History of the Jews in Germany

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The history of the Jews in Germany is that of an ethnic and denominational minority in the German-speaking area of ​​Central Europe and is documented very differently depending on the epoch. Jews have lived in the countries and regions of Central Europe for more than 1700 years. The Jewish presence in the German-speaking area was hardly interrupted in the following centuries. The term for Ashkenazi Jews , which is still widespread today, developed during the 9th century in German-speaking countries.

Jewish communities in Germany experienced periods of tolerance and heyday as well as anti-Judaist persecution and anti-Semitic violence that led to the Holocaust in the 20th century . The most recent German history since 1990 has been shaped by new settlements by Jewish citizens from Eastern Europe and Israel. Currently the largest communities of Jews can be found in Berlin , Munich and Frankfurt .

The historically best-known personalities of German-Jewish descent include u. a. Albert Einstein , Else Lasker-Schüler , Heinrich Heine , Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy , Hannah Arendt , Karl Marx and Bertha Pappenheim .

Antiquity, the Great Migration and the Frankish Empire

Jews already lived in the Roman province of Germania inferior . For some Roman settlements, Jewish communities have also been recorded in the 4th century. For Cologne, 321 Jews are attested as Roman citizens, but continuous settlement probably only began in the Ottonian period - about 600 years later. The first Jewish communities formed on the Rhenish North-South Street ( Cologne , Trier , Mainz , Worms , Speyer ). For the appointment to a municipal office, property and a sufficient reputation of the person were conditions. But even if Jews fulfilled these, access to public office was denied. Their religion was recognized as religio licita (permitted religion). This freed them from the imperial cult and the sacrifices to the Roman state gods . However, these were required to hold a public office. In late antiquity , however, the Roman upper class increasingly refused these costly offices, so that the Roman administration fell into a crisis. The decree of Emperor Constantine of the year 321, issued to the Cologne city council , which also allowed Jews to be appointed to the " curia " or made them obligated against their will, is the earliest evidence of the existence of a Jewish community in the city Cologne. The imperial decree is handed down in the Codex Theodosianus with the following wording:

“We permit all councilors by general law to appoint Jews to the Curia. So that they have a certain amount of compensation for the earlier regulation, We allow that two or three should always enjoy the privilege not to be used by any appeal (to offices). "

It is uncertain whether there were consistently Jewish settlements in the cities on the Rhine. It is possible that some Jewish settlements continued to exist after the Romans withdrew and the Germanic conquest. Their legal position was secured during the Roman period and Jews had full citizenship. On the other hand, there were no Jews on the Germanic side of the Rhine and north of the Danube; at least they cannot be historically proven in antiquity.

How Jews came to the areas to the right of the Rhine and north of the Danube after the Migration Period is largely unexplored. Only in the last few years has the material been examined using the central archive for research into the history of Jews in Germany . For Eastern Franconia , Jewish communities on formerly Roman soil can be safely traced. The first Jew known by name is the merchant " Isaak " at the court of Charlemagne , whom he sent from 797 to 802 in an embassy to Baghdad to the caliph Hārūn ar-Raschīd and who brought an elephant named Abul Abbas from there. Privileges given by Ludwig the Pious around 825, which granted the Jews privileges and, among other things, regulated their activities in the slave trade between Bohemia and Spain. Agobard , Archbishop of Lyon, positioned himself as an opponent of Judaism, its rights and its role in the Frankish Empire .

The thesis popularized by Arthur Koestler in the non-fiction book The Thirteenth Tribe , that the majority of the Eastern Ashkenazim did not descend from the ancient Israelites but from the Khazars , a Turkic people who adopted the Jewish religion in the 8th or 9th century , has now been refuted. It is true that as a result of the defeat of the Khazar empire by the Kiev Grand Duke Svyatoslav I , some Khazarian refugees also reached Central Europe , where they met Ashkenazi communities. But their share must have been very small, since it cannot be detected genetically. At the same time, these studies have shown a strong genetic relationship to the current population of the Middle East , so that it can be assumed that the majority of the Jewish population in medieval Europe descended from the Jews of historical Israel .

middle Ages

Flowering in the early Middle Ages

Henry VII with Jews in Rome in 1312
Christian and Jewish scholastics in dispute (woodcut 1483)

In the 10th and 11th centuries the number of Jews rose sharply. While it was 5,000 in the 10th century, it had quadrupled to 20,000 by the 11th century. In 10./11. In the 19th century, Jewish merchants immigrated from Italy and southern France to cities on the Rhine . The Jewish communities there experienced their heyday. At the end of the 10th century, Jews also went further east to Magdeburg and Merseburg . Everywhere they received very favorable privileges from the Ottonian and Salian rulers (e.g. Emperor Henry IV ), who used their economic power. The Rhenish-South German area was called Aschkenas in Hebrew , which soon referred to the whole of Germany (German language area). In the ShUM cities of Worms , Mainz , Speyer and Regensburg , Jewish studies were carried out at a high level. The scholar Raschi (1040–1105) completed his studies in Mainz and Worms before his apprenticeship in Troyes . The episcopal privilege of 1084 for the Jews admitted to Speyer was taken over by Emperor Heinrich IV for Worms in 1090, and it became another model: in 1157 Emperor Friedrich I transferred it to other cases. The first synagogues were built in Cologne in 1012, Worms in 1034 and Trier in 1066, and school and teaching houses ( yeshiva ) soon stood next to them . Jewish cemeteries were also established. The oldest preserved in situ is the Heilige Sand in Worms. Jewish quarters (Judengasse) grew less from coercion than from practical reasons (Sabbath commandment, mikveh ). With the tolerance of the Christian authorities, a self-administration ( Kehillah ) was established, which took care of taxes, cult and schools and was allowed to issue statutes. Families of Jewish merchants made connections as far as Italy and beyond. In the 12th century, Jews increasingly took up the credit business as a result of the interest prohibition restricted to Christians . Jewish farmers and artisans are also known, but they did not get into the Christian guilds. The relationship between the Jews and their surroundings was relaxed, individual protective Jews or entire communities had letters of protection from the king, which, however, were usually only granted after substantial consideration, mostly of a financial nature, and could be withdrawn at any time and without justification.

Persecution and development of a special right

This changed after the pogroms against Jewish communities that took place under Pope Urban II during the First Crusade from 1096 . Before the crusade pogroms began, there were little more than a dozen Jewish communities in the empire. The Jews in the Rhenish cities found insufficient protection from the crusaders with the episcopal city lords such as the Trier bishop Engelbert von Rothenburg . Many preferred suicide to forced baptism . In the 1st Mainzer Reichslandfrieden 1103, Jews were denied the right to carry a weapon, among other things. They now formed a vulnerable group with a minor civil status. At the end there was (first in 1236 after the Fulda trial of Jews ) chamber servitude , which defined the Jews as unfree chamber servants of Emperor Friedrich II . While this guaranteed them protection of life and property as well as autonomous jurisdiction in internal Jewish affairs, on the other hand it was connected with the loss of personal freedom and a burden of special taxes. This created a special right for a limited minority. The emperor gave some of the income from servitude to imperial princes or cities. During this time Jews lived less from trading in goods than from smaller loan transactions, including as doctors and technicians. They were allowed to keep Christian servants and even slaves. As a Jew, Süßkind von Trimberg was one of the Middle High German minstrels. At the same time, the church's attitude towards the Jews became more radical, which was expressed, for example, in the 4th Lateran Council in 1215. The council stipulated that Jews should be labeled ( Judenhut / Gelber Fleck ), but this did not change until the 14./15. Century prevailed, and as a result of the church reform movements of the 11th century, Christians banned interest lending. The influential Franciscan Berthold von Regensburg included the idea of ​​the Jews as murderers in his sermon. The Schwabenspiegel around 1275 already called for a stricter separation in everyday life, but this did not become common until 1350. Allegations of ritual murder first affected Jews in Lauda and Fulda in 1234/1235 . Emperor Friedrich II fought the legends of ritual murders. At the same time, the accusation of the evil of the host arose . The marauding impoverished knight (?) Rintfleisch therefore destroyed over 140 communities in central and southern German-speaking areas in 1298. 1336–1339 the arm leather bands passed through Franconia and Alsace and killed 5,000 Jews. Everyone was killed in Colmar .

