The Jews of Lauingen

August 6, 2010

In Lauingen at the Danube, hometown of Albertus Magnus (1206 – 1280) there was a medieval Jewish community with many family relations to the Augsburgs Jewry. In Lauingen today there are two landmarks supposed to be witnesses of the medieval community. One is a mikveh inside a small chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary of the fountain. About the same time when Jews reportedly were pursued under the accusation of “well poisoning” their likely mikveh only a chain or some 20 yards away from the Danube river was rededicated to the Christian mariolatry, since the water of the supposed mikvah now was considered curative and miraculous. Actually it is not safe to say if the few down steps with the small quadratic water basin really are the remnants of a 14th century mikveh as it is told, since the existing building material surely isn’t, but more likely from 18th or 19th century. However there also is the rumor that the supposed mikveh itself was a part of the earliest synagogue of Lauingen, what because of the close proximity to the river is hardly probable and very implausible. The riverbed of the Danube at this juncture is some 80 yards (or 75m), but the level of the Danube today of course is lowered and rectified. So it is not conceivable to believe that the Jews of Lauingen would have build their synagogue next to bank of an untamed wayward river, which repeatedly caused floodings. A mikveh on the other hand at the same spot is at least to some respect a little bit more likely, since a flooded bath is no serious damage and maybe only needs cleansing. But since there is no original structure components left anyway, there of course is no way to determine any extent of an alleged mikveh. The structure is in a small chapel, which is a maybe older part of a regular church St. Alban and again is part of a retirement home and so there of course are many different overlapping stories and legends at the compound at the banks of the Danube river.

 The second supposed landmark is a huge house in the former Judengasse (today Hirschstr.), were above the doorframe is a Hebrew inscription which reads זחל (sakhal), literally meaning “caterpillar”. The inscription is interpreted as (an abbreviation?) meaning “this is the gate to *Yahwe*”, what of course is pointless, as explicitly explained in the German text above. More likely the inscription is a mere remnant of a more extensive inscription, not necessarily from the supposed synagogue which by the way is one of the few houses in the street which is not oriented towards Jerusalem as most others does. Of course we would love to identify such old remains of medieval Jews in Lauingen, which by the way is a quite lovely town with many remarkable landmarks of all kind, but those two structures are quite doubtful.