The history of the
Germany goes back to the Early Middle Ages
(5th to 10th centuries CE) and
High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages (circa 1000–1299 CE)
when Jewish settlers founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community. The
community survived under Charlemagne, but suffered during the
Crusades. Accusations of well poisoning during the Black Death
(1346–53) led to mass slaughter of German Jews and they
fled in large numbers to Poland. The Jewish communities of the cities
Speyer and Worms became the center of Jewish life during
Medieval times. "This was a golden age as area bishops protected the
Jews resulting in increased trade and prosperity." The
First Crusade began an era of persecution of
Germany. Entire communities, like those of Trier, Worms,
Mainz and Cologne, were murdered. The war upon the
became the signal for renewed persecution of Jews. The end of the 15th
century was a period of religious hatred that ascribed to
possible evils. The atrocities during the Khmelnytsky Uprising
committed by Khmelnytskyi's
Cossacks (1648, in the Ukrainian part of
southeastern Poland) drove the Polish
Jews back into western
Germany. With Napoleon's fall in 1815,
growing nationalism resulted in increasing repression. From August to
October 1819, pogroms that came to be known as the
Hep-Hep riots took
place throughout Germany. During this time, many German states
Jews of their civil rights. As a result, many German Jews
began to emigrate.
From the time of
Moses Mendelssohn until the 20th century, the
community gradually achieved emancipation, and then
prospered. In January 1933, some 522,000
Jews lived in
Germany. After the Nazis took power and implemented their antisemitic
ideology and policies, the Jewish community was increasingly
persecuted. About 60% (numbering around 304,000) emigrated during the
first six years of the Nazi dictatorship. In 1933, persecution of the
Jews became an official Nazi policy. In 1935 and 1936, the pace of
antisemitic persecution increased. In 1936,
Jews were banned from all
professional jobs, effectively preventing them from participating in
education, politics, higher education and industry. The Schutzstaffel
(SS) ordered the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) the night of
November 9–10, 1938. The storefronts of Jewish shops and offices
were smashed and vandalized, and many synagogues were destroyed by
fire. Only roughly 214,000
Jews were left in
Germany proper (1937
borders) on the eve of World War II.
Beginning in late 1941, the remaining community was subjected to
systematic deportations to ghettos and ultimately, to death camps in
Eastern Europe. In May 1943,
Germany was declared judenrein
(clean of Jews; also judenfrei: free of Jews). By the end
of the war, an estimated 160,000 to 180,000 German
Jews had been
killed by the Nazi regime and their collaborators. A total
of about 6 million European
Jews were murdered under the direction of
the Nazis, in the genocide that later came to be known as the
After the war, the Jewish community in
Germany started to slowly grow
again. Beginning around 1990, a spurt of growth was fueled by
immigration from the former Soviet Union, so that at the turn of the
Germany had the only growing Jewish community in
Europe, and the majority of German
Russian-speaking. By 2014, the Jewish population of
leveled off at 118,000, not including non-Jewish members of
households; the total estimated enlarged population of
Jews living in
Germany, including non-Jewish household members, was close to 250,000.
Currently in Germany, denial of the
Holocaust or that six million Jews
were murdered in the
Holocaust (§ 130 StGB) is a criminal act;
violations can be punished with up to five years of
prison. In 2006, on the occasion of the World Cup held in
Germany, the then Interior Minister of Germany, Wolfgang Schäuble,
urged vigilism against far-right extremism, saying: "We will not
tolerate any form of extremism, xenophobia, or
anti-Semitism." In spite of Germany's measures against
these groups and anti-Semites, a number of incidents have occurred in
1 From Rome to the Crusades
1.1 Cultural and religious centre of European Jewry
2 A period of massacres (1096–1349)
3 In the Holy Roman Empire
3.1 Moses Mendelssohn
3.2 The Jewish Enlightenment
3.3 Reorganization of the German Jewish Community
3.4 Birth of the Reform Movement
4.1 World War I
5 Weimar years, 1919–33
Jews under the Nazis (1933–45)
The Holocaust in Germany
8 Persistence of antisemitism
Germany from 1945 to the reunification
Jews of West Germany
Jews of East Germany
Jews in the reunited
11 See also
14 Further reading
14.2 In German
15 External links
From Rome to the Crusades
Jews wearing the pileus cornutus depicted ca. 1185 in the Hortus
deliciarum of the Abbess Herrad of Landsberg.