Jews burned alive in the Holy Roman Empire , illustration from a medieval manuscript, now in the Lucerne citizens library is

The pogroms that accompanied the Great Plague around 1350 marked a deep turning point. They began in Switzerland in 1348 on charges of well poisoning by the Jews. In 85 of 350 cities with Jewish residents, murders took place (e.g. in Strasbourg ), and Jews were expelled almost everywhere. In Alsace, with 29 places, half of all Jewish settlements were wiped out, in the Middle Rhine around 85 of 133 settlements. Their demise brought many material advantages, above all to the emperor Charles IV. Jews were only accepted again under worse conditions because princes and cities ultimately needed them. Her stays were now limited to a few years and an extension was not always a matter of course. These admission privileges no longer applied to entire communities, but only to individuals with their families (so-called individual privileges). Additional taxes were imposed, such as the “golden sacrificial penny” (see confessional money ). In addition, emigration to Poland-Lithuania began, where Yiddish emerged as a mixed language made up of Middle High German, Hebrew and Slavic parts. In Erfurt , too , the Jews were expelled in 1349. The former Old Synagogue Erfurt from 1094 was preserved and is now the oldest synagogue in Europe. In 1998, a 28 kilogram Jewish treasure from the 13th and 14th centuries was found near them . Century found.

The hostility towards Jewish moneylenders repeatedly led to riots, the victims of which were mainly Jewish residents. In late medieval and early modern society, Jewish business people were pushed into an outsider role because, on the one hand, they had no access to guilds and thus to recognized craft trades, but on the other hand they were not subject to the interest ban . For many indebted people the debt was overwhelming. Interest and repayment in connection with envy led to hostility, which was then generalized to the entire Jewish population and resulted in cruel pogroms against the Jews . The hatred of "Jewish usury" often exceeded that of the clergy and the nobility. In 1385/1390 King Wenzel carried out a “debt repayment for Jews”, which relieved cities and princes. Emperor Sigismund imposed the costs of the Council of Constance and the Council of Basel on the Jews . The first Christian banks were also created because the interest ban was no longer observed. In the end, many Jewish moneylenders had to give up and emigrated. Only the small pawn shop and the junk shop remained as acquisitions. In most cases, however, only wealthier Jews could afford to emigrate, which on the one hand resulted in the Reich losing considerable financial resources and on the other hand impoverishing the remaining Jews.

There were always new reasons for new murders and expulsions. During the Hussite Wars , Jews were persecuted in Austria , Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. They were expelled from Trier monastery in 1419 for a hundred years, from Cologne in 1424 (until 1798), from Konstanz in 1431, from Würzburg in 1434, from Speyer in 1435, from Munich and all of Upper Bavaria in 1442, from Mainz in 1473, from Nuremberg and Ulm in 1499 and from Regensburg finally expelled in 1519. John Capistrano sermons dissolved in Wroclaw from combustion with 41 victims 1453rd Capistrano also preached in Erfurt , here the council announced the protection of the Jews in 1453.

In 1492, 27 Jews died at the stake in the Sternberg pogrom . In the same year all Jews were expelled from Mecklenburg . Thereupon the Jewish communities outside Mecklenburg imposed a ban on the country. From then on, this forbade Jews to settle in Mecklenburg. It was not until the beginning of the 18th century that the ban had lost its effect that Jewish families settled in Mecklenburg again.

On July 19, 1510, 38 Jews were burned on a large scaffold in Berlin as a result of the Berlin host- abuse trial, two other Jews - these had converted to Christianity through baptism - were beheaded. They had been accused of host sacrilege and infanticide; The reason for this was the break-in of the Knoblauch church and the associated theft of a gold-plated monstrance and two consecrated hosts . 60 more Jews had to leave the Mark Brandenburg in the course of the year after they had committed the original feud .

By 1520, Jews had largely been driven out of the big cities. However, the territorially fragmented empire often offered refuge with the next minor prince, and they soon began to migrate back. Some Jews also survived in the woods as vagabonds and beggars. Ghettos were set up in Frankfurt am Main and Worms. The sermon of the mendicant monks spread anti-Jewish ideas, e.g. B. from the alleged ritual murder of the boy Simon of Trento . Wood and letterpress printing spread the image of the pig as the mother of the Jews (" Judensau "). After the fall of the Regensburg community in 1519, many only left wandering Judaism or a limited stay in a city. New Jewish centers arose in Bohemia , Poland and Eastern Europe .

Early modern age

Charles V and the "Great Speyr Jews' Privilege" 1544

Large Speyer Jewish privilege from 1544, insert in the confirmation from 1548, page 1 of 7

Among the humanists, Johannes Reuchlin was the only one who defended the Jews when, in a dispute with Johannes Pfefferkorn, he rejected the required burning of the Talmud . He incorporated Hebrew into humanistic studies. Josel von Rosheim obtained new letters of protection for the Jews from Emperor Charles V and defended them at the Augsburg Reichstag in 1530 against invented attacks by the converted Antonius Margaritha .

At the Reichstag in Speyer in 1544 , the Jews of the empire complained to Emperor Karl V that they were being mistreated and denied their rights. The trigger for the increasing disregard for the rights of the Jews were, among other things, anti-Jewish writings by Martin Luther from 1543.

Emperor Karl therefore renewed the protection of the Jews and confirmed their privileges. No one should henceforth have the right to close their schools and synagogues, to drive them out of them, or to prevent them from being used. Anyone who damaged or robbed Jews of life or property in contravention of the proclaimed imperial peace in the country should be punished by all authorities. Every Jew should have the right to go about his business in the empire, and every government should grant him escort and no longer burden him with customs or tolls . The Jews were not obliged to wear “Jewish marks” outside their place of residence, and no Jew should be expelled from his place of residence without the express consent of the Emperor. Since Jews were taxed more heavily, but they had neither lying goods nor “static handtierung, ampter or handicrafts” and could only pay the taxes from “so sy von ieren parrschafften”, they were allowed to “make pairing” and interest ... umb soill the more and more and more, then the cristen is allowed to invest ". Without sufficient evidence and witnesses, anyone was forbidden to accuse Jews of using Christian blood or to arrest, torture or execute them because this suspicion had already been rejected by the popes and prohibited by a declaration by Emperor Frederick . Where such accusations were made, they were to be brought before the emperor. Violations of this privilege were to be punished with 50 marks of soldered gold , half of which should go to the imperial court chamber and half to the damaged Jews.

Before and after the Thirty Years War

Around 1600 there were around 8,000 to 10,000 Jews in Germany, around 3,000 of them in Frankfurt am Main. In a new period of Jewish immigration, they settled in cities and areas from which they had previously been driven. From that time until their emancipation, the Jews were organized in regional Jews , collective associations of all Jews in a sovereign territory, which autonomously administered Jewish affairs such as tax distribution and jurisdiction. The attempt at a nationwide cooperation failed in the course of the so-called Frankfurt rabbinical conspiracy . A special feature was the settlement of Portuguese Jews ( Sephardim ) in the trade-conscious Hamburg from around 1600, while the German Jews had to move to Altona there. Despite the anti-Jewish Martin Luther , who shaped German Lutheranism anti-Judaism , the relationship relaxed somewhat. The Jews were relatively best off in the Catholic spiritual territories and some imperial cities. In the countryside, lending small amounts of money to farmers was a source of income, but it repeatedly led to accusations of “Jewish usury ”. In the cities the guild citizens were often anti-Semitic, in Frankfurt am Main there was an uprising and looting against the ghetto in 1614 under the leadership of the gingerbread baker Vincenz Fettmilch . Occasionally Jews were able to hold important positions at princely courts. But the associated security as a court Jew remained vague, especially when a new ruler ascended the throne. On January 28, 1578 , Elector Johann Georg had the former Jewish court financier of his father Joachim II , the court Jew and mint master Lippold from Prague, quartered with an ax. The execution took place on charges of witchcraft and sorcery, which had been brought because Johann Georg could not find any irregularities despite intensive searches. At the lower end of the social scale were wandering bands of robbers , some or all of which were made up of completely impoverished Jews, had peculiar social structures and used the red word for protected communication .

