Düsseldorf was birthplace of one of Germany greatest poets, the Jewish Heinrich Heine. Today, you can hardly walk a block in the city without seeing something named for Heine, from streets to pubs to monuments to its university.
Born in Düsseldorf in 1797, Heine was greatly influenced by the Napoleonic occupation that emancipated the Jews overnight.
Heine’s Birthplace, in the heart of the old city is today, like many neighboring buildings, a pub: “Schnabelewopski.” Nearby, at Bilker Strasse, is the Heinrich Heine Institute, a literary museum and research center, housing the original manuscripts of “The Lorelei” and “The Rabbi of Bacharach,” personal mementoes, paintings and Heine’s death mask. Heine was not the only Jewish citizen to make a mark on Düsseldorf. In front of St. Maximillian’s Church (Citadellenstrasse), a monument honors seven prominent Düsseldorfer in history, of whom three are Jews: Heine, former mayor Willem Marx, and Arthur Schlossmann, a pediatrician who founded the medical school that ultimately grew into the Heinrich Heine University.
In the art collection of the Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf are paintings of the Young Rhineland movement, many of whose members were Jews. Their works were banned by the Nazis, and many were included in Munich’s “Exhibit of Degenerate Art.” The museum also houses exhibits on the development of National Socialism and its impact on Düsseldorf. Another exhibit on Nazi persecutions is at the Düsseldorf Memorial Center at Muhlenstrasse.
Close to 10,000 Jews live in Düsseldorf today. The Düsseldorf JCC has an ambitious cultural program of concerts, lectures, youth and adult education. Its beautiful white-stone synagogue opened in 1958. Düsseldorf’s largest pre-war synagogue, on Kasernenstrasse, was destroyed on Kristallnacht: a stone Synagogue Memorial marks the site.