IV. Buildings Integral to the Former Life and/or Persecution of Jews in Altona.
18. Platz der Republik.
- "Black Form - Dedicated to the Missing Jews".
Black Form - Dedicated to the Missing Jews.
The Dedication Ceremony of the Memorial for the Destroyed Jewish
Black Form - Dedicated to the Missing Jews.
(conception: Sol DeWitt).
Platz der Republik, in front of, and parallel to, the Altona Town Hall.
Dedication Speech delivered by Prof. Dr Miriam Gillis-Carlebach in November 1989.
In Chief Rabbi Joseph Carlebach`s History of the Altona Jews, unpublished during
his lifetime, he describes the two Jewish communities in Altona: the Sephardi
community of Portuguese Jews, who spoke Low German (Plattdeutsch), and the
Ashkenazi community, the High German Jewish community (Hochdeutsche Israeliten
Gemeinde), the name indicating that the community members only spoke High
I wish to relate the most significant events in the development of these Altona Jewish
communities. One of the earliest institutions to be founded, in 1630, was the Jewish
school, that, with alterations and disruptions, continued to exist until October 1938,
that is for over 300 years, until the "Poland Operation" ("Polenaktion") of the
28th October 1938, when hundreds of Jewish families of Polish extraction
were suddenly and unexpectedly expelled,
from German towns and cities, to Poland. The first school
was accommodated in a small house acquired for this purpose and the first
schoolmaster was Samuel ben Jehuda Löb. Due to his important position as teacher
he became regarded as the founder of the Altona Jewish community, which is
inscribed on his epitaph.
A synagogue was built between 1674 and 1684. It was the first, elegantly built
synagogue in north Germany, although somewhat concealed between the houses
number 5 and number 9 in Kleine Papagoyenstraße. Its management and
administrators were among the first representatives to be voted to their offices by
The Altona Jewish community headed the so-called tri-community "AHW",
a name composed of the first letters of Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbek, which
played a very significant role in the history of the German Jews. The Altona Jewish
community was the seat of the chief rabbi of the tri-community and
correspondingly had more than double the number of votes: Wandsbek had 4-5,
Hamburg 6, and Altona 17 votes on the joint board.
A number of prominent rabbis held office in Altona. Carlebach names each individual
rabbi together with his religious and literary writings but stresses their educational
and human qualities. To name only a few: in 1671 Rabbi Hillel became the first,
renowned chief rabbi; his commentary to the SHULCHAN ARUCH,
the main codification of Jewish law derived from the Talmud, received general
recognition. Rabbi Mendel Frankfurter (1742-1823) was the first to found a small
Talmudic college that later became a Talmud Torah school. To this day it remains
unclear whether this school was in Altona or whether it was the forerunner of the
Talmud Tora School in Hamburg. Rabbi Jacob Ettlinger (1798-1871) was very active
both as a writer and educator: he was a member of the board of the Jewish
community school for many years, as well as being the model and teacher of a
number of students who later became famous rabbis.
Chief Rabbi Dr Joseph Carlebach, who was introduced to his office in the old
synagogue by Max Brauer (1887-1973), mayor of Altona, held his longest period of
office there, from 1925-1936. Rabbi Dr Theo Weiß (1901-1987), succeeded him in
1937. Only a short period after taking up office, on the 9th November 1938, he was
arrested and incarcerated in a concentration camp. Chief Rabbi Carlebach was his
rescuer: he placed his own English emigration permit at Weiß's disposal and
additionally provided him with the warmest letters of recommendation for prospective
We have almost come to the end of our Altona Jewish history but let us return again
to the beginning. The very first expression of Jewish community life was the right of
burial that the city of Altona granted its Jews. In 1582 Arend Jacob purchased a plot
of land upon which to establish the Ottensen cemetery. In 1611, a second plot of
land, in Königstraße, was acquired by the Portuguese community.
Our father, Chief Rabbi Joseph Carlebach, not only described it as a museum and
temple but transformed the word cemetery (Friedhof) into "place of peace"
("Friedenshof"). He explained to us nine children that two bitter rivals, Rabbi
Jonathan Eybeschütz (1690-1764) and Rabbi Jacob Emden (1697-1776), were
peacefully bedded next to one another and that the infamous "amulet feud"
("Amulettensteit") between the two rabbis (Rabbi Emden accused Rabbi Eybeschütz
of being a secret member of the sect that declared itself in support of the pseudo-
Messiah Shabtai Zvi), was actually only fought out to the glory of heaven.
Gravestone of Jakob Emdens, son of Zwi Hirsch Aschkenasi.
Gravestone of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschütz.
And so, the history of the Jews of Altona did not begin with the establishment of
schools, synagogues, social institutions or kindergarten; all these once living, vibrant
institutions were destroyed and eradicated; and so it is the survival of the cemeteries,
especially the old cemetery in Königstraße, that appear to be a tragic symbol that
embraces and weighs upon our Jewish history in Altona and the whole of
The gravestones in the Jewish cemetery are evidence of two different things: of the
dignity and honour that Jewish religious law prescribes for the deceased, and of the
fate of each individual name engraved on the gravestone that recalls itself and
Today, a new stone is added to these old, dignified gravestones, a black monument
is revealed that is dedicated to the lost, murdered, missing Altona Jews. Is this an
anonymous stone symbolizing the mass grave of the Altona Jews? And will it ever be
able to recall names?
In an attempt to answer my own despondent question, and to come to terms with this
bitter quandary, I wish to return to Joseph Carlebach's historical work. He refers to
the devout Jewish widow Glückel von Hameln's wonderful description of Altona Jewish
domestic and community history: Glückel's self portrait is
composed of an authentic train of events and reveals to us the prototype of every
nameless heroine, of every mother who blesses us with successive generations.
