The Jewish community in Dettensee

Photo of the synagogue which was pulled down in 1930.
Photo of the synagogue which was pulled down in 1930.

The Jewish community in Dettensee dates back to the 16th century when Dettensee belonged to the Swiss Monastery of Muri which allowed Jews with ‘Letters of Protection’ to settle there. In 1764, 23 Jewish families – mainly very poor - lived in the village. In 1830 the Jewish population reached its highest level with 173 members. They had a synagogue (officially opened in 1820), a ritual bath, a school with its own teacher and from 1822 to 1836 their own rabbi, Max Hirsch. At that time Dettensee belonged to the principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.

Around 1900, Jewish community life was no longer possible due to the rapid decrease in membership. In 1913 only two Jews, the siblings Luise and Hermann Hirsch, lived in Dettensee. Attempts to find another purpose for the synagogue failed and it was pulled down in 1930. In 1942, Luise Hirsch, the last Jewish person in Dettensee, was deported to Theresienstadt and murdered in Treblinka.

The Jewish cemetery in Dettensee

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The cemetery was laid out in 1830. Before that, the dead had been buried in Mühringen. The burial site, slightly outside and to the east of the village, was planned to hold 400 burial plots. An unusual feature was the separation of the dead according to gender. Of the 218 original tombstones only 157 remain, some only as fragments. During the Nazi regime, the cemetery was defiled, the tombstones knocked down and broken, and the enclosing wall badly damaged. The last burial took place in 1934.