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BELFORT: 90000. (Territoire de Belfort département in the Franche-Comté région, Bourgogne) PDF Print E-mail



47°38′30″N, 06°51′00″E. The 1999 population of 50,417 swells to about 80,000 with the suburbs. Belfort's strategic location in a natural gap between the Vosges and the Jura on a route linking the Rhine and the Rhône has attracted human settlement and made it a target for armies. The site was inhabited in Gallo-Roman times and was recorded in the 13th century as a possession of the counts of Montbéliard, who granted it a charter in 1307. Previously an Austrian possession, Belfort was transferred to France by the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) that ended the Thirty Years' War. The town's fortifications were extended. Until 1871, Belfort was part of the département of Haut-Rhin in Alsace. The Siege of Belfort, between November 3, 1870 and February 18, 1871, was successfully resisted until the garrison was ordered to surrender 21 days after the armistice between France and Prussia. As a mark of respect for their tenacity, the area around Belfort was excluded from the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine by the Prussians forming, as it still does, the Territoire de Belfort. The town was bombarded by the Germans in World War I and occupied by them in World War II. In November 1944, the retreating German army held the French First Army before the town until French Commandos made a successful night attack on the Salbert Fort. Belfort was liberated on 22 November. Belfort is a trading centre for wine and grain and its industries include chemicals, engineering, plastics and textiles. [January 2008]

Jews was authorized to become established in Belfort in 1791. Until then, they were forbidden as non-Catholics since Belfort joined the Kingdom of France by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Nevertheless, a Jewish community is mentioned in 13th century. Since the 1700s, Jews lived in Foussemagne about 10 km from Belfort, "that had a synagogue and no church" and constituted up to 70% of the population in 19th century. The first Jewish marriage in Belfort, celebrated by Rabbi de Foussemagne, took place in 1793. The actual synagogue constructed in 1857 by the architect Poisat Aîné in a baroque and Oriental style was built by contributions for two-thirds of 50 heads of the family, the State, and the Municipality. The first rabbi of Belfort, Leopold Lehmann, left his footprint on his community and his city, remaining there for 54 years. His remarkable tomb enhances the burying ground. The unveiling of the synagogue was celebrated with great pomp in the presence of civil military authorities, inhabitants, and journalists.[January 2008]

Jews establishing in Belfort in the 1700s were natives of the Sundgau (triangle Basel-Mulhouse-Belfort) with others from Hagenthal le Haut and Dürmenach where one of the last pogroms of France took place in 1848. They became established in the old city of Belfort where a mikvah is the work of Coret. Peddlers or horse dealers, they established small, and then prosperous, trade to the point of creating the first department stores of the city. The family of the Captain Dreyfus was moved to Belfort from Mulhouse to assure the defense of the Captain. The members of the family rest in the cemetery of Belfort. The Belfort summer Jewish community was legally constituted in 1906. Then, a wave of Polish immigration in 1920s created an atmosphere not blending with the Alsatians. Following was the arrival of Polish survivors of the Shoah in 1945, when 250 Jews of Belfort had been deported. Finally, more new is the community of North Africa Jews (1962), Iranian Jews (1978), and Kazakhstan Jews (1996). [January 2008]

For some years, due to insufficient numbers, the Jewish communities of Montbéliard (Doubs) and Héricourt (Haute-Saône) were attached to Belfort. Among the local personalities: Dr Edward LEVY-SCHWOB families and BUMSEL - the Jewish community gave four mayors to the city: Léon SCHWOB, Edward LEVY-GRUNWALD, and Sénateur Michel DREYFUS-SCHMIDT. The synagogue of Foussemagne, private ownership, is visible only on the outside and the synagogue of Montbéliard is open only for big holidays or visits by appointment. A. C. I. et Synagogue at 6, rue de l'As de Carreau - 90000 BELFORT, Tél et Fax 03-84-28-55-41. Centre Communautaire at 27 rue Strolz - 90000 BELFORT, Tél/Fax 03-84-28-55-41. has more town information in English. [January 2008]

Cimetière Israélite: 51, Faubourg de Lyon - BELFORT, Tél 03-84-21-04-84. (By appointment for a guided tour). This burying ground holds remarkable gravestones from 1820. The synagogue and the cemetery of Belfort are by appointment for a guided tour. Visit guided on European Day of Jewish Culture (1st Sunday of September) and on National Day of Heritage (mid-September). The family of Captain Dreyfus is buried here. The Jewish community of Belfort, at the head of which was Leopold Lehmann, participated in a procession for the unveiling of the cemetery, where rest the heroes of the three seats of Belfort (1870).[January 2008] has burials list online from an original handwritten list made in 1922 by M. Bernheim-Wormser, treasurer of Belfort Jewish Congregation with the help of MM. J Bloch. This GenAmi burial list was updated to 1994. At least 2,000 graves. January 2008]

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 January 2009 16:57
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