A History of Jews in Hamburg - Beginnings.
Portugese (Sephardi) JewsThe first Jews to settle in Hamburg were Sephardi Jews who arrived at the end of the 16th century from Spain and Portugal via the Netherlands having been driven out of these countries by the Spanish.
In 1612 the City Council made a contract with these Sephardi Jews in which religious meetings and circumcision were forbidden. They were to conduct themselves "peacefully und inconspicuously", were not allowed to employ Christian servants, or to own property. Likewise civil rights were denied them. Residence permission could be revoked at any time. At this time 125 Jewish families were resident in Hamburg.
Altona granted them their own cemetery.
They were required to pay an annual tax; this was doubled in 1623 for which they gained protection under the law and the temporary use of the slaughter-house. They were granted a prayer hall in 1628 and a rabbi was incumbent from 1611 on. By 1650 they had been granted three prayer halls, in Alten Wall, Herrlichkeit and Mönkedamm.
The Portugese Jews were not permitted to live in the inner City but were also not required to live in ghettos. They settled mainly in Alten Wall, Mönkedamm, Herrlichkeit and Rödingsmarkt. They specialised in the wholesale trade of sugar, tobacco, coffee, cocoa, calico and spices, particularly pepper, and quickly developed a flourishing trade. They had good connections with the new American colonies and in 1619 participated in the foundation of a clearing bank.
The Portugese Jewish community remained separate from the German Jewish community through language, religious ritual, culture and status.
German (Ashkenazi) JewsIn 1600 German Jews settled in Hamburg; in 1649 around fifteen families lived here. The clergy and Oberalten strongly disapproved and the local population was incited, from the pulpit, to drive the "vermin" from the city, which had the effect that the lives of Jews were threatened in the street. From the end of the 1520s in Hamburg these Oberalten were honary guardians of the poor. They had constitutional authority and could advise and decide on matters concerning the government and administration of the city. In 1649 these German Jews were driven out of the city following the agitation of the clergy and the small group of property owning citizens. They found exil in Altona.
In Altona in 1641 the Jews had acquired a letter of safe conduct from the Danish king granting them citizens rights. The Wandsbek community acquired this in 1671. They were required to pay annually for this privilege and an additional payment at every succession to the throne.
They were allowed to re-enter Hamburg, during the day, when in possession of a valid passport which had to be paid for and was valid for a period of four weeks.
When the Swedes advanced on Altona in the winter of 1657, 36 German Jewish families fled to Hamburg where they found refuge and for a short period lived peacefully. In 1674 the property owning citizens insisted once again on the expulsion of the Jews, but this time unsuccessfully.
Not until 1697 were they granted a prayer hall for which they were required to pay a wealth tax. Civil rights were still denied them. They were excluded from membership of the Guilds, and were only allowed to work as pawn-brokers, money changers, tobacco handlers, jewel traders and in the making of lace using gold and silver thread. If they were suspected, by the guilds, of working as craftsmen they were hunted as Boehnhasen i.e. until freedom of trade was granted in the 19th century craftsmen who were not Guild members and who did not possess a master craftsman's certificate, i.e. working like hares in hiding, were hunted. Guild members sought to find such "illegal" craftsmen so as to destroy their tools and thereby curb their ability to work. In trading cities brokers who conducted their business without authorization were also hunted asBoehnhasen.
Their situation improved in 1710 when Count Hugo von Schönborn passed new Jewish legislation for Altona granting them protection, equal status as citizens, and prohibited the Boehnhasen hunt. However, they were not allowed to hold public religious services or to lend money. In 1711 they acquired their own cemetery outside the city Dammtor gate; there were existing cemeteries in Ottensen (1663) and in Königstraße (1611) in Altona. They were not allowed to acquire medical attention in Hamburg. In 1763 the Jewish community in Altona built a hospital next to the cemetery for which the Hamburg Jewish community paid 15%, and contributed to the cost of board. The Wandsbek Jewish community had their own hospital outside the Millerntor city gate i.e. far from their village.
These German Jews were not granted property ownership within Hamburg Altstadt and Neustadt, or freedom of movement in the inner city. They were only allowed to live in particular streets: Alter Wall, Großneumarkt, Hütten, Kohlhöfen, Mönkedamm, Neuer Steinweg, Peterstraße and Zeughausmarkt; there was, however, never a ghetto.
Anti-semiticism was always prevalent and on the evening of 24. August 1730 this erupted in an outcry in the Neustadt/New City against the Jews. The usual prejudices, fears and dislike of competition were the grounds for this. The clergy, always for a "Jew-free Hamburg", inflamed the situation by openly agitating from the pulpit for a pogrom against the Jews. The following day 1000 citizens had assembled in Großneumarkt and began to smash the windows and loot the houses of Jews. The dragoons were called out, and were also stoned. The infantry and several companies of the civil defence force were engaged as reinforcements. It was not until Sunday 27. August 1730 that peace was regained. Many Jews fled to Altona or were hidden by Christian friends.
In 1764 in the German Jewish community there were five jewellers, two tobacco manufacturers, four
wine traders and four doctors. The majority traded in animal feed, pulses, beer, timber, peat,
haberdashery, wigs, paper, ink, seeling wax, stockings, thread, wool, toys, second-hand clothes and
leather; in certain cases the consent of the Guilds was required.
The "German-Israelite Community"In 1800, 6,300 German and 130 Portugese Jews lived in Hamburg, around 6% of the population. This was the largest jewish community in Germany. The 1671 founded Association of Jewish Communities of Hamburg, Altona and Wandsbek was disolved in 1812 by a French decree. Follwing this in 1821 the "German-Israelite Community" was founded.
In 1834 the Jews drew up two petitions to the City Council and in claiming civil equality
demanded that the Jewish faith should acquire parity with the Christian confession.
In 1837 a Jew was able to act as guardian to a Christian child, in 1841 Jews could settle in
St. Pauli (church ground), and an 1842 founded youth club admitted Jews as members.