Execution of Joseph Suss Oppenheimer on February 4, 1738 at the gates of Stuttgart

Only with the reconstruction after the Thirty Years' War did the situation of the Jews change for the better. Since 1648 they were subordinate to the sovereigns, who regulated living together with Jewish regulations . Before the pogroms of the Cossack leader Bohdan Khmelnyzkyj ( Khmelnyzkyj uprising ), some Jews fled to Brandenburg . A certain willingness to accept was initially shown by the still half-hearted edict of the Great Elector of 1671 with the title “Edict because of the admission of 50 families of protective Jews, but that they do not keep synagogues”. From 1700 to 1750 there were four Jewish ordinances in which, among other things, the maximum number of children that could be “assigned” was regulated. Only three were allowed, later only one, the other sons had to emigrate. These Jewish ordinances included the General Regulations of 1730 and the Revised General Privilege of 1750. In 1714 the synagogue in Berlin was opened in the presence of the Queen. Court factors like Suss Oppenheimer in Württemberg became commonplace at the absolutist courts. Expulsions like in Vienna in 1670 and pogroms still occurred like in Bamberg in 1699. Around 1700 there were around 1,000 Jews in Berlin , which was increasingly friendly to Jews, and around 25,000 Jews in the entire Old Reich. By the middle of the 18th century there were already 60,000 to 70,000. An outstanding source for the Jewish life of this epoch is the first autobiography written in Yiddish by the Hamburg merchant Glückel von Hameln .

In the Age of Enlightenment

The question of the integration and equal rights of Jews, previously only considered from an economic point of view, arose again in the Enlightenment . In Prussia, under Frederick II, there was limited tolerance towards the protective Jews . Important intellectuals such as Moses Mendelssohn participated in the intellectual life in Germany, Jewish women ( Rahel Varnhagen ) belonged to the core of German romanticism . For the Jews, the question of assimilation into the Christian environment arose again . In 1781 the lawyer Christian Wilhelm Dohm wrote the text “On the bourgeois improvement of the Jews”, which, however, did little to promote Jewish emancipation until the Prussian crisis . On the other hand, Emperor Joseph II put extensive relief into force in the Habsburg Empire with the tolerance patent in 1782, which, however, went hand in hand with an anti-Jewish intention to educate.

In the 18th and sometimes even in the 19th century, Jews in the German Reich had Jewish family names , which made them immediately recognizable as Jews. They usually had their father's name as a family name; a patronymy , as it was still common with some Slavic peoples or the Icelanders until modern times. Due to the frequent combination of Jewish first and family names, they were immediately recognizable as Jews.

In the 18th century, edicts of the sovereigns gradually led to the adoption of fixed family names in the various German territories.

From the Napoleonic period to the founding of the Empire (1789–1871)

Napoleon and Prussian reforms

Linguistic acculturation in three phases. Above: Genesis 1st translation in West Yiddish , from Ze'enah u-Re'enah , Sulzbach, 1764 .; Middle: the same text, standard German but in Hebrew letters, from Moses Mendelssohn's Pentateuch translation, around 1780; Below: Samson Raphael Hirsch's 1867 translation, standard German.

The French Revolution brought about the emancipation of the Jews in France in 1791, and Napoleon I carried this principle into the occupied and dependent states (e.g. into the Kingdom of Westphalia ) with the Civil Code . In the states of the Rhine Confederation , Jews were first treated as equals, albeit with some restrictions. But in 1808 Napoleon issued the so-called “shameful decree”, which abolished their freedom of movement and only permitted commercial activity with a special patent.

In the Kingdom of Prussia , after the complete defeat in 1806, the question of state reforms arose. With the Prussian Jewish edict of 1812 , the Jews living in Prussia became residents and Prussian citizens. Some became officers in the Prussian army. However, the edict contained sensitive restrictions and was z. B. in the province of Posen , where most of the Jews lived, not valid, so that no equal and uniform law was created. Many special regulations nullified equality in the Restoration after 1815 . This also applied to the newly acquired Swedish Pomerania with Stralsund , where the first department stores of the Wertheim and Tietz families later stood. King Friedrich Wilhelm III. persisted in conservatism . The romantic doctrine of the “Christian state”, which Frederick William IV adhered to, called the new status into question again and did not allow Jews in leadership positions. University professorships were also not open to Jewish scholars such as Eduard Gans . The writers Heinrich Heine and Ludwig Börne , who were born as Jews, emigrated to France. It was not until 1847 that a more uniform Jewish law was created.

Vienna Congress and Restoration

At the Congress of Vienna , Article 16 of the Federal Act promised the Jews an improvement and confirmed the status quo for laws passed by the federal states. This did not refer to the French occupation regulations, which the Hanseatic cities in particular had advocated. The legal situation had to be reorganized and became very confusing. The Lübeck lawyer Carl August Buchholz represented several German Jewish communities in this matter both in Vienna and in 1818 at the Aachen Congress .

In 1831, the Jewish lawyer Gabriel Riesser contributed to the emancipation of the Jews in an important work on the position of those who confess the Mosaic Faith in Germany , in which he addressed a debate in Baden. It was about full citizenship without Christian baptism as access to the German nation, which he claimed as a Jew for himself.

Religious Reforms

At the beginning of the 19th century, the first efforts were made to reform Judaism in order to give the synagogue its mark in its Christian and German environment. The new position of Jews as citizens led some to believe that the Jewish religion should appear a little less alien to those around them. As Jews became more closely acquainted with Christian religious practice, many saw in it a model for all religions in the modern religious framework. But a reform was also sought because religious feelings had changed in part and old religious customs had become meaningless in the eyes of some. One of the first reformers was David Friedländer , who made reform proposals immediately after the Prussian Emancipation Edict of 1812. Another was Israel Jacobson .

Initially controversial changes in the service concerned:

  • a synagogue order ,
  • the introduction of a sermon in German,
  • a vow of faith for children based on the Christian confirmation ,
  • the introduction of German prayers and chants in church services as well
  • the use of musical instruments in worship.

Revolution 1848/1849

Jews already took part in the revolution of 1848 , and some were among the “ March fallen ”. The peasant unrest also resulted in anti-Jewish excesses in around 80 places in southern Germany and Posen. But the early Jewish emancipation seemed to be guaranteed, since many well-known Jews worked in the new parliaments, e. B. Johann Jacoby , or Johann Gustav Heckscher and Eduard von Simson , who converted to Christianity .

In the Paulskirche in Frankfurt on August 28, 1848, a debate about the basic rights and their validity for Jews took place, which Moritz Mohl from Württemberg had doubted because of their "foreign origin". The well-known Lauenburg MP Gabriel Riesser rejected this with success.

Other anti-Jewish excesses outside of Germany mixed in with the unrest of the revolution, for example in Prague , Pressburg and Budapest . Despite the suppression of the revolution, improvements for Jews continued in some states.

