Temple society

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Inscription on a Templar house in the German Colony of Haifa , with a quote from 1 Samuel 7:12.
Inscription on the house of Matthäus Frank, the pioneer of the Jerusalem German Colony : Eben-Ezer , Stone of Help , another reference to 1 Samuel 7:12 (“The Lord has helped us up to this point”).

The Temple Society is a Christian- Chiliastic religious community that originated in the Kingdom of Württemberg around 1850 . Their settlements in present-day Israel formed an important economic factor. Stone witnesses have been preserved to this day in the so-called " German Colony " in Haifa , Tel Aviv and Jerusalem .

Even today there are organized Templar communities in Germany and Australia , where numerous Templars were deported during the Second World War . The German center is in Stuttgart-Degerloch .


The name " temple " has nothing to do with the much older Templar order, but rather, based on New Testament text passages ( Eph 2,21–22  LUT ; 1 Petr 2,5  LUT ), it should express that the members of the community (also Templars called) see themselves as "living building blocks" of a house of God, which they form through their cooperation. What is essential is the willingness to cooperate and maintain a Christian community. Church doctrines are viewed as less central, beliefs about the sonship of God (and thus about the Trinity ), original sin and the redeeming death of Jesus are sometimes strictly rejected. Above all, Jesus of Nazareth is seen as a teacher, as a person permeated by God's spirit, and is regarded as a model worthy of imitation of trust in God and love of neighbor : "He who 'seeks the kingdom of God and his righteousness' finds fulfillment in the here and now."

The Temple Society has been a member of the Federation for Free Christianity since 1976 . Former members who settled in the Holy Land were mostly known as Palestine Germans, although there was also a smaller German minority in Palestine who did not belong to the Temple Society.


According to the Temple Society, it consisted of around 2000 members in 2006, 700 of them in Germany and 1300 in Australia.

In Germany there are two parishes in Stuttgart and Filderstadt , in Australia there are five parishes in the Melbourne district of Bayswater , in Bentleigh near Melbourne, Sydney , Tanunda and in Victoria.


The temple society can only be understood against the background of its origin in the mid-19th century. On the one hand, this was a time of general upheaval in society in Germany and Europe; on the other hand, it was also a time of "national collection movements" and the expansion of the major European powers in order to open up new markets or raw material sources. The Ottoman Empire in particular , which still owned large parts of Europe, became a focus of European interests.

The Crimean War (1853–1856) seemed to offer the possibility of better protection of Christian sites and Christians in Palestine under the Ottoman Empire . In the years that followed, Russia and France in particular developed into Christian "protective powers". During this time, many Christian associations for the acquisition of land in the Holy Land were founded.

Religious background

The temple society has its origin in the Pietist movement in the Lutheran Church of Württemberg . Johann Albrecht Bengel (1687–1752), who is considered to be the founder of the Württemberg Pietism , calculated the year 1836 as the beginning of the thousand-year kingship of Jesus . In 1817, many Württemberg residents emigrated to Russia, following a call from Bengel's students, who had announced the end of the world was approaching. In order to prevent further emigration, the Württemberg king allowed the establishment of pietistic communities within the Lutheran church. In 1819 Gottlieb Wilhelm Hoffmann founded the first Pietist community in Korntal near Stuttgart.

The forerunner

On August 24, 1854, Christoph Hoffmann , a son of Gottlieb Wilhelm Hoffmann, led a meeting in Ludwigsburg at which the foundation of the “Society for the Gathering of God's People in Jerusalem” was announced. Earlier, Georg David Hardegg recruited already candidates for emigration to Palestine. Those gathered in Ludwigsburg signed a petition to the Bundestag in Frankfurt to support the Ottoman Sultan for a settlement of the “people of God” in Palestine.

