German Jewish Records
Jewish records [Jüdische Urkunden] include records of Jews or Jewish congregations. The Family History Library has over 2,000 microfilms of German Jewish vital records that list births, marriages, and deaths. These vital records are an excellent source for accurate information about Jewish ancestors.
The Family History Library also has other types of Jewish records, including synagogue records, records of Jewish taxpayers, Holocaust victims, and censuses.
A gazetteer of places, sources and indexes can be found at:
General Historical Background
The earliest German Jewish records are synagogue records, but these were not kept by all congregations.
The German Jews did not usually keep registers of births, marriages, and deaths unless required to do so by law.
In the early nineteenth century, Jews in many parts of Germany were required by law either to register with Catholic or Lutheran parishes or to prepare their own civil transcripts of births, marriages, and deaths. These types of records, whether kept by a Christian parish or civil authorities, are called Jewish records.
With the introduction of nationwide civil registration by 1876, Jewish births, marriages, and deaths were recorded by German civil authorities. In most cases, the records for Jews were kept in a separate Jewish register. Jewish synagogue records and separate civil registers of Jews are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:
Mixed civil registration records are listed in the catalog under
CIVIL REGISTRATION. See the “Civil Registration” section of this outline for information about civil registration records.
Censuses were taken from time to time to identify Jews and other minorities, especially during the Nazi era (1938-1939). Many records of Jews who died in the Holocaust are now available.
Understanding the history of the Jewish people in Germany can help you in your research. The following are two good reference books:
- Adler, H. G.The Jews in Germany: From the Enlightenment to National Socialism. Great Bend, Indiana, USA: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969. (FHL book 943 F2a.)
- Lowenthal, Marvin. The Jews of Germany: A Story of Sixteen Centuries. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1939. (FHL book 943 F2lm.)
Listed below are a useful genealogical handbook and a bibliography of Jewish family histories:
- Kurzweil, Arthur. From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Personal History. New York, NY, USA: William Morrow, 1980. (FHL book 929.1 K967f; film 1,059,468 item 4.)
- Zubatsky, David S., and Irwin M. Berent. Jewish Genealogy: A Sourcebook of Family Histories and Genealogies. Two Volumes. New York, NY, USA: Garland, 1984. (FHL book 929.1 Z81j.)
Information recorded in synagogue records may include the following:
- Financial accounting records. These records sometimes list the names of contributors.
- Circumcision registers (“Mohel” books). These registers include the Hebrew given name for the male child, the date of circumcision (Hebrew calendar), the father's given Hebrew name, and sometimes the father's surname.
- Marriage contracts. These contractual agreements include the names of the bride and groom. They may also give the marriage date and the parents' names. In cases of second or later marriages, names of previous marriage partners and their death dates may be included.
- Lists of deceased persons. These lists give the name of the deceased person and the death date.
Information Recorded in Jewish Civil Registration Records
Jewish civil registration records contain the same birth, marriage, and death information as civil registration records for Christians. They are used in the same way as church records or other civil registration records. See the search strategies included in the “Church Records” and “Civil Registration” sections.
Other Records. From 1809 to 1812, lists of surname changes for Jews were created in several German states. Although formats vary by area, most show each person's residence, patronymic surname, new surname, and birth date. Some lists have been extracted and published in book form. These records may also be cataloged under
In Alsace-Lorraine different records are listed under the German [Elsass-Lothringen] and French catalog entries. A search by current French department [Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Moselle] yields entries.
The Nazi minority census of 1938/1939 lists given names and surnames, birth dates, birthplaces, education levels, and which grandparents were Jewish. It is available for many major cities and several regions. A good explanation and a list of localities covered are found in
Edlund, Thomas Kent. The German Minority Census of 1939, published as part of the
Avotaynu Monograph Series, Teaneck, New Jersey : Avotaynu,1996. [FHL call # 943 X22e 1996]
Locating Jewish Records
The Family History Library has Jewish records from many German places, but there are also many places not yet represented in the collection. The library has very few synagogue records. Most of the library's Jewish materials are vital records made by civil authorities.
Jewish civil registration records and civil registration records that include Jews along with the rest of the population are available beginning in 1795. Because of privacy restrictions, the library has few records for events that occurred after 1875.
Below are listed places where you can look for records of your Jewish ancestors:
Civil Registration Records. These records are kept at the local civil registration office [Standesamt] in each town or city. Therefore, you need to know the town where your ancestor lived before you can look for these records.
Many German archive and parish register inventories touch on various Jewish records. The inventory below concentrates on Jewish records:
- Verzeichnis der im Bundesarchiv aufbewahrten Filme von Personenstandsregistern: JüdischerGemeinden aus Mittel- und Ostdeutschland (Inventory of microfilms at the German Federal Archive of Jewish Vital Records from central and eastern Germany). Typescript photocopy, 196-? (FHL book 943 A5gp.)
This inventory is divided into five sections:
- east of the Oder-Neiße line,
- Russian occupied East Germany,
- Berlin, and
- Locality Index.
The inventory lists hundreds of synagogue records—including birth, marriage, and death records; cemetery records; school records; and so forth—and the years they cover.
Leo Baeck Institute. The Leo Baeck Institute in New York has a collection of 50,000 German Jewish records, primarily from Baden, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein, Westpreußen, and Württemberg. These include circumcision, marriage, death, and memorial records. The following work describes the collection:
Grubel, Fred, et al. Catalog of the Archival Collections [of the Leo Baeck Institute]. Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr, 1990. (FHL book 974.71 A3gf.)
More good Jewish information can be found at: www.lbi.org , web site of the Leo Baeck Institute.
Registry of Jewish Research. The Jewish Genealogical Society provides an alphabetical registry of genealogists and the Jewish families they are researching:
Mokotoff, Gary. Jewish Genealogical Family Finder. New York, NY, USA: Jewish Genealogical Society, 1984-. Irregular. (FHL Reg Table 940 F2mg.) Available online at:
Genealogical Societies. The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies may be able to help find records of Jewish ancestors. Their address is:
- International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies
1485 Teaneck Road
Teaneck, NJ 07666
Holocaust Records. Most of the Jewish population of Germany was killed during the atrocities of World War II. Below is a source containing a list of about 130,000 people who died in the Holocaust, their birth and death dates, their places of residence before deportation, and the camps to which they were sent:
Gedenkbuch: Opfer der Verfolgung der Judenunter der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft in Deutschland, 1933-1945 (Memorial book for the victims of Jewish persecution during Nazi despotism, 1933-1945). Two Volumes. Koblenz, Germany: Bundesarchiv, 1986. (FHL bookQ 943 V4g.)
The address for the American Red Cross War Victims Tracing Center follows:
4800 Mt. Hope Dr.
Baltimore, MD 21215
United States Holocause Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place S.W.
Washington, DC 20024
International Tracing Service
Grosse Allee 5-9
34444 Bad Arolsen
Family History Library Records. To determine whether the Family History Library has Jewish records for the locality your ancestor came from, search the Place Search of the catalog under each of the following:
GERMANY - JEWISH RECORDS
GERMANY, [STATE] - JEWISH RECORDS
GERMANY, [STATE], [TOWN] - JEWISH
Information about Jews may also be found in the Place Search under:
GERMANY - JEWISH HISTORY
GERMANY - MINORITIES
Additional information may be found in the Subject Search under:
JEWS - GERMANY
HOLOCAUST, JEWISH (1939-1945)