The Jewish community of Norderney was not an independent synagogue community, but a branch community from the north. It had its own synagogue, which was available primarily to Jewish bathers staying here. In connection with the bathing business, Jewish families also settled on the island from the middle of the 19th century.
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Museum North Sea Spa Norderney, from the exhibition
Since 1820, Jewish bathers have been recorded on Norderney. Their increasing number led to the first merchants and cooks opening shops on the island or offering kosher food during the bathing season. In 1845, the butcher Abraham von der Wall moved to the island and opened a Jewish restaurant. For Jewish bathing guests, the synagogue on Schmiedestrasse (today the restaurant “De Leckerbeck”) was opened in 1878 in the presence of the Prussian Minister of Finance. Through 1933, Jewish bathers preferred Norderney, which earned the seaside resort the reputation of being a “Jewish bathing resort”—Westerland/Sylt and Heringsdorf/Usedom were described in the same way. In 1933, Norderney was to become a “German bathing resort,” and after decades of acceptance and tolerance, the exclusion of Jewish bathers and residents began.
The exhibition "Jews in Norderney", conceived by the Norderney Municipal Archives, was intended to present for the first time to a wider public Jewish everyday life, the contribution of Jews to the development of the North Sea spa, and the measures taken to exclude and exterminate Judaism on the island of Norderney. The exhibition was dedicated to Chaim Bar-Tikva, who spent his childhood and youth as Heinz Hoffmann on the island of Norderney, now lives in Haifa/Israel, and was the last survivor of the Norderney Jews. The exhibition was held at the Museum Nordseeheilbad Norderney from December 19, 2006 to May 13, 2007.
Report on the exhibition in the newspaper "Ostfriesischer Kurier" from Dexember 21, 2006:
"Flight to Palestine. Exhibition about Jews on the island of Norderney in the Bademuseum. The focus is on Chaim Bar-Tikva, who, in 1936, was still called Heinz Hoffmann and emigrated to Palestine. 'It is not about guilt and atonement' remarks the Norderney city archivist about the exhibition Jews in Norderney in the Bademuseum, which has now been officially opened and will be on view through the end of April. Through January 7, interested visitors can even find out every day from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm how Jewish citizens lived on the so-called 'Jewish Island' until they, too, were ostracized and exterminated. Acceptance – Exclusion – Annihilation is the subtitle. At the opening, Friedrich Fischer, Chairman of the Förderverein Museum Nordseeheilbad Norderney, and Manfred Bätje, Norderney City Archivist, recalled that Norderney had acquired a name for itself in the nineteenth century as a 'Jewish bathing resort'. The inauguration of the synagogue on Schmiedestrasse (today, the restaurant Leckerbeck is located there) was even attended by the Prussian Minister of Justice. Preferred by Jewish guests was 'Hoffmann’s Hotel Falk' one of the largest and best-known Jewish accommodation facilities on the German North Sea coast. The grandparents of Heinrich Hoffmann, the last surviving Jew from Norderney, had built the large hotel complex with eighty rooms roughly 100 years ago, after they had the Hotel Falk, which they had furnished in a former residential building at Bismarckstrasse 4, demolished in 1905. After the war, it was operated as the 'Düsseldorfer Hof' and fell into disrepair. Today, only historical photographs on view in the exhibition remind us of the past splendor and the destroyed Jewish culture on the island of Norderney. Bätje and the Förderverein dedicated the exhibition to Heinz Hoffmann, now known as Chaim Bar-Tikva, who celebrated his ninetieth birthday in Haifa on November 6. He was born in Schreiberhau, a small Silesian spa in the Giant Mountains, as the son of Julius and Clara Hoffmann and moved with his parents to Norderney in 1921. There, the siblings Julius, Fritz, and Johanne Hoffmann ran 'Hoffmann’s Hotel Falk' together. In 1933, Julius Hoffmann, who played an important role in Norderney’s public life and administered the synagogue, was forced to resign from all public offices. As a result, the family left Norderney. Heinz Hoffmann emigrated to Palestine in 1939 and worked for an Israeli shipping company for thirty years. He never broke off contact with Norderney, however. In 2004, he was visited by Ingeborg Pauluhn, whose book on the history of Norderney’s Jews forms the basis of the exhibition."