Glückel wished, in her personal grief following the death of her husband, to write and
inscribe a grave. But, according to Chief Rabbi Carlebach, it is not a grave but a
human heart that materializes in the book.
Bertha Pappenheim als Glückel von Hameln.
With reference to these words I wish to emphatically repeat my question:
Will this stone today reveal itself merely like another grave or will it possibly open like
a human heart, to lovingly recall names, to name and to honour; names - not only the
great and famous personalities but also the poor and ordinary, the children and their
heroic mothers, even when they are the nameless victims of the Holocaust.
Will this stone be merely a gravestone or will it transform itself into a reconciliation
aspiring, name naming, stone of peace?
It is the younger generation that will be required to answer this question.
Informative Memorial Chart left of the Black Form.
This informative memorial cart is positioned to the left of the "Black Form" and containes the following:
This memorial is dedicated to the Altona Jews whose loss is our eternal remorse.
A Jewish community existed in Altona for more than 300 years. Altona and its Jewish community came
into existence almost at the same time and together rapidly flourished and gained in significance.
Altona came into existence in the 16th century and it was at the end of the 16th century that four
Jewish families were granted the right to settle there from the sovereign Count Adolf von Schauenburg.
Due to Altona's liberal immigration policy regarding persecuted and religious refugees the number
of "High German" Jews increased and led to the establishment of a Jewish community at the
beginning of the 17th century. Jewish cemeteries were established in Ottensen and in Königstraße.
In 1641 the new sovereign King Christian IV of Denmark confirmed and extended the privileges conferred
by his predecessor Count von Schauenburg. In 1664 Altona was awarded a town charter by Christian IVs
successor Friedrich III.
In 1671 the Hamburg, Altona and Wandsbek Jewish communities amalgamated into the "tri-community AHW",
with Altona being the seat of the chief rabbi. The "Great Synagogue" was built, and inaugurated in
1684. In 1713 the synagogue was destroyed by fire and the aftermath of war, and rebuilt in 1715.
In 1771 a "Portuguese Synagogue" was built which the High German Jewish community acquired in 1887
following the dissolving of the small Portuguese Jewish community.
After the disbanding of the tri-community for political reasons in 1812 Altona retained the seat of
the chief rabbi for Schleswig-Holstein. In 1863 the Schleswig-Holstein emancipation act for Jews
gave the Altona Jews full equal rights as citizens.
In 1900 the Jewish commnunity was enlarged by the influx of families fron eastern Europe. In 1926
Dr Joseph Carlebach took up office as chief rabbi for Altona; the community school moved into a
spacious building in Palmaille. At this time Altona had a population of 200,000 of whom more than
2,000 were Jews.
"Great Synagogue" in Kleine Papagoyenstraße.
Map showing the former Kleine Papagoyenstraße and the "Great Synagogue"
Dr Joseph Carlebach, Chief Rabbi of Altona between 1926 and 1936.
Community dignities, 1937.
Chief Rabbi Dr Theo Weiß is seated in the first row, fourth from th
Following the coming to power by the National Socialists in 1933 a boycott and riots were
instigated against Jewish owned businesses. In 1934 the Altona Jewish community celebrated the 250th
anniversary of the "Great Synagogue". The 1935 "Nuremberg Laws" degraded Jews to second-class citizens.
In 1936 Dr Joseph Carlebach was appointed Chief Rabbi of Hamburg and departed Altona. In 1937, as
a result of the "Greater Hamburg Act", the Altona Jewish community was formally dissolved and became
incorporated into the "Hamburg Jewish Religious Association". Due to Nazi repression and persecution
the community began to disintegrate through emigration and flight. In 1938 the community school closed.
On the 28th October 1938 east European Jews were deported to the Polish border. On the 9th/10th
November 1938 the "Great Synagogue" was damaged in the "Reichskristallnacht" pogrom but spared arson
due to its position within a heavily built-up area. Not long after it was demolished. In the autumn
of 1941 the methodical deportation and murder of Jews began.
In 1943 there were no Jews left in Hamburg. In July 1943 an air-raid destroyed the "Great Synagogue"
and the surrounding neighbourhood of the old town of Altona.
Joseph Carlebach: Die Geschichte der Juden in Altona in
Miriam Gillis-Carlebach (ed.), Joseph Carlebach, Ausgewählte Schriften.
Hildesheim Vol 2, pp. 1299-1333.
Trude Maurer: Abschiebung und Attentat. Die Ausweisung der polnischen Juden und
der Vorwand für die Kristallnacht in
Walter Pehle (ed.): Der Judenpogrom 1938. Von der Kristallnacht bis zum
Völkermord. Frankfurt am Main 1988, pp. 52-72
Johann Jacob Schutt: COMPENDIUM HISTORIAE JUDAICAE. Frankfurti du
Moenum 1714, p. 457
Rabbi Jissachar (B.S.) Jacobson: The Message of A-H-W in
Meir Hovav (ed.), Kfar Hanoar Hadati - Dedication Ceremony of the Comprehensive
Agricultural High School Building in the Name of Rabbi Dr Joseph Zvi Carlebach S.A.
The Commity of the friends of Kfar Hanoar Hadati. Jerusalem 1973 (Hebrew and
Miriam Gillis-Carlebach: Jüdischer Alltag als humaner Widerstand 1939-1941.
Alfred Feilchenfeld: Denkwürdigkeiten der Glückel von Hameln. Translated from
Jewish-German with commentary. Frankfurt am Main 1987