When entering the cemetery, this "Bäjs Aulem", this "House of Eternity", the contrast is great between the oldest sandstone tombs of the Vosges, whose sagging stone leans like an orant bent in prayer, and the order of the most recent burials, to whom the the rigidity of the marble or granite slabs confers a certain bourgeois respectability. A monument also commemorates members of the community and neighboring villages who perished in the resistance or in deportation during the Second World War. Opposite the entrance, a large rectangular square. A tiny plaque placed on the ground recalls that four hundred graves were torn from this cemetery, carried away by Nazi barbarism.
The traces of at least three generations have thus been erased. The graves, like the Jews at the same time, went to an unknown destination. This void, redoubled by the near absence of Jews, in a place once inhabited by a community bustling , does not fail to question us. It is all the more significant that the Jews have participated for nearly five centuries in the history of the city.
Until the end of the 18th century, the Jews of Wintzenheim had to bury their dead in the cemetery of Jungholtz, about thirty kilometers away. They had to pay a tax in each village and in each borough crossed.
It was not until 1795 that they were authorized to open a cemetery along the road to Turckheim. When it was created, the cemetery occupied an area of 26 ares. A 16-acre plot, acquired in 1826, allowed it to be enlarged in order to bury the Jews of Turckheim, Ingersheim, Wettolsheim and Munster as well. The oldest tomb that remains today dates from 2 Germinal of the year II (1797).
The oldest tombs, from around 1797 to 1860, are characterized by a relative uniformity, in accordance with the imperative of simplicity and equality which must unite the Jews in death. They respond to a restraint that refuses the ostentation of social disparities: each tomb is made up of a vertical sandstone slab. Most do not wear decorative patterns. Some are surmounted by a ball, a pine cone, a stylized flower, or even a decorated pediment. From the second half of the 19th century, there is gradually more variety in the decor: hands of the Cohanim, ewer of Lévy, weeping willow and winged hourglass. Religious, and above all social, distinction imposes its mark.