Jewish history and the Synagogenplatz memorial

Jewish history in Tübingen

Jews lived in Tübingen as early as the Middle Ages. In 1477, the Duke of Württemberg, Count Eberhard im Barte, had them expelled on the occasion of the founding of the university. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that Jews came to the university town again in the course of emancipation and industrialization because they hoped for better opportunities.

Previously, Leopold Hirsch from Wankheim had won civil rights in 1850 against the Tübingen municipal council, despite their resistance. The people of the Jewish faith founded a community in 1882 and had a synagogue built on Gartenstraße. The center of the Tübingen community, which also included the Reutlingen Jews, was the Jewish temple, a simple, towerless building with an oriental interior. In his inauguration speech, the district rabbi Michael Silberstein expressed the joy of the finally having been granted civil rights mixed with skepticism and reservations about an already reigning anti-Jewish mood. At the beginning of the 20th century, the community, which had around 140 members (including 40 from Reutlingen) could only afford a cantor as a paid religious official, who also held the office of religion teacher, but not a rabbi. In terms of theology, it was a liberal, acculturated congregation.

The Tübingen Jews belonged to the middle and higher middle class and exercised predominantly independent professions. They were successful textile merchants, cattle dealers, publishers, lawyers, doctors and bankers. The newspaper publisher Albert Weil expanded the Tübingen Chronicle (predecessor of the Schwäbischer Tagblatt) into the leading local newspaper. Bankhaus Weil was the largest private bank and important donor to the city of Tübingen. Jews gave the business world important impulses through their modern company concepts. Like lawyer Simon Hayum, they were involved in local politics and, such as the Jewish Women's Association, in social welfare. On the other hand, the Jewish population was hardly integrated into the clubs. After the First World War, growing anti-Semitism spread in academic circles and in parts of the middle class. The Tübingen increasingly elected right-wing parties and voted in increasing numbers for the NSDAP from 1930.

After the National Socialists took power, the exclusion of Jews in Tübingen from 1933 onwards came one blow after another: Jews were banned from swimming in the open air in May 1933, attacks on Jewish citizens began, severing of business relationships, closure and forced sale of banks and shops, a so-called "Jew-free" cafe at the Neckartor have been introduced, isolation and forced emigration have spread. Of the approximately 100 parishioners in Tübingen, 80 people were able to flee in time to the British Mandate of Palestine, the USA and other countries. 23 people were deported to Riga, Theresienstadt and Auschwitz and murdered there; only two people survived the Shoah.

On the night of the 9th to the 10th In November 1938, SA and SS men demolished the Jewish Synagogue in the course of the empire-wide pogrom and burned it down by order of the NSDAP district leader Hans Rauschnabels. Subsequently, five Tübingen Jews were arrested by the local Gestapo and abducted to the Dachau concentration camp for several weeks. One of them, Albert Schäfer, died as a result of the abuse. The Jewish community, which had been significantly reduced as a result of emigration, had to dissolve in March 1939 after having had to pay for the complete demolition of their destroyed synagogue. In 1940 they had to sell the property to the city for far less than it was worth. In 1949 it was returned to the newly founded Jewish Cultural Association in Stuttgart; they sold the property in 1951 to a private individual who built a house on it.

 The remembering

For decades, the only reminder of the former synagogue was its surrounding fence from the Wilhelminian period. It was not until November 9, 1978 that the city, following repeated requests, placed a commemorative plaque on a neighboring fountain, which, however, had no connection to the Jewish community. The indignation at the inscription "Here stood the synagogue of the Tübingen Jewish community. Like many others in Germany it was burned down on the night of November 9/10, 1938" led to a second plaque a year later: "In memory of the persecution and murder of fellow Jewish citizens in the years 1933-1945". However, this text also leaves the perpetrators and responsibilities in the dark.

Monument Synagogenplatz Tübingen

Due to this inappropriate situation, a project group from the history workshop in Tübingen and the Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Kirchengemeinde initiated an artistic competition to design a monument at the site of the former synagogue in 1998. The memorial erected in 2000 by the architects Werkgemeinschaft Nürtingen and the sculptor Gert Riel commemorates the destroyed synagogue and the life of the Jews in the university town. A steel cube with 101 square openings surrounding the fountain symbolizes the former synagogue. The 101 openings stand for the expelled and murdered Tübingen Jews. Their names are commemorated on three plaques by the gully. Texts on the history, development and destruction of the Jewish community in Tübingen-Reutlingen are attached to the inside of a high steel stela. Another text panel written by Professor Utz Jeggle documents the unfortunate handling of the synagogue property in recent decades. In the meantime, the Association for the Promotion of Jewish Culture in Tübingen e.V. has erected an information board at the entrance to the former synagogue, which explains the structural remains there.


  • •   Adelheid Schlott, Die Geschichte des Tübinger Synagogenplatzes (Tübingen 2009).•   Adelheid Schlott, Zur Erinnerung an die Synagoge in Tübingen Gartenstraße 33 (1882-1938): Zeugnisse und Dokumente (Tübingen 2016²).•   Geschichtswerkstatt Tübingen, Wege der Tübinger Juden. Eine Spurensuche (Film, Deutschland 2004).•   Geschichtswerkstatt Tübingen e.V. (Hg.), Zerstörte Hoffnungen. Wege der Tübinger Juden (Stuttgart 1995).•   Martin Ulmer, "Pogromnacht 1938. Die Zerstörung der jüdischen Gemeinde und die Folgen", in: Tübinger Blätter 1998/99, S. 27-31.

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