The first Jews probably settled in Solingen in the 15th century; but it was not until after 1710 that other families moved in, which merged into a small community in the course of the 18th century. Most of the Solingen Jews were small traders at that time, selling textiles, hides and skins; few traded in products from the blade production that was and is still so important for the region.

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November 09, 2020

Opening 7Places


United Nations, headquarters in New York City, view of Roosevelt Island. CC BY-SA 3.0 by Neptuul

On 09.11.2020, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications of the United Nations opened the online exhibition "7Places - Seven Places in Germany".
The United Nations and the Museum Center for Persecuted Arts Solingen are presenting the multilingual online exhibition "7Places - Seven Places in Germany" in this 75th year after the end of the Holocaust and World War II, and the founding of the United Nations on October 24, in global commemoration of the November pogroms of 1938.
The opening film can be viewed on the 7Places website and was hosted by artist Tatiana Feldman. In the film, the seven places are brought together virtually.

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May 24, 2019

Solingen gets an education institution and memorial center

There came round about 120 interested citizens to the adult education centre of Solingen to join the "round table" for a memorial and educational centre on may 4, 2019, Foto: Christian Beier

Round table for a memorial and educational centre on may 4 2019
In early 2019, the “Arbeitskreis Verfolgung und Widerstand in Solingen 1933–1945” (Working Group Persecution and Resistance in Solingen 1933–1945) campaigned for the establishment of an educational institution and memorial center at the site of the former newspaper Bergische Arbeiterstimme and the scene of the murder of Max Leven in the pogrom night. This is where the Stadtsparkasse Solingen plans to build its new headquarters by 2023. After the working group had brought together more than 120 interested parties from all areas of the city society for a discussion at a “round table” on May 4, 2019, the Stadtsparkasse decided on May 24, 2019 to make space available in its new building for an educational institution and memorial center—albeit without the preservation of historic buildings. In September 2019, the city council of Solingen unanimously decided to take on sponsorship of the facility. On September 18, 2019 the association “Max Leven Center Solingen” was founded with the aim of supporting the city of Solingen in the establishment and operation of the educational institution and memorial center as a cooperation partner. The center is intended to be an authentic place of information and discussion, of scholarly and socio-political examination of history and the present, and of meeting the victims of nationalism, exclusion, and persecution and their descendants.
Former printing office at todays Max Leven Gasse

Former printing office at today's Max-Leven-Gasse. Source: Solingen City Archive, RS 13606

May 28, 2004

Installment of the first “Stolpersteine” (stumbling blocks) in Solingen

Stolpersteine for the Dessauer family

In 2004 the first "Stolpersteine" were put for the Dessauer family. On the left: Mayor Franz Haug, on the right: Gunter Demnig. Foto: H. Mähner

On May 28, 2004, the first “Stolpersteine” (stumbling blocks) were installed in front of the building at Klemens Horn Strasse 6. Here, the artist Gunter Demnig laid three stones for the murdered members of the Dessauer family: Samuel, Marianne, and Heinz. Born out of an initiative of the “Solingen Appeal”, the “Circle of Supporters of the Stolpersteine for Solingen” was established. Mayor Franz Haug assumed patronage of the project. Since then, more than 120 "Stolpersteine" have been laid for Jews, the politically persecuted and deserters, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and victims of euthanasia. The Solingen City Archive took over the biographical research and elaboration of the individual biographies of the victims of the Nazi regime in Solingen, as well as the presentation of these fates on the Internet. Time and again, descendants of the victims also take part in the installments, such as, most recently, twenty members of the Jewish Feist family, who had travelled to Solingen from all over the world. Since 2018, twelve secondary schools have taken on the sponsorship of the regular cleaning of the Solingen "Stoplersteine". In 2020, the Solingen City Archive published the volume “Man soll mich nicht vergessen!” Stolpersteine in Solingen, Schicksale 1933–1945 (“Do Not Forget Me!” Stolpersteine in Solingen, Fates 1933–1945) by Armin Schulte.