Commemorative plaque: Former synagogue (1878-1933) // This building was constructed as a house of prayer for Jewish citizens and guests. Sold in July 1938, it escaped destruction in the night of the pogrom on November 9th of that year. // In memory and commemoration; Source: Wiki Commons
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the November pogrom, a commemorative plaque was placed in the “House of the Island,” which bears the following dedication: "In memory of the Jewish citizens of the city of Norderney, who died a violent death or were expelled by National Socialist terror. To the living as a reminder, November 9, 1988, The City Council of Norderney". The former synagogue building, which has undergone major structural changes, now houses a restaurant. Since 1996, a memorial plaque pays homage to the former use of the building: "Former synagogue (1878–1933). This building was erected as a house of prayer for Jewish citizens and guests. Sold in July 1938, it escaped destruction during the pogrom night of November 9, 1938. In remembrance and commemoration." Since 2013, several so-called „Stolpersteine” (stumbling blocks) at four locations commemorate former Jewish residents of Norderney.
Postcard with antisemitic insults, front side addressed to 'Frau Direktor Haussmann', Kaiserhof Hotel Norderney, front page, Norderney Municipal Archive
During the pogrom of November 1938, seven Jewish residents of the island were taken from their homes by SA men and detained for a day, being “displayed” in a public square. In a Jewish store that had been closed since 1936, the windows were smashed and the shop furnishings demolished; the warehouse was confiscated and carted off by the NSV (National Socialist People’s Welfare). The apartments of Jewish citizens were spared. The synagogue building, in which no worship service had taken place since 1933, had already been sold in July 1938 by Provincial Rabbi Blum to a businessman who used it as storage space; as a result, no fire was set. At the turn of the year 1938/39, the last Jewish residents—with the exception of two Jewish women living in “mixed marriages”—left the island.
Farewell of three Bavarian SA men by SA vacationers. "Norderney free of Jews!" - this statement was not true. Only in 1941 the last Jewish inhabitants had to leave the island. Photography, 1933, Norderney Municipal Archives
Excerpt from a letter from the Norderney municipal council to the district president in Aurich, dated September 23, 1933:
"...The attitude towards the Jews has caused Norderney tremendous damage. Thousands of German guests who used to come here for spa treatments have stayed away from the island because of the unbearable number of Jews. Many who do not even know Norderney have refused to come here because of the Jews. For Norderney was not only in Germany, but also in other European countries, discredited as a Jewish spa. A responsible administration should have recognized the danger and put a stop to it. In a press release dated December 1933, the spa administration announced that Jewish spa guests on Norderney were “not welcome.” “If Jews should nevertheless try to find accommodation in Norderney next summer, they themselves are responsible. In the event of friction, the spa administration will have to expel the Jews from the island immediately in the interest of both the spa and the German spa guests present.” With the campaign “Norderney Judenfrei” ("Norderney free of Jews") the SA also attempted to keep Jewish spa guests and residents away from the island or to expel them. In 1937, a legal regulation followed which made it virtually impossible for Jews to go to a spa resort; thereafter, they were to be admitted only to those resorts where they could be accommodated separately from the other guests in “closed Jewish guest houses.”
"Norderney once and now!" Illustration in "Travel and Recreation. Travel supplement West-German Observer". 3rd volume, No. 25, 11.07.1935. Illustration in Norderney Municipal Archives.
To get rid of the “stigma” of being a “Jewish bathing resort," after the Nazi takeover, the local authorities made targeted attempts—primarily through the press—to keep Jews away from the spa; this was already largely successful in 1934/1935. Prior to 1933, “antisemitism at seaside resorts” was propagated primarily by spa and bathing guests, who influenced the landlords and exerted pressure on the bathing authorities. Some seaside resorts and landlords chose the additional mention of being a “Christian” spa or hotel in order to set themselves apart from the competition and to recruit especially national conservatives and clerical-thinking people as vacationers. After 1933, the initiative to exclude Jewish bathers came initially from the functionaries of the local NSDAP. And with the forced change in the mayor’s office and the management of the bathing administration, as well as the elimination of the opposition in the district and municipal councils, the political conditions on the island of Norderney changed very quickly. In newspapers, the bathing administration spread the word that Jews should no longer travel to Norderney. In particular, a rally in July 1933 with the Prussian Minister of Culture Bernhard Rust (1883–1945) accelerated the expulsion of the Jews from their native island or made a stay at the popular vacation resort appear inadvisable. “Should the Jew rule in Norderney, or should the German feel at home again on this most beautiful North Sea island [...]? The time when Norderney was a stronghold of Judaism is over," Rust stated in his speech. By the 1933 season, hardly any Jewish guests traveled to the island, and many lodging establishments, restaurants, and stores remained closed. By 1935, houses owned by Jews had been “aryanized." Jewish residents left the island, emigrated to foreign countries, and found a new home in Palestine; after the founding of the state of Israel, they found a new home there or were murdered in the concentration camps. Their names are commemorated on a monument in the Jewish cemetery in Norden, as well as on “Stolpersteine” (stumbling blocks) in the streets of Norderney.
