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Halberstadt, Germany

HALBERSTADT, city in Germany. The earliest document testifying to the presence of Jews in Halberstadt dates from 1261; in it the city promises its protection to the Jews "as in the past." It is probable that Jews were already settled in the city in 1189. A Jewish community (Judendorf) possessing a synagogue was first mentioned in 1364; it comprised 11 families in 1456, mainly occupied in moneylending. The Jews were expelled from Halberstadt in 1493; although some returned in the 16th century, they were expelled once more in 1595. Shortly afterward, several Jews again settled in the city and built a synagogue, which was destroyed during the Thirty Years War. In 1650 ten Jewish families were granted privileges allowing them to engage in business and moneylending, but forbidding them to build a synagogue. They were permitted to elect a rabbi in 1661. The authorities protected the Jews from the jealousy of Christian merchants and as a result the community had grown to 118 families (639 persons) by 1699. In 1689 Behrend *Lehmann , the powerful *Court Jew of Saxony and protector of the community, established a bet midrash, the renowned klaus (1707), and in 1712 permission was granted to build a new synagogue. Halberstadt then served as a center for the smaller communities in its environs (e.g., *Halle and *Magdeburg ) and was the largest Jewish community in Prussia. Occupations of Jews in this period ranged from simple handicraft to finance and industry. The community was world renowned as a center for Torah study and philanthropy in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1795 a school for children of poor families, called Hazkarat Ẓevi, was opened. It existed until shortly before the destruction of German Jewry. In the 1850s and 1860s some Hebrew works were printed in Halberstadt. A beautiful maḥzor was issued by H. Meyer: J.Z. *Jolles ' Meloha-Ro'im was edited by Y.F. Hirsch and printed at the press of J. Hoerling's widow (1859); B.H. *Auerbach 's controversial Sefer ha-Eshkol appeared in 1867–79; and Elijah of Vilna's Adderet Eliyahu was published there. In the 19th and early 20th century the Hirsch family was outstanding in the industrial sphere and for its philanthropic activities.

Halberstadt was the center of Orthodox Jewry in Germany and until 1930 the central organizations of German Orthodox congregations and other Orthodox bodies were situated there. Several famous rabbis served in Halberstadt, including Ẓevi Hirsch *Bialeh , Hirschel *Levin , and members of the *Auerbach family. In 1933 there were 706 Jews in Halberstadt (1.4% of the total population). With the rise of Nazism, and its consequent economic and social pressure, many Jews began to leave. The community reacted to persecution by developing a complex of cultural and educational institutions, and formal relationships were retained with the governmental authorities. In October 1938, some 100 Polish Jews were expelled. On Nov. 10, 1938 the synagogue was first set on fire. Ninety Torah scrolls were desecrated in the streets; the synagogue was subsequently demolished. Some 40 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Buchenwald. Stores were looted and homes were wrecked. The Jewish school was closed in 1941. Between 1939 and 1942, 186 persons were deported; none returned. The only Jews who remained were intermarried.

In 1995 the Moses Mendessohn Academy was founded which is financed by the Federal State of Saxony-Anhalt, the city of Halberstadt, and private donors. It is located in a complex of buildings: the renovated former Klaus synagogue, the site of the former baroque synagogue, the former house of the cantor, and the renovated former bathhouse. The latter houses the Berend Lehmann Museum on Jewish history and culture, which was opened in 2001. It focused on the history of the Jews in Halberstadt as a model for Jewish history in Prussia. In 2005, 30 Jewish families from the former Soviet Union founded a new Jewish community.


Germ Jud, I (1963), 123–4; 2 (1968), 317–9; B.H. Auerbach, Geschichte der israelitischen Gemeinde Halberstadt (1866); E. Lehmann, Der polnische Resident Behrend Lehmann (1885); S. Stern, Der preussische staat und die Juden, 1 (1962), Akten, no. 104–35, 54a–370, p. 531ff.; 2 (1962), Akten, no. 454–95; idem, The Court Jew (1950), index; M. Koehler, Beitraege zur neueren juedi schen Wirtschaftsgeschichte. Die Juden in Halberstadt und Umgebung bis zur Emanzipation (1927); Y. Levinsky, in: Reshumot, new series, 1 (1945), 142–50; J. Meisl, ibid., 3 (1947), 181–205; H.B. Auerbach, in: BLBI, 10 (1967), 124–58, 309–35; idem, in: Zeitschrift fuer Geschichte der Juden, 6 (1969), 11f., 19f., 151f., 155f.; PKG. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Hartmann, "Halberstadt," in: J. Dick (ed.), Wegweiser durch das juedische Sachsen-Anhalt, (1998; Beitraege zur Geschichte und Kultur der Juden in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen-Anhalt, Sachsen und Thueringen, vol. 3), 72–91; M. Schmidt, "Issachar Baermannben-Jehuda ha-Levi, sonst Berend Lehmann genannt, Hoffaktor in Halberstadt," in: J. Dick (ed.), Wegweiser durch das juedische Sachsen-Anhalt (1998; Beitraege zur Geschichte und Kultur der Juden in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen-Anhalt, Sachsen und Thueringen, vol. 3), 198–211; W. Hartmann (ed.), Juden in Halberstadt. Geschichte, Ende und Spuren einer ausgelieferten Minderheit. Belege und Beitraege, vol. 1–6 (1991–96); A. Maimon, M. Breuer, and Y. Guggenheim (eds.), Germania Judaica, vol. 3: 1350–1514 (1987), 493–7.

[Zvi Avneri / Larissa Daemmig (2nd ed.)]

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