KREFELD, city in N. Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The first Jew living in Krefeld was mentioned in 1617, and in 1728 there were five Jewish families settled in the town. By Prussian royal decree (1743), the city council refused admittance to Jews, except for those who received special permission. Nevertheless, by 1756 the number of Jewish families in Krefeld had increased to ten.
A community was organized in 1764 and a cemetery consecrated. After 1795, under French rule, the community began to expand, numbering 160 persons in 1806. On March 17, 1808, a Napoleonic decree introduced the consistorial system; the consistory of Roerdepartement, comprising 20 Jewish communities extending from Cologne to Brussels, had its seat in Krefeld. In March 1809, a conference of 25 notables representing 12 communities elected Judah Loeb Carlburg (Karlsburg; d. 1835) as chief rabbi of Krefeld Consistory. When the Rhine province was incorporated into Prussia in 1814, the consistorial system was retained. Chief rabbi in Krefeld from 1836 until 1843 was Leo Ullmann, who translated the Koran into German. In 1847, during the term of office of his successor, Loeb Bodenheimer (1844–68), the consistorial system was abolished. Successive rabbis were Jacob Horowitz (1868–1904), Joseph Levi (retired 1927), and Arthur Bluhm.
During the 19th century most of the community's cultural, social, and benevolent institutions came into being. A synagogue was built in 1851. From the first quarter of the 19th century the community developed rapidly from 308 in 1840 to 1,088 in 1875, and 2,000 (1.9% of the population) in 1895; it subsequently declined to 1,626 in 1925.
In the years after World War I the community was beset by severe antisemitism. The Jews were vilified in the local press; in 1927 the cemetery was desecrated; in 1928 windows of the synagogue were smashed and the main entrance defiled with swastikas. Posters urging townspeople not to patronize Jewish business establishments were displayed prominently in 1930. When the Nazis seized power in 1933, there were 1,481 Jews in Krefeld. On the night of February 5/6 of that year the synagogue windows were smashed again. Nevertheless the community's elementary school continued to function. Efforts to emigrate were intensified and by 1937 about 500 had left the town. The economic boycott by the Nazis resulted in all Jewish firms being taken over by gentiles. During Kristallnacht, SS men broke into the synagogue, removing the scrolls and burning it to the ground. Two other communal buildings were also burned down. Emigration was now speeded up and by May 17, 1939, 800 Jews remained in the city, many of them newcomers from the countryside. Between 1939 and 1945, 67
A. Kober, Cologne (Eng., 1940), index; JC (Feb. 17, 1933), 26; (May 4, 1934), 19; (July 19, 1935), 17; (July 30, 1937), 17; S. Andorn, in: AZDJ, 72 (Nov. 27, 1908), 573–4; 74 (Aug. 19, 1910), 393–4; Rheinische Rabbiner-Konferenz, ibid., 74 (Oct. 7, 1910), 473; FJW (1932/33), 234f.; L. Bodenheimer, Predigt, zur Einweihungs-Feier der Neuen Synagoge zu Crefeld am 17. Juni 1853 (1853); Der Israelit, 10 (Aug. 4, 1869), 608–10; A. Wedell, Geschichte der juedischen Gemeinde Duesseldorfs (1888), 30–33, 37, 82–83; Aus alter und neuer Zeit (Dec. 20, 1928), 262.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.