At the end of the 19th century, numerous baths advertised that they were "free of Jews". They invented the "Borkumlied", which was played daily by the spa orchestra and sung by the guests: "On Borkum's beach only German is valid, only German is the Panier. We believe that the Germania sign of honor is for and for! But whoever approaches you with flat feet, crooked noses and curly hair, he shall not enjoy your beach, he must go, he must go!" Illustration: Postcard with the "Borkumlied"
From 1885 to 1914, between twenty-two and thirty-five Jews lived on the island of Norderney (0.5– 1.1 % of the population); in 1933, there were twenty-eight Jewish residents and, in 1935, only nine. The number of Jewish workers, salaried employees, and shopkeepers who stayed in Norderney only during the bathing season was higher. In 1923, sixty-five Jews lived permanently on the island, mostly butchers’ assistants, maids, kindergarten teachers, shop assistants, merchants, and hoteliers. Among them were also foreign Jews from Russia and Austria-Hungary. In contrast to many health resorts on the mainland and the other East Frisian islands, which preferred “Christian guests,” Jews were accepted and integrated on the island of Norderney until 1933 and were largely spared antisemitic abuse. As early as 1871, various German seaside resorts and spas on the mainland publicly declared that they did not approve of Jewish guests visiting them. Through notices and advertisements in the “Organ des Centralvereins deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens” (Organ of the Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith), Jewish vacationers could find out which resorts or lodging establishments had antisemitic attitudes. Among the large North Sea resorts, Norderney, Helgoland, Wyk on Föhr, and Westerland/Sylt were considered “friendly to Jews,” and at the Baltic Sea also Heringsdorf on Usedom. Especially the North Sea resort of Borkum and the Baltic resort of Zinnowitz on the island of Usedom were "antisemitic." In the 1920s, Jewish bathing guests on the island of Norderney made up a considerable proportion of the spa guests; at times, it is said that almost half of all those seeking recreation were Jews.
Felix Nussbaum: Momory of Norderney, 98 x 110 cm, 1929, dated and signed
Norderney also had several famous Jewish bathing guests, including the painter Felix Nussbaum (1904–1944), who immortalized his Memories of Norderney in an oil painting from 1929, as well as in an ink drawing from 1932. Both depict the “Villa Nordsee,” a boarding house built in 1896.
In 1901, a young man spent his summer vacation on the North Sea island after graduating from high school. Initially, the name “Krasta” was noted in the list of foreigners, which was then changed to “Kafken.” In fact, it was the later writer Franz Kafka. Seventy-five years earlier, Heinrich Heine had visited Norderney. In the third part of his cycle "The North Sea," he expressed himself extremely disrespectfully about the residents of Norderney and especially about the women: “The virtue of the island women is protected by their ugliness, and by a smell of fish which to me was abominable.” Although he was threatened with beating, Heine ventured a third trip to the island.
The children's recreation home of the Zions Lodge U.O.B.B., Norderney Municipal Archives
In 1910, the first children’s home opened at Benekestrasse 44; run until 1933 by the Zion Loge Hanover, today the Thomas Morus Specialist Clinic – Caritas. Since 1910, there was also a children’s recreation home of the Zion Lodge I.O.B.B. ("Independent Order of B’nai B’rith"). Even before the First World War, Norderney was considered an affluent Jewish spa. In contrast to the situation on other North Sea islands, the coexistence of Jews and non-Jews on the island of Norderney was relatively trouble-free until 1933.
Theodor Fontane, around the year 1860
The often hostile mood toward Jewish spa guests is also documented in a letter from Theodor Fontane, which he sent from the “Jewish island” of Norderney in 1881. The extent to which resentment and ill will against Jews could be mobilized here is clearly demonstrated by the writer’s example; he thus wrote to his wife Emilie during his stay:
"The Jews were fatal; their sassy, unsightly rogues’ faces (for in roguery lies their whole greatness) impose themselves everywhere. Anyone who has cheated people for a year in Rawicz or Meseritz, or, if not cheated, has done disgusting business, has no right to wander about in Norderney among princesses and countesses. Those who belong to good society, Jew or Christian, may also move about in good society; but those who measure katun or pack camphor in old furs for eleven months has no right to sit at a count’s table in the twelfth month."
Throughout his life, the writer Fontane sought recognition—more or less in vain—from the Prussian nobility and had—symbolically speaking—struggled for his own place at the count’s table. The fact that a Jewish fur trader—and a so-called “East European Jew”—took his place there and, what is more, stayed in an expensive hotel, aroused the envy of Fontane, whose resentment was constitutive of the antisemitism at the seaside resorts. The marginalization of Jewish guests was intended to enhance one’s own person and conceal the fact that one might not have been particularly successful with one’s own social presentation at the spa.
