To Leave or To Stay.
German text: Gehen oder Bleiben. Professor Dr. Ina Lorenz, Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden.
The total number of Jews having returned from concentration camps who formerly
lived in Germany is estimated to be not more than 5,000. This includes German Jews who
were imprisoned in Theresienstadt.
The number of German Jews liberated from Theresienstadt is approximately 3,500; the number of German Jews liberated from other concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, etc. is not more than 1,500.
We do not have the precise number of Jews who have returned to Germany after having emigrated. We estimate the number at being not more than between 150 and 200 individuals. This number essentially includes those German Jews who had difficulties with their residence permit in western countries after the end of the war.
The number of Jews at present living in Germany is probably around 180,000. Of these, approximately 23,000 are in the British Zone, approximately 9,000 in Berlin, approximately 3,000 in the French Zone and the rest, i.e. the largest number, in the American Zone.
The number of Jews living in DP camps is approximately 150,000, 12,000 in the British Zone and the rest in the American Zone.
|List of Hamburg Jews compliled for the Gestapo - 30th April 1945|
|Classification||Sum Total||of whom "yellow star wearers"|
|1. Single "full Jews" ("Volljude")|
|2. "full Jews" ("Volljuden") in a "privileged mixed marriage"|
|3. "full Jews" ("Volljuden") in a "non-privileged mixed marriage"|
|4. Foreign Jews|
In contrast, the exact number of Jews having survived the war in Hamburg is known. Only a
few days before the city was surrendered to British troops, without resistence, on the 3rd May
1945, the above list of Hamburg Jews was compiled for the Gestapo.
This list requires some explanation. The predominant number of these Jews, that had, to this time, been spared deportation, lived in so-called "mixed-marriages" ("Mischehe"), with a non-Jewish partner who had not converted to Judaism. A "mixed-marriage" prevented deportation and certain death. However, from 1944 onward this group was also no longer safe. The last deportation of 161 Jewish men and 115 Jew women from Hamburg to Theresienstadt on the 14th February 1945 included numerious partners from "mixed-marriages". In accordance with Nazi ideology a "mixed-marriage" was defined as "privileged" ("privilegiert") when the children from this marriage were not brought up within the Jewish faith, thereby not being regarded as Jewish. Childless "mixed-marriages" were regarded as "ordinary" ("einfach"), i.e. "non-privileged" ("nicht-privilegiert"). Jewish orthodoxy regarded "mixed-marriages" as a symbol of advanced "assimilation". A disportionate number of Jews from the independent professions, doctors, lawyers and businessmen were married to non-Jewish partners. The National Socialist state classified Jews in accordance with "racial characteristics". It was immaterial whether one personally professed Judaism. A Jewish Christian, i.e. a "baptized Jew" ("getaufter Jude") was regarded as a "Jew" by the Nazi racial laws.
In the summer and early autumn of 1945 there was no precise demographic overview of those individuals persecuted in accordance with the Nuremberg Racial Laws or those regarded as Jews in accordance with Jewish religious law. In 1946 Adolph G. Brotman, secretary to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, together with H. Viteles, established there to be 1,509 Jews in Hamburg, of whom 1,294 were born in Germany. In October 1946, Colonel Robert Bernard Salomon, appointed "adviser to the Control Commission for Jewish Affairs" ("Berater der Kontrollkommission in jüdischen Angelegenheiten") of the British occupying power in March 1946, estimated the number of religious Jews in Hamburg to be around 1,400.
After the Second World War there were far many more foreign Jews than German Jews in Germany. These Displaced Persons (DPs), as they were categorized by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRA), soon acquired an important political significance. They often came into conflict with sections of the German Jews.
The number of foreign Jews in Germany in the immediate post-war years was estimated at around 55,000. In the spring of 1945 their number decreased significantly. Around one quarter of the survivors of Bergen-Belsen died within the first six weeks of liberation. Jews originating from west European countries returned to their home countries fairly quickly. But then Jews arrived, fleeing or driven out, from east European countries. Already by the beginning of 1946 there were 70,000, and by mid 1947 around 180,000. The vast majority of these DPs lived in camps in southern Germany in the American occupied zone. In the British occupied zone, comprising Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and North Rhine- Westphalia, the Jewish DPs were concentrated in the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In June 1945 around 20,000 German and foreign Jews were living in the British occupied zone, around 12,000 of whom lived in Bergen-Belsen. Later the total number decreased to 16,000, of whom around 9,000 were almost exclusively DPs in Bergen- Belsen.
A community structure developed in the Bergen-Belsen camp immediately after liberation. A Jewish camp committee was founded as early as April 1945 that became the Central Jewish Committee (Zentralkomitee der befreiten Juden in der Britischen Zone). The Central Committee concerned itself with the task of self-administration with a quasi-police function. Cultural-religious life also became very important. Rabbi Dr. Hermann Helfgott (Zvi Asaria, born 1913), in Bergen-Hohne, was responsible for the entire British zone. This Jewish centre in the British zone resulted in various central Jewish organizations initially having their headquarters in Belsen-Hohne.
The Central Committee always saw itself as being the leading Jewish organization in the British occupied zone and was intentionally strictly Zionist organized. This brought it into opposition with official British occupation policy over the following years but also partly with the newly developing Jewish communities. Later the Central Committee actually acknowledged a number of chairmen of new communities, Harry Goldstein, chairman of the Hamburg Jewish community, being among them. Nevertheless, differences of interests continued. The Zionist leadership were convinced that it was impossible for Jewish communities to exist in Germany after the Shoah. Initially, even within the newly developing Jewish communities this issue was highly controversial.
2. The "New" Jewish Community and its Rivals.
In Hamburg in May and June 1945 there were between 700 and 800 Jews, as defined by Jewish religious law. On the 8th July 1945 twelve of these, members of the former Hamburg German-Jewish Community (Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde zu Hamburg), met. Their intention was to re-establish the community that had been eradicated in the Nazi period, and for it to become the focal point for the survivors. Despite all the courage and idealistic resolution the difficulties in realizing this goal, in this period of upheaval and complete societal reorientation, were evident. There were huge obstacles, moral, financial, legal, personnel wise and political. The minutes of this meeting show that those assembled judged there to be 80 Jews interested in becoming members of a new community body. Only twelve individuals assembled in accordance with the British occupying force's prohibition of assembly of more than twelve individuals.
The Founding Fathers:
Carlebach, Salomon Goldstein, Harry Golenzer, Chaim Gottlieb, Josef Juda, Ivan Katz, Siegfried Levy, Hermann Levy, Ehrhard Loszinsky, Max Roth, Siegmund Starke, Martin Wolf, Ewald
In the summer of 1945 there was no Jewish organization in Hamburg with which this group
could establish relations, either legally or practically. On the 21st November 1942 the former
Jewish community was dissolved by being incorporated into the Reich Association of Jews in
Germany ("Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland" (RVJD)) by order from the Reich
Minister of the Interior. The "Northwest Germany district office" of the RVJD ("Bezirksstelle
Nordwestdeutschland") was assigned to administer and care for those Jews still remaining in
Hamburg. The Gestapo dissolved this office on the 10th June 1943. One of the Gestapo
appointed intermediaries, the medical practitioner Dr Martin Heinrich Corten, succeeded in
maintaining a certain organizational structure for these Jews that were not deported but who
were ghettoised and under strict control. However, Dr Corten, whose wife was not Jewish,
was considered by many to be discredited from playing a role in a new beginning due to his
collaboration with the Gestapo. Moreover, structures established in the Nazi period, and
which were suspect to the British occupying power, were excluded for moral and tactical
The meeting on the 8th July 1945 constituted a provisional working party, supplemented by three additional individuals, one being the lawyer Dr Ludwig Loeffler who became executive director. The committee appointed a religious committee to immediately attend to religious matters, including the Jewish cemetery in Ohlsdorf, the feasibility of religious services and availability of kosher food. On the 22nd July 1945 the committee organized a second meeting this time of 25 individuals in the presence of two representatives of the British Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad.
It is unthinkable that there are Jews who feel attracted to Germany. Germany stinks of
corpses, of gas chambers and of torture chambers. But, in fact, a few thousand Jews still live
in Germany today. (...)
These remains of Jewish settlements must be wound up as quickly as possible. Robert Welsch
The attempt to revive the former community demanded a high degree of self-assurance as
there was overwhelming opposition. Valid moral and political reasons were necessary to
justify a re-establishment of the community. This issue was discussed relentlessly between
Jews. In 1946, after visiting the western occupied zones, Robert Welsch, the longstanding
chief editor of the former Jüdischen Rundschau newspaper, clearly rejected the founding of
new Jewish communities. Also for many Jews in 1945 the thought of staying in the "land of
the murderers" was unbearable. However, at that time, immediate emigration was not
possible. And for the Jews in Hamburg who had survived it was their personal need that
required concrete, active assistance. This need was enormous, especially for those who had
returned to Hamburg from the concentration and extermination camps. The majority were
permanently damaged in health and completely debilitated, and those who had survived in
Hamburg were old and, like those returning, suffered badly from malnutrition, and all were
left with nothing. Many had lost friends and relations, from whom they could have expected
assistance, through enforced emigration or deportation. Individuals alone could rarely manage
The survivors required an organization to effectively focus their diverse interests. The international aid organizations were also reliant on Jewish organizations to be able to initiate purposeful and efficient relief action. The British occupying power demonstrated a lack of interest in tackling these problems. Jewish activities were tolerated but not assisted. And so it was no surprise that in the summer of 1945 the survivors began to organize themselves. Several competing interest groups were formed. Each demanded recognition from the British occupying power, ideally with the right of sole representation.
One of the first interest groups was probably formed on the 11th May 1945 under the leadership of the lawyer Dr Max Heinemann as the "Union of Jews and Half- Jews" ("Hilfsgemeinschaft die Juden und Halbjuden"). Heinemann had survived in a so-called "privileged mixed-marriage". From 1943 onward he had looked after the interests of the Jews still remaining in Hamburg, under instruction of the above mentioned intermediary Dr Corten. Although his work was comparable with that of the Reichsvereinigung (RVJD) Heinemann succeeded in being accepted as representative for the surviving Hamburg Jews by the German authorities. This possibly had to do with his unquestionable skill in negotiation; his intimate knowledge of the Hamburg Jews made Heinemann an important contact for the German and British authorities. It was due to him that in the summer of 1945, at least, the most urgent emergency measures were introduced.
The Hilfsgemeinschaft achieved considerable success. It quickly managed to obtain aid from international Jewish aid organizations, above all from the financially powerful American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC), known as JOINT. In this situation it was irrelevant to them that the Hilfsgemeinschaft was dominated by Heinemann or that membership opinion played little role in decision making. In the first months of reorientation the vast majority of Jewish survivors were hardly concerned with democratic structures. And so Heinemann was given full scope in mediating aid. This group had a particular characteristic. They also saw themselves as responsible for assisting the so-called "half-Jews" ("Halbjuden"). This racial category of "Jew" was also persecuted, where within the 1935 Nuremberg Laws under article 5, paragraphs 1 and 2, so-called "half-breeds of first degree" ("Mischlinge ersten Grades") were treated as "valid Jews" ("Geltungsjuden") and thereby as "full Jews" ("Volljuden").
