What remains?

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What remains?

In 2012 and 2013, 48 “Stolpersteine” (stumbling blocks) were laid in Rhaunen in memory of the former Jewish residents.

By the end of the 19th Century, a transition had begun in rural Jewish life as more and more Jewish families began leaving the confined structures of their Hunsrück village; migrating to the larger cities or emigrating abroad. The tradition of rural Judaism came to a violent conclusion in the wake of the racial politics of the National Socialists. Even though a scattering of small Jewish fellowships have arisen in Germany following the Shoah, they cannot resurrect the community life experienced in them prior to 1945.
 
 

Jewish life in Rhineland-Palatinate

A Jewish community has not been re-established in the rural Rhine-Hunsrück regions since World War Two. Jewish life today is concentrated instead in the city centers, where Jewish religious and cultural communities have been once again expanding since the 1990s. In the state of Rhineland-Palatinate (as of 2019), approximately 3,000 Jews are registered in such communities, while the number of non-registered is estimated to be many times higher. Thriving Jewish communities exist today in Bad Kreuznach, Koblenz, Mainz, the Rhenish Palatinate and in Trier. The egalitarian "Jewish Community of Neuwied, Middle Rhine" is a member of the Union of progressive Jews in Germany and uses the rural synagogue in Saffig.
 
 

Synagogues

Of the 223 synagogue structures in today’s Rhineland-Palatinate, almost all were destroyed during the “Reichspogromnacht”. 40 buildings were torn down after 1945 because they were dilapidated or had to make way for new building projects - and in some cases even because of the desire to eradicate any memory of the synagogue. 88 former houses of worship were still standing as of 1988.
 
The former synagogue in Laufersweiler is the only structure in the entire Rhine-Hunsrück region that can still be recognized as a synagogue today; reminding us of its former purpose. The synagogue buildings in the communities of St. Goar, Hirzenach, Boppard, Oberwesel and Rheinböllen are still preserved, but serve today as workshops or residential homes.
 
 
This slide presentation depicts surviving traces of rural Jewish life in the Rhine-Hunsrück region and addresses various approaches to dealing with its memory.
 

Jewish Cemeteries

Mikvehs

Anti-Semitism

Places of Remembrance

Educational Work

Jewish Communities

Restoration Work

Converted Synagogues

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Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitic attitudes and actions are still a social reality, even 70 years after the end of the National Socialist regime. Nationwide, the number of anti-Semitic incidents over the past years has risen significantly, with the state of Rhineland-Palatinate recording 50 anti-Semitic crimes in 2019; up 50% from the year before. These crimes include anti-Semitic motivated threats and verbal abuses, property damage, propaganda offences and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. It must be assumed, however, that many offences remain „invisible“ because the crimes are not reported to the authorities, or the anti-Semitic incidents are not reflected as such in the statistics.
 
The Corona pandemic has also contributed to a further escalation of the situation. Conspiracy narratives based on an anti-Semitic stereotype are increasingly being disseminated at demonstrations and on-line. In this context, Anti-Semitism no longer appears solely in a racist or a religious context, but in other diverse forms, as well. Hostility directed at Jews is also expressed through anti-Semitic stereotyping nestled in the form of criticism against Israel (Israel-related Anti-Semitism) or through a pronounced denial of history, which refuses to come to terms with the past (secondary Anti-Semitism). Anti-Jewish sentiment exists in all social groups and at all levels.
 
 

The work of remembrance and education

The State working group for Memorial sites and Remembrance initiatives in Rhineland-Palatinate has over 70 members. Among the members are those whose focus is to work through the history of National Socialist persecution, as well as those focusing on the memory of Jewish life.
A growth in the awareness of Jewish history began in the 1980s, when research aimed at securing, preserving and documenting the work of remembrance and commemoration was initiated. More than 100 “Stolpersteine” (stumbling blocks) have been laid over the past years in Boppard, Rhaunen, Dommershausen (Burg Waldeck), Kastellaun, Kirchberg and Oberwesel.
Keeping alive the memory of Jewish life in Germany while confronting the times of National Socialism and taking a decisive stance against Anti-Semitism continue to be the important tasks and challenges for German society. Remembrance and commemoration are based on knowledge, so that the formulation of pedagogical approaches to historical-political education will play a key role in this regard.
 
 
 
The “Förderkreis” of the former synagogue in Laufersweiler organised an encounter project from September 2019 to May 2021, titled "What’s that to me?!". Its objective was to open a forum for adolescents and young adults from different nationalities and confessions to discuss the significance of the German-Jewish past while, at the same time, addressing questions related to their coexistence today. The project was sponsored by the “LandKULTUR” (rural culture) program from the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Christian, Jewish and Muslim youth shared very personal insights into their everyday religious lives, their convictions and their own experiences in dealing with prejudice in a video workshop setting (video in German language).