The Jewish Community
During the National Socialist Era

As early as the 1920s the NSDAP and its antisemitic propaganda had become quite popular in Marburg; thus it came as no surprise that in the 1933 urban council election, the party gained 20 seats from a total of 30. Without delay the city banned Jews from attending the cattle market, where a sizeable percentage of the rural Jewish population had earned their living; soon afterwards the city prohibited all Jewish traders from attending traders’ markets. Immediately after the “Machtergreifung” (seizure of power)  the NSDAP called for a boycott of Jewish shops, an appeal heeded by almost all citizens as the SA put guards in front of these premises and offices and kept Jews away from all public places. The SA also forced a Jewish student who had fallen in love with a Christian girl to parade in the streets carrying a placard around his neck proclaiming “I have despoiled a Christian maiden“, before detaining him in so-called “Schutzhaft ” (protective custody). Although the Jewish community publicly affirmed its allegiance to the nation, many Jews could not see a future for themselves in this NS state and accordingly strove to escape abroad.

If prior to 1933 as many as 350 Jewish citizens had lived in Marburg, by 1935 this number had shrunk to 193 Jews, 57 of them self-employed; many Jews, above all young people, had already emigrated to other countries. Faced with the absence of all hope, Prof. Hermann Jacobsohn, an eminent scientist who had taught linguistics since 1911 and had spent his life promoting the reconciliation of German and Jewish traditions, took his own life.

Jewish economic and cultural life in Marburg came to a standstill; public abuse of Judaism was the order of the day. Thus, in the carnival parade of 1936, a cart was to be seen on which mummers dressed as orthodox Jews were depicted on their way to Palestine, “humorously“ demanding of them the payment of amusement tax for the privilege. Despite all obstacles put in its way, however, the Jewish community was able in 1936 to organize an major event at the synagogue without harrassment – the ordination of the last rabbi Peritz. In sharp contrast to the synagogue’s opening in 1897, official representatives of the authorities were conspicuous by their absence; the only newspaper left not even printed an invitation to this ceremony.

In 1897, the community had consecrated its synagogue trusting to the general acceptance of German nationals of Jewish faith, yet the hopes for a peaceful coexistence proved illusory. On the contrary the NS regime systematically strove to achieve the extermination of the Jews. After incendiary devices had been hurled into the synagogue already on 8 November 1938 – i.e. already before the news of the assassination of the German legation councillor in Paris had reached Germany –, the Gestapo, in the early hours of 10 November, put 31 Jewish men in Schutzhaft and deported them to the Buchenwald concentration camp. The following night, SA troops from Marburg set fire to the Jewish synagogue; the fire brigade did nothing to extinguish the blaze. The pillars of the cupola which were still standing after the fire were then blasted, and the ruins razed to the ground and the rubble carted away so as to wipe out all traces and reminders of the synagogue. Cynically , the Jewish community of Marburg was forced to bear the expenses of the removal of the rubble. The pogrom of 11 November initiated a wave of “liquidations“ of the last remaining twenty Jewish businesses whose owners were compelled to sell them way below value; apart from state-run authorities, it was the “Aryan“ competitors who benefitted from these forced handovers, thus getting rid of disagreeable competitors. The university was also among those who benefitted from the November pogroms; in 1939 it acquired the plot of the former synagogue as a first step to a scheduled future extension.

Three deportations of the remaining Jews from Marburg in 1942 spelled the end of the local Jewish community. The family of Dr. jur. Hermann Reis, who had for years represented the Jewish interests vis-a-vis the NS regime and had, in 1939, negotiated the sale of the site as the president of the “Jüdischer Kultusverein“, was among the last who were deported.

Elmar Brohl


At Our Place the Sugar Is Running
Down the Stairs

I witnessed the November pogroms … somebody knocking on the door … telling us the synagogue’s on fire. During the night they are beating on the door, people are nailing down our door, shouting: “We do no longer want to live with Jews under one roof!“
In the morning I go out into the street, I intended to go to the police station. I thought the police could help us, but … I’m coming into the street when I am encountering one Mrs Rosenbaum, a Jewish woman who used to run a milliner’s store, and she says to me: “Ilse, why are you out at this time?“ Says I, “I’m going to the police“. Says she: “Didn’t you hear that the synagogue’s on fire?“ Says I: “I heard about that. And back there, they are nailing shut the house!“ Then she said: “Don’t go anywhere! Go home! Our men have all been rounded up. My husband is gone. Stay at home!“ So, back home we went, crying, weighed down…

Then my mother said: “You know what? We will go to Meimbressen.“ That’s near Kassel… And she called Meimbressen. But my aunt said: “You best stay in Marburg. At our place the sugar is running down the stairs.“ Because they also ran a grocer’s shop, and the Nazis had wreaked havoc on the place. Well, that was… those were hard times. The neighbour who had locked the door stood at the window, we could see each other from window to window. “Ha!“, she cried, “Ha! So you think you will ever see your husband again? That one managed to escape, but there is no way for you to get out!“

Interview with Ilse Feibel, Israel 2012


After the November Pogroms 10/11/1938

Ruins of the synagogue in 1938

Police record of the burning
of the synagogue

Download the historic document