First Jewish presence: 1834; peak Jewish population: 363 in 1880; Jewish population in 1933: 275

The Jews of Insterburg (present-day Tschernjachowsk, Russia) inaugurated their first synagogue in 1865; by 1885, two Jewish cemeteries had been consecrated in the town. The Jewish community developed into the largest and most important Jewish community in East Prussia, the center of Jewish life in the region. Insterburg hosted a convention of Jewish community leaders in 1880, and the Association of East Prussian Communities (which helped needy immigrants) and many other Jewish organizations and associations were headquartered there. As was the case all over Germany, the Jewish population dwindled during the tumultuous 1930s. By 1938, over half of the Jewish population had left Insterburg. On Pogrom Night, the Nazis set the synagogue on fire and let it burn to the ground. In his memoirs, community member Josef Wilkowsky wrote that the ritual objects were burned with the building; twenty Torah scrolls, the Torah Ark, its beautiful curtain, and the library were all reduced to rubble and ash. In May 1939, 90 Jews lived in Insterburg. Those who did not, or could not, emigrate were deported to concentration camps.
Moshe Finkel
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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