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Germany: Dresden

Dresden is the capital of Saxony, Germany. A Jewish community existed there in the early 14th century, and its members were massacred in the Black Death persecutions of 1349. Jews are not mentioned in Dresden again until 1375. They were expelled in 1430.

Jewish settlement was renewed in the early 18th century when the Court Jews Behrend Lehmann and Jonas Mayer, with their retainers, were permitted to settle in Dresden. A synagogue and cemetery were opened in the middle of the 18th century. A society for caring for and visiting the sick was established which formed the nucleus for communal organization. During this period, the Jews in Dresden were subjected to strict regulations and their rights of residence were limited. Nevertheless, there were about 1,000 Jewish residents by the end of the 18th century.

Their situation improved in the 19th century. Active in the communal leadership were R. David Landau of Lissa, who settled in Dresden in 1803, and Bernhard Beer, founder of the “Mendelssohn-Verein” for the advancement for crafts, art, and science among Jewish youth (1829). As communal leader for 30 years, Beer was active in efforts for improvement of the civil status of the Jews in Dresden and the rest of Saxony.

A new synagogue was built and consecrated on his initiative in 1840 and Zacharias Frankel officiated as its first rabbi (1836–54). Frankel succeeded, among other achievements, in obtaining the repeal of the more humiliating portions of the Jewish oath in 1840. During this period, a Jewish elementary school was founded (1836) and complete civil equality attained (1869). Emil Lehmann (d. 1898) followed Beer as leader of Dresden and Saxon Jewry. Frankel was succeeded by the teacher Wolf Landau (1854–86) and the scholar of Midrash Jacob Winter (1887–1941).

The community numbered approximately 2,300 in 1886, 4,300 in 1913, and over 6,000 in 1925.

Many Jews from East Europe settled there after World War I. A prosperous and well-endowed community, it owned a valuable library and maintained numerous social and charitable organizations. A group of Orthodox Jews seceded and founded the “Shomerei ha-Dat” congregations.

In October 1938, 724 Jews of Polish citizenship were deported from Dresden. On Kristallnacht, 151 Jews were arrested and shipped to Buchenwald. The synagogues were burned, and the Jewish community was presented with a bill for their demolition.

By May 1939, the community had been reduced to 1,600 people because of emigration, deportation, and arrests. There were 12 deportations, dispatching 1,300 Jews, between January 1942 and January 1944. The final deportation was scheduled for February 1945. The Allied bombing of Dresden allowed the deportees to escape.

A synagogue seating 200 was opened in 1950. Subsequently, the Dresden community declined, numbering 100 in the late 1960s. From 1962 to 1990, Dresden was the seat of the Association of Jewish Communities in the GDR. Owing to the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union, the number of community members rose to 618 in 2005. Dresden is the seat of the Association of Jewish Communities in Saxony.

The Dresden Synagogue was destroyed during Kristallnacht, but was rebuilt on the same site and opened to the public in 2002. The synagogue was totally redesigned, but the original Star of David from before the original synagogue burned down had been saved, and was placed above the new building’s entryway.

The Old Jewish Cemetery in Dresden is the oldest in the state of Saxony, and contains graves dating back to 1750. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Lehmann, Aus alten Acten… (1886); idem, Ein Halbjahrhundert in der israelitischen Religionsgemeinde zu Dresden (1890); MGWJ, 1 (1852), 382–5, 421–6; Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 175; Gruen, in: AUJW, 9 (1954/55), 3; B. Beer, Geschichtliche Darstellung der 50jaehrigen Wirksamkeit des KrankenunterstuetzungsInstitutes fuer Israeliten zu Dresden (1857), U. Ullrich, Zur Geschichte der Juden in Dresden (2001); Der alte juedische Friedhof in Dresden (2002).

Sources: [Akiva Posner /Annegret Nippa (2nd ed.)] Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.