"Stolperstein" for the Solingen-based pediatrist MD Erna Rüppel, who had her own practice at Augustastrasse 10. Foto: Uli Preuss

Stolperstein for MD Erna Rüppel

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December 02, 2002

Inauguration of the Bergische Synagogue

Leonid Goldberg, chairman of the Jewish community of Wuppertal in the "Bergische Synagoge" during an interreligious city tour for pupils in January 2015. Foto: Daniela Tobias

Leonid Goldberg chairman of the Jewish community of Wuppertal

In January 1997, the Circle of Friends of the New Synagogue was founded in Wuppertal, a citizens’ initiative that advocated a new building with a community center for the Bergische region. The Protestant regional church supported the project by donating a plot of land near the site of the former Barmer synagogue. On December 2, 2002, the new synagogue was inaugurated in the presence of Israeli President Moshe Katzav, German President Johannes Rau, and the Chairman of the Central Council of Jews, Paul Spiegel. The Jewish Religious Community of Wuppertal also includes some 250 members from Solingen, including the long-time chairman Leonid Goldberg. The new building had become necessary because of the strong increase in the number of community members from the former Soviet Union. The space in the former Jewish retirement home at Friedrich Ebert Strasse 73, which the congregation had used as a prayer room since 1956, was no longer large enough for them. Characteristic of the synagogue building designed by the Wuppertal-based architects Goedeking & Schmidt are the glass tower and the nine narrow, high windows that symbolize a Hanukkah menorah.

Bergische Synagoge

Bergische Synagoge Wuppertal. Source: wikimedia commons/Atamari, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

June 18, 1987

Sister cities Solingen and Ness Ziona, Israel, and the foundation of the working group Jewish Cemetery

Newspaper article about the signing of the fraternization charter between Solingen and Ness Ziona

Report on the signing of the fraternization charter between Solingen and Ness Ziona in the Solinger Tagesblatt of 19.6.1987. Source: Solingen City Archive

In 1987, the Alexander Coppel Comprehensive School (formerly the Solingen Municipal Comprehensive School) assumed sponsorship of the Jewish Cemetery. Since March 1988, a working group has maintained the gravesites and the grounds on Estherweg. In this way, hundreds of students have already become acquainted with the history and culture of the former Jewish community. The formation of the working group is inseparably connected with the launch of the sister city partnership between Solingen and Ness Ziona in Israel. The partnership document signed in June 1987 by Mayor Nissan Krupsky (Ness Ziona) and Mayor Gerd Kaimer in Solingen states: “With this partnership, we wish to plant a tree of friendship which cannot hide the painful past of the Jews during the National Socialist regime in Germany, but which can be both a sign of hope and a warning.” With the founding of the working group, three main priorities were defined: Maintenance work in the cemetery correspondence with emigrated Jews from Solingen and their descendants dealing with the topic of “Jews and Germany”. A further focus was added later: The school partnership and student exchange with the Menachem Begin Junior High School in Ness Ziona, Israel.

The club "Jewish Cemetery" of the Alexander-Coppel comprehensive school has been taking care i. a. of the graves since 1988. Foto: Daniela Tobias

Club Jewish Cemetery of the Alexander Coppel comprehensive school

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February 28, 1979

Renaming of Max Leven Gasse in Solingen

Newspaper article about the renaming of "Hohen Gasse" in "Max-Leven-Gasse". Solinger Morgenpost, March 1, 1979. Source: Solingen City Archive

Report on the renaming of the Max Leven Gasse in Solingen

On the basis of a citizens’ petition, the Solingen-Mitte district council decided to rename Hohe Gasse as Max Leven Gasse in memory of the former cultural critic of the newspaper Bergische Arbeiterstimme, who was shot here in the pogrom night, and whose fate was in danger of being forgotten. The decision was not a foregone conclusion. The four dissenting votes of the CDU and the FDP were justified, among other things, by the fact that the NS victims were already remembered at various places in Solingen and that Max Leven had, after all, been a communist. Four years after the successful renaming, the Neumarkt interest group demanded that name change be revoked, since the local residents allegedly continued to call it Hohe Gasse. In 1979, a memorial plaque was also placed on the air raid shelter on Malteserstrasse to commemorate the destroyed synagogue that had stood on this site. Students from the neighboring grammar school on Schwertstrasse had collected signatures for a petition to these ends. It was only in 1991 that the city of Solingen erected a gravestone for Max Leven in the Jewish cemetery after a working group of the Solingen Comprehensive School had located his grave.

