First Jews settled in Morąg as early as 1813, and the local Jewish population soon stated to quickly grow in numbers. A Jewish cemetery was established on the town. The community reached its peak size at the turn of the 1850s, when over 120 Jews lived in Morąg. The community was not wealthy. Most of its members made their living from petty trade and crafts. In the 1840s, a house of prayer and a mikveh probably operated at erstwhile Garncarska Street (Töpferstraße).
It is possible that the local Jewish population was granted the status of a synagogue community in 1849; it also had jurisdiction over Jews from nearby villages. In the second half of the 19th century, a synagogue was erected at 1 Podmurna Street (Mauerstraße)[1.1].
Despite the dynamic growth initially experienced by the local community, the number of Jews in Morąg started to decline significantly in the 1860s, as many people decided to move to larger towns which offered better career prospects. Nonetheless, the remaining members of the community still played an important role in Morąg’s life, which is evidenced by their involvement in the local government, with many Jews holding important administrative positions. This fact also bears testament to the advanced process of Germanisation of the Jewish population. In 1917, Leopold Jackmus, born in Morąg, perished in the ranks of the German Army[1.2].
In 1932, only five Jews paid the community tax. The synagogue community still operated in Morąg, even though there were no more than 40 Jews living in the town (0.8% of the total population). At that time, the community board was composed of Louis Topkowski and Georg Jacobsohn; the treasurer was Leo Pich. The community employed a cantor who also dealt with ritual slaughter; his name was Gordon. The communal property included the aforementioned synagogue in Mauerstraße and the cemetery. No information has been preserved on the community budget or the number of children receiving religious education.
Anti-Jewish sentiments grew in power after National Socialists gained control over Germany. In April 1933, Jewish shops were targeted with a boycott. Jews started to migrate from the town in large number to escape harassment and restrictions imposed on business activities. During the Kristallnacht (9/10 November 1938), the Nazis demolished the apartments of the last two Jewish families living in the town; they left Morąg shortly afterwards. The synagogue was probably not set on fire, but instead confiscated and passed into “Aryan” hands.
Lists of Holocaust victims feature the names of 18 people who were born or lived in Morąg. They were deported to the ghettos of Theresienstadt, Kaunas, and Riga, and to the camps in Auschwitz and Treblinka.
- Führer durch die jüdische Gemeindeverwaltung und Wohlfahrtspflege in Deutschland: 1932–1933, Berlin 1933, p. 20.
- Kabus R., Juden in Ostpreussen, Husum 1998.
- [1.1] Archives of the “Neue Synagoge Berlin – Centrum Judaicum” Foundation in Berlin, Jüdische Gemeinde, Vorstand. Allgemeines, ref. no. 1, 75 A Mo 1, No. 1 (Ident.-Nr. 5091).
- [1.2] Onlineprojekt Gefallenendenkmäler [online] http://www.denkmalprojekt.org/Verlustlisten/vl_rjf_berlin_wk1_j.htm [Accessed on: 29 Nov 2018].