The Jewish Community in Hamburg 1860-1943
Empire (Kaiser Wilhelm) - Weimar Republic - National Socialist State
IV. The Deutsch-Israelitische Gemeinde/German-Israelite Community and Jews in the National Socialist
On the 3rd January 1933 Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of the German Reich.
In Hamburg the erosion of democratic institutions had begun prior to the Nationalsozialistische
Deutsche Arbeiterpartei's (NSDAP) success in the Reich parliamentary elections on the 5th March
1933. On the 8th March 1933 the Hamburg Senat was reconstituted and included the participation
of the NSDAP. Following this Hamburg Jews conclusively lost any expectation of state protection.
1. Isolation on all levels of Society:
The Boycott of Jewish Businesses:
The discrimination against Jews began with the national boycott of all Jewish businesses on
the 1st April 1933. It was organised and implemented by the S.A. ("Sturmabteilung"/"Storm Troopers")
and, together with individual actions against Jewish doctors and lawyers, was the first phase of
the Nazi regime's antisemitic policy.
Occupational and Social Ostracism:
A few days after, on 7.04.1933, the "Berufsbeamtengesetz"/the Civil Service Restoration Act
which included an "Arierparagraph"/"Aryan Paragraph" was enacted. With the re-establishment of a
"national" civil service with tenure civil servants could be dismissed. Civil servants who were not
of "Aryan" descent, i.e. Jews (by Nazi definition), were compulsorily retired
from work. Jewish civil servants and judges were dismissed. A corresponding regulation concerning
lawyers, notaries public, doctors and tax consultants followed shortly thereafter. Professional
associations and sports clubs followed in that the so-called "Aryan Paragraph" was incorporated
in their statutes and rules. Following this, Jewish teachers, professors and other Jewish civil
servants were made redundant. Large non-Jewish businesses illegally dismissed Jewish employees.
Jewish doctors were deregistered with Public Health Insurance companies restricting them to
Within a very short period of time Jews were deprived of occupational, economic, and social
contact with the non-Jewish population.
In addition to prohibited occupations, action was taken to prevent Jews acquiring educational and
occupational qualifications. In April 1933 the
numerus clausus (restricted entry) to schools and universities was introduced for Jewish pupils and
students. The proportion of "non-Aryan" admissions to higher education was limited to 1·5%. The
proportion of Jewish pupils was not permitted to exceed 5% in any type of school.
Accounts from Jewish school pupils testify that discrimination against individual Jewish pupils
began in Hamburg schools.
In the summer of 1933 the Jewish community began to accommodate all
first year secondary school pupils within their own schools.
Following the pogrom of 9/10 November
1938 ("Reichskristallnacht") the "(Reichs-)Erlaß des Reichsministers für Erziehung und
Unterricht über den Schulbesuch jüdischer Kinder"/"Decree of the Reich Minister of Education
concerning the school attendance of "Jewish" children", of 15.11.1938, was enacted. This decree
precluded all "Jewish" children from attending German schools.
The Talmud-Tora-Oberrealschule/Talmud Tora School became the sole Jewish school in Hamburg.
The "Nuremburg Laws"
In the summer of 1935 a new wave of incitments to antisemitic agitation began with staged rampages
and economic boycotts. It was probably the intervention of the Reich Minister for Trade and Commerce
Hjalmar Schacht that initially prevented the plans for the implementation of Aryanization in
On the 15th September 1935, the day of the NSDAP party conference, the "Nuremburg Laws" were enacted.
These laws made Jews second class citizens and, as a result, set them apart from the rest of the
population. Jews were at the mercy not only of persecution by the state and the NSDAP, or
but also at the mercy of their own non-Jewish fellow citizens.
There was always the threat of prosecution for
"Rassenschande"/"racial shame". This followed from the second "Nuremburg Law" i.e. the
"Blood Protection Act", the act of 15.09.1935 to "protect German blood and German honour", in which
marriages were forbidden between "Jews" and "German" nationals or those with "generically related
blood". Extramarital contact between these groups of people was also forbidden. The accusation of
"Rassenschande" was a frequent ground for denunciation.
