The following is translated from the brochure of a cultural and art exhibition “Stolzenau im Zentrum” (Stolzenau in the Center) that was held in November 2000. Except for an old drawing of the Stolzenau synagogue, there are no pictures of the former Jewish community. Therefore, the following essay was presented in the exhibition as a testament to “a time that must never be forgotten”.
The name Michael Künne is included in the introduction, but it is unclear whether he is the author of the essay.
The endnotes are comments inserted by the translator.
This picture of the Stolzenau synagogue was drawn in 1920 by Gertrud Witte, who was then 13 years of age.
In former times, in addition to the Evangelical-Lutheran community and the Catholic St. George’s community, there was a Jewish community, which existed up to the beginning of the Second World War. Their history is to a large extent unknown, and can be only incompletely portrayed. The only tangible memory that remains is the Jewish cemetery at the town’s boundary with Schinna. This burial place existed already in the year 1771, as can be seen from a survey map of the Principality of Hannover. At that time the highway passed the cemetery on the east side. However, about 100 years later it was moved to the west side. At this time [i.e. 1770’s] there were 4 Jewish families in Stolzenau. This information can be found in a document called “Versuch einer Beschreibung des Amtes Stolzenau” (Attempt at a Description of Stolzenau) by Joachim Plate. It says, on page 202: “The resident Schutzjuden (Protected Jews) in this hamlet, who have middle-class houses, consist of 4 families. In accordance with the rescripti regiminus (administrative order) of 24 Nov 1755, Levi Markus’ son Marcus Levi’s partial protection has expired following his father’s death, since the son can step into the father place. The business dealings of the Jews are of so little importance here, that they can hardly make a living; especially since Christian businesspeople in these places do not have any problems.” That was about 1760.
In 1810 it was officially reported that out of 1069 inhabitants in the hamlet, 48 were Jews. This increased to 79 in the year 1830 and to 96 in the year 1833, which constituted about 6% of the population. This increase can be understood if we look at events beyond this small place. In modern times, which began with the French revolution in 1789, Jews achieved civil rights on an equal footing to the national inhabitants in many countries. In France this occurred already in 1791, in Germany in 1808, and in Prussia by the edict of 11 Mar 1812. This was accompanied by the requirement that they had to use permanent surnames, and to use the German language, and Latin or German writing. Thus many Jewish families stopped using confusing mosaic names and requested, against payment of a fee, new German-language names. Thus many new names emerged like Löwenstein, Blumenfeld and Rosenbaum.
A certain liberality and a legally authorized right of domicile allowed the local Jewish community to increase to 103 in 1839 and to 116 in 1852, equal to 7.5% of the entire community. It is therefore understandable that in 1829 permission for the accommodation of a Jewish teacher was granted and a few years later, in 1835, approval was sought from the authorities in Hannover for the construction of a new synagogue for the Jewish community. Some of the documents are in the State Archive in Hannover under the Register No. 80 Hannover 1, Verwaltung der Ämter, Amt Stolzenau Nr. 103—112.
Another source is the annual reports of mayor Oldemeyer, who occasionally provided remarks in addition to purely statistical data. Thus on 18 Nov 1836 he wrote:
“The Police Superintendent will report about the increase in the local Jews. This year’s count resulted in 98 souls, i.e. 1/17 the the population of Stolzenau. They live moderately, are industrious, entrepreneurial and careful, and thereby they acquire fortunes. Their dealings in the surrounding villages could probably be limited to something that is best for the farmers. Their past conditions in this State are well-known, their future is still unknown. Hopefully the completion of construction of their new temple and school will have a positive effect on all here in terms of education and moral improvement.”
This new temple stood until the year 1938 at Talstrasse 7 opposite the Münchhausen garden. It was a staid building. In the lower room at the right was the bare and seemingly inhospitable Jewish school. It was attended in 1875 by 11 local children and 3 others from Leese. It existed until approximately 1925, when it was dissolved because the number of children became too small. The 4 pupils were transferred to the local elementary school and the teacher Frühauf was sent to his hometown in Hessen.