The Reich Citizenship Law, First Regulation (14.11.1935) Article 2 Paragraph 2 An individual of mixed Jewish blood is one who is descended from one or two grandparents who were racially full Jews, in so far as he or she does not count as a Jew according to Article 5, paragraph 2. One grandparent shall be considered as full-blooded if he or she belonged to the Jewish religious community.
In the circumstances of actual need Heinemann did not shrink from continuing to use the Nazi
term "half-Jew". He thereby offered assistance to a group of victims of Nazi persecution that
practically no one else felt responsible for. According to Jewish religious law descent is
matrilineal. Children with a Jewish father but not a Jewish mother are, by virtue of birth, not
Jewish. The adoption of so-called half-Jews by the Hilfsgemeinschaft automatically prevented
it from being perceived as the new beginning of a Jewish community. The Hilfsgemeinschaft
was therefore only be temporary organization.
A second interest group, the "Union of people persecuted by the Nuremberg Racial Laws" ("Notgemeinschaft der durch die Nürnberger Gesetz Betroffenen"), was founded at the end of 1945. This group was led by Konrad Hoffmann. The Union of people persecuted by the Nuremberg Racial Laws essentially represented all those who, in accordance with the 15th September 1935 Nuremberg Laws, were classified as Jews, and as "full-Jews" ("Volljuden") in accordance with article 5, paragraph 2 of the above regulation. Those "Jews" who had had no contact with the Jewish community prior to the Nazi period were thereby also included. Nazi terminology referred to them as "racial Jews" ("Rassejuden"). The Union of people persecuted by the Nuremberg Racial Laws also represented the interests of the non-Jewish partner from "mixed-marriages" ("Mischehen"), and, additionally, children from these marriages not accepted as Jews by Jewish religious law, as well as baptized Jews. Several thousand individuals were incorporated in this group within the Hamburg area. They were assisted in finding work in the professions and trades, in coping with daily life and matters concerning so-called "reparations" ("Wiedergutmachung").
The Union of people persecuted by the Nuremberg Racial Laws generally did not recruit members but simply registered individuals and represented individuals persecuted for "racial" reasons. Similar to the Hilfsgemeinschaft the Union of people persecuted by the Nuremberg Racial Laws defined itself in terms of victims of Nazi persecution, competing with the former in representing the interests of the so-called "half-Jews". The Union of people persecuted by the Nuremberg Racial Laws sought to redress the acute needs of the individuals it represented in negotiation with the British and German authorities. They succeeded in repatriating deported Jews. In negotiations with the American, British and Russian occupying powers they succeeded in repatriating around 400 men and women to Hamburg.
|Jewish Organizations in the Hamburg Area of the British Occupied Zone - Summer 1945.|
| 1. Hilfsgemeinschaft der Juden und Halbjuden.|
(Union of Jews and Half-Jews).
| 2. Union of people persecuted by the Nuremberg Racial Laws.|
Notgemeinschaft der durch die Nürnberger Gesetze Betroffenen.
| 3. Die aus Theresienstadt.|
(People Liberated from Theresienstadt).
| 4. Central Jewish Committee in Bergen-Belsen.|
Zentralkomitee der befreiten Juden in der Britishen Zone.
The Union of people persecuted by the Nuremberg Racial Laws sought to acquire, through the
military government, special school
classes for every young person who, as "Jewish half-breed of first degree" ("Mischlinge ersten
Grades"), had been excluded from school since 1942. The aim was to give these young people
the chance of retrieving their lost education and of sitting their school-leaving examination for
university (Abitur). It also, as early as the 27th July 1945, presented an outline of guidelines
for a procedure for the reimbursement of Jewish assets to the "advisory office for restitution
claims" ("Beratungsstelle für Wiedergutmachungsansprüche") established by the Hanse City
Hamburg. Although this had no direct success the Notgemeinschaft was recognized as being
expert in matters concerning reparations. In the summer of 1945 both the Hilfsgemeinschaft
and the Union of people persecuted by the Nuremberg Racial Laws gained official recognition
as organizations representing victims of Nazi persecution.
A further organization, "People Liberated from Theresienstadt" ("Die aus Theresienstadt"), also representing victims of Nazi persecution, was founded in the summer of 1945. This group originated through a resolution made at the beginning of 1945 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp prior to liberation. It was fundamentally different to that of either the Hilfsgemeinschaft or Union of people persecuted by the Nuremberg Racial Laws. It saw itself continuing in the tradition of "assimilated" Jewry of the Weimar period. At the same time the co-operation between members of the Christian churches and the Jewish religious community, which had arisen in Theresienstadt, was to be consolidated and furthered. Membership was open to German citizens who had been imprisoned in Theresienstadt and other concentration camps, and to relatives of deportees killed in the camps. Significantly, this excluded the DPs, the Jews originating from outside Germany. This conservative policy led it into severe conflict and dispute with the other groups. The majority of Jewish survivors were totally opposed to such an ideological policy during this period of new orientation.
The "Die aus Theresienstadt" offered no positive long-time perspective for Jewish survivors. All the same, in the spring of 1946, this group had successfully recruited around 300 members. This number initially far exceeded that of the fledgling Hamburg Jewish community. The inaugural meeting of the "Die aus Theresienstadt" group took place on the 29th October 1945. The leader of this group, Dr Heinz Leopold, refused any co-operation with, or care and support, from other Jewish organizations. He thereby came into severe conflict, especially with the fledgling Hamburg Jewish community.
The attempt of the "Die aus Theresienstadt" group to become the true representative of the Hamburg Jews ultimately failed. There were many reasons for this. The contrary nature of its leader, Dr Heinz Leopold, played a significant role. He denied there to be any anti-Semitism in post-war Germany and referred to the East European Jews as "guests" and not as DPs, which hardly commended him as being trustworthy to the British occupying power. On the 4th March 1946 the British military government dissolved the "Die aus Theresienstadt" group. This was done in view of the emerging new Jewish community. Depite the order of dissolution being revoked on the 17th August 1947 Dr Leopold's group no longer had any further influence. Its failure can be attributed to the substantial success of the new Jewish community. The community quickly succeeded in establishing contact with various international Jewish aid organizations thereby obtaining essential assistance for its members. It is likely that the drive and reputability of the "new community" and the material assistance it provided was the main reason that the "Die aus Theresienstadt" group lost members, many of whom then joined the new community.
A fourth group, the Central Jewish Committee ("Zentralkomitee der befreiten Juden in the Britischen Zone") in Bergen-Belsen has already been mentioned above. The German administration and German police were withdrawn from the Bergen-Belsen camp. The camp was also independent of the system of rationing and controlled currency in Germany. The Central Committee immediately succeeded in gaining the attention and support of international Jewish organizations. This corresponded with British policy regarding the "German" Jews. The British made a clear distinction of legal status between the DPs and the "German" Jews in which the latter were regarded as part of the German population and correspondingly treated in accordance with British occupation law, which meant that they did not receive additional assistance, and support from international Jewish aid organizations was rejected. British policy sought to integrate the German Jews into German society. They were not to receive special treatment. In contrast, the DPs were the responsibility of the United Nations (UN), in particular the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), and later the International Refugee Organization (IRO). The DPs had to live in camps, preventing integration with the German population, but the Jewish DPs received more aid from the international Jewish aid organizations than the German Jews. The rabbi's office in the Bergen-Belsen camp, established in April 1945, was also responsible for Hamburg, and practically all the international aid was distributed through the Central Committee in the Bergen-Belsen camp.
The relationship between the Jewish DPs in Bergen-Belsen and the Hamburg Jews was tense. The "Belsener" were opposed to the attempt to establish a new Jewish community in Hamburg. They considered themselves to be the "sole real Jews". The establishment of a Jewish community in Hamburg was regarded merely as a temporary measure in negotiating the immediate liquidation of Jewish assets. Their mostly East European Jewish origins, their Yiddish language, their long, deeply spiritual, religious tradition and their Zionist convictions contrasted sharply with the Hamburg Jews who retained their pre-war character. The Jewish DPs reproached the Hamburg Jews for assimilation, if not the betrayal of Judaism. They reacted to the arrogance of the German speaking Jews with a mixture of disdain, irony and envy. Old pre-war prejudices re-emerged. It was repeatedly necessary to emphasise their common experience of persecution by the Nazis and their common identity as Jews to achieve and retain solidarity between the two groups.
The four groups cited above reflected the different situations and interests of the Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, and developed from the concrete situation of need. Once this need had been met through reparations, emigration or integration these groups had fulfilled their purpose.
Then, in July 1945, an additional organization joined the ranks of the above four groups: the seed of a new Jewish community in Hamburg. Any Jewish community claims to be sole representative of all Jews, who are Jews according to Jewish religious law. Inevitably, the new community came into competition with these other groups. Whether the new Jewish community was to succeed in becoming the sole organization for all Hamburg Jews depended upon it being acknowledged by the British and German authorities. Their recognition of a new group was dependent upon it having clear support among Jews.
There were two further problems. The three German-Jewish aid organizations were neutral in matters of religion. It was necessary to persuade the occupying power that the new community's accentuated religious aspect justified it being acknowledged as the sole legitimate representative of the Jews in Hamburg. Without the acknowledgement of the occupying power, which acted in accord with vacillating British foreign policy, it was difficult to attain any independence from the firmly established Bergen-Belsen Central Jewish Committee. The mainly Zionist Jews in Bergen-Belsen and the very active Central Committee claimed to be the sole representative, in regard to both culture and religion, for all Jews. Long after the Hamburg community had become established the Central Committee persisted in claiming to be the authority that directed Jewish policy in Germany.
3. Back to Religious Roots.
The odds against successfully establishing a new Jewish community in Hamburg were high. Those who had assembled for the first meeting on the 8th July 1945 were aware, from former community tradition, of the controversy as to whether a Jewish community should see itself as intentionally religious or religiously neutral. The former "Hamburg System" had permitted three different religious congregations to exist independently of each other under the same organizational roof. Would the new group follow in the tradition of this liberal structure?
In the summer of 1945 a working party came to two important decisions, concerning the character of the future community, which were not revised at a later date. The working group decided, contrary to tradition, to organize the new Jewish community as a so-called united community (Einheitsgemeinde) and in compliance with Halacha, Jewish religious law. They probably reckoned with there being only a small number of community members and wanted to preclude a splitting of forces. But in the spring of 1947 the community already had 1,268 members. From the outset the newly established Jewish community, in discernible contrast to the four above mentioned groups, set a religious accent.
This decision for an institutional religiosity had all the more significance considering the number of individuals living in "mixed-marriages". The above mentioned Gestapo census of "Jews" living in Hamburg taken at the end of April 1945 registered 631 "Jews" that, in accordance with both Nazi racial law and Jewish religious law, were living in "mixed-marriages". These "Jews" made up almost 98 percent of all Jewish survivors in Hamburg. Although, in March 1947, this percentage had decreased to 53 percent the absolute number of "mixed-marriages" had risen to 671. And the number of members of "mixed-marriages" who were also community members remained more than 80 percent.