Apartment of the Leven family and location of the cooperative printing house

On the Max-Leven-Gasse there was not only the apartment of the Leven family but also the cooperative printing house. The "Bergische Arbeiterstimme" had been produced here until in july 1930 printing was transferred to Dusseldorf. In front of the former home, whose first floor was destroyed during the war, there are "Stolpersteine" (stumbling stones) for the Leven family. Foto: Daniela Tobias

November 09, 1978

First solemn vigil to commemorate the November pogrom in Solingen

Silent protest 1978

Silent protest in remembrance of the November Pogroms of 1978, Source: Solingen City Archive

On June 8, 1978, the Solingen City Council resolved to hold a commemorative vigil with the Jewish studies scholar and historian Prof. Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich on the fortieth anniversary of the pogrom night. In November 1978, an exhibition of the city archive on the NS regime was presented in Solingen. On November 9, 1978, a memorial demonstration in commemoration of the November pogrom took place for the first time with 450 participants. Since 2004, the central commemoration of the November pogroms has been held at the air raid shelter adjacent to the Schwertstrasse grammar school, where the Solingen synagogue stood until the end of 1938. The mayor, representatives of the Christian churches and the Youth City Council, as well as the board of the Jewish Religious Community of Wuppertal spoke there before the congregation’s rabbi said a prayer for the victims of the Shoah. Afterwards, students marched through the city in a memorial procession to an event organized by young people for young people with a cultural and lecture program, including film documentaries, musical contributions, theatrical readings, and reports on the projects of anti-racism groups, student encounters, and memorial tours. The program was moderated by members of the Youth City Council and ended with a joint action that promoted tolerant and peaceful coexistence.

Solemn vigil of young peaople following the commemoration ceremony on November 9, 2018. They are raising signs with the names of the Jewish victims. Foto: Daniela Tobias

Solemn vigil of young people to remember the November Pogroms in Solingen

July 22, 1949

Verdict against the NS perpetrators of the pogrom night in Solingen

The newspaper Rhein-Echo of July 23, 1949, on the sentencing of the murderer of Max Leven and other perpetrators of the pogrom night. Source: Solingen City Archive

The crime of the Kristallnacht expiated
Six months after a criminal complaint was filed on August 24, 1946, initial investigations were initiated against the perpetrators of the November 1938 pogroms. In February 1947, the Communist newspaper Freiheit pointed out in an article titled “The Murderer Is Among Us” that one of the men who had been involved in the murder of Max Leven had been seen again in Solingen. The presumed main perpetrator, Armin Ritter, was arrested in 1947. On January 14, 1948, the trial for the synagogue arson and the shooting of Max Leven began in Wuppertal. It was, however, already adjourned after one day of trial. Armin Ritter was first to be examined to determine his mental state. The trial was not continued until July 21, 1949. The verdict was announced the following day: Armin Ritter, who had fired the fatal shots at Max Leven, was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes against humanity in coincidence with manslaughter, since there was allegedly limited responsibility due to “pseudobulbar affect.” Ritter had suffered a fractured skull in 1930. The other parties involved were sentenced to two or one and a half years imprisonment, while the former provisional mayor Rudolf Brückmann was acquitted.

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April 17, 1945

The end of the war in Solingen

Oscar Riess

Oskar Rieß (SPD) was Managing Director of the Solinger Spar- und Bauverein until 1933. After the Americans invaded, they appointed the Social Democrat as provisional mayor. Source: Solingen City Archive

On April 17, 1945 “around 1:00 p.m.,” US Colonel Lansing wrote in his war diary, “the entire region of Solingen and its surroundings was under our control.” The American invasion took place with practically no resistance, since anti-fascist groups had ensured a peaceful handover in several places. Already at 2:00 p.m., Oskar Rieß was appointed provisional mayor by the Americans. Oskar Rieß, who had been Managing Director of the Solinger Spar- und Bauverein since 1928, was dismissed in late 1933, not only because of his SPD membership but also as a so-called “half-Jew.” He and his brothers Max and Willi belonged to a Social Democratic resistance group that distributed leaflets at the end of the war with the “order” to surrender to the Allies without a fight. On May 1, 1945, Oskar Rieß delivered a speech at the joint funeral of seventy-one prisoners who had been killed on April 13 by members of the SS in a ravine on the border between Solingen and Langenfeld as part of an “Endphaseverbrechen” (final phase crime): “May the dead rest in peace before this town hall and may the crime serve as a deterrent to all citizens, so that they will do everything in their power to prevent such inhumanities forever. We are unable to dry the ocean of tears that Hitler’s regime has created.”

