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Jewish Families of Königsberg (today Kaliningrad, Russia) - (קהילת יהודי קניגסברג (היום קלינינגרד, רוסיה

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Koenigsberg was one of the most important Jewish centers in Prussia/Germany.

The former capital of East Prussia is part of Russia today, and is now known as Kaliningrad.

The settlement of Jews was allowed only in the beginning of the 18th century despite the presence of Jewish traders from Poland and Lithuania at the Königsberg fairs since the middle of the 16th century. The Chevra Kadisha and the cemetery were founded in 1704, and the first synagogue erected in 1756. At this time the community counted about 300 people.

Königsberg became one of the centers of Jewish Enlightenment. Many Hebrew books were printed in the town during the 18th and 19th centuries.

After the Prussian Edict of Emancipation which granted Prussian citizenship to all Jews in 1812, many Jews from Western Prussia, a territory not covered by this law moved to Koenigsberg. Especially after 1830 the constant influx of Jews continued to grow, coming mainly from Lithuania, but also from territories belonging today to Belarus and Ukraine. The Jews made up 3.6% of the total inhabitants of the town in 1880, with 5,085 people. A new Liberal synagogue (with an organ) was built in 1896.

After World War I East Prussia lost its economic stability. Many Jews left the town and moved to Danzig or Berlin. The number of Jews in 1925 was 4,049 and declined later to 3,200 people in 1933. The anti-Semitic propaganda campaigns were very strong in East Prussia. During the November pogrom the Liberal synagogue and the new Jewish cemetery (built by Erich Mendelsohn in 1929) were burned. The other synagogue was devastated. About 1,500 Jews still lived in Koenigsberg in 1939. The first deportation began on 24th June 1942 to Minsk, a second to Theresienstadt followed. Many Polish Jews, mainly from the Stutthof concentration camp, were brought to the city for forced labor. In January 1945 3,700 prisoners were forced to march in icy weather conditions towards Palmnicken at the Baltic Sea. The Red Army entered the town on 9th April 1945.

The town and the region were added to the Soviet Union in 1946 and was given a new name - Kaliningrad. The Jews who remained in Königsberg, mainly in mixed families, were expelled by the Soviet administration in 1948 together with the remaining Germans. Among the demobilized soldiers of the Red Army in the new Soviet region were Jews from Belarus and Ukraine. These were the first Jews in the town after the war. Jews from other Soviet regions followed. They worked in new companies, factories, in the port and on the fleet.

During the Soviet regime there were no opportunities for implementing any religious and communal Jewish programs. Only in the 1990s were the first efforts made to create a Jewish community. Currently the rebuilding of the former Liberal synagogue at its historical site is progressing. The opening is planned for 2018.

Literatures on the Jews of Königsberg see:

1) Stefanie Schüler-Springorum. "Assimilation and Community Reconsidered: The Jewish Community in Konigsberg, 1871-1914." Jewish Social Studies 5, no. 3 (1999): 104-131.[https://muse.jhu.edu/article/18213]

2) Jill Storm. "Culture and Exchange: The Jews of Königsberg, 1700-1820." (2010). [http://openscholarship.wustl.edu/etd/335/]

3) (German:) Heimann Jolowicz. Geschichte der Juden in Königsberg i. Pr: ein Beitrag zur Sittengeschichte des preussischen Staates. Verlag von Joseph Jolowicz, 1867. [https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=mDFdAAAAcAAJ&rdid=book-mDFdAAAAcAAJ&rdot=1]

4) (German:) Stefanie Schüler-Springorum. Die jüdische Minderheit in Königsberg/Preussen, 1871-1945. Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht 1996, ISBN 3-525-36049-5.

5) (German:) Andrea Ajzensztejn. Die jüdische Gemeinschaft in Königsberg: von der Niederlassung bis zur rechtlichen Gleichstellung. Verlag Dr. Kovac, 2004. ISBN 978-3-8300-1350-1

6) (German:) Michael Wieck. Zeugnis vom Untergang Königsbergs. Ein Geltungsjude berichtet. Beck 2005, ISBN 3-406-51115-5.

7) (German:) Yoram Konrad Jacoby. Jüdisches Leben in Königsberg/Pr. im 20. Jahrhundert. Holzner Verlag 1983

8) (German:) Joseph Rosenthal. Festschrift zur 25. Wiederkehr d. Tages d. Einweihung d. neuen Gemeindesynagoge. Masur 1921 [http://sammlungen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/freimann/content/titleinfo/606477]

Sources on the Jews of Königsberg

1. The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People Jerusalem (CAHJP) in Jerusalem held the files of the Königsberg Jewish community archives (1752-1938) [http://cahjp.nli.org.il/content/k%C3%B6nigsberg-%E2%80%93-synagogengemeinde]

2. The Secret State Archives Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (German: Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz or GStA PK) in Berlin held files of the town Königsberg [http://www.gsta.spk-berlin.de/english_941.html]

3. The State Archive (Polish: Archiwum Panstwowe) in Olsztyn, Poland held some files of the Königsberg Jewish community archives and files of the town Königsberg. Among them the “Conduiten-Atteste” (certificate of good conduct) from 1810-1817 and records (partially) of Jewish births (1912-1921), marriages (1844-1851, 1855-1927) and death (1910-1914). [http://olsztyn.ap.gov.pl/kontakt] (There isn’t any information in English!)

4. Ancestry, the huge source for online family history & genealogy give entrance to Selected Civil Vitals from Königsberg held in the Landesarchiv Berlin (Provincial archive). Here you can find online the following scans: Koenigsberg Data: birth certificates (1874-1899), marriage certificates (1874-1929) and death certificates (1871-1944). Unfortunately there are small gaps in the registries. [http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60749]

(If you look for birth certificates after 1899 and marriage certificates after 1929, you can ask to make an appointment to visit the Landesarchiv Berlin, email: bereitstellung@landesarchiv.berlin.de)

5. Address books from Königsberg from 1872 till 1906 are online: [http://digital.ub.uni-duesseldorf.de/ihd/periodical/structure/4647750]

6. The Leo Baeck Institute, New York holds a collection with primary and secondary materials to the Jewish community of Königsberg [http://findingaids.cjh.org/?pID=1563853]

7. The Memorial Book of the Federal Archives for the Victims of the Persecution of Jews in Germany (1933-1945) contains the names, personal details and personal tragedies of persons who were residents in the German Reich between 1933 and 1945 and who in addition were among the victims of the National Socialist persecution of Jews.(There are still gaps in the registries, especially for the deportation from Königsberg to Minsk at the 24th June 1942.) [https://www.bundesarchiv.de/gedenkbuch/directory.html.en]

For further information on the Jews of Königsberg see

1. JewishGen's Koenigsberg page [http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/kaliningrad/Home.html]
2. Virtual History of the Jews of Koenigsberg [https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/koenigsberg]
3. Virtual History of the Jews of Koenigsberg ub the Sztetl portal ([http://www.sztetl.org.pl/en/city/krolewiec/])

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