Germany / The Rhineland and Bavaria

Frankfurt am Main

Judisches Museum

Untermainkai 14, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Allemagne

Museum Judengasse

Battonnstraße 47, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Allemagne

Westend Synagogue

Freiherr-vom-Stein-Straße, 60323 Frankfurt am Main, Allemagne

Baumweg Synagogue

Baumweg 5, 60316 Frankfurt am Main, Allemagne

Jewish cemetery of Frankfurt

Battonnstraße, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Allemagne

Map of 1840, indication the location of the Jewish cemetery

The independent city of Frankfurt has welcomed Jews since 1150. However, from 1460 until their emancipation at the end of the seventeenth century, the Jews were confined to Judengasse (alley of the Jews), a ghetto that became quickly overcrowded.

In 1720, moneylender Meyer Amschel Rothschild, his wife, Gütele, and their eighteen children moved into one of the houses in the area. Meyer’s success and the dispersion of his large family across Europe gave rise to the powerful financial network of this celebrated family.

Unfortunately, the bombings of 1945 and the reconstruction of the city center after the war have wiped away all traces of this former jewish quarter. Out of the 11000 Jews that lived in Frankfurt before the Holocaust, very few survived.

Judisches Museum. Photo by Mylius – Wikipedia

At the beginning of the 1960s, the municipality of Frankfurt decided to consecrate a museum to the history of the city’s Jewish population. It was installed in the Rothschild Palace on the banks of the Main River, a classical building erected in 1821 and designed by the Paris-trained architect Johann Friederich Christian Hess. The palace was acquired in 1846 by Baron Meyer Carl von Rothschild, head of the German branch of Rothschild banking. He had it renovated and redecorated to house his prestigious collection of furniture, paintings, and gold objets d’art.

Museum

The Jewish Museum is divided in two parts. First, the  Judisches Museum, which opened its doors in 1988. The 30th anniversary of its opening was celebrated in 2018 with many events and cultural gatherings. It is currently being renovated and exapnded in order to welcome more people and events. The Judisches Museum should reopen its doors in April 2020.

Museum Judengasse. Photo by dontworry – Wikipedia

When the city of Frankfurt started to work on vast areas near the former Judengasse (“alley of the Jews”), it discovered many ancient houses belonging to the Jews who lived in what is considered one of the oldest ghettos in Europe.

Founded in 1460, as many as thousands of Jews used to live behind those walls. Thus, the extension of the Jewish Museum was aptly named, after the heritage discoveries,  the  Museum Judengasse.

Westend Synagogue. Photo by Milius – Wikipedia

The Jewish Museum contains the objects from this collection that escaped Nazi pillage as well as a permanent exhibition about the Jewish community in Frankfurt. Facilities at the museum include an archive, a library, and a café. Theater performances and concerts of Jewish music are also frequently held here.

Synagogues

The most spacious and prestigious synagogue of Frankfurt is the  Westend synagogue, affiliated to the liberal movement. Its Majestic dome is an architectural masterpiece. Two years were needed to build it, as it was inaugurated in 1910. Quite rare at the time, women were not required to sit upstairs, but were seated on the same level as the men, each on one side of the ground floor.

Jewish cemetery. Photo by dontworry – Wikipedia

The synagogue survived not only the pogrom of November 1938 (the only synagogue which did so among the four major ones of the city), but also the bombing of the city by the allied troops. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah 1945, Rabbi Leopold Neuhaus organized prayers with the few survivors and some American Jewish troops who were stationed in Frankfurt.

In 1948, the city, as well as the region, undertook to finance a vast renovation of the synagogue. Since 1950, prayers are conducted on a regular basis in the synagogue.

It welcomes the Stibl, as well as the Beit Hamidrash of Westend. The latter following the hassidic rite. The place also hosts an egalitarian mynian under Rabbi Elisa Klapheck.

The Westend synagogue being thus an important example of different streams of Judaism practicising under the same roof.

The second major synagogue of Frankfurt is the  Baumweg synagogue. A few other synagogues welcome ponctual services.

Cemeteries

Other curious aspect of Jewish life in Frankfurt, the city has 12 Jewish cemeteries. Three of them being connected today to the local community. The most ancient cemetery is located on Battonnstrasse, near the Museum. It enables to confirm the presence of Jews in Frankfurt since at least 1150. The old cemetery can be visited after a request at the Museum where a key is given in exchange for an ID card.