For many centuries, Echzell, Bisses, and Gettenau were home to numerous Jewish families. They constituted the United Jewish Religious Community of Echzell, which was violently put to an end during the pogroms of November 1938. Max Simon, the last chairman, was incarcerated, records and cash confiscated, the interior of the synagogue destroyed, Jewish families (Rossmann und Simon) attacked, homes destroyed and residents abused.
58 people who were born in Echzell, Bisses, and Gettenau, or had lived there for a longer period of time, verifiably perished in the Holocaust, one other - Siegmund Hecht from Bisses - took his own life before being deported. The fate of numerous others is as yet unknown.
There is no record of when the first Jews settled here; however, the first settlers probably had fled to the countryside in the late Middle Ages in order to avoid the pogroms in Frankfurt.
The first official documentation of Jews living in Echzell and Bisses occurs in the 16th century: Following an edict issued on June 27, 1572 by Landgrave Ludwig of Hesse commanding all Jewish men to appear in Marburg on July 7, Abraham and Isack came from Echzell. In 1575 one Michel from Bisses is recorded; he later made his home in Friedberg.
Until the mid-1860s the Jewish community was centered in Bisses, where there was a prayer hall, perhaps even a small synagogue, and a Jewish cemetery. By 1830, 41 Jewish inhabitants were counted in Bisses, and 29 in Echzell. For a long time Bisses had belonged to the territory of the Barons von Nagel, who for a fee, would settle “protected Jews” under their patronage in Bisses. Jews residing in Echzell belonged to the religious community of Bisses.
In 1863/64, a new synagogue was erected in Echzell; by the mid-1880s a new cemetery was installed near the Forsthaus (forester’s lodge) at the edge of the forest and the old one is Bisses was no longer used. Once Echzell had become the center of the Jewish community, Jews living in Bisses and Gettenau were included as members. Around 1924 the Jewish Community of Echzell consisted of 66 members from Echzell, 20 from Bisses, and 5 from Gettenau.
Due to the increasing disenfranchisement and reprisals after 1933, most of the Jewish community members moved away or emigrated. By November 1938, there were only 19 Jews officially living in Echzell and Bisses, and none in Gettenau; by 1939 only six remained, and in September 1942 only two – Emma and Hermann Heilbronn – were deported directly from here.
Only four people from Echzell who were deported to the death camps survived and returned to Echzell: Bella Hampel and two small children, and Max Kaufmann, who later moved to Bielefeld.