Jewish migration from Roman Italy is considered the most likely source
of the first
Jews on German territory. While the date of the first
Jews in the regions which the Romans called Germania
Germania Inferior, and Magna
Germania is not known, the
first authentic document relating to a large and well-organized Jewish
community in these regions dates from
321 and refers to
Cologne on the Rhine (Jewish
immigrants began settling in Rome itself as early as 139
BC). It indicates that the legal status of the
was the same as elsewhere in the Roman Empire. They enjoyed some civil
liberties, but were restricted regarding the dissemination of their
culture, the keeping of non-Jewish slaves, and the holding of office
under the government.
Jews were otherwise free to follow any occupation open to indigenous
Germans and were engaged in agriculture, trade, industry, and
gradually money-lending. These conditions at first continued in the
subsequently established Germanic kingdoms under the
Franks, for ecclesiasticism took root slowly. The
who succeeded to the Burgundian empire were devoid of fanaticism and
gave scant support to the efforts of the Church to restrict the civic
and social status of the Jews.
Charlemagne (800–814) readily made use of the Church for the purpose
of infusing coherence into the loosely joined parts of his extensive
empire, by any means a blind tool of the canonical law. He employed
Jews for diplomatic purposes, sending, for instance, a Jew as
interpreter and guide with his embassy to Harun al-Rashid. Yet, even
then, a gradual change occurred in the lives of the Jews. The Church
forbade Christians to be usurers, so the
Jews secured the remunerative
monopoly of money-lending. This decree caused a mixed reaction of
people in general in the Frankish empire (including Germany) to the
Jews: Jewish people were sought everywhere, as well as avoided. This
Jews occurred because their capital was
indispensable, while their business was viewed as disreputable. This
curious combination of circumstances increased Jewish influence and
Jews went about the country freely, settling also in the eastern
Old Saxony and Duchy of Thuringia). Aside from Cologne, the
earliest communities were established in Mainz, Worms, Speyer, and
The status of the German
Jews remained unchanged under Charlemagne's
successor, Louis the Pious.
Jews were unrestricted in their commerce;
however, they paid somewhat higher taxes into the state treasury than
did the non-Jews. A special officer, the Judenmeister, was appointed
by the government to protect Jewish privileges. The later
Carolingians, however, followed the demands of the Church more and
more. The bishops continually argued at the synods for including and
enforcing decrees of the canonical law, with the consequence that the
majority Christian populace mistrusted the Jewish unbelievers. This
feeling, among both princes and people, was further stimulated by the
attacks on the civic equality of the Jews. Beginning with the 10th
Holy Week became more and more a period of antisemitic
activities, yet the Saxon emperors did not treat the
exacting from them merely the taxes levied upon all other merchants.
Germany were as ignorant as their contemporaries
in secular studies, they could read and understand the Hebrew prayers
and the Bible in the original text. Halakhic studies began to flourish
At that time,
Gershom ben Judah was teaching at
Metz and Mainz,
gathering about him pupils from far and near. He is described in
Jewish historiography as a model of wisdom, humility, and piety, and
became known to succeeding generations as the "Light of the
Exile". In highlighting his role in the religious
Jews in the German lands, The Jewish Encyclopedia
(1901–1906) draws a direct connection to the great spiritual
fortitude later shown by the Jewish communities in the era of the
He first stimulated the German
Jews to study the treasures of their
religious literature. This continuous study of the
Torah and the
Talmud produced such a devotion to
Judaism that the
life without their religion not worth living; but they did not realize
this clearly until the time of the Crusades, when they were often
compelled to choose between life and faith.
Cultural and religious centre of European Jewry
The Jewish communities of the cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz
formed the league of cities which became the center of Jewish life
during Medieval times. These are referred to as the ShUM cities, after
the first letters of the Hebrew names: Shin for
Speyer (Shpira), Waw
for Worms (Varmaisa) and
Mainz (Magentza). The Takkanot Shum
(Hebrew: תקנות שו"ם "Enactments of ShUM") were a set of
decrees formulated and agreed upon over a period of decades by their
Jewish community leaders. The official website for the city of Mainz
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of the most glorious epochs in Mainz's long history was the period
from the beginning of the 900s and evidently much earlier. Following
the barbaric Dark Ages, a relatively safe and enlightened Carolingian
period brought peace and prosperity to
Mainz and much of
For the next 400 years,
Mainz attracted many
Jews as trade flourished.