We infer from the annual report of 1841 that the Jewish community consisting of approx. 100 souls made its living from butchering, grain, wool and trading in hides. In the year 1843, in his report to the Royal authorities, Oldemeyer expresses his opinion in somewhat more detail:
“Due to the new law concerning the legal rights of the Jews, we were forced to accept several local Schutzjuden as citizens and to give others their independence. Since the Jewish character has remained unchanged for thousands of years, the current improvement in their legal rights will probably not benefit the financial circumstances of the Christian population, and the only reward to the latter will have been to have shown a general love for humanity …”
These remarks of Oldemeyer’s arise not from an antisemitic attitude, but from his concern about the alienation of some occupations, since already in 1823, in a count of businesses, it was shown that there were 2 Christian butchers and 6 Jewish butchers. In the mid 1840’s the Jews possessed 8 houses and about 10 acres of garden-land.
While the number of the hamlet’s Evangelical-Lutheran inhabitants declined from 1651 in 1842 to 1370 in 1858, the number of Jewish inhabitants remained at 100 and more. At this time there were only 10 Catholic citizens.
From an old registry of houses the former house ownership and change of ownership are precisely evident, and it is amazing to see how large the change is, in terms of the Jewish proportion. In the space of approximately 50 years, Jews went from owning hardly any houses in Stolzenau, to owning 35. At one time the following houses were owned by Jews:
Lange Strasse: Nos. 2, 4, 9, 10, 17, 18, 19, 21, 24, 25, 26, 34 and 48;
Hohe Strasse: Nos. 1, 17, 33, 35 and 60;
Krumme Strasse: Nos. 4, 5 and 6;
Bahnhof Strasse Nos. 8, 13, and 15;
Schul Strasse Nos. 2, 3 and 8;
Am Markt: Nos. 1, 3 and 9;
Weser Strasse: Nos. 2, 4 and 6;
Jungfernstieg: No. 2; and
Der Allee: No. 5.
The names of the purchasers are known. For example:
1832 M. Lipmann, Lange Strasse No. 9
1852 ltzig Lipmann, Krumme Strasse No. 5
1853 Salomon Elle, Schul Strasse No. 3
1854 Levi Löwenstein, Lange Strasse No. 17 (Thams & Garfs)
1855 S. Goldschmidt, Am Markt No. 3 (Stühmeyer)
1855 Widow Hildesheimer, Am Markt 9 (Strohmeyer) (known to old Stolzenauers as Zärchen-Sarah)
1856 M. Lipmann. Lange Strasse No. 18 (Destroyed by fire. Today this is a garden)
In the course of the years many Jewish families moved away or died out. Some names disappeared, e.g. Hammer, Levi, Markus, Wenkheim, Weinberg and others, and the number of Jews decreased significantly:
1880 — 100
1890 — 90
1900 — 70
1920 — 60
1925 — 50
1933 — 25
and the number then decreases to the point of complete disappearance of the Jewish population.
The author of “Erinnerungen eines alten Stolzenauers” (Memories of an Old Stolzenauer) from the middle of the last century, in his thoughtful descriptions, mentions his Jewish fellow citizens here and there. He writes, for example: “Opposite the pharmacy, by Baker Könemann, is the Blumenfeld house. The two Blumenfeld brothers, Wolf and Selig, settled in this house around this time. Both have a dignified, military appearance. When they visit their customers, dressed in snow-white jackets with shoulder straps, and their bright sharpening steels in a pearl-stitched band at their sides, no-one can compete with their appearance. Except, perhaps, their sister Röschen, who is always known as “Beautiful Röschen”. She overshadows her brothers in terms of looks, and has earned her nickname (Blumenfeld’s butcher shop is today the Hahlbaum shoe shop).