The time that followed showed that the efforts of the “people of God” to find support for their project in the Bundestag were in vain. But not only this. The Württemberg authorities, who could have no interest in a new wave of emigration from their subjects, became aware of the society. So deprived of their goal of a quick settlement in Palestine, efforts were made to bring together all those interested in settlement. In addition, the focus was on further preparing the "settlers" for their journey to Palestine. In order to be able to do this better, the hamlet of Kirschenhardthof was acquired in 1856 (municipality of Burgstetten , Rems-Murr-Kreis). In 1857 a commission was supposed to travel to Palestine to examine the possibilities of a settlement. But it wasn't until 1858 that a group of three members of the Kirschenhardthof, including Hoffmann and Hardegg, managed to travel to Palestine.


For about three months Hoffmann, Hardegg and Joseph Bubeck (1795–1871), who as a farmer and winemaker, was supposed to explore the possibilities of agriculture and viticulture, traveled to Palestine. But one incident strained the judgment of the three “scouts”. Years earlier, a group of Germans and Americans had moved to the vicinity of Jaffa. This group was attacked by Arabs in 1858, the German settler Friedrich Wilhelm Großsteinbeck (* 1821) from Elberfeld was killed, his American wife and her mother were raped, and his father-in-law was seriously injured. The American government threatened military intervention if the perpetrators were not punished.

After returning from Palestine, the commission reported on September 8th in Cannstatt to a large meeting of interested parties. Agricultural settlement is possible, but due to the attitude of the Ottoman government and the Arab population, this is not possible at the moment. As Christoph Hoffmann in the following year for some young people the confirmation took place, it broke with the national church. He and the other residents of the Kirschenhardthof were excluded from the Württemberg regional church.

The German Temple

Templar Cemetery, Jerusalem

On June 19 and 20, 1861, the representatives of the German synods of the "Friends of Jerusalem" met. The decision was made to leave the church as one. At the same time, the "German Temple" was founded as an independent religious movement, since "none of the existing churches strive to make man the temple of God and the creation of a sanctuary for all peoples in Jerusalem" (according to the founding declaration).

The aims of the German temple movement were thus clearly presented in this founding document. By “observing the law, gospel, and prophecy” members should make themselves a temple. In addition, the community moved to Palestine. One was sure that the end time was near. In Württemberg and the other German states, around 3,000 people joined. There were also followers from Switzerland , Russia and North America.

Christoph Hoffmann and Georg David Hardegg, who had since fallen out, left for Palestine with their families in 1868 and arrived in Haifa on October 30, 1868. Haifa was chosen on the advice of the local German consul Theodor Georg Weber and a missionary named Huber. At that time Haifa was still an insignificant city with around 4,000 inhabitants. In the spring of 1869 the two officially founded the temple at Haifa as an outpost and receiving station.


Renovated Templar house of the Wilhelma colony , today Bnei Atarot
A map of the Templar District of Haifa

In January 1869, through the mediation of a citizen of the city, the German settlers succeeded in acquiring land outside the city walls. In the period from May to June 1869, three representatives of the "Temple" visited Haifa on behalf of the board of directors. On their return they advised that Hardegg's ideas for the Haifa colony should be accepted.

Hardegg planned to build a street along the property that had already been acquired, which was 15 minutes outside of the previous city. Initially, five houses were to be built on each side of the street. In order to provide shade for the settlers during the summer, trees should also be planted along the road.

In 1870 the colony already had 14 houses and 120 settlers. Initially, the settlers mainly dealt with agriculture and viticulture . But the need to expand the infrastructure and the opportunities that this offered was quickly recognized.

It was the Templars living in Haifa who set up a carriage service between Haifa and Akko and, with the support of the Latin monastery at Nazareth and some Arab landowners, expanded the connection between Haifa and Nazareth and made it passable for carriages. In 1875 the road was finished and the Templars set up a lucrative carriage service that brought tourists and pilgrims to Nazareth. The Karmelhotel was built as the first modern hotel in Haifa that met the ideas of the time. But one of the most important decisions of the Haifa temple community was made in 1872. A pier was to be built as an extension of the road in the Templar colony. Until then, Jaffa was the only port in Palestine. Since large ships, such as passenger ships, could not enter the port, all passengers had to be transferred in small fishing boats. It was a profitable business for the local population. Thanks to this economic development, the Haifa community already had 38 houses and around 250 settlers in 1873.

Friedrich Keller was Imperial Vice Consul in Haifa from 1878 to 1908 . His main merit was that, after a long dispute with the Ottoman authorities and the Carmelites, the German settlement was allowed to be extended to Mount Carmel .


Just three months after the Haifa temple congregation was founded, the opportunity arose to plant a congregation in Jaffa. Five buildings of a former American Adventist colony could be acquired through the brokerage of the businessman Peter Martin Metzler . Since the buildings included the Hotel Jerusalem with 19 rooms, a hospital with a pharmacy and a steam mill, the colonists in Jaffa were able to quickly offer services for the local population and for pilgrims. The Hotel du Parc des Baron Plato von Ustinow was opened next to the Hotel Jerusalem .

At the end of 1870 the Templar colony in Jaffa already had 110 inhabitants. At the beginning, the hotel was an essential source of income for the Templars in Jaffa. Jaffa was the most important port of Palestine at the time and almost all pilgrims disembarked in Jaffa to continue their journey inland. Therefore, the carriage rides from the port of Jaffa to Jerusalem and the transport of fruit from the company's own plantations to the port were important sources of income. The fact that a separate company for passenger transport was founded in 1875 shows how profitable passenger transport was. In the same year, this company signed a contract with the Cook agency. After that, the Templars were supposed to do all the trips for Cook. With the expansion of transport, wagon construction and repair also experienced an upswing. Arabs also recognized the income opportunities offered by the transports and founded their own companies. They bought their carriages and wagons in Germany.

The Templer Hotel was expanded and a department store was built. a. wealthy Arabs shopped. In 1886 the first settlement was expanded to include the northern settlement of Walhalla . There a significant small industry developed around the iron foundry and machine factory of the Wagner brothers from Mägerkingen . Another industrial company was the cement factory of the Wieland brothers from Bodelshausen . In 1904 the Immanuelkirche was consecrated, which was designed by the architect Paul Ferdinand Groth .


On August 18, 1871, the Templar Society acquired land near the Jarkon River . In 1872 the first settler families came to Sarona . But malaria prevented the colony from expanding rapidly. In 1873 malaria was considered defeated in the area. The settlers had planted eucalyptus trees and drained the surrounding swamps. But up to this point the disease had claimed many victims. In 1875 there were only 80 settlers in Sarona. Sarona's main source of income was agriculture. Few found work with the Jaffa Colony Passenger Transportation Company.

After the Templar Germans were expelled from the new state of Israel in 1950, Sarona became Hakirya , Israel's first seat of government from 1948 to 1955 and is now a residential area of ​​Tel Aviv. Part of the building is still accessible; they are on Kaplanstrasse just before the junction with Petah-Tiqvah-Road. Most of the former Templar settlement was in the restricted area of the Ministry of Defense for decades . The second official residence of the head of government is still in one of the twelve of around one hundred former Templar houses there. Since 2000 many of the Templar houses have been renovated on the initiative of the restorer Schai Farkasch.


As early as the beginning of the 1870s, some Templars moved to Jerusalem . However, Jerusalem was far from becoming a Templar colony. The acquisition of land outside the old town at the upper end of the Rafaiter Plain in 1873 and the following years did not change that. Even the deliberations of the temple leadership at that time to move the leadership of the society to Jerusalem had no effect. There were around 100 Templars in Jerusalem in 1875. At this point in time it was not possible to speak of a “colony”, although the aim of the emigration was to build a spiritual temple in Jerusalem. In 1878 the management of the Temple Society and the seat of the Temple Foundation, a training center for young Templars, were relocated from Jaffa to Jerusalem. This drew many Templar families to Jerusalem so that a colony could be established. This move to Jerusalem marked the first completion of the first phase of the settlement of Palestine by the Templars.