The synagogue on Norderney. On the left the entrance, the extension on the east side formed the niche for the Torah shrine. In the synagogue, services were held for the Jewish bathers and residents during the bathing season. The synagogue was not legally bound to an independent synagogue congregation (Norderney was a branch of the synagogue congregation of Norden), but was run by a foundation. Norderney Municipal Archive, photography, ca. 1885.
The Jewish community of Norderney was not an independent synagogue community, but rather a branch community from Norden. It did, however, have its own synagogue, which was used primarily by Jewish bathing guests staying here. In connection with the business opportunities of a bathing resort, Jewish families also settled on the island from the mid-nineteenth century onwards; they wished to profit from the flourishing tourism business on the island with their trade, for example a restaurant with kosher cuisine. Jewish religious services initially took place in the house of the von der Wall brothers. For a long time, there were not enough people of Jewish faith living on Norderney to justify founding an independent synagogue community. Nevertheless, a synagogue was built here in 1878, which was initially only used seasonally. This is an exceptional case—also under Jewish law—which explains, among other things, the long waiting period between the application for permit and the authorization to build. The financial means came from private sources. The donors were distributed throughout the entire German Reich, whereby hardly any came from East Frisia. In 1878, the synagogue on Schmiedestrasse was inaugurated in a solemn ceremony. The synagogue in Norderney had been built thanks to donations from wealthy Jewish bathing guests and was used as such until 1933. Years later, it was bought by a businessman who used it as a storage space.
On August 10, 1878, the newspaper Ostfriesische Zeitung reported on the inauguration of the Norderney synagogue:
"This morning, the ceremonial inauguration of the newly built synagogue took place, the construction of which was funded primarily from voluntary donations from spa guests. […] on behalf of His Majesty the Emperor, Landdrost von Zakrzewski handed over the place of worship to the Jewish religious community. The guests of honor, members of the congregation, and others present then went into the church and took their seats. Accompanied by a song performed by women, the Scrolls of the Law and a silver consecration chalice donated by a bathing guest present were then carried before the holy of holies. [...] After the Torahs had been placed in the sacred ark, Dr. Prager from Hanover gave the sermon, [...]. A final prayer closed the solemn act."
A Jewish cemetery did not exist at any time on the island; the deceased had to be transferred to the mainland.
Section of a postcard with the note: "Jews bearable" (underlined), 1903, Norderney Municipal Archives.
Around 1850, Abraham von der Wall, a butcher from Norden, settled in Norderney and opened a kosher butcher’s shop and restaurant. He was followed by other Jewish butchers and restaurant owners, as well as numerous merchants and hoteliers. Even before the First World War, Norderney was considered an affluent “Jewish bathing resort,” while antisemitism emanated from Borkum and other islands, manifesting itself around 1900 in the “Borkum Song,” among other things:
"Borkum, the most beautiful jewel of the North Sea,
remain purified of Jews,
leave Rosenthal and Levinsohn
all alone in Norderney."
The “Wangeroog Jewish Song” strikes the same chord and ends with the chorus:
"And in a thousand voices our call resounds:
The Jew must leave, he must go to Norderney."
The other North Sea resorts were only later declared to be such and therefore strove to distinguish themselves from Norderney through their antisemitism (at first as a unique selling point, so to speak, which later had to become increasingly blatant, since the other islands followed suit).
Seaside resort Norderney, 1900.
On October 3, 1797, Norderney became the first official Royal Prussian seaside resort on the German North Sea coast. Already in the first decades after the foundation of the seaside resort, Jewish bathers travelled to Norderney. Initially, they came primarily from East Frisian cities, later also from Osnabrück, Bremen, and Hamburg. In 1820, there was a “Jewish cookshop,” and stores sold special Jewish confectionery. In 1871, with the construction of the railroad and after the foundation of the German Reich, the number of Jewish bathing guests from the cities of the German Reich and neighboring states increased.
While hardly any Jews settled on the other East Frisian islands, Norderney remained an exception. Very early on, many Jewish bathing guests, such as the philosopher and poet Salomo Friedlaender (aka Mynona; 1871–1946), the violin virtuoso and composer Joseph Joachim (1831–1907), and the department store founder Georg Wertheim (1857–1939), spent their “summer retreat” on the island and, in the course of this, Jewish businessmen and their families settled there. They took care of the entertainment and the physical well-being of the bathing guests. For example, the Jew Samuel Hartog ran the Norderney Casino in 1833. And in 1840, the confectioner David Benedix Goldstein from Norden applied for a permit for a “Jewish cookshop,” which he wanted to maintain on the island during the season.
The growing number of Jewish bathing guests increased the demand for services, such as the preparation of kosher food. Many of the spa guests traveled from large cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, and Breslau.