HAMELN (Hamelin ), city near Hanover, Germany. Jews are first mentioned in the privileges granted to the town in 1277. The formula of the Jewish oath of Hameln, almost identical with the earlier formula of Dortmund, was recorded in the municipal ledger. In the early years of Jewish settlement there were no more than about 10 Jewish families, engaged mostly in moneylending under the protection of the municipal authorities. By the middle of the 14th century the number of Jews had grown significantly, and in 1344 they opened a synagogue. Shortly thereafter however, during the *Black Death persecutions (1349–50), the community ceased to exist. For the next two centuries only individual Jews settled in Hameln. By the middle of the 16th century their members had increased and a "Jewish Street" is mentioned in 1552. In 1590 Duke Henry Julius banished all the Jews from his provinces, but the Hameln town council, claiming its traditional right to control the fate of the Jews in the town, determined to ignore the order. Nevertheless, most of the Jews left. In her memoirs, Glueckel of *Hameln indicates that only two Jewish families lived there in 1660.
By the end of the 17th century the Hameln community had increased and a number of its members were among those attending the Leipzig fairs (1691–1763). A new cemetery was consecrated in 1743. Resident rabbis were appointed in the city until 1782. The 12 Jewish families in Hameln in 1777 had declined to five families in 1814 and risen again to 10 only in 1830. In 1832 the community was put under the jurisdiction of the rabbinate of Hanover and a school was established. A new synagogue was dedicated in 1879. The Jewish population numbered 86 in 1845; 149 in 1875; and 170 (0.6% of the total) in 1931. In 1933, when the Nazis took power, the Jewish population was 136. Jewish businesses were vandalized and the synagogue subject to arson. Jews emigrated or left for larger cities. There were only 86 Jews left by 1935. The synagogue was destroyed in 1938, the cemetery was desecrated and 10 Jews were sent to Buchenwald, two of them died there. The remainder of the community (44 in 1939) was deported in 1942. In 1963 a memorial to the Jews of Hameln was erected in the city. In 1997 a liberal Jewish community was founded. It is a member of the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany. It numbered 18 in 1997 and 200 in 2004. In 1998 another Jewish community was founded which is affiliated with the Central Council of Jewish Communities in Germany, the main Jewish organization in Germany. It numbered 331 in 2003. Almost all of the members of both communities are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. In 1999 the Jewish cemetery, desecrated during World War ii, was reopened for use. In 2001 a new Jewish cemetery was opened.
Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 323–34; A. Neukirch, Hamelner Renaissance… (1950); A. Reimer, Juden in niedersaechsischen Staedten des Mittelalters (1907), passim; H. Spanuth and R. Feige (eds.), Geschichte der Stadt Hameln (1963). Part of the communal archives (1709–1844) are in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. add. bibliography: B. Gelderblom, Sie waren Buerger dieser Stadt. Die Geschichte der juedischen Einwohner Hamelns im Dritten Reich (1996); idem, Der juedische Friedhof in Hameln (1988); S. Spector (ed), The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust (2001).
[Zvi Avneri and
Ze'ev Wilhem Falk /
Larissa Daemmig (2nd ed.)]