Wilhelma, Bethlehem-Galilee, Waldheim

In 1902, the Wilhelma colony was established near Jaffa . In 1906 settlement land was acquired in Galilee near Nazareth and the colony of Bethlehem in Galilee was established on it. Both settlements, initially Wilhelma, which is now called Bnei Atarot , and later also Bethlehem, which was only reluctantly developed, developed into model agricultural settlements. In Wilhelma, Mennonite Templars from southern Russia settled next to the Templars . A third settlement, Waldheim, which was located in the immediate vicinity of Bethlehem in Württemberg, was founded by the German Protestant community of Haifa, which had split off from the Temple Society; She received help from the Society for the Promotion of German Settlements in Palestine mbH based in Stuttgart.

After the First World War

At the end of 1919, the Association of Palestinian Germans was founded from former soldiers and other members of the small ethnic group who had moved to Germany. They achieved that after the First World War 230 interned and expelled German members of the temple society, for whose maintenance the Württemberg government was provisionally responsible, were accommodated in Mergentheim Castle in Bad Mergentheim . For some of the internees in Egypt, their right of home in Palestine was recognized.

From the end of the First World War to the end of the Second World War

Templars in Wilhelma

In December 1925 a total of 1324 Templars lived in Palestine. 393 of them lived in Haifa District, 98 in Bethlehem, 235 in Jaffa District, 225 in Sarona, 215 in Wilhelma and 158 in Jerusalem. The members owned 321 residential buildings and 176 outbuildings as well as 2,397 hectares of fields, vineyards, trees, forests, gardens and building land.

The majority of the Templars in Palestine welcomed the Nazi seizure of power in Germany in 1933 just as exuberantly as their compatriots living in the German Reich. They hoped and wished for a national upswing from Adolf Hitler's government that would, in particular, increase the German reputation in the world, strengthen the empire's cultural and economic charisma to other countries and thus strengthen their own position as a small national minority in a foreign country should. As ardent patriots , who, however, had only a very imperfect insight into the internal conditions of Germany, they were fascinated by the propagandistic idea of ​​the national community , which met their own ideas.

The assurances of peace by the “Führer” and his repeatedly loudly proclaimed confession to a “positive Christianity” met with a joyful response. Local groups of the NSDAP were founded in all settlements . On the other hand, apart from a small minority, they had little interest in anti-Semitism, which the Nazi regime had made a key point of its ideology. Many considered it to be a purely domestic or European-continental affair, others believed that the radically anti-Jewish stance resulting from the so-called time of the NSDAP's struggle was incompatible with the government responsibility that the party had now assumed and would therefore gradually change, at least mitigate.

In 1938 17% of the Templars of Palestine were members of the NSDAP. The historian Yossi Ben-Artzi thinks that the younger generation had to some extent given up naive religious beliefs and became receptive to Nazi nationalism, whereas the older generation tried to fight it.

The Templars were dependent in many ways on the Jewish population of Palestine, which grew steadily in terms of its head count, its economic strength and its cultural influence. In addition, the many years of close coexistence between Jews and Christians had led to multiple neighborly ties. Of course, there was also envy of competition, conflicting interests and human differences on both sides. But these only appeared subliminally, especially since the Templars formed a tiny minority compared to the Jews or the Arabs, even if they had achieved a certain importance due to their high qualifications in the intellectual, technical and economic fields.

After the outbreak of the war, the Mandate Government converted the four agricultural colonies of Sarona, Wilhelma, Bethlehem and Waldheim into internment camps and housed the German population remaining in the country. Only men capable of military service were interned in a camp near Akko.

In 1941 665 internees were deported on the troop ship "Queen Elizabeth" to camp Tatura (Camp 3) in the Australian state of Victoria . In return for the fact that another 1,000 Templars were allowed to leave Palestine for Germany, 550 Jews and their families were released from concentration camps between 1941 and 1944, as well as 281 Dutch Jews from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and 50 from the Vittel camp .

