Jews In Hamburg - A Permanent ExhibitionTo everything there is a season,
And a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.
(Kohelet 3, 1-5)
This permanent exhibition Jews in Hamburg depicts the life of Jews in Hamburg from
their first arrival in the town towards the end of the 16th century right up to the
expulsion and extermination of so many of them during World War II. It was the intention of
the Nazis not only to have Hamburg's Jews disappear from the town itself, but what seems
beyond comprehension also to annihilate all Jews in Europe.
The history is chronologically arranged. Additionally, specific themes are covered:
Jewish schools, Jews in Hamburg's business life, Jewish living conditions, the Jewish
religion, and annual Jewish ceremonial events. The Jewish anniversary feasts are highlighted
at various locations. The history of Jews in Hamburg since 1945 is also presented.
Plan of the Exhibition
1. The First Arrival of Jews in HamburgThe Portuguese Jews living in Hamburg since the 1580s were treated as if they were Christians and due to their trade connections were highly welcome. Among them were the spice merchant Ferdinand Dias, an exporter trading with Brazil, Emanuel Alvares, the broker Adrian Gonzales, and the sugar importer Diego Gomes. Some 125 Sephardic Jews lived in Hamburg around 1612, by 1663 their number had already increased to 600. In 1603 they were for the first time officially deemed to be "Jews", at which time the Bürgerschaft demanded of the Senat their expulsion. This demand was repeatedly raised by Hamburg's clergy over the following decades. This resulted not only in publicly voiced abuse but also in physical violence directed against Jews by the incited populace. The following prejudiced insinuations have been made of Jews since the Middle Ages: abuse of Christian women, the desecration of churches and christian religious symbols, as well as flamboyant luxury, combined with the ever present fear of business competition. However, the Senat issued warnings against any attacks on Jews; they were fully aware of the economic importance for the town of the financially powerful Jews and their international business connections.
In 1612 the Senat accorded the Jews a permission of residence against a payment of 1,000 Marks for a period of five years, but at the same time denied them the right to practice their religion. An ordinance of 1650 permitted them to practice their religion in private; the building of Synagogues was nonetheless still prohibited. The Jews themselves tried to be inconspicuous in order not to give rise to any aversions. As a precautionary measure they accepted the privilege granted to them by the Danish King Christian IV to settle in the recently founded town of Glückstadt, established by the King downstream on the river Elbe as a trading centre competing with Hamburg. Here they were offered considerably better opportunities for settling, trading, and religious practice. Despite this the Portuguese-Jewish settlement in Glückstadt remained insignificant. By the end of the 17th century a number of the previously well respected and influential Sephardic personalities had died. When in 1697 the Senat and the Bürgerschaft demanded sizeable annual payments from the Portuguese Jews for their stay in Hamburg and rescinded their right to religious practice some of the rich families emigrated to the more tolerant Danish ruled Altona, Ottensen, and even to Amsterdam. This development and internal strife within the community led, in the 18th century, to a reduction in the numbers and influence of Portuguese Jews in Hamburg.
Ashkenazi Jews, originally residing in Altona, are documented first in Hamburg in 1621. As a consequence of the 30 years war many Jews fled from Altona to Hamburg in 1627 and again in 1644, but they were expelled again, and could only pursue their business in Hamburg by purchasing an expensive gate-pass. Only those employed by Portuguese Jews living in Hamburg were permitted to stay. Ashkenazi Jews from Wandsbek are documented as living in Hamburg for the first time in 1688. Hamburg offered them better economic prospects, equal to those in Altona but with a worse legal status. As Jews under Danish protectorate they could at any time settle in either community.