July 21, 1942

Deportation from Solingen to Theresienstadt

Jenny Giesenow and her husband Georg ran a haberdashery at the Ufergarten. Both were deported to Theresienstadt in July 1942. Source: Solingen City Archive

Portrait of Jenny Giesenow
“Dear Else, be sensible and think of your fragile nerves; there is no point in getting too excited. To bear the inevitable with dignity is the only thing we can do now; if we’re lucky, we will be able to bear it like our brothers,” Jenny Giesenow wrote in her last letter to her daughter Else before her deportation. On July 21, 1942, six Jews from Solingen, including Jenny Giesenow and her husband, were deported from Solingen to the Theresienstadt ghetto, along with another ten who were meanwhile living in the Jewish retirement home in Wuppertal-Elberfeld. Only Wilma Selig, née Leven, survived. On July 15, 1942, Dr. Alexander Coppel noted: “I had never reckoned with the possibility that I would have to leave the place of happiness before my death. It is a sanctuary to me. I walk a difficult path, but I know that my God, in whom I trust, will not leave me.” He survived the Theresienstadt ghetto by only two weeks. As early as October 1941, sixteen Jews from Solingen had been deported to the Lodz ghetto. None of them survived. The seven Jewish spouses living in “mixed marriages,” who had been brought to Theresienstadt in September 1944, all survived.
Portrait of MD Alexander Coppel

MD Alexander Coppel was deported to Theresienstadt in July 1942. He survived only two weeks. Source: Solingen City Archive, RS 20007

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July 13, 1941

The pogrom on Pfaffenberger Weg in Solingen

Aerial photograph Pfaffenberger Weg 190

Pfaffenberger Weg 190, aerial photograph from 1928, geoportal Solingen. Copyright: Map Service (WMS): © The State of NRW (Geobasis NRW, Cologne) Data license Germany – Attribution (DL-DE/BY-2.0)

Although individual actions against Jews were forbidden, the participants in a training evening of the NSDAP local group Solingen-Dorp let themselves be carried away to a pogrom in the night from July 12 to 13, 1941. After a subsequent drinking bout, some of the men, heavily intoxicated, moved on to the “Judenhaus” (Jewish house) at Pfaffenberger Weg 190. The windowpanes were smashed with stones, accompanied by threats and shouts of abuse. Walter and Herta Brauer were brutally beaten and finally managed to escape from the house. Vera Stock and Gisela Freireich were beaten and bloodied with sticks in their beds and then dragged down the stairs. Two other women were luckily able to find a hiding place in the house just in time. On his own initiative, the responsible constable Hubert Küpper saw to the transport of Vera Stock, who had suffered life-threatening head injuries and broken bones, to the hospital. Although the affair made waves as far as Berlin, the perpetrators were not legally prosecuted. The prosecution of the Pfaffenberger Weg pogrom was one of the first trials after the war. Although it could not be proven that the accused acted intentionally, the court nevertheless emphasized the particular brutality of the mistreatment. The perpetrators were sentenced to prison terms ranging from ten months to two and a half years.

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November 10, 1938

The November Pogroms in Solingen

The burial register with the entry for the communist Max Leven, who had since left the synagogue community and re-entered in the mid-1930s, which led to the remark “His life was a mistake; the need led him back to his community ”was acknowledged. Above it is the note: "The morgue was destroyed !!!". Source: Solingen City Archives, Ve 44-2

