The Jewish Community in Hamburg 1860-1943
Hohenzollern Empire - Weimar Republic - National Socialist State
II. The Deutsch-Israelitische Gemeinde/German-Israelite Community in the Hohenzollern Empire (1871-1919):The fear of the more conservative members of the community that the ending of compulsory membership would lead to a depletion of membership, with the corresponding loss of prestige, was ungrounded. Only around 1·2 % of members left the community in the years following the ending of compulsory membership. It was manifest that Hamburg Jews identified with the new administrative structure of their community.
It was the political aim of liberal Judaism to change the community in regard to voluntary religious affiliation. The attainment of emancipation in no way increased acculturation, it simply put into practice the ideal of liberal Judaism where the individual could consciously decide either for a religious or a cultural commitment. The majority of liberal Jews regarded this freedom as guaranteed within the new community structure.
This new confession to Judaism formed the basis for the survival and continuing legitimation of
the "Hamburg System" over the following generations. This programme of community integration
was fundamental to the avoidance of separatist tendencies on the part of orthodox Jews.
A balance was found between the demands of the community concerning cultural identity and
traditional Jewish independence on the one hand, and religious autonomy and certainty of
religious belief on the other. Jewish orthodoxy was obliged to show a minimum of "secular"
1. Demography and Changes in Urban Settlement:
These figures show a stagnation in demographic development in the Jewish population from 1910
onwards. Already from around 1895 there was a steady decline in the birth rate.
This was especially the case in the business
orientated middle and upper classes. This trend was compensated for by a decease in infant mortality
and through a higher average life expectancy.
The Jews did not setttle randomly in the city but were mainly concentrated in certain districts, without, however, creating a ghetto. The choice of inner city settlement was determined by business orientated occupations. In 1871 almost ¾ of all Jews lived in the Altstadt and Neustadt. There was then a migration of Jews to the new districts of Rotherbaum, Harvestehude and Eimsbüttel. In 1910 83·6% of all Jews lived in the four districts of Inner City, St. Pauli, Rotherbaum and Harvestehude.
As illustrated in the table below the settlement pattern changed again a generation later:
There existed a kind of voluntary ghetto in the Grindel quarter of Hamburg, which was ironically referred to as "Little Jerusalem". The building of a new Central Synagogue in Bornplatz in 1906, and next to it a school, at No. 30 Grindelhof, in 1911 were not merely indications of this resettlement but also expressions of Jewish self assurance.
2. Religious Worship - The Religious Associations:
During this period the liberal Temple Association was influenced by a conservative revival in orthodoxy. This stabilized the Hamburg System. There was a movement away from the initial convergence with the Protestant church service to a return to the customary Polish Minhag (i.e. Aschkenazi custom or practice). The more traditional ideas of the time also lead to the revival of Aschkenazi articulation. During this time the Synagogue Association found in the personalities of their Chief Rabbis Anschel Stern (until 1888), and Mordechi Amram Hirsch (until 1909), men who favoured a religious openness in contrast to the narrowness of an extreme orthodoxy, which was conducive to the harmony of the community. How important this was to co-existance in the community became apparent in the problems of the 1920s, that were connected with the election of Chief Rabbi Samuel Spitzer.
Despite the return to tradition Jewish pratice by the Temple Association and the flexibility of the Synagogue Association a further religious society was founded in 1894 i.e. the Neue Dammtorsynagoge/New Dammtor Synagogue. It built its synagogue outside the Dammtor gate. This new religious association followed a moderate conservative ritual and had its own rabbi. In 1912 it became a registered association. Over the following decades both the Synagogue Association and Temple Association unsuccessfully attempted to deny its existence and sought to integrate its members into their own membership.
3. Jewish Education System:
The educational interests of orthodox Jews were focussed in the 1805 founded Talmud Torah School, which was initially a school for the poor. Its aim was to provide a combined religious and secular education. It should be remembered that in the 19th century there was no compulsory school attendance and that education was largely left to the financial resources of parents. This financial argument was one of grounds for making education responsibility of the community. In 1868 Chief Rabbi A. Stern raised the level of the curriculum to that approximate to a secondary school. The ambitious aim was for the Talmud Torah School to become a secondary school entitled to prepare pupils for the Einjährigenschein/Lower School Certificate. It became necessary to extend the range of academic subjects.
The school was so successful that half of all Jewish boys in Hamburg attended the school. It
became the oldest of Hamburg's secondary schools. In response to the urban migration of Hamburg
Jews a new location for the main community school was sought within the neighbourhood of the
new residential areas. In 1911
the new school was opened next to the Central Synagogue at No. 30 Grindelhof.
4. Jewish Cemetery Ohlsdorf:
Rabbinical law demanded the grave be a beth olam and the permanent property of the dead person. When in 1875 the city refused to give the Jews a site within the new central cemetery in Ohlsdorf this inflamed the orthodoxy. Orthodox members demanded from the community the observance of Mosaic Law. The Synagogue Association began to look for a cemetery of their own on Prussian soil, thereby questioning the communal responsibility of the Hamburg System.
After years of negotiating for a cemetery the Hamburg Senat made an unusual gesture of goodwill to the Jewish community. In July 1882 the German Israelite Community and the Portugese Jewish Community received, in a kind of contract, a separate area on the site of the Ohlsdorf cemetery, as their own property, "to bury your community members, with the assurance that this cemetery will remain such even when the main Ohlsdorf cemetery no longer exists, changes to the contract being possible in exceptional circumstances, and then made legally and not merely administratively". The community also received the assurance that graves would neither be vacated nor re-occupied. This contract satisfied the vast majority of orthodox members as being a good approximation to a beth olam.
Towards the end of the 19th century urn burial was customary among liberal Jews. This practice was in opposition to the views of the Synagogue Association's chief rabbi for whom it was a heathen custom. The orthodoxy demonstrated their readiness to compromise by facilitating urn burial in a separate area of the Jewish cemetery in Ohlsdorf, orthodox burial society however refusing all involvement.
Today the Jewish cemetery in Ohlsdorf remains administered by the Jewish Community.
5. Antisemitism, and its Jewish Response:
Antisemitism Pre-First World War
Antisemitism was detectable in the political sphere. Antisemitic polemic intensified within conservative political parties during the last third of the 19th century. This is evident by the fact that up until 1890 the Hamburg police force banned all events with an antisemitic objective. In 1895 political antisemitism came into the open with the founding, in Hamburg, of the Deutschnationale Handlungsgehilfen-Verband (DHV). In the 1893 Reichstag election 8,015 people voted for Adolf Stoecker's antisemitic Deutsch-Soziale Partei. Antisemitic tendencies were also perceptible within several "Bürgervereine".
Antisemitism became increasingly accepted in society. In upper-class circles social and economic antisemitism was declared and accepted as one's personal opinion.
Jewish Response to Antisemitism
Before the First World War all three groups were weakly represented in relation to the size of the Hamburg community.
6. The First World War:
At the beginning of 1919 Hamburg and Altona Jews prevented the summary deportation of around 70 to 100 Jews from Poland who had worked in the Hamburg shipyards during the war. The Board of the Hamburg Community acknowledged this to be an intensification of antisemitism, these Polish Jews being a conscious target of political antisemitism.
German text: Prof. Dr. Ina S. Lorenz, Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden