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Colmar, France

COLMAR, capital of Haut-Rhin department, E. France, in Germany until 1681. Jews probably settled in Colmar toward the middle of the 13th century; they are mentioned as living there in a document from 1278. In 1279, the synagogue was destroyed by fire but it is not known whether through foul play or an accident. The Colmar community became the refuge of the Jews from *Rouffach in 1293, and from Mutzig and other localities in 1330 and 1337–38 during the *Armleder persecutions. The first community owned a synagogue, a mikveh, a "dance hall," and a cemetery. The Jewish quarter was situated between the western rampart, the present Rue Chauf-four, and the Rue Berthe Molly (formerly the Rue des Juifs). In 1348, at the time of the *Black Death persecutions, all the Jews of Colmar were condemned to death and at the beginning of 1349 were burnt at the stake, at the place which is still called "Judenloch." From 1385, Jews were again admitted into Colmar, and town officials allowed them to establish a cemetery. The community was said to include at least 29 adults (or possibly heads of families) in 1392. Their number decreased from the second half of the 15th century, however, until in 1468 there were said to be only two families. In 1510, the emperor authorized the town to expel its remaining Jews, though the expulsion was not carried out until 1512. Nevertheless, Jews from Colmar who had settled in the surrounding localities continued their commercial relations with the burghers of the town. From 1530 they were forbidden to lend to the burghers except against movable pledges. In 1534 they lost the right to trade within Colmar, and in 1541 were forbidden to enter its bounds even when markets and fairs were held. It was as a result of this decision that *Joseph (Joselmann) b. Gershon of Rosheim brought an action against the town which went on for several years, the result of which is unknown. The Jews of Alsace maintained commercial relations with the burghers of Colmar throughout the 16th century, however, as evident from the numerous court cases recorded in that period (Archives Communales de Colmar, esp. pp. 33 and 39ff.). In 1547, about sixty Marranos from the Low Countries were arrested in Colmar. They were only liberated after having taken the oath that their destination was a Christian country, and not Turkey.

The attitude of the burghers toward the Jews remained unchanged, even after Colmar was formally annexed to France in 1681. From the 18th century, a few Jews were authorized to live in eating houses and inns in the town in order to prepare ritual food for Jews visiting Colmar to trade. As late as 1754, the Jew Mirtzel Lévi of the neighboring city of Wittelsheim was martyrized after an iniquitous trial. After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Jews were again allowed to settle in Colmar. In 1808 it became the seat of a *Consistory , with 25 dependent communities. In 1823 Colmar also became the seat of the chief rabbinate of Alsace (Haut-Rhin). The Jewish population numbered approximately 1,200 in 1929.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz /

David Weinberg (2nd ed.)]

Holocaust and Postwar Periods

The Jews in Colmar shared the fate of the other Jews in Alsace and Moselle in World War II. They were expelled from their homes, and their synagogue, which was built in 1843, was completely ransacked. After the war the survivors rebuilt the Jewish community, restored the synagogue, and set up new institutions, including a community center. In 1969 there were over 1,000 Jews in Colmar.

[Georges Levitte]



Lévy, in: Communauté israélite de Colmar, La Maison de la Communauté (1961); Mossmann, in: Revue de l'Est (1866), 105ff., 238ff.; Loeb, in: Annuaire de la Société des Etudes Juives, 1 (1881), 123ff.; Krakauer, in: REJ, 19 (1889), 282ff.; Ginsburger, ibid., 83 (1927), 52–58; Z. Szajkowski, Franco-Judaica (1962), index; Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 415–20.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.