Marriages between Jews and Non-Jews ("Mixed Marriages"):
|Year||Number of Marriages||Percentage of Mixed Marriages|
Jewish orthodoxy regarded "mixed-marriages" as a sign of advanced
"assimilation". It is therefore surprising that the new Jewish
community chose to accentuate a religious commitment. Although the
majority of those Hamburg Jews who survived owed their survival to
having entered into a "mixed-marriage" prior to the war this did not
prevent them from regarding their Judaism as religious-cultural. The
development of the community over the following years demonstrated
this religious commitment without however adopting a strict orthodox
position. The fact that "mixed-marriages" were prohibited by the
September 1935 Nuremberg Laws meant that these marriages were
more than 10 years old.
It is legitimate to ask whether and to what extent the conscious religious commitment of the new community was a tactical decision. A religious accent had the unquestionable advantage of clearly distinguishing it from the other three German-Jewish groups. It was obviously acceptable that this would, at the same time, exclude non-religious Jews. How serious this religious commitment was is indicated by decisions the community and its board made later concerning the composition of the community. Application for membership of the Hamburg Jewish community stipulated membership of the Jewish faith even when over the previous years individuals had described themselves as being "non-believers" ("glaubenslos"), "non-denominational" ("gottgläubig") or something similar. Various versions of the community statutes give a clear picture of the community's religious orientation:
The revised version of the statutes of the 30th June 1946 most clearly expresses
the prerequisites for membership. In the autumn of 1947 the board of
the community instructed the religious committee to carry out a
thorough examination of all members in regard to their religious
affiliation. In doubtful cases the rabbi, at this time it was Dr.
Hermann Helfgott (Chief-Rabbi of all Jewish communities in the
British Zone) in Belsen, in co-operation with the committee, assisted
with verification. The attempt for recognition as an independent group
within the community by the "Community of non-religious Jews"
("Gemeinschaft freigläubiger Juden"), founded in the summer 1946,
failed due to the unwavering opposition of the community
The board, established in July 1945, held talks during the summer of 1945, at the request and with the assistance of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC), to promote the establishment of a "Jewish Community in Hamburg" ("Jüdischen Gemeinde zu Hamburg"). The board and the international Jewish aid organizations jointly sought to reach amity with the other groups so as to avoid the overlapping of areas of responsibility and multiple group membership. It was possible to distinguish the survivors of Nazis persecution according to religious criteria and Nazi racial criteria. This could have led to a division in representation of interests. However, both the community board and the international Jewish aid organizations did not give any credibility to this distinction. Accordingly, individuals who were Jews in accordance with Jewish religious law and who professed faith in the Jewish religion were seen as "natural" candidates for membership of the community. The status they had acquired under the Nazi regime was to be irrelevant. The situation was different for those individuals whom the Nuremburg Racial Laws had categorized as "accepted as Jew" ("Geltungsjude") and "racial Jew" ("Rassejude"). Their persecution by the Nazis was not disputed but on account of Halacha they were not eligible for membership of the community, unless they converted to Judaism. Conversion was only possible with the approval of the rabbi and was strictly implemented.
It therefore became necessary for at least one group to represent the interests of those individuals who either due to religious law were ineligible for community membership or for other reasons did not wish to become members. Only the Hilfsgemeinschaft was prepared to implement such a pragmatic arrangement. The Hilfsgemeinschaft became integrated into the newly established community, its leader, Max Heinemann, becoming a member of the first elected community board. The welfare of the "half Jews", so far as they were not accepted into Judaism was consigned to the Notgemeinschaft. No agreement could be reached with the leadership of the "Die aus Theresienstadt" group.
In 1946 and 1947 the situation clarified itself inasmuch as a proper division of responsibilities was reached between the Jewish community and the Notgemeinschaft. The political influence of the Notgemeinschaft was broadened by the "Committee of Former Political Prisoners" ("Komitee ehemaliger politisch Gefangener"). From this committee emerged the "Organisation of those Politically Persecuted by the Nazi Regime" ("Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Naziregimes") (VVN). In November 1945 its chairman, Franz Heitgres, became senator for reparations. By the end of 1946 the group "Die aus Theresienstadt" had lost the majority of its members to the Jewish community and the Union of people persecuted by the Nuremberg Racial Laws.
The British authorities saw the interests of the victims of persecution and the deportees in Hamburg as already being adequately represented by the Hilfsgemeinschaft and Notgemeinschaft. Despite this state of affairs, at the beginning of November 1945, the board of the September 1945 constituted community applied for formal recognition to the "Education and Religious Affairs Officer" of the British military regime.
The application to the British military authority for permission to re-establish the Jewish community in Hamburg:
"We beg to apply for permission to reopen the Jewish Congregation in Hamburg.
The above application lists all those community responsibilities
that clearly stress the religious accent of the work of the
community. For the next three years the British occupying force
opposed the community's request for formal recognition by the
The first inaugural meeting of the "new" community took place on the 18th September 1945. 72 individuals assembled in the former community offices, at 38 Rothenbaumchaussee, with the intention of re-establishing the Jewish community in Hamburg. The idea was not merely to establish the continuity of a great tradition but also the prospect of becoming a comprehensive organization for Jewish interests.
The meeting formulated the responsibilities of the future community: religion, burial, charity, religious education, and self-administration which included financial autonomy and administration of property. Charity included all those matters relating to community members hitherto represented by the other interest groups. A five member board and an eight member committee were elected. With the approval of the meeting Harry Goldstein assumed the position of chairman of the board. Goldstein had good connections with British aid organizations and Max Heinemann had good connections with the British military government. On the 8th October 1945 the latter appointed Goldstein and David van Son members to the Hamburg City Parliament (Bürgerschaft). The lawyer Dr Ludwig Loeffler was head of the July established advisory office for restitution and reparations claims ("Beratungsstelle für Wiedergutmachungsanspüche") which in December 1945 became, together with other departments offering assistance to the victims of persecution, the autonomous Office for Reparations and Aid to Refugees ("Amt für Wiedergutmachung und Flüchtlingshilfe").
The First Board of the Community - 18.09.1945:
Ludwig Loeffler, being especially well versed in the law and having numerous contacts with influential German officials, was a great asset to the board. In these early post war-years the advisory office for restitution and reparations claims (Beratungsstelle) sought to assist victims in recovering assets and in reintegrating into working life. Its successor, the Office for Reparations and Aid to Refugees (Amt für Wiedergutmachung und Flüchtlingshilfe), additionally assisted in obtaining accommodation and business premises, and giving financial support to victims without means. Over the following years Goldstein and Loeffler became the mainstay of the community. Their prudence and skill in negotiation were essential in effectively representing the interests of the members of the new Jewish community over the vacillating policy of the British occupying force and inner Jewish debate.
4. The Struggle for State Recognition.
The new Jewish community resolved to acquire immediate official recognition in order to gain legitimation and thereby fulfil its tasks more effectively. In addition, the expectation was that it would gain legal advantage over the other Jewish interest groups in Hamburg. Official recognition would be achieved only when the British and German authorities accepted the necessity of a Jewish community in addition to the existing interest groups. This was the reason why the community accentuated its cultural-religious orientation to the British authorities. But more than mere recognition was desired, especially from the German authorities.
Official recognition would in itself symbolize a kind of reparations. In addition, the community believed that this tactical and legal advantage would facilitate a more speedy resolution to the issue of a return of the former community's assets. However, the community was mistaken in this regard. The Hamburg Jewish community firmly believed that it had sole right to the assets despoiled by the Nazi regime, and the right to demand their return on behalf of the exiled, deported and murdered Jews.
In a letter addressed to the Mayor of Hamburg, Rudolf Petersen, dated the 12th October 1945, the community board and committee applied for the recognition of "the Jewish congregation in Hamburg as a public body (Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts) within the Hanse City Hamburg, and to approve the enclosed statutes, and if necessary to gain the approval of the British military government". Following such recognition the community was to take over the functions of the "Hilfsgemeinschaft der Juden und Halbjuden". The statutes described the community as a public body within Hamburg representing the interests of the Jews in Hamburg as a whole. The community did not want to be designated as a society under civil law but rather as a public body.
The motives behind this move, in the autumn of 1945, are not recorded but can be deduced from steps subsequently taken by the community. This application intentionally followed in the legal tradition of the Weimar period. This strategy risked accusation from the Jewish side that such an early collaboration with the German authorities lacked a critical distance to the Nazi period. However, the lawyer Dr Loeffler wished to establish the continuity of the legal status of the new Jewish community with the former community. This was reflected in the wording, "again to approve" the community as a public body, in the application for recognition. This strategy was the beginning of a general claim for reparations demanding post-war German autorities to return community assets despoiled by the Nazis. Another motive was the advantage to be had over rival German-Jewish interest groups. Official recognition would attract Jews who were still undecided over group membership as an officially recognized public organization would, in these months of reorientation, guarantee more effective social, legal and financial support than the other interest groups.
However, official recognition did not lead to the restitution of former community assets. The British military government, in line with its foreign policy, did not wish to make decisions regarding reparations and restitutions. It was only due to the pragmatism of the local British authorities that a modus vivendi was arrived at. On the 19th February 1946, the following British military government headquarters announcement appeared in the "Hamburger Nachrichtenblatt" newspaper stating that the Jewish community was alone responsible for Jewish affairs in Hamburg:
The Jewish community, with its administrative offices at 38 Rothenbaumchausee, is the sole authority responsible for Jewish affairs in Hamburg, and is recognized as such by the headquarters of the British military government.
The community could subsequently regard itself as the authorized representative of Jewish
interests in Hamburg. It received additional recognition when, on the 4th March 1946, the
British military government dissolved the rival, and disruptive, "Die aus Theresienstadt"
This British military government order ruled conclusively against further fragmentation of Jewish interests. The community deduced from this that it was officially the sole representative of Jewish interests in Hamburg. The community succeeded in convincing the German authorities also to accept this point of view.
The Hamburg judicial authority concluded, after detailed examination of the legal position, that the rights of a public body would best be enacted by a regulation. The judicial authority recommended the community to refer to itself as the legal successor of the former, registered, Jewish Religious Society (Jüdischen Religionsverband e.V.), and not to make reference to the Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland).
The British military government communication to the Mayor of Hamburg regarding the "Die aus Theresienstadt" group:
Addressee: Mayor of the Hanse City Hamburg re: "Die aus Theresienstadt" 1. The permission granted through you regarding the formation of the above named organization is withdrawn. All activities of the organization are to cease immediately. 2. The assets are to be frozen until a decision is reached regarding their use. 3. All Jewish affairs are to be handled by the Jewish community. 4. You are to inform the "Die aus Theresienstadt" organization that the Jewish community is the official organization for Jewish affairs in Hamburg. 5. You are to instruct the Jewish community that their organization is consequently to establish separate departments for: a) Jewish religious affairs b) Jewish culture c) Jewish welfare, which is to include the support of former Jewish concentration 6. The above departments are to be responsible for the interests of those entitled to membership of the Jewish community. 7. In future all matters affecting Jews, i.e. Jews in the literal sense, are to be referred to the Jewish community. 8. Those individuals of Jewish descent who, for reasons of tradition, are not entitled to community membership are to be provided for by the "Notgemeinschaft der durch die Nürnberger Gesetz Betroffenen". 9. The Jewish community is to notify the holding of a general meeting within the near future. The community officials are to be directly elected by the membership at this meeting. Signed: H. ARMYTAGE Brigadier Comd Mil Gov Hanse City Hamburg
And yet, over the following years, the British occupying force found renewed grounds to
refuse official recognition of the Jewish community. The military government feared that such
a move would provoke an increase in existing anti-Semitism. Such a fear was by no means
unfounded. Although the new mayor, Max Brauer, was attributed with saying that: "Anti-
Semitism no longer exists", opinion research indicated the contrary. Nevertheless, in the
spring of 1946, the community was afforded recognition allowing it to immediately enter into
consultations with international Jewish aid organizations.
