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MUENSTER , city in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany. Jews lived there from at least the middle of the 13th century, maintaining a synagogue, a cemetery (mentioned in 1301; a fragment of a tombstone dated 1324 has been preserved), and a mikveh. In the wake of the *Black Death persecutions (1349/50), the Jews were expelled or killed and their property confiscated or destroyed. Between 1350 and 1810, Jews were not allowed to reside in Muenster but were only allowed to pass through. They were, however, tolerated since the 16th century within the bishopric of Muenster. They received letters of protection from the bishop and founded several congregations. After 1650 these congregations were united in the *Landjudenschaft. The head of this corporation was the "Judenvorgaenger"; the first was (1657) Nini Levi, brother of Behrend *Levi. The seat of the rabbi of the Landjudenschaft (*Landrabbiner) was in Warendorf (near Muenster), the largest Jewish community of the bishopric. The last Landrabbiner were the *Court Jew Michael Mayer Breslauer (1771–89) and his son David (1789–1815). When Muenster passed to the duchy of *Berg (1808–10) and to the French Empire (1810–13), the first Jews settled in the city; their residence there was legalized by Prussia in 1819. They officially founded a new community in 1854. The first prayer house was situated in the Loerstrasse; the cemetery was established in 1811, and the synagogue was built in 1880.

From 1816 LandrabbinerAbraham *Sutro lived in Muenster, although he did not act as rabbi of the community, which in 1879 appointed Dr. J. Mansbach as preacher and cantor. He was succeeded by S. Kessler. The first rabbi, who took office in 1919, was Dr. Fritz Steinthal (who immigrated to South America in 1938). His successor, Dr. Julius Voos of Kamen, was deported to *Auschwitz in 1943. Among the most notable members of the community were Prof. Alexander Haindorf (1782–1862), co-founder of the Marks-Haindorf Foundation for the training of elementary school teachers and for the advancement of artisans and artists among the Jews, and the first Jewish professor at Muenster Academy (university); and the poet Eli Marcus (1854–1935), co-founder of the Zoological Evening Society, and author of poems and many plays in the Low German dialect of the Muensterland.

During the Nazi era, the community was reduced from 558 Jews (0.4% of the population) in 1933 to 308 (0.2%) in 1939. The synagogue was destroyed in November 1938 (see *Kristallnacht). The first deportation from Muenster city and district (to Riga) took place in December 1941 (403 persons); in 1942 the last large-scale transport went eastward, followed by individual deportations in 1943 and 1944. After World War ii, a new congregation was founded which included, besides Muenster, the Jews of Ahaus, Beckum, Borken, Burgsteinfurt, and Coesfeld. This new community of Muenster numbered 142 members in 1970. The synagogue was built in 1961. The community numbered 101 in 1989 and 766 in 2005. The increase is explained by the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union after 1990.


Complete bibliography by B. Brilling, in: H.C. Meyer, Aus Geschichte und Leben der Juden in Westfalen (1962), 251–3; idem, in: Westfalen, 44 (1966), 212–7; B. Brilling and H. Richtering (ed.), Westfalia Judaica, 1 (1967), index; idem (ed.), Juden in Muenster 1933–1945 (1960); F. Lazarus, in: zgjd, 7 (1937), 240–3; idem, in: mgwj, 80 (1936), 106–17; 81 (1937), 444–5; J. Raphael, in: Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden, 6 (1969), 74f.; H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 3 (1955), 54–67; 6 (1967), 153–71; Leeser, in: azj, 73 (1909), 583ff.; Germ Jud, 1 (1963), 238–9; 2 (1968), 561–3. add. bibliography: U. Schnorbus, Quellen zur Geschichte der Juden in Westfalen. Spezialinventar zu den Akten des Nordrhein-Westfaelischen Staatsarchivs Muenster (1983); Germania Judaica, vol. 3, 1350–1514 (1987), 909; B. Ernst, Die Marks-Haindorf-Stiftung. Ein juedisches Lehrerseminar in Muenster als Beispiel fuer die Assimilation der Juden in Westfalen im 19. Jahrhundert (1989); A. Determann, (ed.), Geschichte der Juden in Muenster (1989); D. Aschoff, Juden in Muenster (Westfalen im Bild. Westfaelische Kulturgeschichte, vol. 9) (1993); D. Aschoff, Quellen und Regesten zur Geschichte der Juden in der Stadt Muenster (Westfalica Judaica, vol. 3, 1) (2000); G. Moellen-hoff and R. Schlautmann-Overmeyer, Juedische Familien in Muenster 1918 bis 1945, vol. 1 and 2 (1995–2001).

[Bernhard Brilling /

Larissa Daemmig (2nd ed.)]