Until the formal establishment of a Jewish Community in Munich in1815 ,Munich’s Jews buried their dead at the Jewish Cemetery of Kriegshaber / Pfersee, this includes the first leaders and rabbis of the still unofficial community in the residential city, such as Shimon Wolf Wertheimer, firstborn son of the famous Rabbi and imperial court Jew in Vienna, Shimshon Wertheimer, or Abraham Uhlfelder, whose descendants established in Munich the famous Uhlfelder storehouse … and … most recently the scholar Rabbi Loeb Gumperts in September 1815.
The cemetery opened in 1816 at Thalkirchner Str. 240 in the Munich suburb Sendling (subway: U3 -Brudermuehlstr.), but due to a rapidly growing Jewish community the cemetery expanded in 1854, 1871 and finally 1881. A year later, the old Tahara House was broken down and replaced by a much bigger one at the south end of the graveyard. A quarter century later, when there was no more option for expansions, the Jewish Community acquired an area for another cemetery in the Munich district of Freimann. The now old cemetery since then has been used only sporadically. The last burial so far however took place in August 2003.
The graves were supposed to be directed towards Jerusalem, but the planners obviously failed to do so, thus they are orientated towards Rome, more precisely towards Venice, Sicily and Malta – but that kind of orientation problem unfortunately is quite common for many Jewish communities in this era as well as the following epochs. The floor plan of the cemetery complies with an irregular pentagon. Along the eponymous Thalkirchner Str. where you will also find the large main gate, the cemetery wall measures 180 m. North of it joins at right angles at the Blyerstrasse an approx. 70 m long piece of wall. The following pieces are each 130 meters, 100 and 80 m long, resulting in a total length of the well-preserved wall of about 560 m. The area amounts to approximately 2.5 ha. The cemetery now is divided into 35, again irregular, not quite logically numbered sectors on the ground, labeled by small cornerstones. Sector 11 in the middle of the cemetery is the oldest part around which over time has been extended in stages. The adjacent area to the north where was the first Tahara remained without graves.
The cemetery has about 5.300 graves, many of the older ones from the early 19th Century are not well preserved. The sometimes dense tree vegetation, however, only in rare cases is at the expense of existing tombstones, what in other places, unfortunately, sometimes is quite different. This argues for a continued good care of the graveyard, ensured since 1917 by the family of Mrs. Johanna Angermeier who herself is responsible as keeper of the cemetery since 1965. She keeps a grave book compiled in rough alphabetical order in 1882 which bases on an older now lost one. Admittedly, some entries of the book, randomly chosen, do not always correspond to the inscriptions of the preserved grave marker, whereas stones lettered in Hebrew only sometimes apparently are missing. Nevertheless, the book provides information of individual sectors, rows and grave numbers and is therefore good orientation guide for locating specific grave sites. As there obviously is no documentation of the cemetery, it is certainly desirable that the information of the book would be generally available, for instance in the Internet to make easier any research by relatives or genealogists. As Mrs. Angermeier admitted, not all gravestones are on their original site and a number of stones are missing. Some went missing in the Nazi era, others had their metal letters removed in the 1940s when they had been melted down to run bullets. But this however is of course no peculiarity of Munich, rather this could be the grave marker of Israel Neustetter which has been erected upside down.
The oldest preserved tombstones are characterized by a then common dignified sobriety and plainness, which soon after the middle of the 19th Century changes to the costlier styles of Neo-Gothic and Second Empire, before it was lost in partially ostentatious, but nonetheless sometimes artfully, monuments (for instance in Moorish architecture or Jugendstil) – what, as is well known, became quite significant for liberal Jewish communities whose exponents amalgamated with the bourgeois upper classes.
In addition to numerous members of the families Strauss, Hirsch auf Gereuth, Aufhaeuser, Einstein, Schuelein, Obermayer, Feuchtwanger, Westheimer and Wertheimer there also are the grave markers of rabbis such as Hirsch Aub (1795 – 1875) or Dr. Josef Perles (Peretz ben Baruch Ascher) 1835 – 1894), who from 1871 until his death was the Rabbi of the Cultusgemeinde in Munich and the author of numerous profound articles on the history and religion of Judaism – for example on “The Memory-Book of Pfersee” (1873) or about “The epistle of Kalonymos ben Kalonymos to Josef Caspi” (1879). The most prominent name at the old Munich Jewish cemetery however probably is that of Karl Marx, but of course it is just a coincidence of two individuals bearing the very same name.
Since the Jewish community of Munich as well as the much later founded one of Augsburg recruited many of its members from the former Swabian margravate Burgau communities as Pfersee, Kriegshaber and Steppach there of course are numerous family relations. Besides the well-known names there for instance is Mathilde Skutsch (1866 – 1929) who was buried with her husband the President of the Senate Julius Ulrich (1854 – 1927). The Skutch family of course was well known in Kriegshaber were some members were Rabbis or Dayanim. On the other hand the bereaved of Isaak (“Eisik”) Welsch, died who in June 1846 at the age of 85 and is buried at the cemetery Thalkirchner Str. In Sector 15 still proudly emphasized the origin of the deceased from Steppach.