City of Memmingen:Jewish Life

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Jewish life in Memmingen (1862-1942)

A second new feature in the municipal museum is the “Jewish life in Memmingen (1862-1942)” exhibition, which opened in May 2000.

Beginning with the immigration of the Jewish population in the years following 1860, an aspiring Jewish community developed in Memmingen. This community consisted of over 200 members at the turn of the century and, at the time that the new synagogue was dedicated in 1909, had gained a degree of recognition in our town that was never again to be achieved. These financially innovative new citizens contributed to the town’s economic flourishing in the domains of trade and manufacturing as well as in academic professions such as medicine and law. Professional success, recognition in club activities, respect in social fields are components of an altogether optimistic development which characterised the way that Jews and gentiles co-existed at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century in Memmingen and gave the Jewish people of Memmingen hope of also adding complete social acceptance to civil rights obtained formally.

However, at the beginning of the 1920s, the first precursors of a development started to loom in the shape of exclusion and anti-Semitism which would later lead to a degree of radicalness that had been previously unknown.

The historical documents and photographs from Memmingen’s municipal archives, interviews with contemporary witnesses on video and important keepsakes relating to Jewish culture in our region mean that the new department draws a picture that documents the possibility of peaceful co-existence in the same way as it documents the distressful end of the Jews in our town.

The topics are arranged by content and chronologically and seven stages document the life of Jews in Memmingen. The overall view of industrial, social and political integration before 1933 with the measures of deprivation of rights and murder in the years following 1933 makes it clear that the way in which German culture was viewed did not provide a sound social basis but this should not be forgotten as a lost historic opportunity.        

Jewish history has become a part of urban history, particularly since the major lines of development are deliberately and exclusively illustrated with documents from Memmingen from the periods of growing integration as well as from the stage of criminal exclusion and extermination.