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.