Commemorating the Jewish Community of Würzburg
Guardians of Memory
In 1945, after the end of the war, 52 Jews arrived in Würzburg, of them 24 members of the former Jewish community. They found temporary shelter in the former structures of the Jewish hospital, which during the war years had been converted into residential apartments. The returned Jews began to gather for communal prayers in a house which had previously been used by the local Nazi party, and after the war had been assigned to a Jewish family. Jewish soldiers and officers in the American army assisted survivors who wished to resettle in Würzburg. David Rosenbaum was elected to serve as the head of the small Jewish community of the city; his main course of action was to assist members of the community in finding living accommodations and work, to renew the communal prayers, and to renovate and restore the Jewish graveyards of Lower Franconia.
Among those who returned from Theresienstadt was Bernhard Behrens, who had been responsible for the Jewish cemetery in Würzburg for forty years, between 1902 and 1942. The city council of Würzburg charged him with restoring the Jewish cemeteries of Würzburg, Heidingsfeld and Höchberg. With the sanction of the local authorities, the Jewish cemetery in Würzburg had been converted during the war into a chicken farm, run by a local Christian villager, and much damage had been sustained to the premises. Jewish tombstones had been "reused" in masonry repair work done to houses and walls throughout the city; 17 such "reused" tombstones from the 14th century were subsequently discovered. Behrens was also given the responsibility of erecting a memorial for the residents of Würzburg who had been murdered in the Holocaust. The resulting memorial plaque was unveiled in November 1945, and placed adjacent to the 1920 memorial for soldiers from Würzburg who had fallen during the First World War.
The convert to Judaism Baron Ernst Abraham von Manstein is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Würzburg.
Today, the Jews of Würzburg are commemorated throughout the city through the artistic project of the Stolpersteine, literally "stumbling stones", a project created by the German artist Gunter Demnig. These brass "cobblestones" are embedded into the sidewalks of the city, in front of the former houses and workplaces of the Nazi’s victims. Each stone details the name of one victim, their date of birth, and the circumstances of their death.