France / Lorraine


Synagogue of Nancy. Photo by Aimelaime – Wikipedia

The Jewish presence in Nancy seems to date from the Middle Ages. In 1470, the city had ten Jewish families. Driven from the city by Duke René, a few families relocated there in the 16th century. In 1721, the community was officially allowed to settle, but only very few families were allowed within the city walls. The Jewish community of Nancy was officially founded in 1754.

In the spirit of the wave of emancipation of Jews crossing France and Europe during the time of the Revolution, a synagogue was built by the architect Augustin-Charles Piroux. Inaugurated on June 11, 1790, the  synagogue was subsequently enlarged in 1841 and 1861. Its facade was transformed in 1935. From the original building, it remains the Holy Arch, with marble columns and a Corinthian style.

Its development took place in particular thanks to the arrival of Jews from Alsace and Moselle fleeing annexation by Germany in 1871. Among the workforce who came to rebuild France after the First World War, we find many Polish Jews. They are mainly workers in the iron and steel and chemical industries.

Synagogue of Nancy

These Jews created the  Jewish Cultural Association (ACI) in Nancy. Thus, they perpetuate the sharing of Yiddish culture and set up an oratory there to pray. The ACI now has a great Jewish cultural heritage, including a Yiddish and French library of more than 1,500 books.

During the occupation, police inspectors warned the Jews of an impending raid in July 1942 and thus saved 385 of them. 32 Jews were arrested, either because they had not found a place of flight or believed the warning . The rescue was organized by inspectors Edouard Vigneron and Pierre Marie.

They charged their men Charles Bouy, Henri Lespinasse, Charles Thouron, Emile Thiébault and François Pinot to warn the Jews and also to help them to leave the city, in particular by providing false documents or by lodging them. The story is told at length by Lucien Lazare in the Livre des Justes.

In order to perpetuate and salute this spirit of revolt against the occupier, the ACI celebrates the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt every year. The center also has a painting by painter Mané Katz, The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The arrival of the Sephardic Jews in the 1960s made it possible to restore religious dynamism. Even though they made up only 20% of the city’s Jews, their presence at prayers and religious ceremonies was proportionately quite large.

Holocaust monument at the Jewish cemetery of Nancy. Photo by Djampa – Wikipedia

Nevertheless, the very old Ashkenazi rite and the sharing of these traditions allowed the synagogue to perpetuate its tradition of great Hazanim such as André Stora or Michel Heymann, as shown in the film dedicated to the community by Josy Eisenberg in his program.

The  Jewish cemetery is located in Préville, on avenue de Boufflers. At the entrance, a commemorative monument pays tribute to the murder of part of the Jewish community of Nancy. The name of each missing child is inscribed on a small stele placed in front of shrubs placed by schoolchildren in 1987.