Jewish soldiers in German armies

Jewish soldiers in the German army celebrate Yom Kippur on September 23, 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War . The Feuchtwanger Collection, Israel Museum , Jerusalem .

Jewish soldiers served since the beginning of civil equality in the armies of the German states and the army of the empire , they fought in the campaign of Prussia and Austria against Denmark in 1864, in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and in the Franco-German War of 1870/71 . They excelled, got promoted, and died on the battlefield.

Individual states in the German Confederation from 1815

to bathe

Due to the enlargement of the area, the number of Jews in Baden grew from 2,265 in 1802 to 1808 to 14,200. Karlsruhe and Mannheim have developed into Jewish centers since the 18th century. In the liberal Grand Duchy of Baden , the educational edict of January 13, 1809, significantly improved the citizenship of the Jews, but also eliminated the traditional Jewish community constitution. The state compulsory education also affected the Jewish children, as well as the military , hereditary surnames were prescribed. In 1815 the protection money was canceled. The constitution of 1818 again made considerable restrictions on civil service and the right to stand for election . One of the anti-Semitic opponents was the Heidelberg and Jena philosopher Jakob Friedrich Fries , whose inflammatory pamphlet from 1816 had the government confiscated. The Hep-Hep riots in 1819 hit North Baden and had to be calmed with military action. Despite many individual successes, rural Jews in particular who resisted assimilation remained hostile. As a prerequisite for further progress, the liberal majority of the parliament, according to the memorandum of the Heidelberg theologian Heinrich Eberhard Gottlob Paulus of 1831, called for a radical reform of the cult. a. should include moving the Sabbath to Sunday, repealing the dietary laws , renouncing circumcision, and revising the Talmud. In 1848 anti-Semitic attacks occurred again, particularly in the Kraichgau and Odenwald . After a long discussion, civic emancipation only succeeded in 1849, and almost complete formal legal equality (elimination of exceptions in poor law and the use of common land) as a community citizen in 1862 with a 10-year transition period.

Moritz Ellstätter , who was appointed finance minister in 1868, was the first Jew and the only member of a German state government until 1918.


In 1816, the Jewish edict issued three years earlier came into force in Bavaria . The Jews were thus largely legally equated with the Christians. The edict, a milestone in the history of the assimilation of Bavarian Jews, abolished Jewish jurisdiction, allowed Jews to purchase land, and gave them access to all universities in the country. In a "register paragraph", however, the edict also regulated the registration of Jews with a right to reside with a letter of protection (register) in lists. Since a maximum number of Jewish families was set for each place, which should be reduced if possible, the regulation not only affected the freedom of movement of Jews, but also the possibilities of Jews to start a family.

Population Statistics:
year Jews in Bavaria
1813 approx. 30,000
1840 > 4,100
1867 > 9,200
1900 > 23,700

A vehement anti-Semitism erupted in the Hep-Hep riots in Würzburg and other Bavarian cities in 1819 .

As the next generation grew up, the problem of maximum numbers became so pressing in the mid-1830s that young people left Bavaria in large numbers; Thousands emigrated to the United States . In the second half of the 19th century, however, the living conditions of Jews in Bavaria gradually improved: in 1848 they were given the right to vote and stand as a candidate , and in 1849, David Morgenstern , a Jewish member of the Bavarian state parliament, was elected for the first time. In 1850 Jews were allowed to resettle in Nuremberg for the first time , from which they had been expelled in 1499. Finally, in 1861, the paragraph was repealed.

After the Jewish settlement core was located in the Fürth area at the beginning of the 19th century, more and more Jews moved to the city of Munich in the course of emancipation and urbanization until the end of the 19th century . The complete legal equality of the Jews in Bavaria followed with the constitution of the German Empire founded in 1871 .


Free City of Frankfurt am Main

Free and Hanseatic cities of Lübeck, Hamburg, Bremen

After Lübeck had belonged to Napoleonic France from 1811 to 1813, the emancipation of the Jews was valid here as in the other Hanseatic cities. After the Congress of Vienna, the Jews who had settled there were expelled from the city of Lübeck again and there was a settlement ban until 1848. The same applies to Bremen until the constitution of 1849. The electoral reform of 1848, a constitutional revision and modernization of the state, were all Jews from Moisling and Lübeck permanently emancipated. In Hamburg , where the largest German community existed for a long time with around 3,000 Jews, the new constitutions of 1849 and finally of 1860 introduced the strict separation of state and church and thus put Jews on an equal footing. New members streamed there through the overseas emigration via the ports of Bremen and Hamburg.


Hanoverian letter for protected Jews 1833

Main articles: History of the Jews in Hanover , History of the Jews in East Frisia , History of the Jews on Norderney

In the Kingdom of Hanover , which had largely belonged to the progressive Kingdom of Westphalia , the old rights of protective Jews were first restored. It was not until 1842 that Jews were granted citizenship (“Law on the Conditions of the Jews”). Moritz Stern was appointed first full professor at a German university in 1859 , in Göttingen as a mathematics professor.

Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz

The participation of 26 Jews in the wars of liberation was remarkable , among them Löser Cohn from Güstrow , who published his memoirs. From 1813 to 1817, the “sovereign constitution” was in effect in Mecklenburg-Schwerin , which de facto legally equated Jews in 19 paragraphs. Under pressure from the conservative estates , Grand Duke Friedrich Franz I lifted it again and thus restored the situation according to the Land Constitutional Constitution of 1755. Nevertheless, Jewish centers developed in Schwerin , Güstrow, Parchim and Neustrelitz / Strelitz . Improvements later came into force for craftsmen and schools, and Jewish lawyers were admitted. In 1839 a statute regulated the municipal constitution, in 1840 a regional rabbi was elected. The 1848 revolution only briefly introduced equality - until the revolutionary constitution was repealed in 1850.

It was not until 1868 that the equality of Jews was carried out without exception in both Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz , under pressure from the North German Confederation . The freedom of movement of all citizens now extended to the old Hanseatic cities of Wismar and Rostock . In 1869, the left-liberal MP Moritz Wiggers introduced the federal law on the equal rights of denominations in the North German Confederation against the opposition of both Mecklenburg governments , which definitely guaranteed legal equality. Nevertheless, the number of Jews fell as a result of emigration to industrial centers from 1848 with 3248 "Israelites" by 1905 to 1482. It only rose again briefly in 1919 through immigration from the areas ceded to Poland by the Versailles Treaty and also annexed.


In the Kingdom of Saxony , the legal situation of the Jews remained unresolved for almost as long as in Hanover. As early as 1800, the proportion of Jewish merchants was high among the visitors to the Leipzig trade fair , especially from Poland. In 1814 the Israelite cemetery in Johannistal near Leipzig was approved, in 1834 the "Israelite Religious Community of Leipzig" was established with the election of a provisional religious committee. It was not until 1838 that a law allowed Jews to settle in the cities of Leipzig and Dresden . The acquisition of land was partially permitted, making it possible to build a synagogue. In 1843 Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy , who was raised as a Christian, became an honorary citizen of Leipzig. Even there, their civil rights remained restricted; Jews were not tolerated outside of these two cities. In 1855 the Leipzig Great Community Synagogue ("Temple") was inaugurated. In 1874 Moritz Kohner became the first Jewish member of the Leipzig City Council.

In 1871 there were 3357 Jews in Saxony (a total of 2.5 million inhabitants).


In Württemberg , where Jews were not allowed to live and work permanently from 1498 to 1805, the law regarding the public relations of fellow Israelites was passed in 1828 , which was characterized primarily by its educational intention to make the " chess trade " more difficult for Jews . It also placed religious life under state supervision. As a result, Jewish communities emerged in Ludwigsburg and Stuttgart , which , however, were not comparable with the major Jewish centers of the time - such as Breslau , Hamburg or Berlin . The emancipation of Jews in the 1848 Revolution was reversed, but in 1861 their civil rights were finally recognized. The civil equality of Jews at the local level was not anchored in law in Württemberg until 1864.

