GÉRARDMER: (Vosges département, Lorraine région): 88400. Print

 

48° 04' 23" N 06° 52' 46" E. The 1999 population was 8,845. The ancient history of Gérardmer is linked to the dukedom of Lorraine that governed for a long time. Gérardmer was part the parish of Corcieux for a long time before acquiring self-government. A new epoch coincided with the arrival of the railway, tourism opening then notably Parisians. The annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by Germany also saw the arrival of Alsatian industrialists, who participated in the development of textile industry. In the first half of the 19th century, the establishment of the first modern Jewish communities in the Vosges department, no Jew lived permanently in Gérardmer but some from neighboring Alsace went to this village to trade. The situation changed at the end of 1840s when Gérardmer, which was only a big village became a true city. Some Alsatian Jews settled there permanently, but in the 1850s, they still numbered about twenty. In the 1860s, their number grows rapidly to 48 in 1864 and 105 in 1867. The community needed a butcher and rented one a place in a home facing the House of Culture [synagogue? House of worship?]. They engaged Isaac Bloch (Rosheim 1833-Gérardmer 1893), who arrived at Gérardmer in 1864, as an officiate. Gérardmer had the first tourist information office of France, created in 1875. The nickname "Pearl of Vosges" helped to make the train station popular, which Parisians used. The number of Jews continued growing until 1876, year when the community population peaked at 137 faithful. From 1880s, the Jewish community of Gérardmer saw the numbers of faithful progressively declining: 137 in 1876, 112 in 1889, 106 in 1899, 80 in 1910. In 1890, Alfred Paris, a producer and linen trader, bought the home where the community met for services that they rented until then. This building acted as place of worship up to the German invasion of 1940. The plan envisaged at the end of the 19th century had been to construct a modern synagogue in the town center but never become a reality. From 1893 until 1902, the community had a quick succession of officiates, at least four from 1893 to 1902. Situation changes with the arrival of Leopold Klein (Reguisheim, 1852-Gérardmer, 1937), who stays up to his death in 1937. He saw the decline of his community, a similar decline in as in other small Vosgiennes. The community of Gérardmer resembles other Vosges communities that formed either in the first half of the 19th century, such as those of Neufchâteau, Lamarche, Charms, Epinal, Remiremont or Saint-Dié, or under the Second Empire, following the example of those of the Bruyere or Rambervillers. The Jews of Gérardmer, as those of other cities of Vosges, sold livestock (e.g, the Netter family), were butchers, merchants of cheeses (eg: Bloch-Simon families), or dealers of clothes such the Weill family that has a department store in front of the church. They also played an active role in the development of local textile industry. In the 19th century, the Salmon families, Paris and Lévy, were merchants in textile industries that used the work of weavers at home. One of these families, the Lévy family, created a plant at the beginning of the 20th century, weaving precisely. Nathan Lévy's establishment become one of the main firms of Gérardmer employing 96 wage earners in 1906, 159 in 1921 and 216 in 1936. Belonging to the world of the notables, they participated in local political life. The merchant Léon Weill is town councilor from 1919 until 1935; in 1930s, the merchant of cheeses Fernand Bloch was vice-president of the union of the dealers and president of the local section of human rights. In a war statement in September 1939, French authorities evacuated the entire population of the villages bordering Alsace-Moselle with Germany and therefore the entire population of Strasbourg. Some of these evacuated Alsatians settle in Gérardmer. Among them were Jews. In the synagogue, services again were celebrated regularly. In May-June 1940, the Germans invaded France. Gérardmer was occupied on June 22nd. On November 17, 1944 fires broke out everywhere as dynamiting occurred. That evening, all of Gérardmer burned; the city was covered with a thick black cloud. What did not burn blew up. The water reservoirs of the city were destroyed, as was the electrical transformer. There was no running water in Gérardmer. Before the invasion of the city, many Jews living there were cautioned to leave. In Autumn 1940, the government of Gingham enforced anti-Semitic measures. After 1942, the Nazis set up the Final Solution. Quarantined Jews still seen in Gérardmer disappeared in 1942, 1943, and 1944. They are first driven to the camp Ecrouves, near Toul, then to that of Drancy in the Paris région before being slaughtered in Auschwitz. Among these transported prisoners were the industrialist André Lévy, his wife, his son, his nephew, and his niece. On the eve of the end on November 15, 16 and 17, 1944, the Germans, having gathered all of the population in an islet in the town center, burned all buildings except a protected group and therefore the synagogue. More than 85% of the houses were destroyed. At the end of war, Gérardmer was disadvantageous for the return of the Gérômois Jews who survived the war far from Vosges. Among the rare families returning were the surviving members of the family Lévy that rebuilt their destroyed plant and reclaimed their place among the notables of the city. Jean Lévy, now director of the family firm, succeeded his brother André who died in deportation and was deputy mayor from 1947 until 1965. Difficulties linked to the evolution of the textile industry forced the Lévy family in 1969 to sell its firm to a large international group. They left the city. [January 2008]

CEMETERY: From 1869, they had a burying ground close to that of the village. Of the history of the Jewish community of Gérardmer, various traces remain in the city, notably the Jewish burying ground with at least 150 graves. There also remains attachment of the descendants of the Jewish families.  [January 2008]

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 January 2009 14:10