You are invited to follow the traces of Jewish life in Breisach, which dates back to the 14th century. The Blue House itself is very much a part of this story: It served as a Jewish religious school, a Jewish community house and a home for the cantors serving their community. The history of the association shows how we managed to save the Blue House, and is evidence of the great importance that our founders and current members place on the Jewish-Christian history of Breisach and the Upper Rhine.
1691 – 1829
Before 1691 one could erect buildings in the moat of the 14th century town wall, in the middle of the Jewish quarter at the foot of Muensterberg (the rock with the cathedral). A small, two-storied house was built, the foundation of which can be seen in the cellar of the Blue House.
1829 – 1876
The Jewish community acquired the house in order to establish a school; for a time it was used as an infirmary for the Jewish poor.
1933 – 1945
After January 30, 1933, when the National Socialists under Adolf Hitler had come to power and established a dictatorship, the persecution of the Jewish community of Breisach began, too.
1945 – 2000
The forced sale of the house to the Gugel company in Freiburg, which had installed a workshop for military products, was rescinded under the French military government by occupation law in 1953.
After the house had been returned in 1955 to the “Oberrat der Israeliten in Baden”, the institution sold it to Selma Ziehler, the only Jew of Breisach who had escaped the deportation and had survived with her family. The association for the support of the Blue House purchased the building in July 2000 from one of her grandsons.
2002 – 2003
The house was carefully restored, mainly by the company Domiziel, Neustadt, with the support of the Conservation Office. In April 2002, the lecture room on the ground floor was reopened.
2003 – 2018
Since 2003 we have received several hundred visitors each year, meanwhile more than 2000. Apart from paying off our debts, we are gradually building up a place for remembrance and encounters.
1876 – 1933
After 1876 the house was used for various purposes. From 1893 to 1898 parts of the garrison stationed in Breisach were accommodated here. Thereafter it was used as a community center; the cantors and their families lived here after the district rabbinate had been moved to Freiburg.
After several years of contentious discussions about the renaming of Rheintorstaße, so dubbed by the Nazis, the Breisach town council reached conclusions about “How the Jewish history of Breisach could be made visible.”
The Förderverein found hosts for a series of “Werkstattgespräche” (workshop talks) about Jewish life today and yesterday. The talks were held at the gallery Goldammer, the history museum and the Martin Bucer Protestant Community. In July, a purchase contract for the building was closed and an intense phase of planning for the renovation and use of the house began.
Willi Sutter and the company “Domiziel” oversaw the long process of renovation. In April, the lecture room was inaugurated festively.
With a “Jewish Week” the renovated house was dedicated in June and officially named the “Blue House.” The street in front of the house was closed and transformed into a temporary lecture hall.
The association held a three-day, trilingual international conference on the founding families, with the Geismar family as an example. Several Holocaust survivors and many descendants of Jewish families of Breisach participated.
In May, on the 60th anniversary of the Allied liberation of National Socialist Germany, the Blue House presented photos that Gerald Schwab (1925 -2014) had taken as a US Army soldier in 1945 and 1946, of his parents’ destroyed hometown.
In New York, “Friends of the Blue House” planned their support of the work that had so far been done in Breisach. Jonathan Hollander and Aviva Geismar, two choreographers, discovered their different connection with Breisach, and after two years of preparation brought to Freiburg and Breisach their “Dances for the Blue House.”
The Zivi/Zivy family of Müllheim held reunion in Breisach.
Students of Martin Schongauer High School worked for several weeks on various subjects marking the 70th anniversary of the November Pogrom.
Brundibar, the children’s opera first performed in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, came to Breisach. During their rehearsals, members of the children’s choir of St. Stephen’s Cathedral Parish and the choir of the Hugo Höfler Realschule met and talked with Inge Auerbacher, who had survived the camp.
A “Year of Remembrance” was launched together with “Für die Zukunft lernen” (Learn for the Future: Association for the Preservation of the Children’s Barracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau e.V.” and “Freundeskreis Oświęcim e.V.” (friendship circle, Breisach-Auschwitz). The high point was the Battery Dance Company New York’s unveiling of a Sculpture for the Blue House by artist Heike Endemann.
The city of Breisach and the Foundation for the Blue House jointly designed the site for the new sculpture. It was unveiled in June and named for Michael Eisemann, the last cantor of the Breisach Jewish community. Once again we welcomed Jewish visitors from around the world whose ancestors had roots in Breisach, including guest speakers Lauren Sonkin, a great-granddaughter of Michael Eisemann,
By now, the debts of the association had been paid off.
Up to 2015, all work was done on a voluntary basis. Now, support from the State of Baden-Württemberg allowed the hiring of staff for so-called mini-jobs. The professional archiving, inventory and digitalization of the data was launched.
The Blue Book 2, dedicated to founding member Günter Boll, was published in the spring and presented at the local history museum – the Museum für Stadtgeschichte Breisach am Rhein. On this occasion, the association opened an exhibition about the Geniza of Mackenheim, which Günter Boll had rescued from oblivion in 1981.
The Blue House has many young visitors, many of whom participate in painting, research, drawing and reflection.
On 24 July, the Blue House hosted the president of the State Parliament, Muhterem Aras, with her staff; and Sybille Thelen, head of the memorial site department of the State Center for Political Education (Landeszentrale für politische Bildung) of Baden-Württemberg. During a memorial tour, they learned about the development of volunteer work at the location.
The 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Jews of Baden prompted an invitation to Jewish guests to commemorate their families and remember the destruction of the community: “300 years of the Jewish Community in Breisach.”
Ralph Eisemann wanted to show his three granddaughters where the family had its roots. Parts of the former Jewish community center already could be visited at the time: Eisemann explained to a small initial group how the house was used during his childhood.
HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN BREISACH
Three times within 700 years Jews lived, suffered and prayed in Breisach.
Before 1301 – 1349
Before 1301 – 1349
Only merchants/traders were allowed to settle on the Breisach rock according to a contract between Heinrich, bishop of Basel, and King Henry V.
“Smariant the Jew of Breisach our citizen” and his sons, his neighbor Salman of Berne, Viveli, Löwe and Gutele: not separated from their Christian neighbors, Jewish traders enjoyed this privilege for 30 years and lived on the mons brisiacus before the violent end of their community.
1376 – 1424
On February 1, 1376 Abbot Ludwig and the convent of the monastery of Pairis sold the house “Zum Löwen”, situated on the mountain, on the eastern side of the present Radbrunnen, next to the “vicus leonis” to the “wise and modest Jew” Vivilkind for 125 gold guilders.
1638 – 1940
Marx Schnatticher, Nathan Ulmo and the progenitors of the Breisach families Günzburger, Geismar and Wormser, were the first Jews who settled in Breisach after duke Bernhard of Saxony-Weimar – who received soldier’s pay from France – had conquered the Hapsburg fortification of Breisach in December 1638. The town had been ceded to France and was returned to Austria only in 1700.
Since its founding in 1999, the Förderverein has been searching for the victims of National Socialist violence against the Jews of Breisach and enjoyed the support of Jewish families all over the world.