Worms: Jewish Cemetery

The city of Worms, once the seat of government for the Holy Roman Empire under the reign of emperor Otto the great, is home to Europe’s oldest Jewish cemetery, which was built around 1034 A.D. With a history of nearly one thousand years, the Heiliger Sand (German for “holy sand”) cemetery is one the most ancient remains of Jewish culture on the European continent. The name “holy sand” is homage to the first burial ground of the Jews in Worms. As the legend goes the Jews of Worms were so rich and powerful that they bought sand from Jerusalem and shipped it all the way to Germany, using it as a huge pile to bury their dead. Famous figures from Jewish history like Meir von Rothenburg (†1293) or Alexander ben Salomon Wimpfen (†1307) are buried here. The inscriptions in the tombstones tell of stories that happened hundreds of years ago. For example the gravestone of Mr. Joel, son of Mr. Me'ir, which was deciphered using high-tech computer analysis, speaks of the great massacre of 1096, when marauding crusaders slaughtered more than 400 Jews in Worms alone. The stones also show the colorful history of the City of Worms, containing different styles of graves that changed over the ages, and with some of the stones being ravaged by bullet holes from the Nine Years War from 1688 to 1697. Located near the famous cathedral of Worms one can enjoy one of Germanys most beautiful cathedrals right after visiting the graveyard.