In the summer of 1947 the Hamburg judicial authority decided to re-submit the community's request for recognition to British military government ruling. It was still disputed whether or not the new community had legal equality with the former community, or whether it was at least its legal successor.
At new year 1947/48 progress was made with assistance from Jewish organizations in England. The Hamburg Senate, i.e. executive, began to prepare a bill. An agreement was reached with the community regarding its wording: "the Jewish community is a public body" ("Die Jüdische Gemeinde ist eine Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts").
In August 1948 the military government unexpectedly informed the Hamburg judicial authority that in principle it had no fundamental reservations against recognizing the Jewish community as a public body. As a result, on the 13th October 1948, the City Parliament (Bürgerschaft) conferred this status on the community without debate. The bill was countersigned by the Senate.
Act, granting the right of a public body to the Jewish community in Hamburg on the 8th
2) The Jewish community is subject to state supervision.
The above bill did not specify whether the community was legally identical with the former
German-Jewish community (Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde) or even whether it was its
legal successor. In the coming dispute about reparations the Hamburg court resolved the issue,
in favour of the community, by regarding the latter as "functional successor"
("Funktionsnachfolge") to the former community. This ruling led the community, from 1950
onward, into direct confrontation with the Jewish Trust Corporation which was authorized to
put former Jewish property into liquidation.
A newspaper report dated the 27.11.1948:
Re-establishment of the Jewish Community
"Mankind would be the poorer were there no Jewry", declared Mayor Max Brauer at the ceremony celebrating the re-establishment of the Jewish community. The Hamburg Jewish community was the first community within the British Zone to become a Senate approved public body. The mayor added: "In the new German democracy all people are to be treated as equals. In the future the Jews in Hamburg shall have the same rights as other citizens." The ceremony was held in the presence of the dignities of the community and leaders of the other Jewish organizations.
In a ceremony held on the 25th November 1948 in the synagogue of the old people's home at 23 Sedanstraße Mayor Max Brauer, presented community chairman Harry Goldstein with the public charter. In his speech Max Brauer said:
"I hope and wish that the Jews of this city do not have the feeling that they are second-class citizens, merely tolerated and alien to us, no, I hope you feel a part of us, and spiritually united with us. Tell your friends and relatives in exil that no obstacles stand in the way of their return to Hamburg and that there are means of support in re-establishing themselves."
Representatives of the military government, of the German and international Jewish
organizations and of the Central Committee ("Zentralkomitee der befreiten Juden in
der britischen Zone") were invited.
The bill of the 8th November 1948 was repealed in 1973 and replaced by an organization with the rights of a religious society under civil law. This regulation, which remains in effect today, dispenses with government supervision.
5. The Formation of Opinion within the Community.
The community organization, its structure, officials and internal policy, as enacted in its statutes, reflected the traditional image of a united Jewish community (Einheitsgemeinde). A five member board, including a chairman, was elected by an eight member advisory committee which was directly elected by the membership of the community. Both bodies were elected for a period of four years.
As early as the 4th March 1946, the British military government order, quoted above, instructed the Jewish community to arrange for its officials to be democratically elected. This was a direct criticism of the way the community had co-opted officials at its foundation. Only through the internal legitimation of its membership could it claim to represent Jewish interests publicly. At the beginning of March 1946 the board called for a general, free and secret, election. All community members were entitled to vote. The election manifesto of the board read:
Call for the Community Election in 1946:
Call for the Community Election in 1949:
Voters of the Jewish Community The right to vote is electoral duty! List 1 represents candidates from all groups and sympathies in the community. Politics and propaganda have no place in the community. Vote so that the productive work of the community may be continued. Vote List 1 Bauche, Gertrud Kupferberg, Ignac Epstein, Felix Levy, Alexander, banker Friedländer, Martin Lewy, Alexander, chief clerk Goldschmidt, Erna Messow, Walter Golenzer, Chaim Nathan, Bernhard Heumann, Friedrich Rothschild, Kurt Katz, Alfred Sarne, Fritz Katz, Siegfried
Leave politics out of the community administration! Considering the importance of future tasks the hitherto successful work must be continued. Vote List 1
Important for Voters! Put a cross beside 15 names (not more than 15) on the official election form from the united list of candidates 1 & 2
Vote for candidates from Lists 1 & 2 They do not merely embrace a party or line, but represent all groups and interests within the community. They guarantee a successful development of community work. Those wanting a continuation of the hitherto fair, active and conscientious leadership, vote for 15 candidates from the united list of candidates 1 & 2
Male Voters Female Voters of the Jewish community ! If you wish to complement the tradition of Judaism with the challenges and insights of today vote for List 3 candidates! They stand for : Reparations The fight against anti-Semitism
A communication from the community board to the membership:
Jewish Community in Hamburg Hamburg, early March 1946 38 Rothenbaumchaussee Telephone: 44 09 44 P.P. The Jewish community has been re-established. This was necessary following the National Socialist terror against Jewish individuals and property and the destruction of the former Jewish community in Greater Hamburg.
On the 14th April 1946 the chairman of the officiating community board, Harry
Goldstein, opened the first post-war public election meeting of the Jewish community
in the Kammer-Lichtspielen at 9/11 Hartungstraße. After an account of the suffering
and murder of the Jews of Hamburg by the Nazi regime Goldstein gave a report of
current community activities. It is not known how many people were present.
The election took place on the 24th April 1946 on the basis of candidate lists. A quorum of at least 50 signatures was required for candidature. Four lists stood for election. At this time the community had a membership of 1,287, of whom 200 were foreign Jews. 833 members voted, which constituted 68 percent of all voters. The votes were apportioned between the four lists.
Results of the First Hamburg Jewish Community Elections in 1946:
List 1 was the list representing the current board, which was not a particularly
democratic procedure. This can be seen as an attempt to prevent a fragmentation of
the vote so as to preserve the functioning of the community. Despite this advantage
the "list representing the board" did not acquire an overall majority of votes. List 2
was unofficially considered the "list of mixed-marriages". Polish community members
voted predominantly for List 3. The result of the election obliged the advisory
committee, the first to be fully legitimated, to proceed in a balanced manner.
On the 5th May 1946 the new advisory committee elected the new board. It again included Harry Goldstein, Dr Ludwig Loeffler, Georg Saalfeld and David van Son. Juhuda Israelski was elected as fifth member. He was a Polish Jew from Lodz (Litzmannstadt). He represented the foreign Jews and the DPs . In mid September 1946 Israelski resigned to take up a post in Bergen-Belsen. The choice of his successor was widely discussed by the advisory committee. Despite the board's preference neither a candidate representing the DPs nor a member DP was elected by the committee in this or future elections.
The following elections to the committee on 25th January 1948 and 18th December 1949 did not lead to any fundamental changes in the committee or the board. Harry Goldstein was, as full-time secretary to the board, remunerated with a monthly salary of 600 DM. He resigned on grounds of age, after the three-hundredth board meeting, in 1955. Initially Dr Ludwig Loeffler was honorary member of the board and then a member of the committee. He resigned at the end of 1973. These two were the most influential officials during the period of re-establishment of the community.
The board met weekly. Its work was supported by an office. In the years 1947 and 1948 the number of full-time and part-time officials continually rose in accordance with the diversity of tasks. In June 1948, when taking stock in regard to the currency reform, the community was paying around 9,000 DM in salaries and wages for around 45 employees.
The minutes of the meetings show how thoroughly all questions and problems were discussed. Also various committees were established as specified in the statutes. In this way the board and committee were able to attract additional members to the community. Around 50 officials were employed altogether. The board and advisory committee comprised 21 officials. The total of nine committees comprised 60 seats. Members of the board and advisory committee held multiple posts requiring an additional 30 "ordinary" members to fill other positions. As a result officials made up about four percent of all members entitled to vote.
6. Social Profile and the Attitude of the British Occupying Force.
The board's medium-term policy reflected the socio-demographic profile of the new community. According to an internal community survey carried out in January 1946, 203 concentration camp survivors with a long-term imprisonment, 181 concentration camp survivors with a short-term imprisonment, and 52 surviving dependents of partners murdered in the concentration camps were community members. This meant that approximately a third of all community members were direct victims of the Nazi regime. Other significant factors were the high proportion of old people, the large number of "mixed-marriages", the lack of means of members, and the instability of membership due to emigration.
In the early post-war years a significant number of Jews emigrated. Various international Jewish aid organizations were involved in assisting with emigration, namely: JOINT, Hebrew Sheltering, the Immigrant Aid Society of America (HIAS), the International Refugee Organization (IRO), the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and the Organization for Rehabilitation through Training (ORT). These agencies had very varied goals but as a whole promoted the feeling of effective support with emigration. JOINT and the HIAS had offices within the community administration offices at 38 Rothenbaumchaussee. The ORT promoted occupational training and retraining. The IRO and the Jewish Agency principally took care of the DPs. Virtually all DPs succeeded in their desire to emigrate, the majority to Palestine and the USA.
On the 14th May 1948 the State of Israel declared its independence, which indirectly affected the Jews in Hamburg. Emigration to "Palestine" was now easier. Great Britain, as mandatory power, had, for decades, only allowed a very limited Jewish emigration to Palestine, arguing that an influx of Jews would aggravate the Arab-Jewish problem. This was the reason why Britain had also refused to acknowledge a Jewish nationality. It was British post-war policy that specifically German and Austrian Jews remain in their countries of origin. This was in direct opposition to Zionism. The founding of the State of Israel negated British mandatory policy and the British occupying force had to comply. Between May 1948 and June 1949, 57,000 DPs emigrated from Germany to Israel and 13,000 DPs emigrated from Germany to the USA. The Central Committee in Bergen-Belsen increased its pressure on the Hamburg Jewish community to promote emigration. The community also came under pressure from another source. The new State of Israel immediately demanded active support from international Jewish institutions, including JOINT. Also, in the autumn of 1948 there were 800,000 Jews resident in Arab countries. Their situation was regarded as critical. JOINT altered its policy and cut back its support for the Jews in Europe. It almost halved its assistance in Germany. Only support in emigrating, i.e. the cost of the sea voyage and assistance in settling in the country of destination, was maintained. In this way Jews were to be pressured to emigrate and principally to Israel. In the summer of 1948 it was foreseeable to the community that the support it received from JOINT would be continuously reduced. In addition, towards the end of 1948, it became apparent that, due to the emigration and repatriation of the DPs, the Bergen-Belsen DP camp would probably be dissolved in 1949.
