Jewish Cemetery in Buttenhausen

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 13:23 -- p205167

Buttenhausen is another jewish cemetary I visited in the wider enviroment of Tübingen. I documented again a large part of the tombstones with my camera. Below you can read some more informations:

Jewish cemetery Mühlhalde
(taken from www.buttenhausen.de)
In 1789, in accordance with promises made in the ”Judenschutzbrief” (letter guaranteeing protection of the Jews), an area above the Jewish settlement was made available by the barons of Liebenstein for a cemetery. As the community grew, this area was expanded. In contrast to Christian burial places, Jewish tombs are not permitted to be disclaimed. Hence, the majority of the grave monuments from almost the entire period of Jewish settlement in Buttenhausen have been preserved.

The oldest gravestones are inscribed exclusively in Hebrew. However, most of the stones in the cemetery were erected in the second half of the 19th century and comprise a rich variety of forms and historicizing architecture. They also offer insight into the manifold language of symbols on Jewish gravestones, which allow one to draw conclusions about positions of office or family names. Hence, the blessing hands for the ”Kohen”, the priest, from which the surname Kahn originates. The tankard refers to ritual purity, which is characteristic of the Levi clan. This picture can be found for surnames like Löw/Löb, Levi or Löwenthal. Gravestones from the 20th century, situated in the upper section of the cemetery, are constructed from artificial stone into more simple forms like their Christian counterparts.

The Zentralarchiv zur Erforschung der Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland in Heidelberg and the state department for monuments conducted an inventary of the gravestones between 1990 and 1997.

Jews in Buttenhausen 
(taken from www.pantel-web.de)

If the stone monuments did not exist, Buttenhausen would be a village in the Swabian Alb like many others. At most, a person interested in history might recall that on 20 September 1875 in Buttenhausen, Matthias Erzberger was born as the son of a master tailor, and was raised there in a strict Catholic family. At the beginning of the Weimar Republic, Erzberger was the imperial finance minister. He was murdered in 1921, while on a recuperative visit to Bad Peterstal in the Black Forest.

In the middle of the town stand three roughly hewn stone columns. On the middle one is written: To the brothers and sisters of the Jewish community of Buttenhausen who lost their lives as victims of National Socialist oppression, 1933-1945. To the left and right on the two other columns are written down the names of the Jewish families that had lived in Buttenhausen for centuries until 1943.
A few meters away stands the Rathaus (town hall), on which, between the second and ground floors, there is the inscription, in large letters, "Bernheimer'sche Realschule" (Bernheimer Secondary School).
Finally, above the town in the Jewish cemetery, there stand over 100 stone grave markers with Hebrew and German inscriptions.
These stone objects remind us that in this village of Buttenhausen Jews and Christians lived closely together, and that in the previous century for a couple of decades there were as many Jews as Christians here. The only difference was: some went to the Evangelical church, others to the synagogue; some had their holy day on Sunday, others on Friday evening and Saturday.

Less as a charitable deed, and much more for financial reasons, Baron Philipp Friedrich von Liebenstein settled Jewish families in the imperial knight's village of Buttenhausen in the year 1787. He hoped to gain an economic revival from the Jews. In a letter of safe conduct, a number of rights were granted to the Jews:
-- They were permitted to undertake "all businesses permitted in the empire;" 
-- They received the lots for their houses free; 
-- They were excused from compulsory service; 
-- They got their own burial ground.

For this, each family was obliged to pay annually to the landlord a patronage fee of 12 guilders. Other pronouncements of the baron were quite fanciful and precisely determined. On the burial of a married person, e.g., 2 guilders must be paid to him, for an unmarried person, 1 guilder. In this way, the Jews paid the highest taxes in Buttenhausen. In 1870, the list of residents enumerated 442 Jewish persons in a total population of 800. Jews lived in 46 out of 100 houses. There was a synagogue, a rabbinical building, a Jewish poorhouse and a bath. In 1902 the Bernheimer family, who had moved to Munich, had a four year secondary school built, and oversaw it with a foundation. Thus, children from Buttenhausen, regardless of their religion, could attend a secondary school free of charge. During the period of inflation in the 1920s, the foundation's capital became worthless, and the school had to be closed. Only the inscription is left to remind of this institution.
Jewish citizens of Buttenhausen erected a community library, built a "little children's school" for the entire village, donated contributions for village street lighting and financed the clock for the village church.
The relationship between Christian and Jewish residents remained invariably good until 1933. Jews played an active role in the life of the community. There was always one or more Jewish resident on the community council.
The National Socialist leadership destroyed the peaceful neighborliness. Some Jewish families were able to emigrate to Switzerland or to the United States of America. During the first burning of the synagogue on the night of 9 to 10 November 1938, the Christian Mayor Hirrle confronted the arsonists with a pistol. The village fire department were able to nip the already started fire in the bud. Valuable holy objects were brought to safety. On the morning of 10 November, SA men again appeared suddenly in Buttenhausen, held the mayor in the town hall, set fire to the synagogue and prevented every effort to extinguish it. In 1939, the Jewish community was broken up. Jews who had come from other places, for example from an old age home in Heilbronn, had to leave Buttenhausen again in 1941.

With an admirable sense of civic duty, one resident of Buttenhausen, Walter Ott, who worked on the farm of the old age home, took on the duty of caring for the Jewish tradition in Buttenhausen. Evening after evening, for weeks, he had knelt before the gravestones in the cemetery and in black or gold paint retraced and repainted the Hebraic inscriptions. Walter Ott would never have had the idea to take care of the abandoned cemetery if one day he had not found in the attic of a house community files about the Jews: tax certificates, building permits, marriage and death reports. Today, Walter Ott organizes exhibitions in the village, has discussions with young people and visitors to the cemetery, and presents a documentary [Mike: "Dokumentation": I didn't know how else to translate it.] about the deportation of Jews from Buttenhausen. On the question of why he took this effort upon himself, he replied to a reporter a few years ago: "They were citizens of Buttenhausen, and they made Buttenhausen what it is today."

Occasionally Jews from all over the world visit the restored cemetery in Buttenhausen to look for the gravestones of their ancestors. In 1983, an 85 year old Jewish woman from Florida came to Buttenhausen, to the town of her birth that she had left in 1937. Asked if she would ever want to live in Germany again, she replied without hesitation, "No, not as a Jew!"

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