History of the Jewish cemetery of Vantoux

The village of Vantoux, at the gates of Metz, has long housed a large Jewish community. Many families, mostly from Germany and Metz, settled there at the end of the 17th century to flee the persecutions to which they were subjected. So much so that in 1830, of the 420 inhabitants of Vantoux, 211 were Jews. There were among these 32 butchers and cattle dealers who had made the town a real hub of the meat trade. At the end of the XVIIIth century, 35 perfectly integrated Jewish families lived in Vantoux. In order to be able to bury their deceased, the Jews of Vantoux, but also of Vallières and Mey, acquired on October 31, 1736 from Claude Saget, a lord of Vantoux, land located Chemin de Belle Croix, at the exit of the village, for build a cemetery in front of the Catholic communal cemetery. A synagogue was erected later, in 1777, as was a school and a ritual slaughterhouse.

The Jewish cemetery of Vantoux is one of the oldest in Europe. The first burial, that of Madame Sichem, daughter of Rabbi Meschonlam, dates back to 1739. Covering an area of ​​5.42 ares, this lattré Jews, as we say in Romanesque Lorraine to designate a cemetery, contains more than 200 graves. The majority of them are in an excellent state of conservation and bear epitaphs which are still clearly visible. The cemetery also subsequently accommodated the deceased of the Jewish communities of Ancerville, Augny and Marly. His request for an extension was refused some time later. It was therefore decided to cover the oldest burials, located at the bottom, with a three-meter-high earthen bank in order to be able to carry out new burials above.

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The old Vantoux synagogue near Metz (Photo credits: Aimelaime)

The site is administered by the Central Israelite Consistory of France. This institution was created by Napoleon Iis in 1808 to supervise the Israelite cult in France. If it therefore preserves very old graves in accordance with the perpetual character of Jewish cemeteries, the Jewish cemetery of Vantoux is still sometimes used today. Michel Créhange, former President of the Metz Bar Association, for example, was buried there in 2001, as was his wife, also a lawyer, in June 2021, according to Jewish ritual.

Note that the Jewish cemetery of Vantoux is one of 45 of the same kind that still exist in Moselle as in Augny, Boulay-Moselle, Ennery or Flévy. But in addition to the cemetery, Vantoux keeps other traces of the old Jewish community that had settled there, like the Jewish path which links the village to that of Mey. Before being surveyed by hikers, the latter was once used by members of the small Jewish community of Mey to get to the Vantoux synagogue. In its last part, the path winds between the houses of the old village of Vantoux and leads to the old synagogue which has since been converted into a dwelling. Finally, remember that the Jewish community began to leave Vantoux after the signing of the Treaty of Frankfurt in 1871. and the annexation of part of Lorraine to the new German Empire.