The Jewish Cemetery of Vacha


This information was provided by Olaf Ditzel, Inge Wimmer, and Günter Hermes; resident historians of Vacha. Click on their names for audio interviews conducted by Ken during his trip to Germany.

Jewish Cemetary of Vacha

Vacha cemetery map key
This image indicates the persons buried at each site in the image above.

german description of Vacha cemetery

The Origin of the Jewish Cemetery of Vacha

The date of origin of the cemetery mentioned in 1732 lies in the darkness of history. It may possibly be equated with a previously mentioned land plot, which appears in 1391 as “Hoygen” and then from 1425 as “Judenhauger” in the documents. In 1647 the Judenhauck is described exactly in the area (in the range of the hospital), where from the 18th century onward the cemetery continues to be mentioned; this meaning is also confirmed by the Middle High German name “Haug” = Hill.

The events of 1349 [such as the Erfort and Strasbourg massacres] resulted in Jews only sporadically living in Vacha, which probably would prevent them from creating their own mortuary.

After annihilation of the communities in 1349, quite the opposite occurred in many Hessian cities – a misappropriation of the cemeteries (often as gardens), e.g. Marburg 1375, Frankfurt 1440, Kassel 1519, Hünfeld 1574 and Schmalkalden 1588.

Noteworthy is the early mention near Hünfeld. All deceased Jews of upper Fulda were to be buried in accordance with a Jewish order, which is dated around 1514, at the Fulda cemetery. The one in Hünfeld must therefore be much older, although for the Middle Ages so far there is only one proof of the settledness of Jews in 1343!

These considerations strengthen the assumption that the beginnings of the Vacha cemetery are also before 1349. Whether the cemetery later complied [with Jewish law?] is not certain.

The numerically large Jewish community in Vacha and Voelkershausen at the beginning of the Thirty Years War [1618] suggests its own bureaucracy. In 1647 some gardens in Vacha are described “in the Judenhauck”, but elsewhere they are also independently called “Judenhauck”. As late as 1713, the name “at the greeting garden (?) or Judenhauck” occurs. In any case, in 1732, the surviving name is evidence of reuse.

The oldest stone witness of the Jewish cemetery dates from 1725 and is the tombstone of Aharon Elchanan, son of Aharon [stone 74 in the above photos], who lies in the group of deposited stones on the eastern boundary fence.

At least since the beginning of the 19th century, the Jews from Voelkershausen and Herigen also buried their dead here.