The burial register Leven

In the so called "Kristallnacht" from November 9 to 10, 1938, an SA troop first stormed the synagogue. Another group of high-ranking party officials, members of the city administration, and representatives of the business community joined in and brought sawdust as tinder. The men devastated the interior and set the wooden furnishings on fire with gasoline. The fire department only protected the neighboring houses from the flames. Even the police did not intervene. After midnight, four members of the NSDAP invaded the apartment of Max Leven, a former cultural critic of the newspaper Bergische Arbeiterstimme. They devastated the apartment and threatened Leven and his wife. Armin Ritter, janitor of the neighboring AOK insurance company, finally pulled out a pistol and shot the bedridden Max Leven in the head. Afterwards, the men left the completely distraught wife Emmy alone with the dying man. That night, members of the SA, the SS, and the NSDAP demolished apartments and stores throughout the city, including those of baptized Jews and those who lived in “mixed marriages” with Christian partners. In the following night, the chapel in the Jewish cemetery was destroyed. The press reported on thirty-two Jews from Solingen who were taken into “protective custody” on November 10. Twenty men are known by name. They were locked up in the cellars of the townhouse on Potsdamer Strasse. On November 17, eleven of them were deported to the Dachau concentration camp near Munich.

May Leven with Familiy

Max Leven with his daughter Hanna, son Heinz, a girl friend, daughter Anita and wife Emmi. Source: Solingen City Archives, RS 9298

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April 01, 1933

“Boycott of Jewish businesses” in Solingen

Albert Tobias men s clothing store

Albert Tobias' men's clothing store at today's Friedrich-Ebert-Str. 120 on April 1, 1933 during the "Jewish boycott", source: Solingen City Archives, RS 27324 (VVN-BdA)

The textile merchant Albert Tobias came from a Jewish family near Neuwied. In 1918, he married a non-Jewish woman from Solingen-Wald and founded a men’s clothing store there. Although not religious himself, his business, like many other shops and practices, was affected by the nationwide “boycott of Jewish businesses” on April 1, 1933. Nevertheless, the threatening gesture did not seem to have a profoundly negative effect most of them. The campaign did not stop customers in Wald from continuing to buy from him. According to the records of his friend and tax consultant, who advised him until November 1938, sales even increased significantly until 1937. Through marriage to his non-Jewish wife Toni, Albert Tobias was initially still legally protected to a certain degree. In the pogrom night in 1938, however, his store was completely devastated. Albert Tobias was taken into “protective custody” and deported to the Dachau concentration camp. In order to retain the business, his wife divorced him in early 1939. The alleged immoral harassment of the former housemaid was acknowledged as the reason for the divorce. Since Albert Tobias was now no longer protected by marriage to a non-Jewish woman, he was deported from Cologne to Lodz in late October 1941. In early May 1942, he was murdered by the introduction of exhaust fumes into a truck in the Chelmno extermination camp. His body was buried in the nearby forest, along with over a hundred thousand others.

Albert Tobias (right) with his in-laws Selma and Hugo Jacoby, his nephew Siegfried Höhmann with his wife and his son Siegfried (left) around 1935, source: Tobias family

Family Tobias

February 25, 1915

Jewish Casualties of the First World War from Solingen

The Solingen court assessor Dr. Curt Gaertner died on February 25, 1915 as a non-commissioned officer in the Brigade Replacement Battalion No. 27 in France a headshot. He was the second victim from the Solingen synagogue community and was 26 years old.

Obituary Dr Curt Gaertner

As a non-commissioned officer of Brigade Ersatz Battalion No. 27, Dr. Curt Gaertner from Solingen, a “Gerichts-Aassessor” or judge on probation, succumbed to a shot in the head on February 25, 1915 in France. He was the second victim from the Solingen synagogue community and was twenty-six years old. His younger brother Fritz fell two years later at the age of twenty-one. In addition to the loss of both sons, the Gaertner family also had to cope with the loss of its menswear business, which had gotten into economic difficulties due to the outbreak of the war. When the third son Willi was arrested in Mainz in 1938 during the pogrom night, his mother Juliane went to the Gestapo headquarters there and demanded the surrender of her son, since she had, after all, already sacrificed two sons to the fatherland. Willi Gaertner was released and was able to emigrate to the USA in 1940. From the Solingen synagogue community, altogether eight men and the nurse Käte Strauss died during the First World War. Several Jewish participants in the war were distinguished with the “Frontkämpferkreuz,” honoring combatants on the front. In 1920, the memorial stone for the fallen was erected adjacent to the Jewish cemetery mortuary, which was destroyed in 1938.