The practice of the Hamburg criminal courts regarding "Rassenschande" was particularly harsh following
the establishment of a special criminal division of court.
The Stages of "Aryanization"
The Hamburg Jewish Community experienced the years between 1934 and 1937 as a period of
which appeared to offer the possibility of an accommodation with the Nazi regime. Nevertheless, the
process of isolation continued. Now the more or less voluntary stage of the "Aryanization" of
businesses began. This was furthered, on the one hand, by the 1933 wave of emigration and,
other hand, by the 1934 Ha'avara Agreement, made between Zionists and the Nazi government,
(Ha'avara = transfer) which enabled about 20,000 German Jews with
capital to order German-manufactured goods which were delivered to Palestine along with the
investors, whose presence there would facilitate the emigration of poorer people.
This was one of the numerous contradictions of the Nazi
state as this contravened the "Reichsfluchtsteuer"/"German Emigration Taxes".
The turning point came, at the latest, on the 12th November 1938 with the enactment by
Hermann Göring of the
"Verordnung zur Ausschaltung
der Juden aus dem deutschen Wirtschaftsleben"/"Regulation to Eliminate Jews from German Business
Life". From this time on the "Aryanization" process, including the "Entjudung", i.e. the banning
of Jews from the ownership of property, was forcefully executed.
On 2nd December 1938 the "Hamburger Tageblatt" newspaper reported that, "in the course of measures
taken by the Reich to totally remove Jews from German business life", all the approximate 1,200
Jewish businesses still in existence in Hamburg had been closed or transferred to non-Jewish
From the summer of 1938 Jews were issued with a special identity card and had to take a
"Jewish first name" (Sara for women, and Israel for men).
2. "Emigration" - Flight Abroad
According to the official census in June 1933 the number of Jews who gave Judaism as their religion
(as believers or practicing Jews) had increased to 16,885. The Altoner Jewish
Community lost nearly one third of its members. In 1935, according to an internal community survey,
the number of Hamburg Jews had decreased to around 15,000, so that within two years the community
had lost around one quarter of its members. According to the official census in May 1939 there were
8,438 practicing Jews, and a further 1,505 Jews that were classified as "Rassejuden"/"racial Jews"
by the Nazi regime, living in Greater Hamburg. A further 4,187 individuals were classified as
"Mischlinge 2. Grades"/"half-castes grade 2". Within almost four years the Altona and Hamburg
communities together lost a further half of their members. An internal community survey for the
end of 1940 registers 7,088 practicing Jews and a further 897 "Rassejuden"/"racial Jews".
The Hamburg Jewish community experienced three waves of emigration, that are partly reflected in
the above figures, namely in the period from the beginning until the summer of 1933, then
following the "Nuremberg Laws", and lastly following the pogrom of 9/10. November 1938
("Reichskristallnacht"). In the beginning for many it was possible to plan and choose the country
of emigration whereas later it became sheer flight from arrest by the Gestapo and deportation to
concentration camps. This "emigration" lead to an immediate change in the age structure, i.e. a
disproportionate concentration of old people, and to a disintegration of the community infrastructure.
With the outbreak of war additional difficulties were encountered in negotiations with foreign
governments. A branch of the Palestine Office of the Jewish Agency (Berlin) in Hamburg attempted
to fairly allocate the papers required for emigration by the British Mandatory Goverment
in Palestine. The allocation system was based upon either having a sum of capital or a particular
occupational qualification and here the Hamburg Jewish community had the possibility of rendering
assistence through clandestine financing. In Hamburg this was generally done through the
community Advice Centre for Jewish Economic Aid. Zionist organizations were generally responsible
for providing people with the necessary occupational qualifications and training.
The Hachsharah (preparation) movement provided an intellectual and physical training, aspecially
the training in physical labour, such as farming, for pioneers (chaluzim), for settlement in Palestine.