The greatest Jewish teachers and rabbis flocked to the Rhine. Their
teachings, dialogues, decisions, and influence propelled
neighboring towns along the
Rhine into world-wide prominence. Their
fame spread, rivaling that of other post-
Diaspora cities such as
Baghdad. Western European – Ashkenazic or Germanic –
Judaism became centered in Mainz, breaking free of the Babylonian
Yeshiva was founded in the 10th century by Gershom ben
Historian John Man describes
Mainz as "the capital of European Jewry",
Gershom ben Judah "was the first to bring copies of the
Talmud to Western Europe" and that his directives "helped
to European practices.":27–28 Gershom's school attracted
Jews from all over Europe, including the famous biblical scholar
Rashi; and "in the mid-14th century, it had the largest
Jewish community in Europe: some 6,000." "In essence,"
states the City of
Mainz web site, "this was a golden age as area
bishops protected the
Jews resulting in increased trade and
A period of massacres (1096–1349)
Mobs of French and German Crusaders led by
Peter the Hermit
Peter the Hermit ravaged
Jewish communities in Speyer, Worms, and
Mainz during the Rhineland
massacres of 1096.
First Crusade began an era of persecution of
Jews in Germany,
especially in the Rhineland. The communities of Trier,
Worms, Mainz, and Cologne, were attacked. The Jewish community of
Speyer was saved by the bishop, but 800 were slain in Worms. About
Jews are said to have perished in the Rhenish cities alone
between May and July 1096. Alleged crimes, like desecration of the
host, ritual murder, poisoning of wells, and treason, brought hundreds
to the stake and drove thousands into exile.
alleged to have caused the inroads of the
Mongols, though they suffered equally with the Christians. Jews
suffered intense persecution during the
Rintfleisch massacres of 1298.
Jews from Alsace were subjected to massacres by the outlaws of
Arnold von Uissigheim. When the
Black Death swept over
1348–49, some Christian communities accused
Jews of poisoning wells.
In the Erfurt Massacre of 1349, the members of the entire Jewish
community were murdered or expelled from the city, due to
superstitions about the Black Death. Royal policy and public
Jews helped the persecuted
Jews fleeing the
German-speaking lands to form the foundations of what would become the
largest Jewish community in
Europe in what is now
In the Holy Roman Empire
Etching of the expulsion of the
Frankfurt on August 23,
1614: The text says, "1,380 persons old and young were counted at the
exit of the gate."
The legal and civic status of the
Jews underwent a transformation
under the Holy Roman Empire. Jewish people found a certain degree of
protection with the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, who claimed the
right of possession and protection of all the
Jews of the empire. A
justification for this claim was that the Holy Roman Emperor was the
successor of the emperor Titus, who was said to have acquired the Jews
as his private property. The German emperors apparently claimed this
right of possession more for the sake of taxing the
Jews than of
A variety of such taxes existed. Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor, was a
prolific creator of new taxes. In 1342, he instituted the "golden
sacrificial penny" and decreed that every year all the
Jews should pay
the emperor one kreutzer out of every gulden of their property in
addition to the taxes they were already paying to both the state and
municipal authorities. The emperors of the house of Luxembourg devised
other means of taxation. They turned their prerogatives in regard to
Jews to further account by selling at a high price to the princes
and free towns of the empire the valuable privilege of taxing and
fining the Jews. Charles IV, via the Golden Bull of 1356, granted this
privilege to the seven electors of the empire when the empire was
reorganized in 1356.
From this time onward, for reasons that also apparently concerned
Germany gradually passed in increasing numbers from
the authority of the emperor to that of both the lesser sovereigns and
the cities. For the sake of sorely needed revenue, the
Jews were now
invited, with the promise of full protection, to return to those
districts and cities from which they had shortly before been expelled.
However, as soon as Jewish people acquired some property, they were
again plundered and driven away. These episodes thenceforth
constituted a large portion of the medieval history of the German
Jews. Emperor Wenceslaus was most expert in transferring to his own
coffers gold from the pockets of rich Jews. He made compacts with many
cities, estates, and princes whereby he annulled all outstanding debts
Jews in return for a certain sum paid to him. Emperor
Wenceslaus declared that anyone helping
Jews with the collection of
their debts, in spite of this annulment, would be dealt with as a
robber and peacebreaker, and be forced to make restitution. This
decree, which for years allegedly injured the public credit, is said
to have impoverished thousands of Jewish families during the close of
the 14th century.
Jews burned alive for the alleged host desecration in Deggendorf,
Bavaria, in 1338, and in Sternberg, Mecklenburg, in 1492; a woodcut
Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)
The 15th century did not bring any amelioration. What happened in the
time of the
Crusades happened again. The war upon the
the signal for renewed persecution of Jews. The
Jews of Austria,
Bohemia, Moravia, and
Silesia passed through all the terrors of death,
forced baptism, or voluntary self-immolation for the sake of their
faith. When the
Hussites made peace with the Church, the Pope sent the
John of Capistrano
John of Capistrano to win the renegades back into the
fold and inspire them with loathing for heresy and unbelief; 41
martyrs were burned in
Wrocław alone, and all
Jews were forever
banished from Silesia. The
Franciscan friar Bernardine of Feltre
brought a similar fate upon the communities in southern and western
Germany. As a consequence of the fictitious confessions extracted
under torture from the
Jews of Trent, the populace of many cities,
especially of Regensburg, fell upon the
Jews and massacred them.
The end of the 15th century, which brought a new epoch for the
Christian world, brought no relief to the Jews.
Jews in Germany
remained the victims of a religious hatred that ascribed to them all
possible evils. When the established Church, threatened in its
spiritual power in
Germany and elsewhere, prepared for its conflict
with the culture of the Renaissance, one of its most convenient points
of attack was rabbinic literature. At this time, as once before in
France, Jewish converts spread false reports in regard to the Talmud,
but an advocate of the book arose in the person of Johann Reuchlin,
the German humanist, who was the first one in
Germany to include the
Hebrew language among the humanities. His opinion, though strongly
opposed by the Dominicans and their followers, finally prevailed when
Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X permitted the
Talmud to be printed in Italy.
Main article: Moses Mendelssohn
Though reading German books was forbidden in the 1700s by Jewish
inspectors who had a measure of police power in Germany, Moses
Mendelson found his first German book, an edition of Protestant
theology, at a well-organized system of Jewish charity for needy
Talmud students. Mendelssohn read this book and found proof of the
existence of God – his first meeting with a sample of European
letters. This was only the beginning to Mendelssohn's inquiries about
the knowledge of life. Mendelssohn learned many new languages, and
with his whole education consisting of
Talmud lessons, he thought in
Hebrew and translated for himself every new piece of work he met into
this language. The divide between the
Jews and the rest of society was
caused by a lack of translation between these two languages, and
Mendelssohn translated the
Torah into German, bridging the gap between
the two; this book allowed
Jews to speak and write in German,
preparing them for participation in German culture and secular
science. In 1750, Mendelssohn began to serve as a teacher in the house
of Isaac Bernhard, the owner of a silk factory, after beginning his
publications of philosophical essays in German. Mendelssohn conceived
of God as a perfect Being and had faith in "God's wisdom,
righteousness, mercy, and goodness." He argued, "the world results
from a creative act through which the divine will seeks to realize the
highest good, " and accepted the existence of miracles and revelation
as long as belief in God did not depend on them. He also believed that
revelation could not contradict reason. Like the deists, Mendelssohn
claimed that reason could discover the reality of God, divine
providence, and immortality of the soul. He was the first to speak out
against the use of excommunication as a religious threat. At the
height of his career, in 1769, Mendelssohn was publicly challenged by
a Christian apologist, a Zurich pastor named John Lavater, to defend
the superiority of
Judaism over Christianity. From then on, he was
involved in defending
Judaism in print. In 1783, he published
Jerusalem, or On Religious Power and Judaism. Speculating that no
religious institution should use coercion and emphasized that Judaism
does not coerce the mind through dogma, he argued that through reason,
all people could discover religious philosophical truths, but what
Judaism unique was its revealed code of legal, ritual, and moral
law. He said that
Jews must live in civil society, but only in a way
that their right to observe religious laws is granted, while also
recognizing the needs for respect, and multiplicity of religions. He
campaigned for emancipation and instructed
Jews to form bonds with the
gentile governments, attempting to improve the relationship between
Jews and Christians while arguing for tolerance and humanity. He
became the symbol of the Jewish Enlightenment, the
Early 18th Century
David Friedländer was a German-Jewish communal leader who promoted
Jewish emancipation in the Holy Roman Empire.
In the late 18th century, a youthful enthusiasm for new ideals of
religious equality began to take hold in the western world. Austrian
Emperor Joseph II was foremost in espousing these new ideals. As early
as 1782, he issued the Patent of Toleration for the
Jews of Lower
Austria, thereby establishing civic equality for his Jewish subjects.
Before 1806, when general citizenship was largely nonexistent in the
Holy Roman Empire, its inhabitants were subject to varying estate
regulations. In different ways from one territory of the empire to
another, these regulations classified inhabitants into different
groups, such as dynasts, members of the court entourage, other
aristocrats, city dwellers (burghers), Jews, Huguenots (in Prussia a
special estate until 1810), free peasants, serfs, peddlers and
Gypsies, with different privileges and burdens attached to each
classification. Legal inequality was the principle.