2. Enlightenment and EmancipationAs a result of bitter disputes between the Senat, Bürgerschaft, and the clergy regarding the toleration of Jews in Hamburg in 1710 an Imperial Commission issued a decree regulating the right of abode, taxes, occupation, and the religious practice of Jews. These regulations, however, were not sufficient to secure the life and occupational activities of the increasing Jewish population, or to reduce the protests of the business community fearful of competition, or the incitation of the clergy. In 1730 an anti-Jewish riot took place. The Senat was forced to accept the Jews as inhabitants of the town with circumscribed economic and religious rights. Contrary to all their resistence against Jews, Hamburg and Altona were centres of the Enlightenment in the 18th century. There existed a small number of protagonists of this reform movement with its basic beliefs in reason and criticism, civic responsibility, humanity and tolerance. Around 1760 some Jews, friends of the protagonist of the Enlightenment Moses Mendelsohn, found access to these circles. In 1800 Jews were admitted as members to the Patriotische Gesellschaft (a Hamburg Institution founded in 1765 and devoted to scientific and charitable aims). The intense discussion concerning the emancipation of Jews which began in the 1790s was put into concrete practice only by the French authorities during their occupation of Hamburg between 1806 and 1813. Jews were accorded equal rights in civic and political matters, and they were granted freedom of commercial activity. Despite this many Jews took part in the action of the allies against Napoleon and in 1813 (Hamburg at war) only paid a quarter of the contributions demanded by the French. The hope of the Jews to be accorded recognition for their efforts and sacrifices during the war of liberation were, however, disappointed in the ensuing years. French jurisdiction was no longer in force and as previously traders and the guilds, together with the Lutheran clergy opposed any emancipation of the Jews. This reactionary development, which also gained ground in other parts of Germany, promoted anti-Jewish sentiment. In 1819 antisemitism originating in southern Germany reached Hamburg in the form of the so-called "Hepp-Hepp" conflagrations ("Hepp-Hepp" being the first line of an insulting rhythmic-rhyming verse). Further activities directed against Jews followed in 1830 and 1835. From 1830 onwards the demands for equal rights for Jews increasingly gained support. In March of the revolutionary year 1848 a "peoples assembly" under the chairmanship of Gabriel Riesser and Isaac Wolfson demanded, among other things, equal rights for all tax-paying citizens, and the independence of political and civic rights from religious belief. In 1848 Riesser was elected delegate to the constituate session of the German national assembly. The decision, laid down in the Constitution of the Paulskirche assembly, to separate civic rights from religious affiliation was converted into the Hamburg legal code in 1849. The first elected Bürgerschaft (Parliament) in Hamburg convened in 1859; among the 192 members there were 10 Jews. In the new constitution of 1860 full freedom of religious conviction was guaranteed, and religious affiliation was separated from civic rights. The law enacted in 1864 concluded the legal emancipation of the Jews. Jewish communities became solely religious congregations with voluntary membership.
3. Jewish SchoolsThere is no other religion which gives such a prominent place to education as that accorded to it by Judaism. Reading the holy texts is one of the obligations of a devout Jew. Until the 18th century the study of religious texts, the memorising of the five books of Moses, and the Talmud was confined to boys. The study took place in the private rooms of the teacher, the "Cheder". In an inventory of 1732 there were 39 schools listed for German-Jews in Hamburg. From the middle of the 18th century many Jewish parents, in the wake of the Enlightenment, wanted to give their children not only a religious but also a secular education. Only a few wealthy families could afford to send their children to a Gymnasium (schools giving a humanistic and mathematical education leading to University admission), or employ a private tutor who was competent in mathematics, sciences, languages, and other subjects. The first school for deserving Jewish boys was established in Hamburg in 1783, and for girls in 1798.
During the 19th century several new Jewish schols were founded, beginning with the Talmud-Torah School in 1805. These schools underwent several reforms, occasionally amalgamated, and were frequently characterised by the individuals who served in them as teachers or headteachers. In the second half of the 19th century the increasing standards in the education of schoolchildren were matched by the Jewish schools, and led to the recognition of final examinations and their development into schools which qualified pupils for University entrance.
Several Jewish schools did not survive the economic crisis of the closing years of the Weimar Republic and closed down around 1930. All remaining Jewish schools became a refuge for children at the start of the Nazis persecution of the Jews in 1933, prior to them being finally closed down. On June 30th 1942 all teaching of Jewish schoolchildren was prohibited, and almost all of those few Jewish pupils and teachers still living in Hamburg were deported, and murdered.
4. Jews and Business in HamburgThe Sephardim who settled in Hamburg at the end of the 16th century were wealthy merchants with extensive trading connections overseas. The foundation of the "Hamburger Bank" in 1619 was made possible through their participation, and they helped Hamburg to become an international centre for trade and finance in the 17th century.
Already in the 16th century the Jews in Hamburg were separated into social strata encompassing not only rich merchants and brokers but also bakers and cooks, manual workers and domestic servants. In the middle of the 18th century some 858 Ashkenazi taxpayers were employed in 68 different occupations. There were restrictions on the practice of certain jobs and professions by Jews. As a rule Jews were barred from guild-controlled occupations and thus were forced to concentrate their activities in the spheres of trade and finance. This ranged from the peddling of goods and wholesale trade to pawnbroking and the brokering of bills of exchange. Jews were also particularly active in street trading and the retail business.
Jews distinguished themselves by their degree of occupational mobility. In the production sector e.g. calico printing, they became entrepreneurs. A speciality was the printing of books renown well beyond the confines of Hamburg and Altona. An example of the entrepreneural activities of women is Glückel (von) Hameln (1646-1724).
The participation of Jewish families in the foundation of private banks in the 19th century was within their traditional business sphere, and was furthered by the increasing demand for capital and their foreign connections. The new industries were not controlled by the guilds or by social status, and consequently Jewish entrepreneurs invested in this growing business sector with a flexibility and willingness to bear risks. They were above all successful in the chemical and metal processing industries, as well as in mechanical engineering.