In Hamburg there existed a Hachsharah for seamen.
There were two national organizations that directly assisted with "emigration", the Jewish Relief
Organization, whose director was Max Warburg (Hamburg), and the Central Office of Jewish
The Hamburg Jewish community attempted, both legally and illegally, to create possibilities of
emigration through its connections with emigrant community members. Information regarding illegal
emigration was not recorded during the Nazi period. The estimated number of legal emigrants from
Greater Hamburg lies between 9,000 and 10,000.
3. Self Assertion and Self Help:
The exclusion from many professions, exclusion from state education, neccessary occupational retraining,
unemployment, loss of property, social and cultural isolation, and the exclusion from the state
welfare system presented Hamburg Jews with extraordinary problems that ultimately demanded a
total reorganisation of the community structure. The provision of an infrastructure of community self
help, as the expression of Jewish self assertion, was possible up until 1938. Thereafter, confronted
with the insurmountable problems resulting from the hundreds of laws and regulations directed against
"Jews" by the Nazi state, all measures taken were of a provisional character.
The Financial Burden
Jewish self help comprised four main areas of provision: finance, social welfare, education,
and culture. There were diverse financial, organizational and personnel interconnections with Jewish
institutions nationwide. Many problems could only be solved through personal and informal contacts
and of necessity had to be dealt with on the spur of the moment as surveillance by state
authorities, especially the Gestapo, was omnipresent. Initially severe differences of opinion were
encountered concerning objectives with regard to occupational assistance. The increasing economic and
occupational exclusion necessitated, after 1933, the urgent achievement of Jewish autonomy within the
economic sphere with credit banks assisting with commercial bridging loans, employment agencies and
From the very beginning, in contrast to this action, the Zionists advocated that all measures and
means should be directed towards emigration to Palestine.
The continual worsening situation regarding educational and vocational training was an insidious and
indirect persecution effecting Jewish youth. Following the Nazi organized pogrom of 9/10 November 1938
("Reichskristallnacht"), in which synagogues were destroyed, Jewish shop windows smashed,
expropriated, and Jews imprisoned, "Jewish" children were totally prohibited from attending state
schools. Prior to this there was a pronounced antisemitism experienced within schools.
The "(Reichs-)Erlaß des Reichsministers für Erziehung und Unterricht über den Schulbesuch jüdischer
Kinder"/"Decree of the Reich Minister of Education concerning the school attendance of "Jewish"
children", of 15.11.1938, enacting the exclusion of all "Jewish" children from attending German schools
in particular psychologically effected acculturated families, as the only alternative for their
children was the Jewish community schools with their religious character which was unfamiliar to them.
The desire to strive for a higher education was placed in question as entry to these institutions
Not all parents or children were interested in a Zionist Hachschara vocational training.
The Hamburg Jewish community founded the "Organisation für Hilfe und Aufbau"/"Organisation for
Assistance and Training" which retrained unemployed youth and adults in skilled trades in order to
improve their chances of emigration.
The disenfranchising and abrogation of legal rights of "Jews" by the Nazis forced Jewish communities to
concentrate on intellectual and cultural life in an attempt to maintain their identity. In Hamburg,
in December 1937, it was possible to establish a Jewish
cultural centre at No. 9 Hartungstraße (todays Hamburger Kammerspiele theatre). This cultural
endeavour by Jews for Jews became meaningless when at the beginning of October 1941 all emigration
was prohibited, and at the end of 1941 the deportations began.
4. The Restructured Community
Reform of the Administration
It became impossible for the Jewish community to maintain the "Hamburg System" unchanged.
from the difficult financial circumstances of members following the World Economic Depression of
1929/30, and its social consequences, from the first wave of emigration in the first half of 1933,
which caused a loss of leading members of the community, and from political pressure from the Nazi
state and the NSDAP. It was fortunate for the community that at the end of 1935
Dr. Leo Lippmann, formerly the First Secretary in the Hamburg Finance Department, was elected
to the community board. He quickly succeeded in stabilizing the financial status of the community
through a rehabilitation plan, through drastically raising community contributions, and through the
disposal of real estate. It was through him that the board and the council of representatives agreed
to a drastic reform of the administration bringing about a more efficient decision making procedure.