Or he writes: “Beyond the Rectory at the corner of Schul Strasse, we come to a tiny little house, and at the door from early to late, year out and year in, stands a man with a short curved pipe between his teeth. The pipe is never extinguished. It is Benni, Benni Hildesheimer. He inhabits this little house with his brother ‘Benni’s Michel’ and his mother ‘Benni’s Mutter’. That the family is called Hildesheimer is known only to a few official persons. Everyone knows them only by the aforementioned names. And who doesn’t know Benni? He is completely untypical. He has inherited none of the drive and business acumen which normally distinguishes these people. It is reported that he is an important horse connoisseur. It is also said that now and again, he plays the role of secret broker in horse trades. But these are just assumptions.” (The “Benni House” was later enlarged - today it is the Salon Klinke)
“At the corner of the Krumme Strasse is the family Löwenstein, but they are always called ‘Jakobs’. It is, at this time, the largest butcher shop in the town. Father Jakobs, a short stocky gentleman with a ruddy complexion, dressed in a short jacket of printed cotton, rules over his group of strapping sons and daughters in patriarchal manner. Markus and Itzig, in particular, have remained in my memory. Their white jackets possibly exceeded the whiteness of those worn by the Blumenfeld brothers”. Just like the author of the “Erinnerungen” many old Stolzenauers who were born around the turn of the 20th century, retain living memories of the subsequent generation of the Jewish community. Human peculiarities and all too-human features and weaknesses of some of the Jews of former times are smiled at, and some small anecdotes could be written.
Naturally, there are also less pleasant memories, and only two are mentioned here. There was the wretched “Schützenfest” affair of 1924, when the wool merchant Gustav Lipmann assumed the role of “king”. He spent quite a lot of money, and experienced the embarrassing situation, when the parade of the color bearers of an association was called, that they refused to carry the flag behind a Jewish king. On another occasion, a new member of the MGV (a choral association), named Hellwinkel, introduced antisemitic attitudes for the first time in that group, and the two outstanding tenors of the MGV, Selig Blumenfeld and Adolf Löwenstein, felt no longer welcome in the company of their old choir brothers, and so they stayed away from the association. They did not return, even when Hellwinkel left Stolzenau.
The fate of the Jewish community after 1933 is described only briefly:
From a document dated 6 August 1935 by the OG (local party leader) of the NSDAP (Nazi party) to the municipality:
The nine-member local council at that time decided accordingly. This was followed by boycott, identification of Jewish business, placing sentries in front of Jewish stores (to enforce the boycott), and monitoring of people’s private lives. The slogan “Death to the Jews” was eagerly adopted in words, songs and pictures, and local Jewish families felt the impact as the party slogan was subbornly observed. Even buying essential food was made difficult for them or refused. They were forced to wear the Jewish star on their outer clothing as a mark of racial identification, which intimidated the affected people, so that they were reluctant to go out in public during the daytime.
On 3 December 1938, in the Reich Gazette No. 1705, an edict was announced regarding control of all Jewish wealth, which required that all Jewish assets be handed over to the state. Jewish businesses had to wind up their affairs and then be sold. A value was determined for all Jewish-owned real estate, and the owners were required to sell within a stipulated period of time. Possession of securities of all kinds, jewels, art objects, etc. by Jews had to be registered with the state.
Until 1938, fifteen Jewish families paid taxes on land, buildings or businesses. Now, however, “Aryanization” began, and businesses, buildings and land changed owners. Some Jewish families moved away to join their relatives in the large cities, others sought places of refuge anywhere for their children. The whispering propaganda campaign about what happened in the camps, and rumours of a Jewish state in the east, worried everyone, especially those who were directly affected. Thus the Jewish community, after existing for about 200 years, was erased and its members were scattered. Their fate led to a deplorable end, due to a theory of racial inferiority and a historical collective guilt of compliance with [unjust] official routines. It was an official routine on 19 February 1944, that set the selling price for the Jewish cemetery at 344. RM, an amount that could be claimed by the Jewish community after 25 years!
After the end of the war and the transfer of power, in about 1948, the first claims for restitution came in, represented by the Jewish Trust Corporation for Germany and, on the German side, by the Compensation Chambers. One might suppose that, with the settlement of material claims, the past has now been conquered by both sides. But the deeper layers of human relations are extremely sensitive and much more difficult to heal. Therefore, to conclude, we quote from a letter written in 1968 by Max Goldschmidt from New York, to his former schoolmate and friend William Hormann in Hannover, shortly before Hormann’s death.