Memorial stone for the fallen

The memorial stone for the fallen was placed next to the morgue of the Jewish cemetery, which was destroyed in 1938.

October 16, 1906

Gustav Coppel is named an honorary citizen of Solingen

Gustav Coppel

Gustav Coppel, source: Solingen City Archives, RS 12646

The manufacturer Gustav Coppel played a prominent role in the economic, social, and political life of the city of Solingen. For a time, he was President of the Chamber of Commerce and chairman of various manufacturers’ associations. For several years, he led the local and district association of the National Liberal Party, was a city councilor from 1867 to 1910, and an unsalaried alderman from 1892 to 1914, whereby he was particularly committed to the development of the general school system. On October 18, 1906, the city council of Solingen decided to make the Privy Councilor of Commerce Gustav Coppel an honorary citizen in recognition of his services to the city. His social commitment culminated in the establishment of the Coppel Foundation, which from 1912 onwards was dedicated to youth work and health care. He served on the board of directors of the synagogue congregation for sixty years, thirty years of which as its chairman. When the honorary citizen of Solingen was buried in December 1914, the condolence of the population was overwhelming. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the family business in 1921, his sons donated two million marks in the form of various endowments and foundations.

Honorary citizenship certificate for Gustav Coppel, source: Solingen city archive, certificate 34

Honorary citizenship certificate for Gustav Coppel

March 08, 1872

Inauguration of the Solingen Synagogue on Malteserstrasse

The Solingen synagogue on Malteserstrasse. Source: Solingen City Archives, RS 15816

The Solingen synagogue on Malteserstrasse.

In 1861, the synagogue congregation purchased a plot of land on Malteserstrasse, because the half-timbered house on Südwall, which the community had been using since 1787, had become much too small as a synagogue due to the sharp increase in the number of Jewish residents. The financing of the new building took several years. In addition, the construction work was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War, so that it was not until March 8, 1872 that the neo-Romanesque domed building with 90-100 seats for the men, sixty seats for the women, a classroom, and a residence for the teacher could be inaugurated. It was a solemn ceremony with a procession, in which both dignitaries of the city and the population of Solingen participated. Rabbi Dr. Schwarz’s sermon was quoted in the newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums as stating that “in Solingen, famous for centuries for its productive activity, no better steel had ever been forged than that of brotherly love among all confessions; this is the best weapon against fanaticism.” In November 1884, Max Joseph was employed as a prayer leader and teacher of the synagogue congregation. He held this office for nearly fifty years. When he was buried on October 26, 1933, he was carried to his grave by former students and escorted by the Solingen “Sänderbund,” of which he had been an honorary member.

The Purim festival

In 1935 the children of the Jewish community celebrated the Purim festival with cantor Jacob Okunski. The little girl in front of him is Bella Tabak. No other names are known. Source: Bella Tabak Altura

July 04, 1821

Foundation of the steel goods company Alexander Coppel in Solingen

Invoice letterhead from Alexander Coppel

Invoice letterhead from Alexander Coppel, source: Solingen City Archives, RS 20014

In 1821, Alexander Coppel founded a company which initially produced and sold manufactured, iron, and steel products. In the late 1860s, he concentrated on cold weapons, which soon made him a leading weapons manufacturer with worldwide business connections. Alexander Coppel let the community share in his business success. He was instrumental in supporting the construction of the new synagogue and enabled the establishment of a “training school for workers,” the foundation stone for a commercial and technical school system in Solingen. Especially Alexander’s son Gustav Coppel expanded the international trade of the company located on Werewolf. While he was involved in founding a stainless-steel mill in Solingen, he also set up a branch factory for precision steel tubing in the neighboring town of Hilden, which directly competed with industry giants such as Mannesmann. His sons successfully led the family business through war years and economic crises. The National Socialist regime ultimately put an end to the history of the Coppel family. In 1936, the “Aryanization” of the company and its transformation into a GmbH (limited liability company) was enforced.

