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Hildesheim, Germany

HILDESHEIM, city and former bishopric near Hanover, Germany. A Jewish community subject to the bishop was constituted in Hildesheim toward the middle of the 14th century. It suffered during the *Black Death persecutions (1348–49) but rapidly recovered. There were about 80 Jewish residents in the city in 1379, when the community possessed a synagogue and a cemetery and the Jews lived in a Judenstrasse. Almost without exception they made their living as moneylenders. In 1457 all Jews were expelled from the bishopric and the synagogue was torn down.

In 1520 the right of residence was extended to "der Grosse Michel," a Jewish soldier of fortune (see Jud *Michel ). He was followed by a small number of other Jewish settlers, including Medicus Herz, the physician to the bishop. In 1595 an attempt to expel the Jews was frustrated when the exiles took legal action before the imperial court and were allowed to return in 1601. In 1662 Elector Maximilian Henry of Bavaria published a letter of protection for the Jews of the city. The same year marked the promulgation of a new series of laws by Jewish authorities dealing with the government of the Jewish community. A synagogue and a cemetery were dedicated in the early 17th century. A second cemetery was consecrated in 1650.

The community grew from 10 families possessing residence rights in 1634 to 40–60 families in 1726. A relative of Joseph Suess *Oppenheimer (d. 1762), who served for many years as tax collector and finance minister to the bishops and was Landesrabbiner from 1732, interceded successfully on behalf of Jews without residence permits who were threatened with expulsion in 1741. The community numbered 380 persons in 1812, 513 in 1880 (2% of the total population), and 515 in 1933.

Incorporated into the kingdom of *Westphalia , the Jews of the bishopric enjoyed full equality from 1806 to 1815. In that period an elementary school was founded which continued to exist into the 20th century. When Hildesheim came under Hanoverian rule (1815), the Jews again suffered from legal disabilities. A new synagogue was consecrated in 1849. The rabbinical post of Hildesheim was filled consecutively from the 17th century; notable incumbents included Jacob *Guttmann (1874–92) and his successor A. Lewinsky, rabbi for more than 40 years, who wrote widely on the history of the community. On Nov. 10, 1938 the synagogue was burned down and many shops were looted. By May 1939 only 210 Jews remained. The majority of these were deported, 51 on July 24, 1942, to Theresienstadt. A few returned after the war but by 1970 only eight remained. A Jewish community was reestablished in 1997 after the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union.


M. Landsberg, Zur Geschichte der Synagogen-Gemeinde Hildesheim (1868); idem, in: MGWJ, 19 (1870), 122–4; A. Rexhausen, Die rechtliche und wirtschaftliche Lage der Juden in Hochstift Hildesheim (1914); Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 360–3; A. Lewinsky, in: Ha-Eshkol, 6 (1909), 236–40; idem, in: MGWJ, 44 (1895), 250–9, 366–80; 45 (1896), 179–81, 487f.; 46 (1897), 547–55; 47 (1898), 80–84; idem, in: Blaetter fuer juedische Geschichte und Literatur, 2 (1901), 11f., 45f.; 3 (1902), 89–93, 113–9, 150–3, 169, 171; 4 (1903), 6–11, 20–22; 5 (1904), 12–13; idem, in: Festschrift… J. Guttmann (1915), 256–72; H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 3 (1955); 67–74.

[Zvi Avneri]

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