View of Hohenzollern / Hechingen
Photo: Hentsch, 2003


Hechingen: Where Dreams Come True

By Uta Hentsch

Bisingen / Hechingen, Germany

Translation: Yohanan Grossmann,
Dipl. Dolmetscher (accredited interpreter), Berlin, Germany


The "Old Synagogue" Of Hechingen
Is Once More A Place Of Worship - After 65 Years.

It seems like a miracle that since spring 2003 Jewish services are being held again in the Old Synagogue of Hechingen. Dear readers, let me guide you through the history of the once vibrant Jewish life in Hechingen - situated in the "Schwaebische Alb" region, at the foot of the "Hohenzollern Castle" - through the present-day unfolding of a new Jewish saga at this location.


Part 1: The History of Jewish Life In Hechingen

Hechingen Memorial at Yad Vashem
Photo: Hentsch, 1993

We find the first documented mention of a Jew in Hechingen in 1435. After the first Jewish community was founded in the first half of the 16th century, it was dissolved by the count Eitelfriedrich IV of Hohenzollern-Hechingen during the second half of the 16th century. A new Jewish community was established in the first half of the 17th century, during the reign of prince Eitelfriedrich V. In 1643, the people of Hechingen carried out a pogrom against the Jewish community, culminating in raids and depredation of Jewish homes. The count, who had granted the Jews protection and punished the perpetrators, did however command the Jews in 1650 to wear a yellow ring on their garments. As of the year 1672, the Jewish community grew in numbers and their families received letters of protection from the prince Maria Sidonia and later count Friedrich.

However, the people of Hechingen's resentment of the Jews did not subside; complaints were directed in particular against Jewish butchers, who were seen as unwelcome competition. Since new pogroms were planned unless the Jews would be expelled, prince Joseph Wilhelm ordered in 1752-54 the relocation of the poorest Jews from the ghetto to the vacant barracks in Friedrichstrasse in Hechingen. This led to an absurd situation at the turn of the 18th-19th century, when there was friction among the poorer Christian and Jewish populations of lower Hechingen, while there was harmony among the wealthier population of upper Hechingen, with both Jews and Christians, along with the principality, leading a prosperous and peaceful social life.

In 1747, Raphael Isaac, a "Hofjude" from Sigmaringen, moved to Hechingen to take up the position of a court factor. His daughter Chaile, later known as Kaulla, whom he married to the cattle dealer Akiba Auerbach in 1757, made her family famous beyond Hechingen for its economic status and social dignity. Kaulla became court factor at the Donaueschinger court in 1769 and all members of the family assumed the name Kaulla. The family name of Kaulla became a synonym for quality; Chaile became "Madame Kaulla" and her brother Jacob Kaulla became her business partner. The W?rttemberg Court Bank emerged from the bank M:&J:Kaulla and the Stuttgart Jewish community also owes its development largely to the influence of the Kaulla family. The orthodox Kaulla sibling acquired further honours by inaugurating a variety of foundations, such as a Talmud school, which existed from 1803 to 1846, as well as through gifts, which were distributed among Christians and Jews alike. Madame Kaulla died in Hechingen in 1809 and her brother Jacob died a year later. Both were laid to rest at the Jewish cemetery in Hechingen.

Photo: Keidel, Hechingen

In 1767 a new Synagogue was built at the Goldschmiedstrasse. It can be assumed that there had been an older Synagogue at this location. Documents in Jerusalem and at the county memorial preservation office of 1984-85, point in that direction. It is said that the "repair" may be considered as a new construction.

During the long period from 1767 until the rise of the Nazi regime, the Jewish community grew steadily, reaching its peak in 1842, with 809 Jews out of a total population of 3,389. During that time, the letters protecting the Jews were reaffirmed, extending their authority from the initial 25 years to 40 years. In 1825 a Jewish elementary school was established and in 1830 a community school was built next to the Synagogue. After the revolution of 1848, when the principality of Hohenzollern relinquished the territory to Prussia, certain civil rights were granted to the Jewish community. These were extended to full civil-and political rights in 1871, following the foundation of the empire. At this point in time, the Jewish community had dwindled to about a half of its original size.

In 1901 new community legislation was passed in Hechingen and the Jews were granted a passive vote. The community council had its first Jewish members and in 1907 the Jewish population totalled 185 out of 4,427. At that time, only 4% of the population paid 33% of all communal taxes! As of April 1st 1933, members of the NSDAP boycotted Jewish businesses in Hechingen and the process of "aryanation" of Jewish enterprises started in 1938-39.

During the Pogrom of Crystal Night, the remaining 80 Jewish citizens witnessed the destruction of their Synagogue. They were subject to temporary internment and then started emigrating.

All Jewish life became extinct in 1942 with the deportation of the remaining 30 Jews, including the last rabbinical clerk and teacher of the Jewish community, Leon Schmalzbach, who had officiated as cantor, preacher and teacher at the Jewish community of Hechingen since 1908.

Many members of the community, apart from Madame Kaulla, were famous beyond the boundaries of Hechingen. Four names shall be mentioned here: Rabbi Samuel Mayer, preacher of the reform community (1807-1859); the above-mentioned Leon Schmalzbach (1882-1942); Dr. Friedrich Wolf was known as the chief of the secret state police in the former German Democratic Republic; Paul Levy (1883-1930), humanitarian, socialist and politician. After a brief period as the first chairman of the KPD (Communist Party of Germany), he returned to the ranks of the Social Democratic Party in 1922. During his two terms of office, he was a member of the Reichstag (German Imperial Council). He exposed the political motives in the homicide case of Luxemburg-Liebknecht. He was killed when he fell out of his attic window in Berlin.

Compiled from different publications by U. Hentsch

Part 2: About the Old Synagogue of Hechingen

Part 3: The 2003 Holidays

Read about Jewish Life at Haigerloch:

Jewish Life at Haigerloch - Part 1

Jewish Life at Haigerloch - Part 2

Jewish Life at Haigerloch - Part 3

Read about the Christian Declaration of Berlin, 11/September/2004.

About Uta Hentsch

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