Empire and Weimar Republic (1871–1933)

Spread of the Jews in the German Empire, ca.1895
The seventieth birthday of Kommerzienrat Valentin Manheimer , painting by Anton von Werner , 1887: Portrait of the upper-class German-Jewish family of the Berlin clothing manufacturer Valentin Manheimer in the Wilhelminian Empire

In the North German Confederation in July 1869, the “Law on the Equal Rights of Denominations in Civil and Citizenship Relations” put Jews on an equal footing. It formed the basis of the imperial constitution of 1871. It made all German Jews citizens of equal rights. Nonetheless, social anti-Semitism, which returned particularly in economic crises, had not yet been overcome.

Some Jews advanced to high positions. The Jewish banker Bismarck, Gerson von Bleichröder is known . The shipowner Albert Ballin belonged to the close circle around Wilhelm II , who nevertheless expressed anti-Semitic accusations after 1918. There were Jewish scholars at universities, if only in small numbers as full professors. The historian Heinrich von Treitschke triggered the Berlin anti-Semitism dispute in 1879 with the exclamation “ The Jews are our misfortune ” . The liberal professions became a field of activity for academically educated Jews, while the army and judicial offices were denied. In addition, a middle class of small business owners and industrialists developed. In the 19th century, so-called bathing anti-Semitism increased in numerous seaside resorts - also outside of Germany - among upper and lower middle-class circles . In some seaside resorts on the North and Baltic Seas (Borkum or Zinnowitz ), Jews were not welcome as guests.

From the Prussian eastern provinces and Eastern Europe, many Jews immigrated to the dynamic industrial centers (e.g. Berlin, Stettin) as workers. The number of Jewish alms recipients fell sharply.

The Jewish communities flourished and many synagogues were built. There were conflicting tendencies among the Jewish associations, which on the one hand advocated a turn to modern society and strong assimilation, and on the other hand sought to preserve the traditions of the faith. One umbrella organization was the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith from 1893, which represented assimilation to German society. In addition, Zionism came up after Theodor Herzl , represented by the Zionist Association for Germany .

German society initially reacted only slightly when the first anti-Semitic parties were founded. The Berlin court preacher Adolf Stoecker ran the Christian Social Party from Christian anti-Judaism since 1878 .

Grave of the rifleman Wilhelm Bergheim (found on July 1, 1916) in a war graveyard near Cambrai

In addition, with Social Darwinism, a new racist justification for anti-Semitism (first: Gobineau ) emerged, which was taken up by German racists such as the philosopher Eugen Dühring in 1881. In the “Tivoli Program” (demand: “Christian authorities and Christian teachers”) of the German Conservative Party in 1892, one of the major parties took this line for the first time. Behind this were traditionally Christian reservations, but also bourgeois fears of competition and strangers.

Memorial plaque for the Jewish fallen from Karlsruhe

In the First World War, some 12,000 German Jews were. Because of the social discrimination, only a few German-Jewish soldiers were promoted to reserve officers. The reservations increased again in the middle of the war, which was expressed in the establishment of the anti-Semitic German Fatherland Party . In 1916 a “ Jewish census ” in the army, although incomplete and incomplete, documented the German Jews' contribution to the war. Their results were not published. The intention behind the action was unmistakably to expose Jews as "slackers". After the World War a “ Reichsbund of Jewish Front Soldiers ” was formed with over 50,000 members.

The decisive factor was the defamation of the Jews as carriers of the revolution of 1918/1919, which would have thwarted the German victory (" stab in the back legend "). The Russian Revolution (1917) was also often attributed to them. The anti-Semites identified the left parties (“ November criminals ”) with a “Jewish conspiracy” against the Central Powers . The first German democracy was generally dismissed as a "Jewish republic", although five of its approximately 200 Reich ministers were Jewish.

A leaflet issued in 1920 by the Reich Association of Jewish Front Soldiers in response to the allegations of a lack of patriotism

In right-wing extremist circles up to the DNVP , anti-Semitism became socially acceptable. The assassination attempt on Walther Rathenau (1922), which was widely approved , received support from several underground terrorist organizations, such as the Consul organization and the Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund . The prohibition of this protection and defiance federation led to the strengthening of the German-Völkisch Freedom Party , which together with the NSDAP won 6.6 percent of the vote in the Reichstag election in May 1924 .

Still, the Weimar Republic brought a number of improvements for the Jews. All careers and schools were now in principle open, the medium-sized social structure remained the same. The communities became corporations under public law. Berlin became the center where a third of the Jews lived. Overall, despite the immigration of Eastern Jews into the Reich , their number fell from 615,000 (1910) to 560,000 (1925) to around 500,000 (1933). On the one hand, this was due to the ceding of territories, and on the other hand, a decline in the birth rate, caused by the aging and urbanization of Jewish families, as well as conversions to Christianity. In mixed denominational marriages, the children were often not raised as Jews.

There were well-known private bankers like the Warburg family . In science, art and literature too, Jews often achieved significant things, which became noticeable after their loss from 1933 onwards. Their political orientation was directed towards the DDP and partly towards the SPD , both of which also put up Jewish MPs. Hugo Preuss (DDP) drafted the Weimar constitution of 1919. Well-known Jewish intellectuals who thought about Judaism were Martin Buber , Franz Rosenzweig , Leo Baeck and Gershom Scholem .

Period of National Socialism (1933–1945)

With the seizure of power of the Nazis - initiated by the appointment of Adolf Hitler to Chancellor on January 30, 1933 - began the systematic persecution of Jews in the German Reich . The Jews - who were considered "Jews" in the German Reich from 1935 onwards, defined the First Ordinance on the Reich Citizenship Law  - were exposed to anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism in ever more threatening forms. The aim was to expel and exterminate the German Jews, based on the state's monopoly on the use of force . In the era of National Socialism about 2000 anti-Jewish were laws and regulations enacted. Increasing discrimination and systematically practiced terror against the Jewish population were justified primarily with conspiracy theories about world Jewry, such as the falsified protocols of the Elders of Zion . The thesis of the superiority of the Aryan race was spread through race theory .

Exclusion - The Nazi regime already carried out the boycott of Jews in April 1933 , and many Jews lost their jobs as a result of the Professional Civil Service Act , but until the end of 1935, when all German Jews were deprived of their civil rights under the Reich Citizenship Act, the front-line soldiers' privilege offered one more in some cases some protection. The Nuremberg Laws with the Blood Protection Act further excluded Jews. In order to recognize that a woman was Jewish, on the basis of the name change ordinance of August 17, 1938, all female persons who did not already have a recognizable Jewish first name had to accept and specify the additional first name Sara . Men had to accept and specify Israel using the additional first name.

Looting and mistreatment - In November 1938, synagogues and Jewish shops were destroyed during the Night of the Pogroms, and Jews were eliminated from economic life by relevant ordinances . Many Jews were therefore forced to flee Germany .

In 1933 around 500,000 Jews were still living in Germany, and after the seizure of power, many of them went into exile . According to the Federal Agency for Civic Education , 37,000 Jews emigrated from Germany in 1933, then 23,000 (1934), 21,000 (1935), 25,000 (1936), 23,000 (1937), 40,000 (1938) and 78,000 (1939). Up until the final travel ban on October 23, 1941, another 23,000 had left the country, and by the end of the war, 8,500 Jews were able to flee Germany. In their efforts to leave the country, Jews encountered negative attitudes in many countries, reinforced by state reprisals in Germany such as the Reich flight tax and other regulations a. aimed at sending Jews abroad, completely impoverished. With the Eleventh Ordinance of November 25, 1941, the property of all Jews living abroad fell to the state. Some “ Jewish mixed race ” also tried to leave the country.

