First Jewish presence: 1768; peak Jewish population: 199 in 1871; Jewish population in 1933: approximately 120

The history of Jewish Ortelsburg (Polish: Szczytno) began in 1768, when Berek Samulowitz and Isaak Lewin received permission to settle there. The community consecrated a cemetery in 1815; a synagogue in 1835; and a new synagogue and mikveh, on Polnische Strasse, in 1886. Russian troops destroyed the synagogue during the first weeks of World War I, and it was not until 1923 that a new house of worship, designed by August Wiegand, was inaugurated in Ortelsburg. Beginning in 1835, the Jews of Ortelsburg employed a chazzan and a Jewish teacher. In 1847, Ortelsburg founded a synagogue community with the Jews of Friedrichsdorf, Passenheim, Schwentainen and Willenberg; it was not, however, until years later that the government officially approved the “statutes for the synagogue community of Ortelsburg.” The Deutsche Freiheitsbewegung (German Freedom Movement) triggered an increase in anti-Jewish violence. In the early 1930s, stones and fire bombs were thrown at and into Jewish homes; Nazis attacked Jews on the street. In March 1933, the Nazi Party won more than 87% of the local vote. On Pogrom Night (November 9-10, 1938), the synagogue was burned down. Seventy-five local Jews perished in the camps.
Esther Sarah Evans
Copyright: Pogrom Night 1938 - A Memorial to the Destroyed Synagogues of Germany/


Sources: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, Shmuel Spector [Ed.], [publisher] Yad Vashem and the New York University Press, 2001., Lexikon der jüdischen Gemeinde in Deutschen Sprachraum, Klaus Dieter-Alicke, [publisher] Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2008.,

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