THE GREY FOLDER PROJECT
FREUDENTAL IS A VILLAGE IN SOUTHWEST GERMANY, about 25 miles north of Stuttgart, where my grandmother and her siblings grew up and where her family had lived for generations.
The landscape around the town is lovely, with rolling hills, vineyards, fruit trees, farms and woods. Though Freudental means "valley of joy" in modern German, the name originally was Froedental. Some say it was named for someone called Frodo (or similar) while others say the name comes from an earlier language meaning "valley in the forest."
Now a town of about 2,450 residents, it has a castle, built in 1728, a church with a 13th century bell, and a former synagogue, built in 1770.
THE SYNAGOGUE OF FREUDENTAL, built in 1770, was wrecked during the Kristallnacht pogrom of November, 1938. A group of concerned citizens saved and restored the building in the 1980s, and formed the PKC, a center for educational and cultural programs, as well as a house of remembrance.
Painting by Thomas Nägele, courtesy of the PKC.
In 1723, the first Jewish families arrived in Freudental, a village owned by nobility. In 1731, countess Wilhelmine von Würben (known as "the Gravenitz and mistress of Duke Eberhard Ludwig), the owner of the village, gave a liberal edict -- extraordinarily tolerant for the time --to the 24 Jewish families in Freudental. The edict granted secure prospects to the Jews, even as they were banned in the surrounding state of Württemberg.
Although ownershop of the village was soon passed to the very duke who excluded them from his state, the countess's edict was preserved, and the community of Freudental became a center of Jewish religious and cultural life. By 1850, Jews made up more than 40 percent of the population.
HERRMANN FAMILY AND FRIENDS IN FREUDENTAL. In 1933, when Hitler came to power, there were 50 Jews in a population of 500. During most of Freudental’s history, the two communities of Protestants and Jews had lived in harmony, sharing civic duties, educational activities and commercial enterprises. All of that was to end during the Nazi era, when the Jewish community of Freudental ceased to exist.
Steffen Pross has written several volumes (in German) about the Jews of Freudental, before, during and after Nazi persecution.