“I stayed in Berlin up to the time of my emigration. Then I fled to Shanghai,China and stayed there for almost 6 years. We were approx. 20,000 refugees. It was hopeless. After the war I went to India, where my brother Fritz lived for over 20 years with his family. I couldn’t stay in India, and so eventually I ended up in the United States. I am not married and I live with my sister Änne in New York. Our mother lived to 88 years of age. I am employed in a department store and every day I work from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.
We hear very little from Stolzenau. Kösters wrote once. In former times Fritz Finze also wrote to us occasionally. Änne hears from Liesel Stork regularly. Also Lieschen Schroeder (Lohgerber) writes every year. Both of them have been here and visited us. Liesel Löwenstein and Trude Lipmann live in New York, and we get together from time to time. Horst, Ernst and Gerda Löwenstein live in Washington. Erich and Hansmartin Lipmann are also in the USA. In my brief vacations I mostly stay in this country. Last summer I was in Mexico. I liked it there a lot. Here I meet people from all over the world, and I don’t think I could live in Germany any more.”
The usual conclusion to this this letter is followed by a postscript: “Please write back!”
Last note: In the late summer of 1970 Liesel Löwenstein from New York, with her husband, came to Stolzenau for one day, and after visiting her father’s grave, spent some very lively hours with former acquaintances and schoolmates.
 The oldest grave in the Jewish cemetery on the Schinna highway is dated 1728. It is believed that this cemetery was not the first burial place of Jews of Stolzenau.
 There is documentary evidence that Jews were living in Stolzenau as early as 1703, and it is likely that they were present even earlier.
 The Kingdom of Hannover made the adoption of permanent surnames mandatory in 1828. Civil rights were granted to Jews in this region in 1808, but the essay fails to mention that these rights were withdrawn by the Hannoverian authorities in 1813 after the defeat of Napoleon. It took several decades before Jews were finally given full equal rights.
 In the time of mayor Oldemeyer, some degree of antisemitism was normal, and by those standards his remarks are fairly innocuous. What is more troubling is that the author of this essay tries to explain that Oldemeyer’s remarks are not antisemitic by pointing out that there were 6 Jewish butchers versus 2 Christian butchers, i.e. Jews were over-represented in this occupation. Surely the success of Jewish butchers was simply because the inhabitants of Stolzenau preferred dealing with them.
 The author fails to mention that at the beginning of the 50 year period in question the laws of the Kingdom of Hannover expressly forbade Jews from owning real estate. The economic advances made by the Jews in the 19th century were a direct result of lifting restrictions that had kept Jews in poverty in previous centuries.
 According to information in the possession of the translator, in the 1920’s and early 1930’s, the house at Am Markt No. 9 was the home of the sisters Sara and Lina Goldschmidt. Sara Goldschmidt, also known as Särchen, died in 1934. Most likely she is the one remembered by old Stolzenauers. If the house was purchased by a widow Hildesheimer in 1855 as stated, presumably it changed hands later.
 Levi and Markus were first names or patronymics, not surnames – none of the Jewish families in Stolzenau ever used the names Levi or Markus as surnames. The names Hammer, Wenkheim and Weinberg were surnames in Stolzenau.
Translator’s General Comments: This essay presents a somewhat different perspective on the history of the Jewish community of Stolzenau to that offered by Dr. Fritz Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt paints a picture of a vibrant Jewish community whose members made a vital contribution to the economic and cultural life of Stolzenau in the 19th century. The present essay gives the impression that the Jewish community was a quaint offshoot, rather than a central part of the broader community. To one who has seen how Jewish refugees from Germany successfully contributed to economics, science, art and culture in the countries to which they fled, the picture painted by Dr. Fritz Goldschmidt is the more believable.
The German text of this essay was provided to the translator by Reiner and Renate Heinecke.