Saint Gall

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SAINT GALL , canton and its capital city in N.E. Switzerland. The first document mentioning Jews in St. Gall is dated in 1268; in 1292 two houses in the town were inhabited by Jews. On Feb. 23, 1349, during the *Black Death, the Jewish inhabitants were burned or driven out. Jews were not allowed to settle in St. Gall again until the 19th century.

The mother community of St. Gall was Hohenems in nearby Vorarlberg. From 1617 Jewish businessmen were present in St. Gall on weekdays. After 1810 there seems to have been a de facto presence in the city, against all official rules. Since the government tried to curb the economic activity of the Jews by introducing costly "patents for Hebrews," the Jews successfully boycotted the city and the fees were reduced.

The first synagogue, in a private home, was founded in 1866, and a permanent Moorish-style synagogue built in 1881, serving as the model for the synagogue of Zurich. In 1870 the Jewish population was 158. St. Gall had a distinctly liberal religious orientation until after the engagement of Rabbi Lothar Rothschild (1943–68). The rabbi of St. Gall also serves the Jewish community of Kreuzlingen (near Constance). Jews played a prominent role in the St. Gall textile industry until 1912, especially in the famous embroidery branch. In 1919 refugees from Eastern Europe settled in St. Gall, forming a separate community. German and Austrian Jewish refugees began crossing the border into the canton in 1938, and a refugee care organization was set up there. From 1939 to 1944 the town was the center for preparing Jewish refugee children for *Youth Aliyah to Palestine. In 1944, 1,350 Jews (mostly Hungarian) from *Bergen-Belsen concentration camp were brought to St. Gall (on the "Kasztner transport"), and a year later 1,200 Jews from *Theresienstadt camp arrived there. Police officer Paul Grueninger, later designated as *Righteous among the Gentiles, helped Jewish refugees after 1938. He was ousted from office, lost his pension, and died in misery. Years after his death, citizens fought successfully for his posthumous rehabilitation. A square in St. Gall is named after him.

In 1952 the two Jewish communities united. In 2004 the community had about 153 members. Its future is uncertain, since many young couples have moved to bigger cities. In 1994 the community received state recognition. For many years, Rabbi Hermann Schmelzer (active from 1968), taught Jewish Studies at the St. Gall University.

The community takes care of the Jewish cemetery in nearby Hohenems (Austria/Vorarlberg). Hohenems is home to a well-organized Jewish museum that displays the history of the region, including eastern Switzerland.


A. Weldler-Steinberg, Geschichte der Juden in der Schweiz (1966/70), vol. 1, 72–75, 209, vol. 2, 210–214, v. index; L. Brandt, Chronik… der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde St. Gallen zu ihrem 50 jaehrigen Jubilaeum (1913); L. Rothschild, Im Strom der Zeit; Jubilaeumsschrift zum hundertjaehrigen Bestehen der israelitischen Gemeinde St. Gallen (1963); Germ Jud, (1968), 733–4; H.I. Ziegler, Schmelzer, Zeugnis und Perspektive. Die Israelitische Gemeinde St. Gallen in den Jahren 1963 bis 1988 (1988).

[Uri Kaufmann (2nd ed.)]

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Saint Gall

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Saint Gall