In Australia, the Templars and Palestinian Germans celebrated the “ Fuehrer's Birthday ” once again on April 20, 1945 with other interned German citizens , and in 1946 the leadership of the Palestinian Temple Society protested at the International Red Cross in Geneva against the intended repatriation of the Templars who were still in Palestine to Germany .

The Australian internment camp Tatura was closed in 1947, the Templars there accepted the offer of the Australian government and stayed in the country.

On April 17, 1948, one month before Israel's declaration of independence , armed Jewish troops occupied the Waldheim settlement. The internees who remained there were deported by the British authorities to a tented camp for German displaced persons in Famagusta on Cyprus. Many emigrated from Cyprus to Australia; however, some returned to their ancestors' home in Württemberg in 1949 .

In 1950, the Israeli authorities ordered the last remaining Templars in Palestine to leave the country. On April 13, 1950, the temple ruler left Jerusalem for Bentleigh, Australia. 80 years of effectiveness of the Templars in Palestine came to an end.


  • Alex Carmel : The settlements of the Württemberg Templars in Palestine 1868–1918. Your local political and international problems . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1973, 1997 2 , ISBN 978-3-17-016788-9 , ISBN 3-17-015361-7 .
  • Paul Sauer : The Holy Land called us. The temple society through the ages. Stuttgart 1985, ISBN 3-8062-0448-9 .
  • Alex Carmel, Ejal Jakob Eisler: The emperor travels to the Holy Land , Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-17-015920-8 .
  • Jakob Eisler: The German contribution to the rise of Jaffa 1850-1914 , ADPV 22, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1997, ISBN 978-3-4470-3928-4
  • Jakob Eisler, Norbert Haag, Sabine Holtz: Cultural Change in Palestine in the Early 20th Century. A picture documentation. At the same time a reference work of the German mission institutions and settlements from their foundation to the Second World War , Bibliotheca academica, Epfendorf 2003, ISBN 3928471554 .
  • Renate Föll: Longing for Jerusalem: on the east migration of Swabian Pietists , Tübingen 2002, ISBN 978-3-9325-1216-2
  • Helmut Glenk: From Desert Sands To Golden Oranges. The History of the German Templer Settlement of Sarona in Palestine 1871-1947 . Trafford Publishing (Australia), 2005, ISBN 1412035066 (English).
  • Ralf Balke: Swastika in the Holy Land. The NSDAP regional group in Palestine. Sutton, Erfurt 2001, ISBN 3897023040 . First under the title The National Group of the NSDAP in Palestine as Diss. Phil., Univ. Düsseldorf 1997, published. Fact-rich short version: see web links.
  • Horst Junginger: From philological to folk religious studies. The subject of religious studies at the University of Tübingen from the middle of the 19th century to the end of the Third Reich. Contubernium. Vol. 51. Franz Steiner, Stuttgart 1999. ISBN 3-515-07432-5 . Junginger points to close connections between the Temple Society and the Reich Security Main Office via a single line between Jakob Wilhelm Hauer and Walter Lorch, the so-called Research Center Orient. Extensive material about the TG can be found in Hauer's estate. P. 138, note 75.

Web links

Commons : Temple Society  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hans-Christian Rößler: A German Village in Tel Aviv . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of December 23, 2014, p. 8.
  2. Nurit Wurgaft and Ran Shapira: A life-saving swap . In: Haaretz , April 23, 2009.
  3. Using the search terms “Tatura” and “Queen Elizabeth”, extensive documents and the names of the interned Templars can be accessed on the Record Search website of the National Archieves of Australia .
  4. List, dated 6 Jul 1944, of 281 Jews who 'went from Celle to Palestine.' These are ostensibly Jews who were freed and allowed to leave & Excerpts from: TRANSPORT 222: BERGEN-BELSEN - PALESTINE - JULY 1944 by Brasz, Chaya
  5. Vittel on gedenkorte-europa.eu, the homepage of Gedenkorte Europa 1939–1945
  6. ^ German colonists