The introduction of freedom of trade in 1865, the rapid growth in population, and the new methods of mass production promoted the founding of department stores, a new form of retailing with a diversified range of products at low prices. In Hamburg, however, subsidiaries of larger chain stores from other towns became established e.g. Hermann Tietz (Hertie).
During the Imperial years and in the Weimar Republic four Jewish shipping companies were founded. Jews also worked in leading positions in other shipping lines; the Chairman of the Board of Directors of HAPAG, Albert Ballin, was, together with the banker Max M. Warburg, one of the most influential people of his time. The prominent position of individual Jewish entrepreneurs and companies should not obscure the fact that the majority of Jews living in Hamburg were active in diverse fields of business with widely different incomes. Traditional prejudices and the envy caused by successful Jewish business competition made it easier for the Nazis in 1933 to oust Jews from most occupations, to confiscate Jewish property and assets, to expropriate Jewish firms, and to deprive the Jewish population of Hamburg of their livelihood.
5. Living Conditions and Jewish Residential AreasUnlike other towns in Germany and Eastern Europe there were no areas exclusively inhabited by the Jewish population i.e. a ghetto. Regulations concerning their right of domicile, permitted occupations, and in particular the desire to live near their communal institutions e.g. synagogues, determined their choice of living area, and led to a concentration of settlement.
In 1612 the first Portuguese Jews lived in the western part of the town in the streets:
Rödingsmarkt, Mönkedamm, Herrlichkeit and Dreckwall (today Neuer Wall). For a short period they had
their own cemetery in Kohlhöfen. Later they had to bury their dead outside the town in the cemetery
in Altona in what was later called Königstraße. The cemetery was used until 1877.
At the end of the 19th century Hamburg grew to a town with a population of more than a million. The increase in population and influx of immigrants led to housing shortages, and inner city shifts in population. A large number of Jews moved from the densely populated Neustadt to the newly built suburbs of Rotherbaum, Harvestehude and Eimsbüttel. There was a particular concentration of settlement in the Grindel quarter ironically called "Little Jerusalem". The concrete expression of their living areas were the synagogues. Up to the beginning of the 19th century these were secreted away in private homes and courtyards of houses. As a result of emancipation and a growing self confidence synagogues became a visual part of the townscape. The main synagogue built in 1906 in Bornplatz and the adjacent Talmud-Torah School at No. 30 Grindelberg were built as conspicuous free standing buildings.
The Hamburg Jewish population reached its peak in 1925 with 20,000, making up 1·73% of Hamburg's total population. Jewish living conditions and the contents and interiors of apartments did not differ essentially from the rest of the population; they were determined by the economic status of the inhabitants, their origins, and the fashion of the time.
Jews were driven into a kind of ghetto following the deprivation of their rights and the accompanying persecution by the Nazis. In 1940 Jews living in apartment houses jointly occupied by Jews and non-Jews were resettled in buildings at that time still in Jewish possession. This procedure led to the establishment of 78 so-called "Jewish Houses", predominently within the Grindel quarter, which later, in conjunction with the restriction of movement, facilitated the supervision and later deportation, and murder, of their Jewish inhabitants.
6. The SynagogueSince the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. the synagogue has been the religious centre of Jewish congregations. Its function is not restricted to religious worship, but also serves as meeting hall and place for study and prayer.
Ten adult men are necessary to conduct a religious service, the essential part being the reading of the Holy Scripts. The Torah rolls are kept in a dignified cabinet, the Torah Shrine, which in Europe faces East, i.e towards Jerusalem. The lectern (Bima) was originally situated in the centre of the room with benches arranged around it. In the 19th century the lectern was moved close to the Shrine. Up to this time women could only participate in the service from an adjacent room, or from a gallery. It was in the 19th century that the separation of male and female worshippers was lifted in many synagogues.
Decoration in the synagogue is restricted to the Torah. In front of the Torah Shrine, which is protected by a curtain, the eternal light burns. The Torah roll contains the five books of Moses written on scrolls of parchment. During the service the Torah roll is solemny taken out of the Shrine, carried to the bima, rolled open and displayed in all directions. It is read from on Sabbath days, on festive and fast days, and on Mondays and Thursdays during the morning service. On special occasions this may be complimented by readings from the books of the Prophets, and other biblical texts.
The performing of the service is a duty of all present, traditionally male, a rabbi need not necessarily be present. Over the more than 400 years of Jews living in Hamburg the form of worship has changed, and there were differences in religious practice between orthodox, liberal and reform synagogues.
