France / Alsace


Synagogue of Bergheim. Photo by Camillek (Thierry Koch) – Wikipedia

Bergheim is a village north of Colmar, famous for its ramparts and numerous medieval houses.

The Jews were persecuted here in the 14th century by local militias. They probably already had a synagogue here, which was apparently confiscated by the local authorities in 1349 after the massacres committed against the Jews. Administrative documents attest to the presence in Strasbourg of two surviving Jewish families who requested permission from the city to settle there. The Jews of Bergheim were able to return in 1375, thanks to the intervention of the Archduke of Austria. However, in 1397, they once again fell victim to a plot to poison the wells. 

Their situation was also rather difficult in the following century, particularly during the regional wars. In 1525, the Jews were attacked by peasants revolting against the institutions, tearing up their books and destroying the synagogue.  Despite this, the Jewish community in Bergheim grew and by the early 16th century was one of the largest in Alsace. They were no longer obliged to work in the lending and trading trades, thus diversifying their activities.

Synagogue of Bergheim. Photo by Camillek (Thierry Koch) – Wikipedia

In 1700, the Jews of Ribeauvillé and Bergheim jointly engaged Rabbi Samuel Lévy, an engagement confirmed by royal decree in 1702. At the same time, they also obtained the right to buy houses. The Jewish population declined from the 18th century onwards, falling from 327 in 1784 to 40 in 1926.

Bergheim’s contemporary synagogue was built in 1863 on the site of its predecessors. It was decommissioned in 1991. An exhibition by the artist Jacques Jacobi was held there in 2014 during the European Days of Jewish Culture.

Among the great personalities of the Colmar-Ribeauvillé-Bergheim region are several members of the Sée family: the patron Samuel Sée (born in 1775 in Ribeauvillé), General Léopold Sée (born in 1822 in Bergheim), the doctor Marc-Daniel Sée (born in Ribeauvillé in 1827) and, of course, the member of parliament Camille Sée (born in Colmar in 1847), who promoted secondary education for girls.

Sources : Encyclopaedia Judaica and

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