The brothers Heinz, Carl Gustav, Alexander and Hermann Coppel on the occasion of the company's 100th anniversary in 1921. Source: Solingen City Archives, RS 10125

The brothers Heinz Carl Gustav Alexander and Hermann Coppel

January 01, 1788

Erection of the first known synagogue in Solingen on Südwall

The house on Südwall / Ufergarten served as the first synagogue and schoolhouse for the Solingen Jews. Source: Solingen City Archives, RS 20004

First synagogue and schoolhouse for the Solingen Jews
In 1787, Michel David and Coppel Samuel purchased a building on Südwall, which served as a synagogue and school from 1788 to 1872. The residences of the Jews were scattered throughout the city, and several of the residential buildings were already owned by Jews. Jews also lived in the towns of Gräfrath and Wald, which belonged to the administrative district of Solingen. In 1788, there were four Jewish butchers in Alt-Solingen in addition to nine Christian butchers. It can be assumed that the Christian residents also met their needs with Jewish butchers. A traditional community had existed for some time, presumably even before 1718, when the first documented funeral was held. Such non-state-regulated congregations (Hebrew qahal) existed until the mid-nineteenth century. On February 16, 1846, the community adopted a statute. The Solingen Jewish Synagogue Community was constituted by the fact that, according to the determination of the men eligible to vote, the assembly of representatives was elected on September 20, 1853, and the executive committee on October 13, 1853. In 1857, the Jews of the administrative district of Solingen joined forces with the community of Alt-Solingen. The statute of the united community of the administrative district of Solingen was approved by the District Administrator on April 30, 1858.

January 01, 1718

First mention of the Jewish cemetery in Solingen

The oldest surviving tombstone

The oldest surviving tombstone in the Solingen Jewish cemetery, Sprinz Coppel, b. Hertz (1744-1820) Photo: Daniela Tobias

The Jewish burial place “am Clauberg” was first mentioned in 1718. The origins are unknown. The oldest preserved gravestone is dated June 15, 1820 and was erected for Sprinz, daughter of Jizchak Halevi, wife of Coppel Samuel. The Jewish cemetery on Estherweg reflects 120 years of funeral culture of the Jewish community in Solingen—from the simple, traditional forms of the first half of the nineteenth century and classic gravestones that already approached the bourgeois taste of the time to elaborately designed family graves that reflect the high social status of the dynasties of factory owners. The horror of National Socialism also becomes visible—through a memorial stone for the editor Max Leven, who was murdered in the pogrom night, through blank spaces on family gravestones, as well as through additional plaques commemorating deported and murdered relatives. The last funeral took place in April 1941. Since the destruction of the Solingen Synagogue in November 1938, the cemetery on Estherweg is the last publicly visible testimony of the former Jewish community. Since 1988, it has been looked after by the working group “Jewish Cemetery” at the Alexander Coppel Comprehensive School (formerly the Solingen Municipal Comprehensive School).

The youngest gravestone is from Johanna Dessauer. There are no lines on it for her husband Samuel, who died in Theresienstadt in 1942. Daughter Marianne was a victim of euthanasia in Hadamar, son Heinz died in Mauthausen concentration camp. Photo: Daniela Tobias

The youngest gravestone is from Johanna Dessauer

January 01, 1568

First mention of a Jew in Solingen

Minutes of the "Schleifergericht" (grinder tribunal) with mention of a Jew, presumably from May 6th 1568. Source: Solingen City Archives, Historical Archives, GH 3, p. 143

Minutes of the Schleifergericht
In the Duchy of Jülich-Berg, the decrees and ordinances that determined the situation of the Jews changed according to the respective ruler. Since 1514, they were required to wear a yellow ring on their chest as an identification mark. While in 1525, John III punished usury, especially among the Jews, but tolerated their presence, his son William IV issued the order in 1554 that all Jews were to be expelled, including those with letters of protection. The threat of expulsion does not seem to have been implemented across the board, however, for in 1568 the minutes of a “Schleifergericht” (grinder tribunal) mentioned an unnamed Jew who forged swords on behalf of a swordsmith in Solingen. He was forbidden to strike the mark of the blacksmith Jentgen on the swords he had hardened and sharpened, since only Jentgen had the privilege to do so. This is the first mention of a Jew in Solingen who, moreover, unusually pursued a craftsman profession. The first Jews known by name in Solingen were generally active as butchers or in trade. It was only in the wake of Napoleonic rule (1806–1813) that they not only achieved civic equality, but also enjoyed craft privileges, enabling them to participate in the production of steel goods in Solingen and arms export.