Gutela: Unsegregated from their Christian neighbors, they lived for thirty years on the Hill of Breisach until their community was forcibly terminated. Of fourteen houses owned by Jews around 1325, ten were situated on the Hill while only four stood in the lower town.

The Deutzer Memorbuch commemorates the martyrdom of the Breisach Jews in February 1349:

"Jiskor Elohim - may God remember those slain and laid to waste from the communities of Basel, ..., Ehnheim, Kaysersberg, Breisach, Sennheim, Rosheim together with the souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Lea and all the righteous who dwell in the Garden of Eden. Amen. Sela."


1376 - 1424

On February 1st 1376, Abbot Ludwig and the convent of the Pairis monastery sell the Haus zum Löwen, which was situated on the Hill of Breisach on the east side of today's Radbrunnenallee adjacent to the "vicus Leonis", for 125 gold guilders to the "wise and decent Jew" Vivilkind.

With the exception of the Jew Chajim, who held a preeminent position among the Jews of Vorderösterreich (the Austrian Forelands of the Hapsburg era), there seem to have been no more resident Jews in Breisach from 1424 to 1638.


1638 - 1940

Marx Schnatticher, Nathan Ulmo, and the progenitors of the Breisach families Günzburger, Geismar, and Wormser were the first Jews to establish themselves in Breisach after the Hapsburg fortress was taken by the French-funded Duke Bernhard of Saxony-Weimar in December 1638, while the city was ceded to France in 1648 and not restituted to Austria before 1700.

Hans David Blum, who was born in Breisach in 1919 and emigrated in 1936, has composed a dignified and loving memorial for the Jewish community of his hometown in his book about the "Jews in Breisach", which was published 1998 in Constance, and which encompasses their history up to the "emancipation" of the Jews of Baden in 1862.

The Jewish community's growth peaked out at 530-560 members in the years 1875-1880. The last and most tragic chapter of their history, ending in the deportation of the Breisach Jews, remains yet to be written.

What happened then, "what Ausschwitz-Birkenau was, nobody will be able to describe any more. How can you do justice to the human beings who had their last glimpse of the sun, the stars, and the moon here, to those mothers who saw the last of their children here? How could you revive them even for a short moment to an afterlife? Each of them had been somebody - my mother, my father, my brother, my sister" (Arnost Lustig).

Günter Boll (Summer 2000)

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