Leipzig is a city in Saxony, Germany. Jews are first mentioned in Leipzig at the end of the 12th century; an organized community with a synagogue and a school existed from the second quarter of the 13th century. Its inhabitants came mainly from neighboring Halle and Merseburg. The community and its synagogue are mentioned in a responsum of Isaac b. Moses of Vienna (“Or Zaru’a”) between 1250 and 1258; Jewish moneylending activity is also noted by R. Isaac. The fair regulations of Leipzig of 1268 guaranteed protection to all merchants and moved the day of the market from Saturday to Friday for the benefit of the Jewish merchants.
The Jewish community may have suffered during the Black Death persecutions, for the margrave disposed of their synagogue in 1352. In 1364, a Schulmeister and other Jews are again mentioned; they lived in the Judenburg, which had its own entrance gate. The Jews in Leipzig were probably not expelled in 1442 as the city historians record (though their status did deteriorate), but only after the expulsion of the Jews from Saxony in 1540. Their right to attend the fairs, held three times yearly, remained unaltered.
Between 1668 and 1764, 82,000 Jews attended these fairs, and decisively influenced their business; Leipzig’s growth as a center of the fur trade was due to Jewish activities. Jews, however, were prohibited from opening shops facing the streets, and from holding services. Jews who died during the fairs had to be buried in Dresden, or elsewhere, until a cemetery was opened in 1815.
A permanent Jewish settlement was founded in 1710 when Gerd Levi, mintmaster and purveyor, received rights of residence. The number of “privileged” Jewish households allowed residence in Leipzig grew to seven by the middle of the 18th century. After the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) Jews held services during the fairs in a number of prayer rooms, according to Landsmannschaften. By the end of the century, 40 to 50 Jewish merchants were living in Leipzig who employed clerks, servants, agents, and shohatim. A law issued in Saxony in 1837 permitted the establishment of a community in Leipzig, though permission to build a synagogue was withheld. A prayer house, influenced by Reform tendencies, was opened. Adolf Jellinek was employed as preacher between 1845 and 1857; due to his efforts a new synagogue was built and consecrated in 1855. In 1869, a Reform synod was held in Leipzig, and the Deutsch-Israelitischer Gemeindebund was founded, led by leaders of the Leipzig community Moritz Kohner and Jacob Nachod.
After 1868/69, with the abolition of all anti-Jewish restrictions, the number of Jews increased greatly by immigration from Galicia and Poland. There were 7,676 Jews living in Leipzig in 1905, and 13,032 in 1925, making it the largest community in Saxony. As many of the newcomers were Orthodox, a separate community and synagogue was organized, at which rabbis N.A. Nobel (1902–05), Ephraim Carlebach (1901–36), and David Ochs (1936) officiated. Reform rabbis were A.M. Goldschmidt (1858–88), Nathan Porges (1888–1917), and Gustav Kohn (from 1921; died in the Holocaust).
In 1933, there were 11,564 Jews in Leipzig, including 3,847 of East European origin. By 1938, 1,600 Jewish businesses had been “aryanized,” around 3,000 Jews had emigrated, and in October 1938, 1,652 of the East European Jews were deported to Poland. During Kristallnacht the two main synagogues were burned down, shops were looted, and the funeral hall was demolished. Another thousand East European Jews were deported to Poland in early 1939. The 2,500 Jews remaining in 1941 were crowded into 43 “Jew houses” (Judenhaeuser) and used for forced labor. Subsequently all were deported to the east in nine transports through February 1945.
Some Hebrew lettering (from wood-blocks) appears in books printed in Leipzig even before 1500 and in the two decades following, as in Novenianus’ Elementale Hebraicum, 1520. In 1533 appeared a Hebrew psalter, prepared by Anthonius Margarita (like Novenianus, a lecturer in Hebrew) and printed by his father-in-law, Melchior Lotther. Hebrew printing was resumed in the last quarter of the 17th century through the effort of the apostate F.A. Christiani, and among these productions was a beautiful edition of Isaac Abrabanel’s commentary on the Latter Prophets (1685). Numerous books were printed, again by non-Jewish presses, in the 19th century, among them Maimonides’ responsa and letters, edited by Mordecai b. Isaac Tamah, with H.L. Schnauss (1859). At the end of the 19th and early 20th century the leading Oriental printing house in Europe, W. Drugulin, produced, among other works, S. Mandelkern’s famous Bible Concordance (for Veit and Co., 1896) and Antologia Hebraica (ed. by H. Brody and M. Wiener, 1922), for the Insel Verlag. By that time Leipzig had become the most important printing and publishing center in Germany. Drugulin designed a new type, taking early printing type as his model. Another new type was designed by Raphael Frank, cantor in Leipzig, in 1910, for the Berthold’sche Schriftgiesserei in Berlin.
