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MERGENTHEIM (Bad Mergentheim ), city in Wuerttemberg, Germany. Jews settled in Mergentheim in the first half of the 13th century; 16 Jews were murdered during the *Rindfleisch massacres of 1298. Jews are mentioned again in 1312; they suffered during persecutions in 1336 and again during those of the *Black Death in 1349 when a number of Jews were martyred. They reappeared in the city, however, in 1355, and during the next century prospered, in large part through moneylending. The Jewish population remained small throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1516 there was only one Jew in the city, but by the end of the century the population rose again. In 1590 a cemetery plot was put to use in Unterbalbach for the Jews of that town as well as those of surrounding communities, including Mergentheim. This cemetery was enlarged in 1702 and remained in continuous use throughout the modern period. During the early 17th century, only *Schutzjuden were permitted in the city; all other Jews were restricted to an eight-day stay. Throughout the century, every attempt was made by the municipal authorities to restrict Jewish economic activities. Nonetheless, the Jewish families managed to build a synagogue in 1658; this was enlarged in 1762. By 1700 there were 40 Jewish residents, among them the Court *Jews Calman Model and Hirsch Manasses. At this time Jewish commercial interests included trade in horses, livestock, corn, and wine. By the end of the century these had expanded into wholesale trade and banking. In 1728 Mergentheim became the seat of the *Landrabbiner, an office filled with distinction between 1742 and 1763 by Naphtali Hirsch Katzenellenbogen (see *Katzenellenbogen Family). In 1799 there were 90 Jews; 110 in 1830; 176 in 1869; 250 in 1886; and 276 in 1900. In 1933 there were 196 Jews.

On November 9/10, 1938, Jewish stores and homes were demolished; the rabbi, M. Kahn, was physically assaulted and the interior of the synagogue destroyed. By 1939 there were only 87 Jews left in the city. In 1941 and 1942, 41 Jews were deported to concentration camps. The community's Torah scrolls and sacred objects were saved from destruction and turned over to an American army chaplain after the war. In 1946 the synagogue was renovated but shortly thereafter was closed again and subsequently demolished. All that remained of the Mergentheim Jewish community in 1990 was the cemetery in Unterbalbach. There is a memorial to commemorate the former synagogue.


Germania Judaica, 2 (1968), 538–9, incl. bibl.; P. Sauer, Die juedischen Gemeinden in Wuerttemberg und Hohenzollern (1966), 37–43, incl. bibl.; fjw, 338. add. bibliography: A. Maimon, M. Breuer, Y. Guggenheim (eds.), Germania Judaica, 3, 1350–1514 (1987), 861–66; J. Hahn, Erinnerungen und Zeugnisse juedischer Geschichte in Baden-Wuerttemberg (1988), 331–33; H. Fechenbach, Die letzten Mergentheimer Juden und die Geschichte der Familien Fechenbach (1997; reprint of 1972 edition).

[Alexander Shapiro]