Deportation and extermination - as a result of the aggressive foreign policy of the National Socialists, the Second World War began with the attack on Poland in 1939 , which immediately led to numerous anti-Jewish massacres in Poland. Soon almost all Jews were first deported to Eastern European ghettos , later to concentration camps, and systematically, industrially, in extermination camps for the “ final solution to the Jewish question ” . Many previously had to do forced labor . During the Holocaust , Jews were not only killed in the [Greater] German Reich , but also in all of the countries occupied by Germany (see: total numbers of Jewish victims ).

It was only through the victory of the Allies and the unconditional surrender of the German Wehrmacht in May 1945 that the Holocaust could be stopped and the survivors in the labor and extermination camps liberated. In 1955, Raul Hilberg was the first historian in contemporary history to use the files to describe how the entire annihilation process took place during this period.

Jews in Germany from 1945


Landmarks of Jewish life in the Federal Republic of Germany were:

  • the "Week of Fraternity", which has taken place annually since 1950, at the beginning of March, the societies for Christian-Jewish cooperation founded since then , the Judeo-Christian dialogue since the church congresses of the 1960s,
  • the Auschwitz trials 1963–1966,
  • the Bundestag debates on the statute of limitations for Nazi crimes, in particular the so-called statute of limitations debate of 1965. Participation in the Nazi genocide would have been statute-barred in that year under German law. The deadline was initially extended by five years, then canceled entirely.
  • the research into the historical conditions for National Socialism and the Holocaust initiated by the student movement from 1965,
  • the increased establishment of German-Israeli town twinning and friendship societies since 1970, which enabled former German Jews who emigrated to Israel to visit Germany,
  • Contracts from the federal, state and local authorities for police protection and financial security of the Jewish communities: first in West Berlin under Klaus Schütz in 1971, after the dropout Hans-Joachim Klein announced a murder plan of the Red Army faction against Heinz Galinski ,
  • the establishment of the College for Jewish Studies in Heidelberg in 1978 alongside Judaistic seminars in association with Christian and Jewish historians and theologians at several universities,
  • the formation of new interests in history workshops since the broadcast of the television series Holocaust - The History of the Weiss Family in 1979, which no longer only asked about general social and economic structures for the emergence of the Nazi dictatorship, but shed light on the persecution of Jews in individual locations and regions ,
  • Richard von Weizsäcker's speech on the 40th anniversary of the end of the war in 1985, who spoke of the liberation from National Socialism and not of the defeat of Germany and quoted the Jewish wisdom of Baal Shem Tov (1700–1760), a teacher of Hasidism : (Das Vergessen leads to exile -) the secret of salvation lies in memory!
  • Richard von Weizsäcker's visit as the first incumbent Federal President to Israel in October 1985,
  • the establishment of national Days of Remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust, especially the since 1988 nationwide increased commemorating the November pogroms 1938 .

The following events and characteristics are important for the GDR :

  • Only a few Jews remained in the GDR, and the communities gradually died out. But they could live in safety without open anti-Semitism.
  • The GDR refused any compensation for the crimes committed against Jews because, unlike the Federal Republic, it did not see itself as the successor state to the German Reich.
  • Like all Eastern Bloc states, the GDR took a stand against the "Zionist imperialism" of the State of Israel.
  • In the 1980s, the SED paid more attention to the Jewish heritage and also invited Jewish organizations. The President of the World Jewish Congress, Edgar Bronfman , was awarded the highest civil order in the GDR. In 1988 a Foundation Centrum Judaicum was established in Berlin and the New Synagogue , which had been badly damaged in British air raids in 1943, was restored after decades of neglect.

The emigration of displaced persons

During the Second World War, the victorious powers decided that all Jews who would survive the Holocaust or were deported to Germany or who fled the Eastern European pogroms after the end of the war, like all other displaced persons ("uprooted persons") after a transition period, went to their countries of origin bring back. Surviving German Jews were supposed to be taken in by other countries, since no renewal of German Jewry was expected after the Holocaust.

Only a small number of the approximately 400,000 Jews who had left the German Reich in time during the Nazi era returned to Germany. There were approximately 15,000 German Jews who survived in concentration camps, underground, or as spouses of non-Jews. A large number of Eastern European Jews, more than 200,000, spent two to three years in Germany. They had been freed from concentration camps or as forced laborers, or fled to Germany from new pogroms. The Zionist escape organization Brichah promoted the mass exodus from Poland, mainly to the American zone of occupation. On the one hand, the anti-Semitism of the post-war period in Poland ( Pogrom of Kielce 1946) and other countries in Eastern Europe was unbearable, on the other hand, there was no possibility of emigrating from these countries. As Displaced Persons, they were “liberated, but not free”. The American army and UNRRA set up large camps, especially in Bavaria, in which these people lived behind barbed wire and with uniformed guards. The vast majority flowed into the American occupation zone, in the British there were just 15,000 Jewish DPs in the peak phase, in the French only around 1000. Emigration to the Mandate Palestine administered by Great Britain was only possible illegally ( Aliyah Bet ), and the USA were initially closed to them due to a restrictive immigration policy. In the first post-war years, a large number of social and political Jewish organizations emerged in Germany. But there were hardly any German Jews among those who now lived in camps and in newly established communities.

Most of them left Germany when the State of Israel was founded . In September 1948 their number had already shrunk to 30,000, leaving only 10,000 to 15,000. Some of them were too weak or too sick to move on, some had been able to start a professional life in the long waiting period or had married a German spouse. In 1950 the office of the Jewish Agency , which was responsible for the emigration of Jews to Israel in Germany, was closed. In 1953, the Israeli consulate in Munich, which was also built primarily for emigration, closed. Consul Chaim Yachil assumed that the Jewish communities remaining in Germany would dissolve themselves within a few years; their liquidation cannot be stopped in view of their small number of members and their obsolescence.

Most of the Jews - mostly from Eastern Europe - who stayed in Germany were given the status of “ homeless foreigners ”, which guaranteed them numerous rights, or received a German alien passport , but remained stateless . In 1938, numerous Jews who had emigrated from Poland had their Polish citizenship withdrawn due to the law on the revocation of their citizenship , but they placed no value on regaining their citizenship in view of the anti-Semitism prevailing in Poland. At the same time, however, they also refused to accept German citizenship in post-war Germany in the shadow of National Socialism. Most saw their stay only as a stopover for emigration , mainly to the USA and Canada . They sat on "packed suitcases".

At the time, Israel viewed Germany as a taboo zone with which no dialogue was provided until the Luxembourg Agreement of 1952. Anyone in possession of an Israeli passport was not allowed to enter Germany with it. In the passport there was the note "not valid for travel to or in Germany" and the German authorities were instructed not to issue permits to enter the country. Some Jews circumvented this by traveling to other European countries and from there illegally entered Germany with the help of escape helpers across the " green border ". They later claimed to have lost their identification documents in the chaos of war.

Return from exile

German Jews returned from exile shortly after the end of the war , primarily for political reasons. The philosopher Ernst Bloch (1885–1977) returned in 1949 (to Leipzig, where he took over the professorship in philosophy offered to him), the composer Hanns Eisler (1898–1962) returned to Vienna in 1948 and moved from Zurich to East Berlin in June 1949 , the cartoonist John Heartfield (1891–1968) returned in 1950 (to Leipzig), the literary historians Hans Mayer (1945) and Alfred Kantorowicz (1946), the writer Anna Seghers (1947), Stefan Heym (1945) and Arnold Zweig (1948) ) as well as the two later members of the Central Committee of the SED Gerhart Eisler and Albert Norden went to the Soviet occupation zone and the GDR. Most of those named did not join a Jewish community, however, because the religious and national aspects of Judaism were difficult to reconcile with the SED party line . Many of the returnees saw themselves as anti-fascist communists and played an important role in building up the GDR.

