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Due to a royal privilege, Jews have been allowed to settle in Rendsburg/Neuwerk since 1692. Therefore, the town bordering with Altona, Glückstadt and Friedrichstadt is also described as a so-called tolerance town or “religious sanctuary”. The pre-requisite for settlement is building or purchasing a house. If this pre-requisite is not met, Jews receive restricted community rights. 

Therefore, the tolerance towns offer the Jews considerably better living conditions than normal at other locations. In 1695, a Jewish cemetery is established south of the town, in Westerrönfeld. In 1732, the first synagogue is built in Prinzessinstraße, Rendsburg/Neuwerk, from which no architectural testaments have been handed down.

During the 1830s, a new Talmud-Torah school is established in Prinzessinstraße which, in addition to religion and Hebrew lessons, offers Jewish children all the primary school subjects. Up until the present day, the school building has remained part of the Jewish Museum’s ensemble.

In 1844/5, the synagogue is built next to the school and has remained preserved until now. Back then, the Jewish community boasted some 300 members, more than ever since. 

19th century: The legal equalisation has profound effects on the Jewish communities

During the mid-19th century (in the Holstein region in 1863), Jews are to the greatest extent legally equalised with other citizens. It is a ground-breaking cut in the history of the Jewish communities, because so-called emancipation of the Jews is also connected with the freedom of establishment. As a result, several people leave the tolerance towns and move to cities such as Kiel, Lübeck and Hamburg. As a result, the Jewish community in Rendsburg becomes smaller and smaller during the course of the following decades. 

In 1933, only 30 community members still lived in the town. The synagogue is desecrated during the “Reichspogromnacht” [Night of Broken Glass]. A bomb attack destroys the so-called Torah Shrine. In the wake of Ayranisation, the synagogue is sold and then used for many decades as a fish smokehouse. In 1942, the Jewish Community in Rendsburg is eradicated after almost 250 years. It is planned to deport the community leader, Julius Magnus. Before this, he and his wife commit suicide.

After World War 2: The public focus only turned to the synagogue during the 1970s

At the end of the 1970s, public focus turns to the synagogue - which has been used as a fish smokehouse since the NS era. It should be restored and become a historic architectural monument, supported by the town and state. A cultural centre is established there in 1985. Simultaneously, the Jewish Museum is founded in 1988. 

During the course of time, the museum work has become more and more professional. In 2002, the Jewish Museum became part of the Schleswig-Holstein State Museums Foundation Schloss Gottorf Since then, the house Prinzessinstraße 7 and 8 is viewed as a historic architectural monument and memorial place for former Jewish life in the state.

Visitors repeatedly ask why the synagogue is not again used as a Jewish place of worship. This has to do with the fact that the Rendsburg community was not founded again after World War 2 because only a handful of Jews still lived in Schleswig-Holstein. 

Why the synagogue is not again used as a place of worship

This only changes during the 1990s when so-called “Jewish quota refugees” from the former Soviet Union are allowed to immigrate to the Federal Republic of Germany - a gesture of reparation. As a result of this, some 2,000 East-European Jews settle in Schleswig-Holstein. Since then, nine new Jewish communities have been founded in the state. However, to-date not in Rendsburg.

Schleswig-Holstein State Museums
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