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USF Libraries Exhibits

Kassel (Northern Hesse, Germany)


The Jewish Community of Kassel, Germany cleaning up the mess leftover from Kristallnacht. November 11, 1938.(courtesy of Yad Vashem )

   Kassel in Northern Hesse, Germany is near the Fulda River. The city was once the capital of the Kingdom of Westphalia and of Hesse-Cassel. While Kassel has had a rich history producing notorious people such as the Brothers Grimm, its Jewish population has had a copious and extensive history as well dating back to the first established community in 1398 with a Synagogue and Jewish cemetery. With a few anti-Semitic events documented during the black plague and provisions made by the Hesse-Kassel government in the mid-nineteenth century, the Jewish community had flourished.[1]By 1933 there were about 2,301 registered Jews living in Kassel making up 1.31% of the town's population.[2]

   In 1938, life for Kassel's Jews deteriorated with the burning of the town's synagogues on Kristallnacht and deportations to concentration camps and ghettos.  Deportations sent about three hundred Jews to Buchenwald during Kristallnacht and close to 560 Jews were able to flee to other countries throughout the rest of 1938 - 1939.[3]The 892 Jews still residing in Kassel were then deported to the Riga, Majdanek, and Theresienstadt. Jews from other towns in Germany received orders to go to Kassel to join the Jews located there for deportation to these camps and ghettos.[4]  The Nazis built a sub-camp of Dachau, which is only about four hours from Kassel for prisoners to build products for the Henschel Company, for the Luftwaffe's planes.  

   After liberation of the camps and ghettos about two hundred Jewish Displaced Persons traveled back to Kassel in 1945 and 1946 even though 90% of the town was completely demolished from bombings during the war. A famous counter memorial was built where the Aschrott Fountain was located to represent the loss of Jewish life. A Jewish businessman Sigmund Aschrott sponsored this fountain’s construction in 1908 as an art piece for the city. However on April 9, 1943, the Nazis ordered its destruction on kriegertag (Reich Fighters Day), as it was a “Jewish fountain” in a judenrein city. The new sponsor for the replacement counter memorial was Oscar Henschel, the same Henschel whose products were made in the sub-camp of Dachau in Kassel mentioned earlier.  The fountain was made during the 1980s to disappear over time and illustrate the life of the Jewish people that is now no longer there.[5]Under the United States occupation, the organization ORT built nine schools to teach displaced persons new skills for jobs. The main DP camps around Kassel were Hasenecke and Hofegismar which both had schools established from ORT.[6]  Slowly the Jewish community began to develop and by 2004 a new synagogue with a community center opened and about 1,220 Jews registered as living in the town.[7]


[1]Jewish Virtual Library, Kassel, Encyclopedia Judaica, (accessed 22 Jan. 2013). 


[2]The total percentage of registered Jews living in Germany at this time was about 0.75%. ibid  


[3]This deportation was one of many during the time of Kristallnacht sending an estimated 30,000 Jews to the concentration camps Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen. USHM, Historical Overview, Kristallnacht The November 1938 Pograms, (accessed Jan 22, 2013).


[4]Survivor Erika Mannheimer was one of the Jews sent to Kassel to join 991 deportees transported on December 9th to Riga Ghetto, Latvia. Andrew Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia 1941-1944, (D.C: USHM, 1996), 355


[5]Noam Lupu, Memory Vanished, Absent, and Confined, The Countermemorial Project in 1980s and 1990s Germany, (Indiana University Press, 2003), 19-20


[6]Sarah Kavanagh, and Katarzyna Person, Explore Kassel District (II),World ORT 22 Jan. 2013). 


[7]Jewish Virtual Library, Kassel, Encyclopedia Judaica, (accessed 22 Jan. 2013).