The Herz family, the Levi family, the Mayer family – names that are more than just fleeting sounds. There’s indisputable evidence that members of those families once lived in Eppingen.
They were all Jewish families, and the remnants of their culture still exist today and tell of Jewish life in our town.
In the 14th century, only very few families settled here and enjoyed the status of Protected Jews. But from no later than the 17th century, we have documentary evidence of the existence of a Jewish community. Its members mostly made a living from trading in livestock and grain.
In around 1773, Eppingen’s Jews are believed to have moved their meeting-place from Metzgersgasse to the “Old Synagogue” in Küfergasse. It was newly built above the existing Jewish ritual plunge bath or mikvah. The well-preserved “marriage stone” in the building’s external wall is further evidence of its significance.
In 1839, 222 people of the Jewish faith were living in Eppingen. However, over the following years, the number dropped again, since many Jews moved to the larger cities such as Mannheim and Karlsruhe after Baden issued an emancipation decree in 1862.
Even the building of a “New Synagogue” in 1873 couldn’t stop an increasing number of Jews from leaving the town. By the turn of the 20th century, the town only had 124 Jewish residents; a number that dropped to 60 after the Nazis came to power in 1933.
During that grim time, many Germans of the Jewish faith moved into the larger cities, or managed to emigrate to Palestine, the US, South Africa or New Zealand.
The last two Jewish married couples living in Eppingen, the Siegels and the Sternweilers, were deported in 1940, along with all the other Jews in Baden. They fell victim to the Nazis’ reign of terror.
Unlike the New Synagogue, the Old Synagogue survived the period of Nazi rule – as did the Jewish cemetery, with its unusual images and symbols on the gravestones. Both are still open to visitors today.
All depictions: © Stadt- und Fachwerkmuseum Eppingen