7. Jews in the Hohenzollern EmpireJewish life in Hamburg between 1871 and 1918 was characterized by the enjoyment of equal rights and the influence of well-known Jewish personalities in business and culture. However, many Jews were still excluded from areas in the occupational and social spheres if they openly confessed their faith. The rapid changes at the end of the 19th century as Hamburg developed into a trading and transport centre led to fears of sections of the middle class, and a general insecurity from which antisemitic organisations and parties profited, describing Jews as forerunners of modernism and enemies of tradition. Political antisemitism was also strengthened by a growing nationalism; the propoganda of German nationalist slogans also included the defamation of Jews.
European nationalism and Jewish persecution promoted a self-assurance in certain sections of the Jewish population and a desire for an independent Jewish state. The political and organisational origin of these ideas was to be found in the concept of Zionism, whose proponents promoted the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The only Zionist congress to take place in Germany was held in Hamburg in 1909. Most emigrants departing Europe headed for the USA, but some also left for Palestine.
The First World War appeared to Jews an opportunity to prove their civic duty and loyalty. Many
were caught in the general euphoria for the war and voluntarily joined up for military service.
Those remaining at home economically supported the war effort.
8. Jews in the Weimar RepublicAs a result of the revolution of November 1918 and the Weimar Republic's constitution of 1919 all men and women were afforded equal rights and duties. In consequence, at least in the judicial sense, the emancipation of Jewish women was also guaranteed. However, the political emancipation of Jews did not result in social equality as all the nationalistic and antisemitic attitudes of the 19th century continued unchanged.
The Hamburg middle classes lost part of their political influence as a result of the revolution and quickly accepted the contention that the Jews were the protagonists of the revolution. This view was compounded by the fact that the democratic political parties, strongly opposed by the bourgeoise, were elected to parliament and with them some Jews became members of the Senate, and took up important posts in the administration.
This caused Hamburg to become a centre of antisemitism which quickly spread to professional organisations, schools and churches. The democrats were so preoccupied with solutions to the predominent economic problems that they did not counter the antisemitism in any decisive way. No major organisation within the Weimar Republic actively supported the Jews; only individuals gave their support as the Jews became increasingly isolated. In defence Jews intensified activities within their own community associations and clubs. Economics, language courses and sport were added to the list of courses and activities available.
Jewish professors taught in the Kolonialinstitut, founded in 1908. The international reputation of Hamburg University, founded in 1919, was achieved in the 1920s through the reputations of the jurist Albrecht Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, the art historian Erwin Panofsky, and the physicist Otto Stern. In 1929/30 the philosopher Ernst Cassirer was the first Jew ever to become the Vice-Chancellor of a German university. The cultural studies library founded by Aby M. Warburg was of special importance.
Persecution and the HolocaustState controlled persecution of the Jews began with the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of the Reich on January 30th 1933, and in Hamburg in March 1933 with the newly constituted Senat which included Nazis. In parallel with the anti-Jewish propaganda, used in the media to eliminate all opposition, the ousting of Jews from many areas of social and economic activities began. Jewish civil servants were dismissed, shops anddepartment stores boycotted, and in an increasing number of occupations a "proof of Aryan ancestry" was required. In addition the memory of eminent Hamburg Jews was extinguished by the removal of monuments and the renaming of streets.
The "Nuremberg Laws" of September 1935 were used to further the deprivation of rights and isolate the "Jews" from the general population. Jews lost their equal rights status obtained in the 19th century, and were no longer allowed to enter public office. They were not allowed to marry non-Jews. Contravention of this law was punished on average more severely in Hamburg than in the rest of Germany. In the first years of Nazi rule Jews had the possibility only of community solidarity or emigration. In most cases emigration was possibile only by incurring high costs and the ensuing loss of property. Organisations like the Jewish Culture Association offered a certain amount of support to those remaining, in their ever increasing isolation.
In the pogrom on the night of 9th/10th November 1938 ("Reichskristallnacht") the open and systematic violence against the Jews began throughout Germany, with the destruction of synagogues, the smashing of windows of Jewish shops, the expropriation of Jewish enterprises, and imprisonment. These measures caused the intended mass exodus of Jews from Germany. The freedom of movement of those remaining was further severely curtailed. By this stage the remaining Jews were impoverished, totally isolated from society in general, and under permanent contol by the Nazi state apparatus.
In the autumn of 1941 four deportation transports took Hamburg Jews to ghettos in Lodz, Minsk and Riga, where most were murdered. Between 1942 and 1945, following the Nazi decision to exterminate all of European Jewry (the "Final Solution"), 17 deportation transports left Hamburg for the concentration camp Theresienstadt and the concentration/extermination camp Auschwitz, where most of them were murdered. Jews were a comparatively small group in the Hamburg concentration camp of Neuengamme; however, thousands suffered slave labour under the most terrible of conditions in its numerous satellite camps.
8,877 Hamburg Jews were murdered by the Nazis.
German Text: Ortwin Pelc
English Translation: Guido G. Möring