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Baden-Württemberg, Germany
48°17' N, 07°52' E


A rich Jewish heritage once existed near the Rhine River border with France in the southern Ortenau kreis (Ortenau District) of Baden-Württemberg (a state of the Federal Republic of Germany).  Schmieheim was one of several Jewish Kehila in Baden (as the region was known until after WWII) which lay on the edge of the Black ForestSchmieheim, with its back to the mountains is the farthest to the east of all of these Jewish villages and located about 30 km north of Freiburg and 40 kilometers southeast of Strasbourg. Schmieheim and the other Jewish Kehila here were small and as a result shared their resources including the kosher butchers, Jewish schools, and the cemetery.  The Jews of the Kehila also frequently intermarried.  Today Schmieheim belongs to the municipality of Kippenheim.

The first documentation of Jews in Schmieheim was in 1624.  Jews numbered 80 by 1747.  In 1812, a new synagogue was built in Schmieheim and in 1827, it became the seat of the district rabbinate.  A Jewish elementary school was opened in the 1830s, numbering 120 students in 1855.

Perhaps one of the most famous former residents of Schmieheim, the philanthropist Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, wrote in his 1910 Book, The Bernheim Family, that his great grandfather, Loeb, "emigrated during the middle part of the Eighteenth Century from Switzerland to Schmieheim, a small village in the Southern part of the Grand Duchy of Baden, and it is in that poor but hospitable village that the writer of this history first saw the light of day." Today, prominent demographers of Jews in that period believe large numbers of Jews came from Alsatian territory across the Rhine River. For example, see discussions on origins of Southwest German Jews in Alice Dreifuss Goldstein's 2008 book, Ordinary People, Turbulent Times (see Books).

By the 19th century Schmieheim had become a major center of Judaism with a Jewish population of nearly 50%. In 1861, the Jews of Baden were granted full liberties by the Grand Duke Frederick of Baden and allowed to vote and hold office in their communities. Although many Jews moved from Schmieheim to nearby larger cities like Lahr, Offenburg and Karlsruhe, in 1875, 486 out of a total of 1,740 residents of Schmieheim were Jewish.  Its last district rabbi was the Reform-minded Dr. Viktor Meyer Rawisc, who translated part of the Talmud into German and transferred the district rabbinate to Offenburg in 1893. 
At the beginning of the 20th century Jews continued to trade in cattle and opened a number of factories (cigarettes, liquor, metal screening).  But the younger Jews had been able to acquire higher education and were rapidly leaving the village. In 1933, only 121 Jews remained.  Alice Dreifuss Goldstein writing about Altdorf, described a situation common in the area,

" Altdorf was a growing town in the middle of the nineteenth century, but it certainly could not have supported all the offspring of the prolific Jewish Families -- or of the families of their Catholic fellow townspeople.  The Catholics could remain in the area by expanding land under cultivation or for use as grazing grounds.  New crops, like tobacco were introduced, which further expanded opportunities for the growing population.  But Jews could not own land and could not turn to similar solutions.  Out-migration thus became a useful solution for the Jews.  They had connections in many other places in the region, both family and business; many had also had experiences out of Altdorf, because they had often been sent away to serve as apprentices or to otherwise further their education.  There was little to keep them in Altdorf or to lure them back once they had been to the region's cities."
On Kristallnacht (9-10 November 1938), the synagogue and Jewish homes were heavily damaged,and at the cemetery buildings were destroyed and graves were overturned.  Twenty eight men were taken away to the Dachau concentration camp. Shortly after most of the other residents left Schieheim. In all, 32 emigrated while 61 moved to other German cities. On October 22, 1940, 20 of the former Jewish Schmieheim emigres along with 14 directly from Schmieheim (see Gunther Karger story) were deported to the Gurs concentration camp. Half of them perished in Auschwitz. Altogether 44 Jews from Schmieheim died in the camps. 

Hannah Baumann the last Jew
                                    born in Schmieheim
Hanna Baumann was the last Jewish person born in Schmieheim (1934) and a playmate of Gunther Karger.  Her family left Schmieheim hoping to escape being deported to concentration camps and killed.  The train they were on was stopped, the Jews aboard were murdered including 5 year old  Hanna and her parents.  The people of Schmieheim dedicated the new kindergarten school naming it “The Hanna Baumann Kindergarten” in her memory.

Photo courtesy of Gunter Karger

This page is dedicated to Schmieheim and its former Jewish community.  We
celebrate the lives of all Jews who lived in Schmieheim and remember those who died in the Holocaust.  Please continue on to any of several additional pages about Schmieheim shown on the green banner across the top of the page.

If you share an interest in Schmieheim
, we would be happy to include on these pages any memoirs, historical material, photos, maps, etc.  Please drop me a line.

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Compiled by Pete Dreifuss (
Last updated 13 November 2013
Copyright © Peter A. Dreifuss 2012
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