Basel’s Jewish Heritage plays a unique role in the world’s history: it is here where the first World Zionist Congress took place in 1897. Learn about the history of Basel’s Jewry and the first steps that were taken in this very place towards the creation of a Jewish State on our Jewish Basel Tour!
Basel’s strategic position on the Rhine converted the city in a hub for trade, transport and the pharmaceutical industry, but the city owes its prestige to the world-famous ART Basel festival, a must for art lovers.
Jews first settled in Basel during the 12th century. During the following centuries, anti-Semitic violence and occasional expulsion edicts challenged the Jewish population, until the end of the 16th century, when Basel became an important hub for Hebrew printing. The printing houses were owned by Christians, but residence permits were granted to Jewish proof-readers. Important books were published during this period, such as, a censored version of the Talmud, and the works of Johannes Buxtorf, who taught Hebrew at Basel University.
After the Jews of Switzerland were granted full civil rights in 1866, the community grew, and the Great synagogue, one of the highlights of our Jewish Basel Tour, was consecrated in 1868. The synagogue in the Eulerstrasse is the work of the architect Hermann Gauss, who was inspired by the eclectic style of the synagogue in Stuttgart.
“In Basel I founded the Jewish state” – Theodor Herz
A very important step in Jewish history was taken in Basel: the First Zionist Congress took place here, with a purpose of laying the basis for the creation of a Jewish State. There is a street that is dedicated to the memory of Theodor Herlz, who first formulated the idea of a “Judenstaat”, and a plaque in the Stadtcasino, the venue of the congress, serves as a reminder of Basel being the cradle of the Jewish state.
Thanks to Switzerland`s neutrality, during the WW2, Basel represented a refuge for Jews fleeing the Nazis. Nonetheless, the policies of the Swiss government did not make it easy for the refugees to enter. In addition, Swiss banks collaborated with the Nazis, misusing the assets of both victims and survivors.
Visit with us the Jewish Museum of Switzerland, which was founded in 1966 as the first Jewish museum in German-speaking countries after the war. After admiring the museum’s Judaica collection, we will dive into the most comprehensive collection of public art in Switzerland in the Kunstmuseum Basel, with its incredible collection of Holbeins, Renaissance and impressionist works, just to mention a few of its thousands of pieces.
If you can’t get enough of art, Basel is your city! We`ll move on to Fondation Beyeler, an elegant building designed by star architect Renzo Piano which hosts works by Picasso and Rothko, sculptures by Miró and Max Ernst and tribal figures from Oceania.
A stroll in the Marktplatz will throw you back to the Middle Ages, and if you want to go even further back in time, you can walk through the Augusta Raurica, the last remnants of a Roman colony founded in 43 BC, about 17km east of Basel.
Go with us through all the city’s layers, join our Jewish Basel Tour!