In 1937, in the face of changed political circumstances, new community elections to the
council of representatives were waived and it was agreed that the new council should consist of
7 Liberal, 5 Orthodox, 5 Zionist and 4 representatives of the Economic Party.
The New Amalgamated Community
At the beginning of 1937 the Prussian towns of Altona, Wandsbek and Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg were
incorporated into Hamburg by Reich law. In accordance with this Dr. Leo Lippmann saw the chance of
amalgamating the separate Jewish communities. The Altona community received the status of a fourth
religious association, and the two other Jewish communities were dissolved. At the same time,
in agreement with the other religious communities, the Hamburg community assumed formal religious
responsibility for the community. The contracts of amalgamation had to be presented to the
Reich Home Secretary, the Hamburg Department for Education and Culture, and the Hamburg Gestapo.
The Reich Home Secretary did not accept the use of the words "German", "Israelite", or "Community".
As a result the community had to accept the title Jüdischer Religionsverband Hamburg/Jewish
Religious Association Hamburg. The modified continuation of the "Hamburg System", that took effect
on 1st January 1938, was Dr. Leo Lippmann's personal achievement.
This new amalgamated Jewish community had no real future. According to ancient Hamburg law the
Jewish community had the status of a public body. In March 1938 this legal status was revoked
by Reich law for all Jewish religious associations.
Following the enactment of this law the community
was demoted to the status of an association. It thereby lost the right to receive member contributions
directly from the Tax Department as a part of general taxes. Decisions regarding community affairs
had to acquire the approval of the state administration.
The Demise of the "Hamburg System"
Following the pogrom of 9/10. November 1938 ("Reichskristallnacht") the old community constitution
was dissolved. The co-operative work of the board and council of representatives was terminated.
With the order of 2nd December 1938 the Gestapo determined that Dr. Max Plaut, the community
lawyer, became the Community Secretary with sole direct accountability to the Gestapo. This order
establishing a sole leader of the community was legally based upon §1 der "Verordnung zum
Schutze von Volk und Staat"/Paragraph 1 of the "Basic Law in Defence of the Volk and State",
Thereby the Gestapo had finally realized what had long been their intention, i.e. the Jewish community
should be subservient to the state, and particularly the Gestapo.
The Disbanding of the Hamburg Jewish Community
At the beginning of 1939 the four religious associations terminated their activities. In July 1939
the community relinquished its education and welfare systems and administrative independence to
the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland/Reich Organisation of Jews in Germany founded in
accordance with the "10. Verordnung zum Reichsbürgergesetz"/"10. regulation of the Reich Citizenship
Act", of 4.07.1939.
All "Jews" (as defined by the Nuremberg Laws) living in the Reich became compulsory members.
The "Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland" was a registered society with its office in Berlin.
The local branches of the "Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland" replaced the local Jewish
religious associations. The organizations had the goal of promoting forced emigration.
In August 1942 the "Jüdische Religionsverband Hamburg e.V."/Jewish Religious Association
Hamburg e.V. was officially integrated into the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland/Reich
Organisation of Jews in Germany, and at the end of 1942 lost its legal status. In June 1943 the
Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland/Reich Organisation of Jews in Germany was disbanded
and the few remaining Jews in Hamburg placed under police law.
5. Pogrom - Deportation - Extermination
Already during 1938 several centrally directed antisemitic actions were carried out, for instance
in June 1938 all Jews with previous legal convictions were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
This was an indication of the NS and Gestapo's plan to terminate the former policy of forced
emigration. Around 100 Hamburg Jews were affected by this action. They were able to attain their
release with the assurance of immediate emigration.
