Gradual Integration in the 19th Century
Jews have settled in the Rhineland since Roman times. In the 13th century, traces of Jewish settlement can also be found in the northern and western Sauerland. After the 30 Years' War there was a stronger Jewish settlement in the Duchy of Westfalen; the first documented mention of Jews in Schmallenberg dates back to 1685. In 1738 two and until 1803 three Jewish families can be traced here.After 1808 the Schmallenberg Jews also adopted German surnames (due to a law of the Hessian sovereign at that time). Their legal situation did not initially improve after 1815: they required special permits to settle and marry. Under Prussian rule, they received civil (not yet civic) rights in 1841. Judaism was still considered incompatible with the principles of a Christian state in the Westphalian parliament. Finally, the Prussian constitution of Jan. 31, 1850, granted civil and civic rights to all Prussians regardless of their religious confession. The exercise of state offices, however, which were connected with the practice of religion (school service, judiciary), remained closed to them. In 1869, the political and legal equality of all citizens, regardless of religious belief, was established and adopted as an imperial law with the founding of the Empire. In Schmallenberg, the numerical ratio of Jews and Christians did not change significantly from 1800 to 1933: in 1818, 23 Jews lived in Schmallenberg out of a total population of 863 (2.6%). In 1855 there were 27 out of 1,032 (2.7%), in 1900 45 out of 1,690 (2.6%), and in 1932 52 out of 2,334 (2.2%). The Protestant population of Schmallenberg also represented a minority throughout this period, almost always smaller than that of the Jews. Excluded from practicing guild trades, Jews mainly engaged in trade and - due to their religious slaughtering regulations - were often active as butchers and cattle dealers. At the beginning of the Prussian period, the Jews of Schmallenberg worked exclusively as butchers and in trade. Moses Stern and Emanuel Bamberger traded in textiles and hardware according to a directory from 1843. In 1867, the brothers Michel and Simon Stern founded a wool spinning mill, which remained in the family until 1938. A member of the Stern family emigrated to England and became a "stocking king" there; Alfred Stern provided orders for the Falke company after 1910. Socially, the Jews had been well integrated in Schmallenberg since about 1860: in 1910, Max Frankenthal was the first Jewish citizen to become vice-king of the marksmen.
Persecution and murder by the National Socialists
With the seizure of power by the National Socialists from 1933 on, persecution and harassment began. The approximately 60 Jewish fellow citizens were increasingly marginalized and persecuted. Police bodies spied on the synagogue, the adults were excluded from political rights, the children from official celebrations and, since 1938, from school lessons. In the November pogrom, the synagogue was set on fire. Some dwellings of Jewish inhabitants were devastated and destroyed; all Jewish men were arrested and partly mistreated. At the end of September 1938, the cattle dealers lost their commercial licenses; in 1938, the Stern family had to sell their textile businesses; some family members managed to emigrate to England. The factory with about 100 employees passed to Arthur Stern's school friend Franz Falke after negotiations with several interested parties. From 1939 onwards, the unemployed Jewish men were obliged to perform forced labor. The Jewish inhabitants of Schmallenberg had to give up their houses and move into the "Judenhäuser" Weststraße 1, where the Jewish school was also housed until 1941, and Weststraße 30. On 28.4.1942 the first deportation of Schmallenberg Jews to Dortmund and from there to ghettos and extermination camps took place, where the majority were murdered. In 1943 Schmallenberg was "free of Jews".
After the war, isolated Jewish concentration camp prisoners returned, among them Hans Frankenthal, who wrote down his story in the autobiography "Refused Return" in 1990. In 1988, on the initiative of Hans Frankenthal, a memorial plaque was erected on the site of the former synagogue for the 36 Jews murdered by the Nazis in the concentration camps. As a testimony to history, the Jewish Cemetery was entered in the monument list of the town of Schmallenberg in November 2003.
The Jewish victims of the Holocaust are also commemorated by 36 Stolpersteine.