After the war a new community was reorganized. The Broder Schul synagogue was restored, as were the funeral hall and cemeteries. The community, which numbered 100 in 1968, was under the supervision of an East Berlin rabbi and religious services were led from 1950 by the hazzan, Werner Sander, who organized the Leipziger Synagogalchor in 1962, a unique choir in Europe. The singers, who are not Jewish, perform Jewish liturgical and folk music.
Membership in the Jewish community declined during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1991, the Jewish community numbered 35. After 1990, it increased due to the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union. In 2012, the Jewish population was 1,300.
There are several institutions and organizations in Leipzig which deal with Jewish history and culture. The Deutsche Buecherei Leipzig (the German National library) houses the Collection of Exile Literature 1933–45 and the Anne Frank Shoah Library. The exile collection contains publications which were written or published abroad by emigrants – among them many Jews – between 1933 and 1945. The Anne Frank Shoah Library collects worldwide published literature on the persecution and murder of the Jews of Germany under Nazi rule.
In 1992, the Ephraim Carlebach Foundation, which focuses on the history of the Jews of Leipzig, was established. Its activities include academic research, publications, exhibitions, cultural events, and preservation of historic buildings. In 1995, the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture at Leipzig University, named after the Russian-Jewish historian Simon Dubnow (1860–1941), was founded. The institute focuses on Jewish life primarily in Central and Eastern Europe.
M. Freudenthal, Aus Geschichte und Leben der Juden in Leipzig (1930); idem (ed.), Leipziger Messgaeste (1928); W. Harmelin, in: YLBI, 9 (1964), 239–66; A. Kapp, in: ZGJD, 1 (1929), 329–32; 3 (1931), 131–4; 4 (1932), 198–202; 5 (1935), 50–58; 6 (1935), 40–47; Germ Jud, 1 (1962), 155–6, incl. bibl.; 2 (1968), index, incl. bibl.; J.G. Hartenstein, Die Juden in der Geschichte Leipzigs (1938); F. Grubel, in: BLBI, 5 (1962), 132–8; M. Unger, in: Zeitschrift fuer Geschichtswissenschaft, 11 (1963), 941–57; A. Marx, Studies in Jewish History and Booklore (1944), 331ff.; A.M. Habermann, Ha-Sefer ha-Ivri be-Hitpattehuto (1968), index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Bertram, Menschen ohne Grabstein. Die aus Leipzig deportierten und ermordeten Juden (2001); B. Kowalzik, Wir waren eure Nachbarn. Die Juden im Leipziger Waldstrassenviertel (1996); A. Lorz, Suchet der Stadt Bestes. Lebensbilder juedischer Unternehmer aus Leipzig (1996); T. Schinkoeth, Juedische Musiker in Leipzig 1855–1945 (1994); M. Unger (ed.), Judaica Lipsiensia. Zur Geschichte der Juden in Leipzig (1994); B.-L. Lange, Juedische Spuren in Leipzig (1993); S.J. Kreutner, Mein Leipzig. Gedenken an die Juden meiner Stadt (1992); M. Unger, H. Lang (eds.), Juden in Leipzig. Eine Dokumentation zur Ausstellung anlaesslich des 50. Jahrestages der Faschistischen Pogromnacht im Ausstellungszentrum der Karl-Marx-Universitaet (1988); S. Spector (ed.), Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, vol. 2 (2001), 714–16.
Sources: [Jacob Rothschild / Larissa Daemmig (2nd ed.)] Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved;
“Germany: First postwar kosher restaurant opens in Leipzig,” Deutsche Welle, (March 27, 2019).