Prominent Jews also returned to the western part of Germany, such as the political scientists Ernst Fraenkel (1951) and Richard Löwenthal (1948), both of whom became professors at the Free University of Berlin . The city of Frankfurt brought about the return of Max Horkheimer (1895–1973) and Theodor Adorno (1903–1969) and enabled the reopening of the Institute for Social Research in 1950. Other prominent names are the sociologist René König (1906–1992) and the historian Hans-Joachim Schoeps (1909–1980). Some came as Allied soldiers in uniform, for example Arno Hamburger (1923–2013). A larger number of returnees came to the west than to the east.

Legal situation in the Federal Republic of Germany

On May 23, 1949, the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany came into force. With Article 116, Paragraph 2, the constitutional legislature attempted to reverse the National Socialist injustice, which consists in the expatriation of Jews, mostly against their will. The paragraph reads:

"Former German citizens who were deprived of their citizenship for political, racial or religious reasons between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945, and their descendants are to be naturalized again on application. They are not considered to have been expatriated if they took up residence in Germany after May 8, 1945 and did not express an opposite will. "

Most Jewish Holocaust survivors did not take advantage of this offer from 1949 onwards. Many of their children and / or grandchildren took advantage of the option to obtain citizenship of the Federal Republic of Germany and to take up residence here. In 2005 there were 60,000 Jews with German citizenship living in Israel. From 2002 to 2004, the number of applications for re-establishment of German citizenship by Israeli citizens increased.

The Jewish communities in West Germany

After the war, social institutions were initially set up for the Jewish returnees in West Germany: hospital wards, nursing homes, old people's homes, kitchens to care for the needy. The post-war Jewish communities saw themselves as temporary arrangements and wanted to be active in charity until they were dissolved. They did not see themselves as heirs to the former German-Jewish communities that were destroyed between 1933 and 1941. Its members had emigrated or were murdered. In this context, the phrase circulated that Jews in Germany were "sitting on packed suitcases."

The heirless private Jewish assets as well as the assets of the dissolved Jewish organizations and institutions were restituted to newly founded trust organizations such as the JRSO , which were in fierce competition with the newly founded German Jewish communities. When the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in 1949, the now consolidated Jewish communities saw the need to create a supra-regional organization to represent their interests themselves. In 1950, delegates from municipalities and regional associations founded the Central Council of Jews in Germany as an umbrella organization. At that time the Jewish communities of the Federal Republic had a total of 15,000 members. The Jewish communities in West Germany were only since the visit Nahum Goldmann of the World Jewish Congress recognized (WJC) in 1953 by the Jewish world organizations. According to the Luxembourg Agreement , they were allowed to keep their synagogues and meetinghouses for reparation and did not have to give them up for sale. Even so, Jews living in Germany were treated as second class Jews by Jewish institutions and communities in Israel and America. No one understood why they stayed in Germany and they were not perceived as part of the Jewish diaspora .

Jews in the GDR


In the GDR, as a result of the Stalinist Slansky Trial in Prague in 1952/53, “ cosmopolitans ” who were accused of espionage or Zionism were persecuted . Those who had lived in exile in western countries during the Nazi era were particularly affected. They were now partially suspected of cooperation with the West and called tools of imperialism. Central Committee member Paul Merker was arrested as a Zionist agent and the offices of the Jewish communities were searched. In January 1953 Julius Meyer , a member of the SED , a member of the People's Chamber and President of the Association of Jewish Communities in the GDR, fled to West Germany with five of the eight community leaders. Julius Meyer had survived the Auschwitz and Ravensbrück camps and, together with Heinz Galinski, had headed the Jewish community in Berlin since 1949 . By the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the number of Jews registered in the communities had shrunk to around 1,500. In the GDR, persecuted Jews were recognized as " persecuted by the Nazi regime " and received a small state pension and other benefits, but were publicly valued for the active resistance fighters and anti-fascists especially from the KPD . In the Federal Republic they could hope for compensation because of the reparation law. The GDR refused to make amends because it refused to accept joint responsibility of the GDR for the crimes of the Nazi state. It was only after the fall of the Berlin Wall in April 1990 that the democratically elected People's Chamber made an open commitment to shared responsibility.


The first Jews came to the Soviet occupation zone immediately after the conquest of Berlin . Most of them wanted to help create a socialist Germany. However, their situation worsened when some Jews were accused of being "counter-revolutionaries" and "Zionist agents" and persecuted. In many countries of the Warsaw Pact Jews were a collaboration with the Nazis accused or the Western Allies. As a result, many Jews left the German Democratic Republic for the west. After the death of Josef Stalin on March 5, 1953, the repression against the Jews living there also ended in the GDR . Police actions and persecutions were ended, Jews in prison were released and former Jewish SED party members were invited to rejoin the SED . The state also invested in the renovation of synagogues , a Jewish retirement home , butcher's shop and the maintenance of the Jewish cemetery in Berlin-Weißensee . From 1961 the news paper appeared as an “information organ” for the Jewish community. Towards the end of the Cold War , around 400 Jews lived in the GDR, with 250 over half of them in East Berlin. After the fall of the Wall, the de Maizière government admitted the historical "shared responsibility for the humiliation, expulsion and murder of Jewish women, men and children", which earlier GDR governments had not accepted.

In addition to the few German-Jewish survivors, significantly more survivors from Eastern Europe, especially from Poland, stayed in the American occupation zone after 1945. Even after the emigration of most DPs around 1950, they made up the vast majority in the Jewish communities. There was a small immigration of Jews, mainly from the Eastern Bloc (Poland, Hungary, Romania). Nevertheless, there were no more than 30,000 Jews in West Germany until 1989, although two new generations were among them. In addition, Persian Jews came from Iran as migrants or refugees .

Jews in the Federal Republic of Germany from 1990

Hanukkia in front of the Karlsruhe Palace

In 1990, after the end of the Cold War and reunification, the immigration of Jews from the successor states of the Soviet Union ("CIS") began . By the end of 1998 around 45,000 Jews came to the Federal Republic of Germany, and with them around 40,000 family members from interdenominational marriages . It was only a small part of the emigrants from the Soviet Union. Without the immigrants from the CIS, the number of members would have dropped to 17,902 by the year 2000.

In the Central Council of Jews in Germany , 105 Jewish communities are united in 23 regional associations, to which around 100,000 Jews belong (as of 2015). They make up 95 percent of all organized German Jews. The remaining five percent are distributed among around 40 Jewish cultural associations (e.g. Jüdischer Kulturverein Berlin ) and liberal communities, of which around 20 are organized in the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany . Contrary to its self-image, they reject the Central Council as being orthodox. Germany's population of Jewish origin, which includes not only practicing and professing Jews, but also their family members and other people of Jewish origin in the country, is estimated at around 250,000. The Central Council does not interfere in the communities' own life. The largest municipalities - Berlin with around 11,000, Munich with 8,600 and Düsseldorf with 7,100 members - are unitary congregations : these unitary congregations are administrative organizations under whose roof there are different religious orientations. About 40,000 other Jews do not belong to any community. The communities set up new centers, form youth groups and cultural organizations; there are (often sharp) conflicts between the immigrants and the "long-established" community members. A religious pluralism develops (liberal communities, female rabbis).

In September 2006 three graduates of the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam in Dresden were ordained as rabbis . You are the first rabbis to be trained in the Federal Republic of Germany after the war.

In a survey of over 300 women and men of Jewish origin between the ages of 20 and 40 at the end of 2013, 51 percent defined Judaism by ethnic affiliation, 23.9 percent described it as a cultural community, and only 13.1 percent as a religious community. 40.8 percent belong to a single congregation, 20 percent are members of other congregations, 2.2 percent have chosen a different religious community, and 37.1 percent are not affiliated with any congregation.