The policy of emigration also found support within the community. In the summer of 1946 a Zionist group, the "Zionist Organization" ("Zionistische Vereinigung"), was founded within the community, which was committed to emigration, principally to Palestine. The community granted this group a loan without much expectation of repayment. At the end of 1948 the board considered whether to form a special department responsible for emigration. This was to be responsible for all matters concerning emigration to the State of Israel. There is no detailed record of the number of Jews having emigrated from Hamburg in these post-war years. In the summer of 1946 the community estimated there to be between 300 and 400 prospective emigrants from a membership of 1,345. In the spring of 1947 the community estimated the number of prospective emigrants to be between 40 and 50 percent of the membership of 1,300. A more precise number is available for 1949: according to community records 202 members emigrated. A group particularly disposed to emigration was the so-called East European Jews (Ostjuden). They, including a small number of DPs, made up an estimated 20 percent of all emigrants. The results of the elections to the community institutions and the composition of the various committees show that it was difficult to integrate this group, which may to some extent explain their tendency to early emigration. Also individuals, including prominent community members, are recorded as emigrating to the USA.
There was also a much smaller number of immigrants. Additionally, there were some Jewish DPs wishing to remain in Germany, and Jews arriving from Berlin and the Russian Zone. There were two reasons why influx remained small. The German and British authorities hindered the influx of Jews to Hamburg due to the serious housing shortage. At the same time the reaction of the international Jewish aid organizations varied from scepticism to total rejection. For example, The Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad declined assistance. One of the leading personalities of the time, Hendrik George van Dam (1906-1973), later first secretary-general of the Board of Deputies of Jews in Germany (Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland), wrote to the Jewish communities in May 1947:
"It requires no detailed explanation that Jewish officials should not at this time encourage the re-migration of Jews while it is the understandable intention of other Jews to leave Germany. The situation regarded by qualified observers in no way indicates a stabilization rather the opposite which does not in the least make Germany appear as a country suitable for immigration, least of all for Jews."
This communication had its desired effect. Community statistics from 1952 record that
between 1945 and 1948 only 23 individuals returned to Hamburg from exile. Only in
1950 did the number of re-immigrants rise to 54, probably surpassing the number of
emigrants. The above statistics further reveal that between 1945 and October 1952,
168 Jews re-immigrated. The largest number returned from Shanghai (27), followed
by Israel (26), England (19), France (15) and Belgium (13).
On the other hand, there are fairly reliable figures for the number of community members. The national and occupational census carried out in the four occupied zones on the 26th October 1946 revealed 953 residents of Hamburg as declaring themselves to be German citizens of the Jewish faith. In comparison, an earlier report, in March 1946, of a British-American investigating committee, gave the number of Jews resident in Hamburg as 1,509, of whom 1,294 were born in Germany. In October 1947, Colonel Robert Bernard Salomon, appointed advisor to the Control Commission for Jewish Affairs ("Berater der Kontrollkommission in jüdischen Angelegenheiten") of the British occupying power, estimated there to be around 1,400 religious Jews resident in Hamburg from a total of 9,000 Jews as defined by the former National Socialist racial laws.
The demographic statistics showed that the community had a disproportionate number of old people but that at no time was its existence threatened.
|Age||May 1946||March 1947|| 1948|
Jan / Sept
|up to 2||13|
|up to 3||35|
|2 - 6||6||(6)|
|6 - 12||10|
|7 - 16||25|
|up to 16||(64)||79||60||59||106|
|17 - 26||138||132||99|
|17 - 35||183|
|27 - 36||130||142|
|36 - 60||565|
|37 - 46||198||157|
|47 - 56||258||303|
|27 - 50||343|
|57 - 66||289||300|
|70 - 80||(200)|
|67 - 76||170|
|77 - 86||38|
Of the 1,268 community members (March 1947), 1,047 were German citizens. The rest were either foreigners or stateless; a large number probably being DPs. 831 members were married of whom 671 in a "mixed-marriage", i.e. there were only 80 fully Jewish marriages. 222 members were single, 62 divorced and 159 widowed. The December 1947/January 1948 membership of 1,319 comprised 568 men, 692 women and 59 young people under 18 years of age. The initial founding membership (May 1946) was 1,234. The changes in membership came about through 338 "admissions" due to births and re-immigration, and 253 "departures" due to deaths, departure from Hamburg, and emigration. The disproportionate number of old people changed little over these four years: in 1947, 500 from 1,268 members were older than 56, in 1948, 58 percent were over 50 years of age, and in 1960, 562 from 1,369 members were older than 56. In 1949 the community acquired 161 new members, there were 41 deaths, 28 members left, including those deemed to be of another faith, and 202 emigrants.
Application for Membership 1946: I hereby apply for admission as member of the Jewish community in Hamburg and affirm that I belong to the Jewish faith (even when, in the past years, I described myself as being of no faith, non-denominational, or something similar). I have not converted to another faith.
1,084 of the 1,268 March 1947 membership declared themselves to be of the
"Mosaic" faith, 130 declared themselves to be "of no faith", and 65 as "non-
denominational" ("gottgläubig"), a term which had its source in Nazi terminology,
which demonstrated the moderate approach of the community. From 1947 onward
the religious committee systematically examined the religious affiliation of every
member principally by deciding whether those who had registered themselves as
being affiliated to the Christian faith during the Nazi period had done so simply for
reasons of self protection. This was the only ground tolerated by the community. The
rabbi was asked to assist in doubtful cases.
In November 1949 there were an estimated 5,000 Jews resident in the British Zone of whom around 30 percent were members of the Hamburg community. The next largest communities were Cologne, Düsseldorf, Hanover, Essen, followed by the smaller communities of Aachen, Bonn, Krefeld, Wuppertal, Duisburg, Göttingen and Osnabrück. It is not known how many Jews there were in Hamburg who did not belong to the Jewish community but it can be assumed, taking into account the large number of "mixed-marriages", that the number was very small.
There is little information regarding the occupational structure or employment of Hamburg Jews in the post-war period. The occupational census taken in 1925 during the Weimar period, according to denomination, showed 49.9 percent of Jews being self-employed and 39.5 percent being salaried employees or civil servants. The comparative figures for the general population were 15.94 and 31.78 percent respectively. 60.1 percent of all Jews in Germany were in trade. It was precisely this group that was systematically destroyed after the November 1938 pogrom.
|Occupational Structure of the Hamburg Jews, March 1946:|
The above mentioned British-American investigating committee's March 1946 report, in addition to giving the number of Jews resident in Hamburg, gave an occupational structuring. It is the sole socio-demographic analysis of this time. However, the report does not indicate if individuals were actually gainfully employed in the cited occupations. The Nazi regime had deprived the Jews of all possibility of employment and so a return to a learned profession after the war would have been most difficult. The majority of members of all post-war Jewish communities were pensioners. In the immediate post-war period every sphere of German society suffered problems precluding a methodical social and economic reintegration of Jews. In 1948, in Hamburg, the Organization for Rehabilitation through Training (ORT) promoted training in various trades, through the establishment of training workshops, opening up new areas of work. This training also assisted others to emigrate.
7. The Financial Situation of the Community.
The provision of community services required financing which neither the community or its members had the means. Initially there was no thought of levying community taxes or fees. JOINT at least met the regular administration expenses.
The financial situation improved in May 1946. The board resolved, with the committee's approval, for rules of membership to come into force in the summer of 1946 after which every member had to pay a minimum of five Reichsmark. Concessions were made in exceptional cases. These initial membership fees were merely a symbolic gesture. The community was reliant upon state contributions received through the German Relief Organization (Deutschen Hilfsgemeinschaft). At the end of 1946 the community was able to draw up an orderly balance sheet and a profit-and-loss-account together with an estimate for the year 1947.
|Profit-and Loss-Account, 31st December 1946 (in RM)|
|Nursing Home||13,427.60||Ohlsdorf Cemetery||14,160.04|
|Community Offices||12,999.23||Langenfelde Cemetery||158.10|
It is interesting to observe that the membership fees of 48,968 RM covered the 42,876 RM salaries of the officials. The loss amounted to 11,466.15 RM.
|Profit-and Loss-Account, 31st December 1947 (in RM)|
|Old People's Home/Alterations||32,928.23||Old People's Home/Donations||30,000.00|
|Langenfelde Cemetery||68.32||Oberstraße Property||46,666.66|
The figures do not give a total picture as they are partly a net balance after
deductions. For example, in 1947 for religion there were around 21,000 RM
expenses and 20,500 RM receipts. The alterations carried out to the nursing and old
people's homes were subsidized by a donation of 30,000 RM from JOINT. This
means that the profit and loss sides of the 1947 accounts were each 50,500 RM
higher than indicated. The community used various methods to obtain state aid to
cover the loss. The most successful way was to apply for financial support for a
particular project. The authorities were reluctant to give the community a flat rate
The attempt by the community to obtain immediate income from its former "Aryanized" property proved unsuccessful. In March 1947 the Hamburg Finance Department still refused the transfer of the former community property "for fundamental reasons". They did not even consider appointing the community a trust. Repeated discussions regarding restitution, or even the paying of the dividend on the capital, were fruitless.
8. Support in Daily Life: Material and Spiritual.
In its inaugural meeting on the 18th September 1945 the community decided on its functions, i.e. its statutory responsibility was for religion, burial, welfare, education, tuition and culture, as well as statistics and archives. This reflected the traditional spheres of a Jewish community.
However, the post-war years presented a different reality. Community officials regarded the community as being responsible for practically everything that had in any way to do with Jewish life. Despite all the adversities of the time the officials demonstrated a commitment, resolution and determination in handling the personal, social and material problems of their members.
The material needs of the survivors received priority. A second sphere concerned cultural-religious life in the sense of traditional religious doctrine. This included the restoration of the Jewish cemetery. A third sphere was concerned with coping with the results of the Nazi period through claims of restitution and reparations. In the early post-war years this also included the public commemoration of those persecuted and murdered. The community was unable to cope with all these tasks alone. It was reliant upon the support of international Jewish aid organizations which, like itself, were subject to the restrictions of British occupation policy. It was unclear whether, under these conditions, the community would be able to meet the long-term needs of its members.
At least the material need could have been alleviated had immediate compensation or reparations been arranged (the euphemistic term "Wiedergutmachung" = to make good again, was used). However, at the end of the Nazi period the German authorities lacked the necessary legal structure. The Allied Control Council and later the Allied military government were legally and politically responsible for this legal deficiency, which lasted until 1949. A regulation from the Hanse city Hamburg in the summer of 1945, a provisional reparations bill, could not be enacted because of British military government opposition. This resulted in a politics of indecision, if not obstruction, in the years between the end of the war and 1948/49. The enactment of the German Constitution on the 23rd May 1949 was a welcome opportunity for the British occupying power to transfer the question of reparations to the German Federal Republic. The British only permitted restitutions to be made through the British, Jewish Trust Corporation. The Trust's claim to Jewish property was in complete conflict with the interests of the Hamburg Jewish community. With only the greatest difficulty did the community succeed in reclaiming former community property that had been "Aryanized". Only in 1953 did a general settlement end diverse disputes, including those with the Hanse city Hamburg.
Dr Loeffler had submitted, in early 1946, a draft reparations bill which he revised in the late autumn of 1946. In April 1947, this draft was adopted by the Zone Committee of the Jewish communities in the British occupied zone, which had an advisory function. However, it did not acquire the agreement of the British Control Commission. In early December 1946 representatives of the three western occupied zones met in Bavaria to discuss fundamental questions of reparations. It transpired that the views held in the American Zone were positive whereas those in the British Zone remained negative. On the 12th August 1948 the Hamburg Jewish community again petitioned the British military government to immediately pass a reparations law.
At today's discussion evening of the members of the Jewish Community in Hamburg it was reiterated that it is three years since the defeat of Nazi Germany and that in the British zone virtually nothing has been undertaken to succeed in just reparations for the injustice inflicted upon the Jews. The overwhelming majority of Jews formerly resident in Hamburg and the British Zone were murdered in the Holocaust whereas the very few survivors have received no reparation. Especially, legislation regarding the restitution of despoiled property has still not been passed within the British zone. The effects of the Currency Reform make reparations all the more urgent while now the last funds of the mostly elderly Jewish victims of Nazi oppression have lost their tender making them reliant on the restitution of their despoiled property and compensation. The same is true of the property of the Jewish community without which the fulfilment of its extensive welfare work is impossible.
The members are disconcerted regarding the obstructive treatment given to the question of reparations whose resolution has been regarded as a compelling moral and legal necessity by all competent German and foreign authorities since 1945.
The members request the competent authorities for immediate restitution of Jewish property still in state ownership as well as a legal settlement which at least brings the British zone into line with the American zone. The membership abhor being forced into the position of supplicant and recipient of charity while being withheld the possibility of acquiring restitution and compensation.
Hamburg, the 12th August 1948.
A petition to General Brian Robertson, chairman of the Control Committee for Jewish
Affairs ("Kontrollkommission in jüdischen Angelegenheiten"), sought to highlight the
resolution. International Jewish organizations also put pressure on the British military
government and British politicians directly responsible finally to positively settle the
question of restitution and reparations. Due to the lack of jurisdiction the Hanse City
Hamburg was unable to meet the claims of the Hamburg Jews. Only in the spring of
1949 did the Property Control of the military government begin to address reparations
legislation. There had been no laws enacted regarding reparations and restitution in
the four years after the end of the war and the return of the Holocaust survivors. Only
in May 1949 did the British military government declare itself ready to follow the
example of the reparations legislation in the American Zone. However, it was the
founding of the German Federal Republic that allowed the German legislature to
finally put into effect a comprehensive reparations founded upon American
practice. At least on the 24th May 1949 the British military government permitted the
Hanse City Hamburg to enact the "law regarding special auxiliary pension" ("Gesetz
über Sonderhilfsrenten"). Accordingly, the victims of Nazi persecution, were given
special support, "on account of harm sustained to life and limb", in the form of
protection from being disadvantaged in what they received as pension. On the 16th
August 1949 Hamburg enacted the "law concerning the compensation for deprivation
of freedom for political, ideological, religious or racial reasons (law concerning
compensation for wrongful imprisonment)" (Haftentschädigungsgesetz) regulating
reparations at the federal level. This was a beginning of compensation for immaterial
damages. However, the compensation was generally not paid in cash but in the form
of state debenture bonds. The community, together with other Jewish institutions,
had to pay the compensation for wrongful imprisonment in a lump sum by a pre-financing.
Religion was not the responsibility of the board but a religious committee. The community statutes did not specify the precise composition or tasks of this committee, however only men could be members and then had to take part in religious education and reading from the Torah in the synagogue. The most important issue for any Jewish community, i.e. the appointment and duties of a full-time clergyman, a rabbi, was unmentioned, as was the issue of a community synagogue and its maintenance. This was not unintentional. Already in late 1945 it was apparent that the community could not solve this problem alone. This was a painful realization as a rabbi, synagogue and cemetery are the principal elements of every Jewish community.
A synagogue is the symbol of religious life. Already by the beginning of September 1945, even prior to the inaugural meeting of the community, a provisional synagogue had been established and the first public religious service celebrated in the presence of Mayor Rudolf Petersen, representatives of the British military government and a number of British soldiers of the Jewish faith. This was the small house synagogue of the former Oppenheim Trust at 22/24 Kielortallee. This property had been compulsorily sold in 1942 to the Reich Security Main Office controlled Reich Representation of German Jews (Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland).
The inauguration of the Kielortallee synagogue, September 1945:
The presence of ------------------------ is requested at the opening ceremony at the synagogue at Kielortallee 22/24, Hamburg which will take place on the 6th September 1945 at 4.30 p.m. On behalf of the future Jewish Community of Hamburg The Jewish Religious Committee Hamburg, August 1945 Zur feierlichen Eröffnung der Synagoge In Hamburg, Kielortallee 22/24, am 6. September 1945, um 16.30 Uhr, haben wir die Ehre, Sie höflichst einzuladen. In Namen der künftigen jüdischen Gemeinde Jüdische Kultus Kommission Hamburg, im August 1945
Newspaper article from the "Neue Hamburger Press", 8th September
Inauguration of the Hamburg Synagogue
On Thursday, in the evening before the Jewish New Year, a new synagogue of the
decimated Jewish community in Hamburg was inaugurated with a semi-sacred semi-
secular ceremony. In 1932 there were around 20 synagogues in Hamburg. Following
the events of the recent past only one room, in the Oppenheim Trust in Kielortallee,
remained available for the establishing of a new synagogue which will remain the
case for the foreseeable future.
British soldiers of the Jewish faith later ceased to attend community religious services
which was a result of the British military governments attempt, at least in the initial
post-war months, to prevent fraternization even in the sphere of religious practice.
Religious services were held every Friday and Saturday. In addition an Oneg
Sabbath (Sabbath gathering) took place every Saturday afternoon in the community's
old people's home. It was not immediately possible to appropriately furnish the
synagogue as the community no longer possessed its own ritual objects. The Sefer
Torah belonged to a family who had emigrated to Tel Aviv. Other ritual objects had to
be borrowed and were gradually replaced by the community's own. Weddings were
conducted by a rabbi. When no rabbi was available a community member was given
special permission to conduct the wedding ceremony by the rabbi in Bergen-Belsen.
Only in 1958, with financial assistance from the city, was the foundation stone of the
new synagogue at 34 Hohe Weide laid.
Jewish tradition demands, notwithstanding the religious autonomy of the individual, the spiritual authority of a rabbi. The interpretation of the Torah and Talmud and the settling of religious questions is incumbent upon him. He is required for weddings and the attestation of circumcision. A mohel, a man qualified to conduct circumcisions, is also required. The rabbi is also responsible for examining whether an individual is a Jew in accordance with Jewish religious law and for the conversion of individuals to Judaism. A community which wishes to conduct itself in accordance with Halacha (Jewish religious law) cannot dispense with the employment of a rabbi.
The community was unsuccessful in its attempt to engage a rabbi for Hamburg. It had to be content with a prayer reader and later a cantor for conducting its weekly services, and this was difficult to achieve. The community had to be satisfied when a rabbi travelling through Hamburg held a service, answered religious questions and examined affiliation to Judaism. Only with the utmost reluctance did the community make use of a member to conduct weddings. The community made repeated attempts to acquire a rabbi. Appeals were made to German rabbis living abroad to return to Germany. The community acquired authorization to move to Hamburg, housing allocation, the allowance to bring foreign currency into Germany, it provided additional financial support and made connections with international Jewish organizations. It considered lodging a complaint with the Chief Rabbi's Council in London, reproaching it for being responsible for the intolerable situation. All its attempts were unsuccessful and the Hamburg community remained dependent upon the rabbi responsible for the DPs in Bergen-Belsen.
The community attempted to persuade a rabbi to take up temporary residence in Hamburg at least for the Jewish Holy Days: Pesach, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. However, the problem was not conclusively settled. The rabbis Dr Eli Munk (London), Dr Paul Holzer (London), Dr Alexander Carlebach (London), and later Isidor Broch (London) were each obtained for several months. The attempt to acquire Rabbi Dr Hermann Helfgott (Zvi Asaria) in the Bergen-Belsen camp also failed. He emigrated to Israel in September 1948. There was no rabbi for a period of time within the British zone. Only in 1964 did Hamburg succeed, with Dr Nathan Peter Levinson (born 1921), in acquiring a rabbi for Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. He was however simultaneously Chief Rabbi of Baden.
In May 1943 the Gestapo had closed the Jewish section of the Ohlsdorf cemetery (Ilandkoppel). As early as June 1945 the "Hilfsgemeinschaft der Juden und Halbjuden" undertook the administration of the cemetery. The cemetery was reopened in July 1945 on the initiative of Mayor Rudolf Petersen. On the basis of its own inquiry the community accepted that, following the closing of the Jewish cemetery in Ilandkoppel, around 200 Jews had been buried in the non-Jewish section of the Ohlsdorf cemetery. Reburial was to take place only in consultation with the relatives of the deceased. In June 1946 the community engaged the former cemetery gardener Fritz Wrobel from Gdansk to tend the Ilandkoppel cemetery, and later the non-Jewish gardener Wilhelm Pries. A stonemason set upright the fallen gravestones. This was an act of voluntary atonement for having taken part in the clearing of the gravestones from the Jewish cemetery in Ottensen.
The decision as to whether non-Jews could be buried in the Jewish cemetery was left to the rabbi in Bergen-Belsen. This affected the non-Jewish partner in "mixed-marriages". In a letter dated the 13th August 1948, Rabbi Dr Hermann Helfgott (Zvi Asaria) declared:
"Approximately 9 months ago, in connection with a case in Essen and later
another in Wuppertal, the rabbinical court (Beth-Din) ruled in this matter:
Where both partners, in a marriage between a Jew and non-Jew, express the wish that the non-Jewish partner be buried next to the Jewish partner this shall, as an exception, be allowed.
When, for example, the spouse concerned remained faithful to the Jewish partner, and demonstrated this faithfulness particularly during the Nazi period, obviously such individuals should not be separated after death. The grave must be fenced around. This may be purely symbolic. This does not mean that only the grave of the Christian partner but both graves be fenced around. Obviously no religious ceremony will be performed for the Christian partner.
We wish to emphasize that this cannot be regarded as a general principle."
On the basis of this rabbinical decision the community board allowed, as an
exception, the burial of non-Jewish marital partners in the Jewish cemetery.
However, it was always stressed that this was not a "general principle". The Jewish
cemetery in Ottensen had been extensively destroyed. In 1942 it came into the
possession of the city of Hamburg. There was no thought of a restoration. However,
regarding the closed Königstraße cemetery, the city of Hamburg was persuaded of
the necessity of safeguarding the site and of applying measures to preserve it as an
historical monument. The city had to be repeatedly reminded of this
The community was in general pragmatic in regard to "mixed-marriages". This was also the case when the Jewish partner was no longer alive. However, practical, humane solutions were impeded by the dogmatic views of both JOINT and the rabbi. As a matter of principle JOINT was against the food it distributed benefiting the non-Jewish marital partner. The community board attempted to avoid a dogmatic approach by treating each case individually. It thereby decided to distribute food to non-Jewish widows whose men "had been star wearers and who had died after liberation". It required diplomacy to find a balance between moral decisions and financial dependence upon aid organizations. The attempted segregation of Jewish and non-Jewish marital partners can be seen at its most extreme when at the new year 1947/48 the community issued ration coupons to its members for beds which led to the absurd situation that the Jewish partner in a "mixed-marriage" (the non-Jewish marital partner was excluded from being a member of the community) only received a single bed. However, the community regarded "mixed-marriages" entered into after 1945 differently. In this case the couple received little sympathy.
On the 22nd/23rd July 1947 the Second Congress of the Liberated Jews in the British Zone ("2. Kongreß der befreiten Juden in der britischen Zone"), held in Bad Harzburg, resolved, at the proposal of the rabbis present, that Jews living in a "mixed-marriage" could not be members of the board or be representatives of a Jewish community. This affected a large number of members of Jewish communities. This highly controversial resolution was only carried though due to an overwhelming number of abstentions. It was adopted by 30 votes against 6 votes from a total of 128 votes. The doctrinaire views of the more traditionally aligned rabbis regarding non-Jewish marital partners provoked opposition in many Jewish communities. This was especially the case concerning marriages in which the non-Jewish partner had remained faithful to the family during the Nazi period. Also, the reasons that some rabbis gave for not allowing the conversion of the non-Jewish partner to Judaism were regarded as exaggerated considering the advanced age of the "mixed-marriage" partners. It was repeatedly stressed that the failure to convert to Judaism had proved to be the factor that saved the life of the Jewish marital partner.
It was clear from the outset that, in view of its composition, the Hamburg Jewish community would not accept the resolution. Dr Loeffler, representing the view of the advisory committee of the community, held that the resolution initiated by the rabbis was merely a recommendation. The board considered obtaining a ruling from the Zentralrabbinats. Following a conference of all Jewish communities in Germany, held in Berlin between the 19th and 22nd October 1947, at which the resolution was reaffirmed, the community board rediscussed the decision. The board resolved that the resolution concerning the question of "mixed-marriages" was "not enforceable under the statutes of the Jewish community in Hamburg". This decision could only be achieved when "Jews, as defined by Jewish religious law, were elected to the board and advisory committee at the forthcoming community elections". The board received broad support from the advisory committee with this policy. The advisory committee expressed the more radical opinion that, in accordance with the autonomy of the community, "no foreign or German body had the right to make regulations affecting the community". The question remained open as to whether the community statutes could have been changed in accordance with the rabbis' resolution. The board and advisory committee presented an image of the community contrary to that of "a community in the process of being wound up".
A Jewish religious orthodoxy no longer existed in post-war Hamburg. Orthodox Jews had been deported and murdered by the Nazis. Jews, who had married a non-Jew prior to the enactment of the Nuremberg Racial Laws, had distanced themselves from traditional Judaism. Many had no precise knowledge of religious-ritual conduct. These Jews now constituted the large majority of community members.
It is therefore all the more astonishing that a Judaism emerged that was defined unmistakeably in religious-cultural terms. Many of the surviving German Jews had the spiritual need to demonstrate their Jewish identity following the Nazi period. The accentuation of a Jewish way of life, regardless of individual interpretation, was often a response to the accusation of remaining in the "country of the murderers". The community allowed enough scope to facilitate a religious integration. Community life was to be characterized by precise observance of cultural and religious tradition. Especially the continued endeavour to acquire a permanent, full-time rabbi demonstrated the unwillingness of the community to see itself as "a community in the process of being wound up". The community regarded itself as being a "normal" Jewish community in Galut (diaspora) allowing its members to live their lives in accordance with Jewish religious law.
Individuals endeavoured to observe Jewish ritual as a normal component of everyday life. The community was to be a place of humanitarian and social security in a non-Jewish environment. In December 1945 Chanukah was celebrated again, and in April 1946 Pesach and a Seder evening were again celebrated. The other Jewish holy days were celebrated according to the financial means available. In November 1947 a Chevra Chadisha (Burial Brotherhood Society) was re-established in accordance with Jewish religious tradition. The community welcomed this development and declared itself prepared to meet the finances. In 1948 the Pesach committee organized a community Pesach when limited by premisses and kosher food.
"Matzot is scarce this year. We have only 2½ lbs to distribute. However, for those members who do not eat chametz (leavened bread which may not be eaten during Passover) there is around 10 lbs available. A community Seder will be organized for 90 individuals; Mr Levy can cater for an additional 10 individuals. He has succeeded in acquiring potatoes and is hoping to acquire fish."
Wine was not generally distributed for Pesach but only to members attending a
community Seder or holding their own Seder evening.
When possible the community arranged for circumcisions to be carried out by a mohel (certified and trained circumcisor). However, the relatives were required to contribute to the cost. Circumcisions were also carried out in the Jewish hospital. In 1948 a Mikve (ritual bath), for the spiritual cleansing and uplifting of married women, was built. In view of the general shortage the availability of kosher food proved an almost insoluable problem in the post-war years. However, the community repeatedly succeeded in acquiring kosher food from the Bergen-Belsen camp principally with the support of the Bergen-Belsen Central Committee and rabbi. The main problen was transport. The provision of religious education was a constant cause of concern to the community. This was crucial as, in regard to the age structure and the large number of "mixed-marriages", the preservation and handing down of Jewish tradition could not be achieved through individual families alone.
Liberation of the Hamburg Jews For the first time in 13 years Jews resident in Hamburg celebrated their Pesach festival, which, being the first festival to be celebrated after liberation from the Nazi regime, is also a declaration of thanks for liberation from the Holocaust. Jewish members of the British armed forces, prominent members of the Hamburg Jewish community and survivors of the death camps of Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald and Dachau attended the celebration held in the "Patzenhofer" hall.
In the summer of 1945 some Jews believed that publicizing the truth about Nazi persecution, deportation and murder would release a wave of reparations and compassionate aid. This occurred but the chaos and universal need caused people to be principally concerned with their own individual problems. Initially, the community did not establish a precise organization to handle welfare. Tasks were dealt with as the necessity arose. Nevertheless, in the initial years definite areas of focus developed. Welfare principally consisted in assisting former concentration camp prisoners, the elderly and the ill, and practical aid through the distribution of food and satisfaction of basic needs. The sphere of social welfare was virtually boundless. This was the reason why the community found itself in permanent financial difficulty, even after the Currency Reform in June 1948.
German Jews were dependent upon the regular but totally inadequate food rations until the implementation, in February 1946, of the "Zone Policy Instruction No. 20" of the 4th December 1945. This policy hit the already seriously undernourished Jews particularly hard. During the Nazi period Jews were allocated less food than the rest of the population, generally less than half the amount.
On instructions from the British military government the aid distributed by the UNRRA
and international Jewish aid organizations initially practically exclusively benefited the
DPs. This only changed at New Year 1946. Initially, only the so-called "star-wearers"
were included in the provision of food. Then food supplied by Jewish and other
international aid organizations was permitted to be distributed to German Jews
residing outside the Bergen-Belsen DP camp. These "donations of love" consisted of
canned meat, powdered egg, fat, dried milk, cocoa, coffee, chocolate, tinned milk,
vegetables, sugar, flour, jam, fish, cereals, soap, sweets, wine, matzoh and candles.
Nevertheless, food remained scarce especially in the winter of 1946/47. Food
distribution within the community was the responsibility of the three man distribution
committee. The distribution committee sought to observe confidentiality and acquire
an informed perspective of individual needs. This also permitted an individual
response to the question of allocation to "mixed-marriages". The board dealt with
complaints regarding decisions made by the committee. Furthermore, at the
beginning of 1949, it was decided to care for children and members over the age of
65 regardless of their need. Distribution of aid to non-members was totally precluded.
This also applied to all Jews who had been baptized during the Nazi period. A
canteen kitchen daily prepared around 500 cooked meals. The kitchen was
established in co-operation with JOINT. The required submission of food ration-cards
complicated the intended provision of aid. Home delivery was rejected on the
grounds that kashruth, the preparation of food according to Jewish religious law,
could then not be guaranteed. In the crisis winter of 1946/47 the service of the
kitchen was severely restricted due to the scarcity of provisions, and in the summer
of 1947 it was closed.
The general scarcity of food, especially semi-luxury goods, made it difficult for the community to distance itself from black-market transactions, wangling and swindling. The name of the community was brought into disrepute. On the 29th July 1948 the Constance customs investigation department accused the community of having received 1,500 kg coffee and 100 kg chocolate for their old people's home. This was untrue. The community tried to induce the joint customs investigation department and commission for investigation of suspected tax invasion to proceed with them with greater restraint. The expression "Bergen-Belsen goods" became synonymous with black-market goods and contraband. The community was conscious that the smuggling of goods out of the Bergen-Belsen camp was likely to intensify the existing anti-Semitism. The Hamburg main tax authority, in a circular, urged customs officials "to refrain from making anti-Semitic statements".
There was an extreme shortage of housing in Hamburg due to the very heavy bombing. All deported Jews had had to give up their accommodation. Around a third of those in "privileged mixed-marriages" still living in Hamburg had lost their accommodation in the severe air-raids in July and August 1943. Following this the Jews were ghettoized in so-called "Jews houses" ("Judenhäuser"). The British "Zone Policy Instruction No. 20", of the 4th December 1945, designated that each family member of former concentration camp prisoners persecuted on racial, political or religious grounds had the right to 7m² living space. In Hamburg it was difficult to fulfil such an entitlement because of the catastrophic destruction. To attain as fair as possible allocation of accommodation the community's housing committee worked together with the city housing office. Additionally, the community, together with JOINT, attempted to prevent the British occupying power from confiscating community property, such as the Jewish hospital or accommodation belonging to Jews.
As early as the 1st July 1945 a Jewish old people's home was established at 217 Rothenbaumchaussee. From 1947 onward the community's welfare committee regulated the admission of inmates. Admission was also often subject to the more formal approval of the community board. The board specified that non-members of the community applying for admission had to be examined. The admission of the non-Jewish marital partner of a "mixed-marriage" repeatedly caused problems. The financing of the old people's home was largely met by the city's social service department. The nursing and old people's home, which later moved to 23 Sedanstraße, was a constant problem for the community.
The care of the sick is one of the principal tasks of a Jewish community. Traditionally in Hamburg the Jewish hospital, being a trust, was legally independent of the community. In 1942 the Nazis compulsorily incorporated the hospital into the Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland). After the war this legal status made it difficult for the community to regain a decisive influence over the hospital. The attempt was made through an independent hospital committee of which Dr Loeffler, the notary public Hans W. Hertz and Felix Epstein were members. Epstein had been administrative head of the hospital until 1942. In February 1946 Mayor Rudolf Petersen appointed the new hospital committee. However, the legal validity of this decision was unclear. The land register still identified the German-Jewish Community (Deutsch-Israelitische Gemeinde) as owner. In March 1946 Fritz Rosenberg, a prominent community member, was appointed custodian for the owner. However, it remained unclear what legal status the hospital itself possessed. Only in 1957 was clarity achieved by a ruling of the Hanseatic Provincial High Court and Court of Appeal in favour of the independence of the hospital committee.
An assessment of the situation by the British military government and the Hamburg
health authority in the autumn of 1946 indicated that the hospital was unable to
survive as a private hospital without constant financial support. For the community
the preservation of the hospital was a matter of self-affirmation and prestige. In the
spring of 1949 the legal uncertainty led JOINT to discontinue its sponsorship as the
hospital could not be regarded as "Jewish". The community continued to invest large
amounts of money in the hospital in an effort to prevent its closure. This claimed
considerable financial resources. Only in the mid 1950s did the community acquire a
subsidy from the city for the renovation of the hospital.
