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Jewish Community of Treves / Trier, Germany

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  • Adolf Altmann, Rabbi (1879 - 1944)
      Adolf (Abraham) Altmann   Chief Rabbi of Trier, one of the oldest Jewish communities in Germany, as well as rabbi for the Jews of the South Tyrol town of Meran which was close to the front lines (Mer...
  • Karl Marx (1818 - 1883)
    Karl Marx (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a Prussian-born philosopher, economist, sociologist, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. Born in Trier to a middle-class family, he later studied polit...

TRIER (Trèves) city in Germany and formerly also a bishopric. Archaeological evidence seems to point to the presence of Jews in Trier as early as the end of the third century C.E. In its eventful history, Trier has served, among other purposes, as the seat of government for the Western Roman Empire; in the Middle Ages, it received the name “holy city”; it has survived many wars as a border city between Germany and France, and is today a university city in the heart of Europe.

The Roman colony of Augusta Treverorum (Trier) was founded by Augustus in 16 BC. Trier became a favored residence of several Roman emperors, including Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor.

  • The greatest collection of Roman remains to be found anywhere north of the Alps is in Trier, which bills itself as Germany's oldest city.
  • According to an ancient legend, this was founded around 2000 BC by Trebeta, son of Semiramis, the Queen of Assyria.
  • However, actually documented is that the city, then called August Treverorum, was established in 16 BC by the Roman emperor Augustus near the site of an earlier Celtic settlement.

Karl Marx and His Home City

No other person influenced the history of the 19th and 20th centuries as did Karl Marx who was born in Trier on May 5, 1818, as the third child of the lawyer Heinrich Marx and his wife Henrietta. The parents came from an extremely traditional rabbi’s family, converted, however, under the rule of Prussia to Protestantism because the father would otherwise not have been able to continue his career as a lawyer in the Prussian legal system.

Karl Marx’s birthplace, a museum today stands in Brückenstrasse 10. But the family did not live there very long: In 1819, they moved to a small house in Simeonstrasse.

That the founder of “scientific” socialism originated in Catholic Trier of all places and furthermore from a middle class family was and partially still is considered a paradox. But, if the situation is viewed more closely, the city at that time was almost predestined to offer up revolutionare impulses: After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Trier was turned over to Prussian rule, exposing the city to religious and political oppression and economic decline.

Prussian customs policies prohibited the wine growers from trading with the westerns neighbors (France) and hampered the selling of wine in Prussia itself. The heavy burden of high taxes and the continually rising prices led to great economic deprivation: In 1831, almost a third of the inhabitants lived at or below the subsistence level. The social situation and the political tension with the Prussian state weighed on the young Karl Marx, who moved to Bonn to study law after he finished the Trier grammar school in 1835 and then, one year later, on to Berlin.


Trier's "Judengasse" leads into the former medieval Jewish Quarter. Locally produced weights with Hebrew inscriptions show that there were Jews in Trier as early as the first or second century. Starting with the eleventh century, we have records of a Jewish community in Trier, and in 1235 four Jews had four houses built on the left of the later Judengasse. The cellars are still the original ones; in the Pub »Abwaerts«, you can still see the walled-up entrance to a flight tunnel leading to the Cathedral Close.

The Jews were expelled from Trier in 1418. Many Jews went east; Yiddish has preserved traces of Trier Middle High German up to today. When the Jews were called back after 1600, they settled in different parts of the city. After the Holocaust of the Nazi era, the Jewish community in Trier is quite small (the New Synagogue is located in Kaiserstrasse). 


  1. Trier, Deutschland Amazing Walking Tour Video - YouTube
  2. Trier Jewish History
  3. Treves Trier Jewish History Jewish Encyclopedia


  1. The Karl Marx House museum
  2. Germany: The City of Trier YouTube
  3. Trier- A Trip through Germany's Oldest City YouTube


"Treves" Family Name

Family which has produced scores of scholars, rabbis, and communal workers. It is usually assumed that the family's origins were in-:

1. Troyes, France, Rashi's birthplace, from where it spread throughout Italy and Germany.

2. Others hold that it came from Treviso near Venice, Italy, in the 14th century.

3. A third opinion is that it originated in Trier (Germany), called Trèves in French. In France members of the family were called Triverzans and in Germany, Drifzan - Dreyfuss.