Before Christmas 2019, the Protestant theologian Friedrich Wilhelm Graf called on the Christian churches to make Yom Kippur a public holiday and to give up Whit Monday.

Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union

The immigration of Jewish emigrants from the states of the former Soviet Union to Germany increased sharply after the collapse of the Soviet Union . On the one hand, the Central Council of Jews wanted to accept Jews in Germany in order to strengthen the Jewish presence in Germany again. On the other hand, since the Jews were victims of discrimination in the course of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, an agreement between Chancellor Kohl and President Gorbachev made it possible for Jewish Soviet citizens to enter Germany. Since 2000, the number of Jewish immigrants has been falling again. In the period from 1991 to 2004, around 220,000 Jews immigrated to Germany from the CIS . Of the 190,000 Jews who immigrated from the CIS in the 1990s, around 83,000 joined a Jewish community in Germany. In 2004, 85% of all immigrants were permanent recipients of social assistance due to their advanced age and poor German language skills .

Until perestroika (it began in 1985 after Gorbachev took office) only a few Jews were allowed to leave the Soviet Union . In order to receive a permit to emigrate as ethnic repatriates to the Federal Republic of Germany , the applicants had to prove a connection to German culture. Most of them reached Germany via the Friedland transit camp .

From April 1990, under the last people's chamber of the GDR , a simplified procedure for the entry of Jewish citizens of the Soviet Union was applied. The GDR's post-reunification government wanted to take account of the injustice that the SED regime had evaded from any responsibility to make amends towards Judaism. The resolution of the Conference of Interior Ministers of January 9, 1991, according to which the Law on Measures for Refugees Admitted as Part of Humanitarian Aid Operations (HumHAG) is also applied to Jewish emigrants from the former CIS states, is based on this practice of the last GDR government . In the following years, these Jewish quota refugees were distributed to federal states and districts in Germany. From 1990 to 2015, mainly as a result of this immigration, the number of members of Jewish communities rose from around 29,000 to 99,695. As a result, the need for Jewish infrastructure (synagogues, leisure facilities, etc.) increased in many places.

However, the number of members of Jewish communities often fluctuates due to the departure of families who (do not want to) announce this to the Jewish communities. There are also cases where Jews, as soon as they have received German citizenship, leave the Jewish community. Many also have no relation to the Jewish religion. Even if they are recognized as Jews by the matriarchal line, they did not get to know any publicly practiced religious life in the Soviet Union because of the state-decreed atheism .


230,650 Jews and relatives of Jews immigrated to Germany from the former Soviet Union ( CIS ) between 1991 and 2015 and some emigrated again. Mainly due to immigration from the CIS, the number of community members of Jewish communities in Germany grew from 29,089 to 99,695 between 1990 and 2015. Without the immigrants from the CIS, the number of members would have dropped to 17,902 by the year 2000.

year Members of Jewish communities in Germany Jewish immigration from the ex-Soviet Union
1955 15,920 k. A.
1960 21,755 k. A.
1965 25,132 k. A.
1970 26,354 k. A.
1975 27,933 k. A.
1980 28.173 k. A.
1985 27,561 k. A.
1990 29,089 1.008
1991 33,692 12,583
1992 36,804 15,879
1993 40,917 16,597
1994 45,559 8,811
1995 53,797 15.184
1996 61.203 15,959
1997 67,471 19,437
1998 74,289 17,788
1999 81,739 18.205
2000 87,756 16,538
2001 93,326 16,711
2002 98,335 19,262
2003 102,472 15,442
2004 105,733 11.208
2005 107,677 3.124
2006 107,794 1,971
2007 107,330 1,296
2008 106,435 862
2009 104,241 704
2010 104.024 667
2011 102,797 636
2012 102.135 481
2013 101,338 467
2014 100,437 365
2015 99,695 473
2016 98,594 359
2017 97.791 760

Immigration from Israel

In the 2010s, there was a significant immigration of Israeli Jews to Germany. The background given is the political and economic situation in Israel and the lower cost of living in Germany . The younger generation in particular is drawn primarily to the metropolises. Berlin is a particular attraction due to its perceived cosmopolitanism . According to the Federal Statistical Office, 2,762 people moved from Israel to Germany in 2013 , which was a high. In 2012 there were 2579 Israelis who emigrated to the Federal Republic. Only in 1991 during the Second Gulf War was there a similarly high value . This contrasted with a number of 1931 in 2013 and 1746 in 2012, which went the opposite way from Germany to Israel, so that immigration clearly predominated.

See also


Web links

Commons : Jewish German history  - collection of images, videos and audio files


Individual evidence

  1. Welcome to the Fastest-growing Jewish Community in the World: Germany , Haaretz from January 27, 2012, accessed on August 14, 2018.
  2. On the website of the Cologne Synagogue Community, http://www.sgk.de/index.php/historie.html ; Retrieved November 5, 2016
  3. Tacitus , Historiae V, 5.4 .
  4. ^ Werner Eck : Cologne in Roman times. History of a city under the Roman Empire . In: H. Stehkämper (Ed.), History of the City of Cologne in 13 Volumes, Vol. 1. Cologne 2004, p. 325 ISBN 3-7743-0357-6 .
  5. Quoted from Brigitte Beier: Die Chronik der Deutschen , Chronik Verlag im Wissen Media Verlag GmbH, Munich / Gütersloh, 2007, p. 35
  6. ^ Hans-Jochen Gamm : Das Judentum , Campus Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 1998, p. 81.
  7. Arno Herzig: Jewish History in Germany - From the Beginnings to the Present , CH Beck, Munich, 2nd edition, 2002, p. 24
  8. ^ In DNA, New Clues to Jewish Roots . New York Times, May 14, 2002, full text under In DNA, New Clues to Jewish Roots ( September 10, 2012 memento in the Internet Archive )
  9. 40% of Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of four primal mothers. Newsletter of the Embassy of the State of Israel of January 31, 2006 Archive link ( Memento of the original from February 6, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / nlarchiv.israel.de
  10. Alfred Haverkamp: Settlement and Migration History of the Jews in the German Altsiedellanden , p. 15.
  11. ^ Alfred Haverkamp: History of the settlement and migration of the Jews in the German old settlements
  12. a b Eberhard Büssem, Michael Neher: work book history. Modern times I. Repetition. 16.-18. Century , Tübingen 1999, p. 24.
  13. Michael Toch: The Jews in the Medieval Empire , p. 18.
  14. Peter Ortag: Jewish culture and history. Foreword p. 7, Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2004.
  15. Harald Witzke: In 1760, 60 Jewish families lived in Altstrelitz. In: Freie Erde , Neustrelitz, 07/1988, note : The material on the history of the Strelitz Jews was compiled by the research assistant at the Karbe-Wagner Archive Neustrelitz, Harald Witzke, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Reichspogromnacht . For editorial reasons, only an abridged version appeared in the newspaper. The complete version can be viewed in the Karbe-Wagner archive. (According to the editor's note at the beginning of the article).
  16. ^ Fritz Backhaus: The processes of desecration of the host in Sternberg (1492) and Berlin (1510) and the expulsion of the Jews from Mecklenburg and the Mark Brandenburg. In: Yearbook for Brandenburg State History. Volume 39 (1988). Pp. 7-26.
  17. ↑ It was enumerated that they were “tremendously, fravernly and willfully abused and complained about their people, love, haab and gods with killing, robbing, driving away, evicting their ugly homes, blocking and destroying ier shuffling and sinagogues, the same thing to do with and pay tribute “That they were prevented from earning their livelihood and that they were prevented from appealing to the Imperial Court of Justice or other courts. In addition, the Jews in some cities of the empire were "not horrified, captured and driven out of the country, but also caught, tormented, exterminated and belly and guett" without any legal discomfort. historicum.net
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