The arrest and deportation of all Polish Jews at the end of October 1938 was intended to provoke
a political rift with Poland. In hindsight all these actions were only preliminary moves towards
the final extermination of European Jews.
The pogrom on the night of 9/10th November 1938, made innocuous by being referred to as
"Reichskristallnacht", saw the destruction of synagogues, the smashing of windows of Jewish shops,
the expropriation of Jewish enterprises, and imprisonment. This was the visible and undeniable
beginning of the process of ostracism, isolation, disfranchisement, stigmatizing and dehumanizing.
The staged vandalism, the frenzy of destruction and murder were the forerunners to the final
extermination of the Jews in Germany. Businesses were vandalized and synagogues destroyed
nationwide. In Altona, however, the synagogue and its institutions were generally protected from
Gestapo officials. Around 1,200 Jews were arrested and transported to Sachsenhausen Concentration
Camp. For those who survived their internment release could be acquired with the assurance
of immediate "emigration". It was now apparent to the Hamburg Jews that the so-called
"final solution to the Jewish question" had begun. In the following months many individuals took
their own lives.
In July 1941 Reinhard Heydrich, Head of Reich Security Main Office, was commissioned to make all
preparations "to realize a solution to the jewish problem within the German sphere of influence
in Europe". The Hamburg Jews were pressed into forced labour. The compulsion to move into so-called
"Jewish houses" established ghettos that were the preliminary stage to deportation and extermination.
In summer 1941 a temporary prohibition on emigration was imposed that in November 1941 was made
definite. In the autumn of 1941 it became obligatory for "Jews" to wear a yellow Star of David
and so began the
organized hounding of people. At the end of October 1941 the first Hamburg Jews were deported
with the intention of their extermination. This was euphemistically referred to as "migration".
The actual number of Hamburg Jewish victims of the holocaust is at present given as 8,877.
Because of the nature of the sources the total number of victims is not precisely known; it is
estimated to be almost 10,000.
The first deportation transport, on 25th October 1941, went to Litzmannstadt (Lodz) in central
Poland, additional transports followed on 8th and 18th November 1941 to Minsk in Byelorussia, and
on 6th December 1941 to Riga in Latvia. By the end of 1941 a total of 3,198 Hamburg Jews had
been transported east. The community now consisted of only around 4,051 Jews, 80% of whom were
over 40 years of age, and 55% of whom were over 60 years of age, which, when compared to the age
structure in 1940, indicates that the deportations in 1941 specifically targetted young people.
Of the total 4,051 Jews, 1,290 were living, or had lived, in so-called "mixed marriages". In 1942
altogether 2,000 Hamburg Jews were deported, on the 11th July to Auschwitz (Oswiecim) in southern
Poland, and on 15th and 19th July to Theresienstadt (Terezin) in Czechoslovakia. The community
records for 31st December 1942 identify 1,805 Jews living in Hamburg, of whom around half were
living in so-called "privileged mixed marriages".
6. The End of the Hamburg Jewish Community
On 10th June 1943 the Gestapo occupied the office that had become a district office of the
"Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland"/"Reich Organization of Jews in Germany" and
announced that all Jewish organizations were to be disbanded and that the remaining Hamburg Jews
were to be deported to Theresienstadt within the following days. Shortly thereafter further
deportations to Theresienstadt took place, but also in the following year, the last being on
14th February 1945.
On the night of 11th June 1943 Dr. Leo Lippmann took his own life. Dr. Max Plaut was
taken to an internment camp, and in 1944 succeeded in getting to Palestine. For Chief Rabbi
Joseph Carlebach, the community's last chief rabbi, neither of these two options were
available, for religious and humanitarian reasons. He, his wife and four of their children,
with members of his congregation, were deported to Riga in Latvia in 1941 and murdered there on
26th March 1942. His son Salomon (Shlomo Peter) was among the few that survived.
German text: Prof. Dr. Ina S. Lorenz, Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden