Rostock was founded in the mid 1200s by a group of Jewish and non-Jewish merchants who wanted it to become a center of trade and commerce. The early Rostock Jews initially created a cemetery –
and in 1348, an official community. This early community, however, was short-lived, as Jews were expelled from Rostock after the Black Death pogroms of 1348 and 1349.
It was not until 1868 that Jews were recorded in Rostock again. Services here were initially held in private homes until the community built a synagogue in 1902. The community adopted conservative traditions and its 350-seat synagogue became the largest in Mecklenburg. Rostock Jews began to suffer from anti-semitic persecution in 1919, when Jewish people were blamed for Germany’s problems and defeat in World War I, and this left only 175 Jews in Rostock by 1938. On Pogrom Night, the synagogue was burned to the ground.
In early 1990, the new Jewish community of Rostock was founded by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The Max Samuel House, opened in 1991, became home to a Jewish community center and to an exhibition on the history of Rostock Jewry. In 2004, a new synagogue was opened very close to the site of the original synagogue, and today serves a small but active community.
Jewish and Historical Rostock tour
4 hour driving tour
Your guide will pick you up at the Warnemünde Cruise Center, from where you will begin your tour with a 30 minute ride with the local train to Rostock city center. On the way, your guise will tell you about the Rostock Art Museum (the only one built during the East German Era), and the former Heinkel Plane Factory, the birthplace of modern jet planes, on the way.
Your first stop is the Rostock Jewish Cemetery, which dates back to 1870 and is the last resting place of many prominent local Jews. From here, your journey continues towards Rostock historic city center, passing the Kröpelin City Gate, the Stalinist Lange Strasse, St. Mary's church, the former Mecklenburg parliament building, and St. Peter's at the Old Market square.
You may choose to take the elevator to the top of the church tower and enjoy a splendid panoramic view of the town and its environs.
From here you drive by St. Nicholas' Church and the Stone Gate, before passing the site of the first Rostock Synagogue and reaching the new Rostock Synagogue on Augustenstrasse. You will have a chance to visit the new synagogue’s interior.
Your guide will take you further to see some of the local stumbling blocks which commemorate the lives of former Rostock Jewish families, and to see the 600-year Rostock University, before reaching the Max-Samuel-Haus on Schillerplatz.
The Max-Samuel-House is home to the Jewish Heritage Centre and to regular exhibitions on Jewish life, such as the current exhibition, "From Ahronheim to Zuckermann – A Journey through Rostock’s Jewish Business World". After visiting the community, your car will take you back to the Cruise Ship Port in Warnemünde.
Jewish Heritage and Mecklenburg’s Lake District tour
8 hour driving tour, including the above itinerary
If you have the afternoon at your disposal, you may consider extending your visit to Rostock by taking a trip through the picturesque Mecklenburg Lake District, where you will discover even more of the local Jewish history.
After lunch, drive for an hour to Röbel, enjoying the scenery en route. In Röbel, your guide will help you explore the old synagogue, a well-preserved, timber-framed building constructed in 1831, which was desecrated in 1936. In 2003, the building reopened as Mecklenburg’s Jewish museum, educational center, and convention center, where the Torah ark of Plau Synagogue and models of other preserved synagogues are on display.
From Röbel, you will drive to Plau am See to see the local synagogue, an 1840-built arched building which was sold to the Catholic Church in 1920. The church was desecrated in 2002 and sold to private owner.
Your tour continues to Krakow am See (not to be mistaken for Krakow in Poland), where you will visit the local synagogue and cemetery, both of which have been preserved in their original forms. The synagogue was inaugurated in December 1866 and is one of the few remaining of its kind in north-eastern Germany. It was sold to the city in 1920, as the community had so few members left, and operated as a public sports gymnasium for many years. In 1995, it was completely renovated and returned to its original state. Today the building is home to the “Old Synagogue” cultural association and is used for exhibitions, concerts, and readings.
At the end of your visit in Krakow am See, head north again towards the Baltic Sea and return to Warnemünde Cruise Ship Port.