views updated


KOENIGSBERG (Rus. Kaliningrad ), former capital of East Prussia, now an outpost of Russia. Two Jewish physicians lived in Koenigsberg in 1540, but sizable Jewish settlement did not begin until the latter half of the 17th century when Jewish merchants from Lithuania and Poland began attending the Koenigsberg fairs and in 1680 were allowed to open a prayer room for the duration of the fairs. A ḥevra kaddisha was founded and a cemetery consecrated in 1704; a rabbi was appointed three years later. By 1716 there were 38 Jewish families in Koenigsberg; the first synagogue was constructed in 1756, when the community numbered around 300 persons. A steady stream of immigrants from Russia gradually swelled this figure to 1,027 in 1817, 5,082 (3.6% of the total) in 1880, and 4,049 in 1925, later declining to 3,200 persons (1%) by 1933.

Along with *Berlin, Koenigsberg became the center of Jewish Enlightenment. Here, too, affluent Jewish families gained access to Christian society, the most prominent being the family of H.J. Friedlaender, textile entrepreneurs, to which David *Friedlaender belonged. Jews began attending the university, mainly as students of medicine, in 1712; one of them was Marcus *Herz. Among *Kant's pupils were a number of Jews. In 1783 Isaac Abraham *Euchel and Menahem Mendel Breslau, influenced by the ideas of Mendelssohn, founded an association "for the fostering of the Hebrew language," and began to publish a Hebrew periodical, Ha-Me'assef, which first appeared in Koenigsberg. A number of Hebrew printers were active in Koenigsberg in the 18th and 19th centuries. For a number of reasons, among which may have been import and censorship difficulties, some works printed in Koenigsberg bear a different imprint or no imprint at all.

The community had no school until 1820, when Isaac Asher Francolm came as religious teacher and preacher. A follower of the Reform movement, he set about establishing a school for religious instruction. However, his efforts failed when the Orthodox majority of the community, resenting his holding a confirmation ceremony for boys and girls, protested to the authorities who, already suspicious of all innovation, prohibited the opening of his institution. When Francolm settled in Breslau, Joseph Lewin *Saalschuetz continued his work. In 1847 Saalschuetz taught archaeology of the Hebrews at Koenigsberg University, publishing several important treatises in this field, although, as a Jew, he could not be appointed to a professorship. Also active in the community at this time was the radical politician, Johann *Jacoby, who published a memorandum (1847) in defense of Jewish emancipation. Jacob Z. Mecklenburg was rabbi at Koenigsberg from 1830 to 1865, succeeded by Isaac Bamberger (1865–96). Orthodox circles established their own congregation in 1870, which later rejoined the communal union. Significant for the community were the years from 1897 to 1920, when Hermann *Vogelstein served as its spiritual leader. He was one of the most important leaders of liberal Jewry in Germany. Felix *Perles, his contemporary, was rewarded for his scientific research in Bible and linguistics by his appointment in 1924 as honorary professor of modern Hebrew and Aramaic literature at the university. The 20th century also saw Jews playing a significant role in the faculty of medicine, among them Ludwig Lichtheim, Julius Schreiber, Max Jaffe, and Alfred Ellinger. In 1925 there were five different synagogues in the city as well as a variety of social and welfare institutions.

The Jewish population was 3,170 in 1933. The onset of Nazism drove Jewish professors from the university, many seeking asylum in the United States and Ereẓ Israel (including Willy Wolflein and Frieda Reichmann). After the prohibition against Jewish children attending the public schools, a successful Jewish school was founded in 1935. By October 1938, after emigration and flight, 2,036 remained. On Nov. 10, 1938, the main synagogue was burned down. The ḥasidic, Polish, and Orthodox ones were similarly destroyed. The inhabitants of the orphanage and the home for the aged were thrown out on the streets. The men were arrested, mistreated, and imprisoned for two and a half months. A year later only 1,585 Jews remained. Mass deportations to Minsk and There-sienstadt in 1942 claimed at least 1,000 Jewish lives, leaving around 45 families in mixed marriages in the city. From 1943 Polish Jews were brought to the city for forced labor. About 3,700 participated in the death march to the Palmicken near the Baltic in January 1945. The Jews who remained in Koenigsberg after the war were expelled by the Russians in 1948 together with the Germans.


J.L. Saalschuetz, in: mgwj, 7 (1858), 163–78, 203–17, 397–407; 8 (1859), 81–100; 11 (1862), 209–22; H. Jolowicz, Geschichte der Juden in Koenigsberg (1867); H. Vogelstein, Beitraege zur Geschichte des Unterrichtswesen in der juedischen Gemeinde zu Koenigsberg (1903); J. Rosenthal, Die gottesdienstlichen Einrichtungen in der juedischen Gemeinde zu Koenigsberg i. Pr. (1921); fjw, 17–19; D.F. Kaelter, in: blbi, 4 (1961), 145–66; S. Rosenbaum, ibid., 6 (1963), 92–97; H.J. Kruger, Die Judenschaft von Koenigsberg in Preussen, 17001812 (1966); bjce; pk Germani'ah; S. Stern, Der preussische Staat und die Juden, 1 (1962), Akten, no. 444–528; 2 (1962), Akten, no. 169–97; Part of the communal records (1769–1929) are in the Jewish Historical General Archives, Jerusalem; the necrology is in the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem.

[Reuven Michael]