The Site at Universitätsstrasse

After the police investigations of the arsonists of 7 and 9 November 1938 had been discontinued without a result (Otto Lauts, Marburg’s head attorney general, had reported to Berlin that “nothing“ could be found out about the cause of the fires, and in 1940 declared the case closed – “File closed, perpetrator not identified“), a postwar trial likewise did not result in a conviction.

In 1960 the University of Marburg, which still considered itself the legal owner of the site, proposed to have it turned into a parking lot after the plans for an extension of the Landgrafenhaus had foundered due to building regulations. Only after the intervention of leftist student groups a memorial stone was finally erected in 1963.


The Development of the
Jewish Community after 1945

After the end of the war, quite a number of Jews who had been liberated from labour camps and concentration camps migrated to Marburg; accordingly the Jewish community experienced a temporary, ostensible flourishing – at one time up to 300 Jews lived in the city. Because of emigrations, in particular to Palestine, as early as 1949 only 70 of them were left, however – a number which further declined in the following decades. From 1978 on, Willy Sage, the founding member and president of the Marburg Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation, organized regular visitors’ weeks for former members of the Jewish community of Marburg in cooperation with the municipality; thus for the first time it was possible to now and again gather the minjan (the ten Jewish men demanded by Jewish ritual for the conduct of divine service). It also became clear during this time that a room suitable for the conduction of religious ceremonies was sorely needed.

In the early 1980s, the Israeli Amnon Orbach (since that time leader of the Jewish community) migrated to the city on the Lahn river for personal reasons. When he decided in 1983 to try and stay in Germany for good and to learn to speak German, the businessman hailing from Jerusalem found himself confronted by the following situation: “In Marburg Judaism was virtually extinct. I found approximately 25 Jews, most of them elderly, who conducted their lives divorced from their religion, without a common meeting place, without leadership, without anybody who could understand the Hebrew language.“

Since then Orbach has done much to breathe new life into the Jewish community of Marburg; he assembled the Jews living there and started to conduct religious services and to rebuild a community. Dr. Hanno Drechsler, then the mayor of the city, supported him in this endeavour, and in 1989 the city of Marburg finally provided the Jewish community with a place of its own in the house at Pilgrimstein 25.


Developments since 1989

In 1989 about thirty Jews were living in Marburg, and the new synagogue which could accommodate 35 persons was more than adequate. Since then, however, the situation of the Jewish community has changed considerably. The number of its members has multiplied more than tenfold: today it numbers 360 members, a majority of them immigrants from the states of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. This number, however, merely reflects the number of Halakhic Jews, i.e. those considered Jews according to Jewish religious laws. If one also counts their non-Jewish family members, the Jewish community today looks after more than 500 people. Thus the Jewish community centre at Pilgrimstein was not only a place devoted to religious ceremonies but also turned into the focal point for the integration of these immigrants.

Amnon Orbach, the community’s president, lays particular emphasis on open and unprejudiced encounters and discussions, as close interaction and the transmission of knowledge and facts about one another are fundamental preconditions for a mutual understanding and the future prevention of any kind of antisemitism. The Jewish community considers this one of its major aims: people who want to learn more about Jewish beliefs and Jewish life will always be welcome here. Thus school and nursery school classes, church groups, party delegations and university groups – to name but a few – are among the guests welcomed by the community. Moreover the Jewish community is organizing various cultural events open to all interested Marburg citizens.


Looking for a New Location

Over the past years, the overcrowded premises at Pilgrimstein often made it difficult to open the house to interested non-members. And even the members of the community themselves soon found that during religious services or classes not enough seats were available for all.

The search for new rooms – strongly and generously supported by Lord Mayor Dietrich Möller and Mayor Egon Vaupel – finally led the community to the premises at Liebigstrasse 21a. Formerly housing the AOK headquarters, the place not only offers plenty of space but also is an exquisitely beautiful building suitable for future religious use. Thanks to the financial assistance of the City of Marburg, the community was able to acquire the building, and financial contributions of the State of Hessen, the historic monuments protection authority of city and state, and donations from the members and friends of the Förderverein and the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation enabled it to refurbish it as a splendid synagogue and cultural center.

Monika Bunk,

board member of the Jewish Community of Marburg


The memorial site
at Universitätsstrasse

Opening of the synagogue for
“displaced persons” in Marburg in 1945 /
© The Jewish Federations Of North America