The community provided vocational training and sought to help with employment. Here its possibilities were extremely limited. The socio-demographic structure of the community was unfavourable. The finding of jobs for foreign Jews was particularly difficult. A group of Jewish traders attempted to create a self-sufficient Jewish economy. However, the demand for a purely Jewish economy did not develop.
JOINT was requested to give a subsidy of 300 RM for the purchase of furniture. Later the community granted a loan for a similar amount. Firewood was distributed as heating material. A sewing room and clothes store of donated clothing were established in the community offices. Small loans were repeatedly paid out to alleviate acute need.
9. Choosing to Stay in Germany: the Challenge from Within and Without.
"To leave or to stay". Within the newly established Jewish communities and interest groups opinions varied regarding the future of Jews in Germany. The question of what the realistic chances of life were for the survivors of the Shoah in Germany under post-war conditions and military occupation threatened to polarize opinion. There were uncompromising answers, conciliatory positions and often resignation and apathy.
The position of the Zionists was clear. They regarded the Jewish organizations as merely temporary bodies established to meet the immediate need of the victims of Nazi persecution and were therefore to quickly put existing Jewish property into liquidation for the financing of an anticipated Jewish state in Palestine. In 1948 the Jewish World Congress declared that no Jew would ever enter Germany again. The Zionist oganizations regarded those Jews wishing to remain in Germany as "traitors" to Jewry. Jewish communities were only to be supported when there was religious or social need, but ultimately only in their preparation for emigration. After the DPs had departed the Bergen-Belsen camp, having emigrated to other countries, the international Jewish organizations naturally assumed that all that remained to be accomplished was the liquidation of Jewish property.
Also for many Hamburg Jews in the early post-war years the question of emigration was
inseparable from the question of future prospects in the "country of the murderers". Many
were of the opinion that the new Jewish community's only moral legitimation was in enabling
the persecuted, maltreated and traumatised survivors of the Nazi regime to quickly establish a
life outside Germany with the aid of German but essentially international Jewish aid
organizations. Financial aid and compensation were to be claimed to facilitate this goal.
However, from the outset, practical and psychological reasons hindered the realization of this goal. Age, family bonds, illness and uncertainty were the main obstacles to deciding upon and establishing a life in a new country. Many of those who had returned to Germany from the camps no longer had the strength to embark on a new phase of life in a foreign country. Community membership consisted of a disproportionately high number of elderly people. Additionally, before the founding of the State of Israel on the 14th May 1948, it was not easy to find a host country. The poor state of health of most of the survivors was reason enough to refuse an entry visa. In Hamburg the large number of "mixed-marriages" was a reason why many remained. These marriages were more than ten years old and both partners were involved in deciding whether to emigrate or not. However, generally most near relatives of the non-Jewish marital partner lived in Germany, even when these had distanced themselves from such a relationship during the Nazi period. Particularly Jews living in a "mixed- marriage" found it difficult to decide to emigrate. Many hoped for a democratic and liberal Germany even though an open or latent anti-Semitism remained. Many, including community chairman Harry Goldstein, argued that Hitler's goal of making Europe free of Jews ("judenrein") should not succeed through the emigration of the survivors.
It makes no sense to build houses where huts are sufficient and there is no point in building synagogues (...) only to leave them within a short while. The Jewish communities in Germany must be aware that they are not mere temporary organizations. Hans Erich Fabian
In reality the Jewish communities and their organized care constituted a permanent Jewish
structure in Germany. Their perception of themselves changed. In a meeting with Colonel
Adams, Regional Commissioner of the British occupying power, in August 1948, the
community board admitted that although many members wished to emigrate the community
was not a "community in the process of winding down" ("Liquidationsgemeinde") but a
"developing community" ("Aufbaugemeinde"). The latter term was the catchword of the time.
Such a statement aimed at dispelling British reservations in affording the community formal
recognition. The community pursued a policy of pragmatic compromise between a broad
structure of social welfare on the one hand and the support of individual decisions to emigrate
on the other hand. In this way the immediate "liquidation" of the community and the related
emigration was pushed into the background. Although the British occupying power prevented
the community from regaining its despoiled property this did not result in the implementation
of the morally justifiable but politically naive Zionist policy of "liquidation". By 1948/49,
when the position of the British occupying power began to change, the community had
become a place of security, especially for elderly members, making it more difficult to leave
Hamburg. In contrast to a foreign host country Hamburg and the German Jewish community
were familiar. It was to take years before the question of reparations was resolved.
The re-establishment of a Jewish community in Germany after the Shoah held both political and moral dangers. The current circumstances were only superficially favourable. In many cases the initial efforts by the German authorities to assist and reintegrate were hindered by the British occupying power. By the time British policy began to change in favour of the Jewish survivors and other persecuted individuals the British no longer had any influence over German policy. In the meantime German policy had also changed. The moral commitment to reparations of the early post-war years was now often a matter of political expediency, not least in the attainment of legal sovereignty abroad. There was no compensation for the lack of a British policy.
The moral danger was twofold. Firstly, it was necessary to develop a consciousness of how, as a Jew, it was possible to live in Germany "after Auschwitz". Secondly, would this consciousness be accepted by Jews outside Germany? Ultimately, this depended upon the difficult balance between distance from and integration, or reintegration, with non-Jewish society. The old question of what it meant to be a "German citizen of the Jewish faith" appeared in a new form and became more difficult to answer after the founding of the State of Israel in May 1948. The problem remained an internal Jewish one as the community had little influence over non-Jewish society. The danger was that non-Jewish society would regard the existence of a Jewish community as a permanent, painful reminder and disturbing admonition thereby developing a negative attitude towards German Jews. A remaining, significant anti-Semitism, the uncompleted denazification, the rehabilitation of Nazi-incriminated civil servants and the opposition of the population to comprehensive reparations seemed to confirm the scepticism that a democratic society would develop in Germany.
The Hamburg Jewish community accepted this twofold danger. Despite the overwhelming need, from the outset, the community decided to be more than a mere emergency organization. Public relations were kept to a minimum in the attempt to minimize the danger. For decades the Jews of Hamburg kept a low profile and conducted an internally focused community life. This policy changed only gradually. The new post-war Jewish community profited from the pragmatism and decisiveness of its officials. After the obstructive policy of the British occupying power began to be relaxed and then finally removed the political leadership of the city of Hamburg turned its benevolent attention on the Jewish community and gave assistance. This development confirmed the hope of those engaged in a new beginning in 1945 in providing the Jewish survivors security, new hope and assistance.
Jews who, in the Weimar Republic, had been on the margins of Jewry now freely assumed
executive duties, officially represented the community and fashioned policy. This included
those who had returned to Hamburg after the end of the war. Both the leadership and the
ordinary community members, none of whom participated in Jewish religious tradition,
henceforth wished the religious-cultural elements of Judaism to be regarded as those
fundamental to the community. The community also gained an acceptance through
representing the common interests and fate of those persecuted and victimized by the Nazis.
There was a clear perception of the future role of the community in a new Germany. When
the "Board of Deputies of Jews in Germany" ("Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland") was
established in 1950 the choice of "Jews in Germany" and not "German Jews" left the question
of the founding of Jewish communities in Germany open.
In October 1948 Rabbi Leo Baeck (1873-1956) was posed the question of leaving or staying in Germany "after Auschwitz". He answered that even if the history of Jews in Germany be considered as having been concluded, as long as there were Jews in Germany Jewish communities would exist and should be as run as well as possible.
* Select Bibliography.
Asaria, Zwi (Dr Helfgott): Die Juden in Köln. Von den ältesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart, Cologne 1959, PP. 416-421.
Asmussen, Nils: Der kurze Traum von der Gerechtigkeit. Wiedergutmachung und NS-Verfolgte in Hamburg nach 1945, Hamburg 1987.
Brenner, Michael: Nach dem Holocaust. Juden in Deutschland 1945-1950, Munich 1995.
Büttner, Ursula: Not nach der Befreiung. Der Situation der deutschen Juden in der britischen Besatzungszone 1945 bis 1948, Landeszentrale für politische Bildung, Hamburg 1986.
Büttner, Ursula: Rückkehr in ein normales Leben? Die Lage der Juden in Hamburg
in den ersten Nachkriegsjahren.
Arno Herzig (ed.): Die Juden in Hamburg 1590 bis 1990, Hamburg 1991, pp. 613-632.
Geis, Jael: Übrig sein - Leben "danach". Juden deutscher Herkunft in der britischen und amerikanischen Zone Deutschlands 1945-1949, Berlin 2000.
Giordano, Egon: Ende und Anfang. Hamburgs jüdisches Leben nach 1945.
Jüdische Allgemeine Wochenzeitung, 9.1.1970, pp. 24-26.
Jacobmeyer, Wolfgang: Vom Zwangsarbeiter zum Heimatlosen Ausländer. Die Displaced Persons in Westdeutschland 1945-1951, Göttingen 1985.
Lamm, Hans: Der Wiederaufbau der Hamburger Jüdischen Gemeinde nach 1945.
Oskar Wolfsberg-Aviad et al, Die Drei-Gemeinde AHW, Munich 1960, pp. 134-146.
Lavsky, Hagit: Die Anfänge der Landesverbände der jüdischen Gemeinde in der
Herbert Obenaus (ed.): Im Schatten des Holocaust. Jüdisches Leben in Niedersachsen nach 1945, Hanover 1997.
Lorenz, Ina/Berkemann , Jörg: Streitfall jüdischer Friedhof Ottensen, Vol. 1: Wie lange dauert Ewigkeit, Vol. 2: Texte und Dokumente (1663-1993), Hamburg 1995.
Lorenz, Ina/Berkemann, Jörg: Kriegsende und Neubeginn. Zur Entstehung der
neuen Jüdischen Gemeinde in Hamburg 1945-1948.
Arno Herzig (ed.): Die Juden in Hamburg 1590 bis 1990, Hamburg 1991, pp. 633-656.
Maòr, Harry: Über den Wiederaufbau der jüdischen Gemeinden in Deutschland seit 1945, PhD thesis Mainz 1961.
Obenaus, Herbert (ed.): Im Schatten des Holocaust. Jüdisches Leben in Niedersachsen nach 1945, Hanover 1997.
Schoeps, Julius H. (ed.): Leben im Land der Täter. Juden im Nachkriegsdeutschland (1945-1952), Berlin 2001.
Tadmor, Jizchak (ed.): Kirschen an der Elbe, 1996. (Hebrew).
Wagner, Patrick: Displaced Persons in Hamburg. Stationen einer halbherzigen Integration 1945 bis 1958, Hamburg 1997.
Die Wiedergutmachung für die Opfer der nationalsozialistischen Verfolgung in Hamburg, Hamburg 1959.
Prof. Dr. Ina S. Lorenz, Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden.
Gehen oder Bleiben. Neuanfang der Jüdischen Gemeinde in Hamburg nach 1945.
Landeszentrale für politische Bildung, Hamburg, Hamburg 2002.