The Jewish Cemetery on Battonnstrasse lies tucked away under a dense canopy of treetops in the southeast section of Frankfurt’s inner city. It is the second oldest preserved Jewish cemetery north of the Alps after the 'Heiliger Sand' (Holy Sand) Jewish Cemetery in Worms, Germany. The oldest still existing tombstone dates back to 1272 – the oldest material evidence of Jewish life in Frankfurt.
The cemetery originally lay outside the city and was not included within the city walls until the city was expanded in 1333. Jewish communities of the surrounding areas that did not have their own cemetery also laid their dead to rest there until the 16th century. This hallowed ground served Frankfurt Jews as a final resting place until 1828. When Frankfurt’s new Main Cemetery was established, the Jewish community was also allotted a new cemetery on the south-eastern boundary of the new Main Cemetery, on Rat-Beil-Strasse. In 1929, a new Jewish cemetery was created flanking the north of the Main Cemetery, on Eckenheimer Landstrasse. It is still used for interment today.
Expropriation and destruction
In 1939, the Jewish community was forced to sell their cemeteries along with their other properties to the City of Frankfurt. The plan was to level the Battonnstrasse cemetery. Demolishment of the almost 6,500 gravestones commenced at the beginning of 1943. Some 175 selected tombstones, of historical importance or particular value in an artistic sense, were removed in advance to the cemetery on Rat-Beil-Strasse. The demolition work on the cemetery was halted due to bombings and debris and rubble dumped there instead. As a result, 2,500 tombstones remained fully preserved, along with thousands of shattered tombstone fragments.
Presentation by the Lord Mayor to the city councillors, 23 December 1942
"The old Jewish cemetery on Dominikanerplatz is to be cleared as soon as possible and prepared for use as a dumping ground should there be major building damage caused by enemy air raids. […] The costs for removing some 7,000 tombstones and part of the trees amount to approximately RM 35,000."
Re-establishing the cemetery after 1945
The cemetery was returned to the newly formed Jewish Community after the end of Nazi rule. However the clean-up work on the cemetery continued until the end of the 1950s. The tombstones that had been removed to the Rat-Beil-Strasse were returned and stacked up along the inside of the cemetery wall, as their original location could no longer be determined. The tombstones of some well-known personalities such as Mayer Amschel Rothschild and Rabbi Nathan Adler were grouped together in a corner at the southern wall. Between 1991 and 1999, the cemetery was pictorially and textually documented. Images of the tombstones and their epitaphs along with translations and commentaries have been published on the website of the Salomon Ludwig Steinheim Institute in Essen.
Many of the gravestones on the cemetry show house marks like a rabbit, a windmill or a fish trap like the one pictured here. The houses in the Judengasse didn't have house numbers. The marks on the gravestones show, in which house of the Judengasse the deceased lived.
A sign of destruction: fragments of hundreds of gravestones are piled up on numerous stone cairns. These fragments and their inscriptions have as well been documented.
In one corner of the cemetery the gravestones of important figures have been erected in a special area. Among them are Mayer Amschel Rothschild, founder of the amous bankers dynasty, and rabbi Nathan Adler.
Some 175 selected tombstones of particular value have been removed before the cemetery was demolished in the Second World War. They have been brought back to the cemetry later. Their original location could no longer be determined and they got stacked up along the inside of the cemetery wall.
A unique cultural landmark
Today the cemetery is the heart of a unique ensemble of remembrance. The neighbouring Museum Judengasse incorporating remnants of the structural foundation of houses belonging to Frankfurt’s former Jewish ghetto tells the story of Frankfurt Jews until 1800. An outline of the Börneplatz synagogue, which was burnt down on 10 November 1938, has been marked on the ground of the new Börneplatz Memorial Site between Museum Judengasse and the cemetery. The enclosing wall of the cemetery contains name blocks in memory of nearly 12,000 Frankfurt victims of the Nazi mass murder of European Jews. The 850-year history of Frankfurt Jews can be experienced here within this confined space.
Visit the cemetery
The key to the cemetery may be obtained at the Museum Judengasse ticket desk, in exchange for a security deposit. Men are asked to wear head covering when visiting the cemetery. We would be happy to offer you a traditional Jewish crown cap, or kippah, at the museum desk. The cemetery is closed on Saturday (Shabbat) and on Jewish holidays.
Visit the cemetery on your own or rent an audio guide from the neighboring Judengasse Museum. This also leads you to selected sites in the cemetery and gives you an overview of its history. Price: € 2.
We offer German tours over the cemetery every other Sunday. These are included in the admission price to the Museum Judengasse. See the events calendar for the specific dates.
Would you like to book an individual or group tour in German, English, French or Modern Hebrew? You can do this at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling +49 (0)69 212 47747 up to two weeks before the planned date. Group price: € 50.
Old Jewish Cemetery on Battonnstraße
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The cemetery is accessible during the opening hours of the Museum Judengasse except for Saturdays (Shabbat) and Jewish holydays.
- Tuesday10 am – 8 pm
- Wednesday to Friday10 am – 6 pm
- Sunday10 am – 6 pm
Visiting the cemetery is for free.
The entrance to the cemetery is not barrier-free. There is a risk of falling on the grass-grown ground of the cemetery.
Old Jewish Cemetery on Battonnstraße
60311 Frankfurt am Main
Tram 11, 12 (RMV station Battonnstrasse)