OSNABRUECK, city in Lower Saxony, Germany. Jews are mentioned as living in Osnabrueck during the 13th century, and the formula of the Jewish *oath from this period is extant. From a letter of Bishop Engelbert II to the municipal council in favor of the Jews (1309), it appears that there were then ten or 13 Jewish families in Osnabrueck. As in the other towns of Germany, here too the Jews engaged in moneylending. In 1312 the bishop issued a regulation fixing the rate of interest at 36.1/9%. All offenders against this regulation had to pay a fine to the bishop and the municipal council, suggesting that at this time the Jews were dependent on the benevolence of both the bishop and the townsmen. In 1327, however, the 15 Jewish families were placed under the protection of the bishop. In 1337 Emperor Louis the Bavarian submitted the Jews to the authority of Baron Henry von Valdeck. At the time of the *Black Death (1350), the Jews of Osnabrueck were all martyred and their property confiscated. After a few years, eight Jewish families only were permitted to settle in exchange for an annual payment of 30 marks. As was customary in other localities, this privilege was valid for only six years. They were authorized to purchase a tract of land for a cemetery in 1386 (an "old" cemetery had been mentioned in 1343). By 1424, there were only two families who were able to pay the annual tax of seven to eight guilders. The remaining Jews were expelled, and Osnabrueck received the privilege of "non tolerandis Judaeis" which remained in force, with the exception of three families, until the French Revolution. The townsmen were, however, jealous of the income of even these few Jews, and in 1716 a law forbade them to engage in commerce without the authorization of the municipal council. The number of Jews increased under French occupation. In 1825 there were five families and a teacher, affiliated to the Emden rabbinate. The community subsequently grew from 138 in 1871 to 379 in 1880 and 450 in 1925. A large synagogue was consecrated for the community of wealthy merchants in 1906. Antisemitic movements flourished in Osnabrueck, and in 1927 the synagogue and cemetery were desecrated. Between 1933 and 1938 about 350 Jews emigrated; on May 17, 1939, only 119 remained. On *Kristallnacht the synagogue was set on fire and shops and homes were looted. During the Holocaust, 134 former citizens of Osnabrueck lost their lives. During the war, 400 Jewish Yugoslav officers were placed in a special P.O.W. camp in Osnabrueck. In August 1945 services were renewed in a prayer room. In 1969 a synagogue and community center for the community of 69 persons were consecrated. The Jewish community numbered 61 in 1989 and 942 in 2005. The increase is explained by the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union. In 1998 the Felix Nussbaum Museum was inaugurated. Built by American Jewish architect Daniel *Libeskind, it houses a collection of German Jewish artist Felix *Nussbaum (1904, Osnabrueck–1944, Auschwitz).
M. Wiener, in: Ben Chananja, 5 (1862), 325–7; FJW, 136; Germania Judaica, 2 (1968), 634–6; Z. Asaria, Zur Geschichte der Juden in Osnabrueck (1969). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: K. Kuehling, Die Juden in Osnabrueck (1969); Germania Judaica, vol. 3. 1350–1514 (1987), 1079–81; Z. Asaria, Die Juden in Niedersachsen. Von den aeltesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart (1979), 301–19; H. Guttmann, Vom Tempel zum Gemeindezentrum. Synagogen im Nachkriegsdeutschland (1989), 64–73.
[Azriel Shochat /
Larissa Daemmig (2nd ed)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.