The concept of citizenship was mostly restricted to cities, especially
free imperial cities. No general franchise existed, which remained a
privilege for the few, who had inherited the status or acquired it
when they reached a certain level of taxed income or could afford the
expense of the citizen's fee (Bürgergeld). Citizenship was often
further restricted to city dwellers affiliated to the locally dominant
Christian denomination (Calvinism, Roman Catholicism, or Lutheranism).
City dwellers of other denominations or religions and those who lacked
the necessary wealth to qualify as citizens were considered to be mere
inhabitants who lacked political rights, and were sometimes subject to
revocable residence permits.
Jews then living in those parts of
Germany that allowed them to
settle were automatically defined as mere indigenous inhabitants,
depending on permits that were typically less generous than those
granted to gentile indigenous inhabitants (Einwohner, as opposed to
Bürger, or citizen). In the 18th century, some
Jews and their
families (such as
Daniel Itzig in Berlin) gained equal status with
their Christian fellow city dwellers, but had a different status from
noblemen, Huguenots, or serfs. They often did not enjoy the right to
freedom of movement across territorial or even municipal boundaries,
let alone the same status in any new place as in their previous
With the abolition of differences in legal status during the
Napoleonic era and its aftermath, citizenship was established as a new
franchise generally applying to all former subjects of the monarchs.
Prussia conferred citizenship on the Prussian
Jews in 1812, though
this by no means resulted in full equality with other citizens. Jewish
emancipation did not eliminate all forms of discrimination against
Jews, who often remained barred from holding official state positions.
The German federal edicts of 1815 merely held out the prospect of full
equality, but it was not genuinely implemented at that time, and even
the promises which had been made were modified. However, such forms of
discrimination were no longer the guiding principle for ordering
society, but a violation of it. In Austria, many laws restricting the
trade and traffic of Jewish subjects remained in force until the
middle of the 19th century in spite of the patent of toleration. Some
of the crown lands, such as
Styria and Upper Austria, forbade any Jews
to settle within their territory; in Bohemia, Moravia, and Austrian
Silesia many cities were closed to them. The
Jews were also burdened
with heavy taxes and imposts.
In the German kingdom of Prussia, the government materially modified
the promises made in the disastrous year of 1813. The promised uniform
regulation of Jewish affairs was time and again postponed. In the
period between 1815 and 1847, no less than 21 territorial laws
Jews in the older eight provinces of the Prussian state
were in effect, each having to be observed by part of the Jewish
community. At that time, no official was authorized to speak in the
name of all Prussian Jews, or Jewry in most of the other 41 German
states, let alone for all German Jews.
Nevertheless, a few men came forward to promote their cause, foremost
among them being
Gabriel Riesser (d. 1863), a Jewish lawyer from
Hamburg, who demanded full civic equality for his people. He won over
public opinion to such an extent that this equality was granted in
Prussia on April 6, 1848, in Hanover and Nassau on September 5 and on
December 12, respectively, and also in his home state of Hamburg, then
home to the second-largest Jewish community in Germany. In
Württemberg, equality was conceded on December 3, 1861; in Baden on
October 4, 1862; in Holstein on July 14, 1863; and in Saxony on
December 3, 1868. After the establishment of the North German
Confederation by the law of July 3, 1869, all remaining statutory
restrictions imposed on the followers of different religions were
abolished; this decree was extended to all the states of the German
empire after the events of 1870.
The Jewish Enlightenment
Main article: Haskalah
During the General Enlightenment (1600s to late 1700s), many Jewish
women began to frequent non-Jewish salons and to campaign for
emancipation. In Western
Europe and the German states, observance of
Jewish law, Halacha, started to be neglected. In the 18th century,
some traditional German scholars and leaders, such as the doctor and
author of Ma'aseh Tuviyyah, Tobias b. Moses Cohn, appreciated secular
culture. The most important feature during this time was the German
Aufklärung, which was able to boast of native figures who competed
with the finest Western European writers, scholars, and intellectuals.
Aside from externalities of language and dress, the
the cultural and intellectual norms of the German society. The
movement, becoming known as the German or
Haskalah offered many
effects to the challenges of German society. As early as the 1740s,
Jews and some individual Polish and Lithuanian
Jews had a
desire for secular education. The German-Jewish Enlightenment of the
late 18th century, the Haskalah, marks the political, social, and
intellectual transition of European Jewry to modernity. Some of the
elite members of Jewish society knew European languages. Absolutist
governments in Germany, Austria, and Russia deprived the Jewish
community's leadership of its authority and many
Jews became "Court
Jews." Using their connections with Jewish businessmen to serve as
military contractors, managers of mints, founders of new industries
and providers to the court of precious stones and clothing, they gave
economic assistance to the local rulers. Court
Jews were protected by
the rulers and acted as did everyone else in society in their speech,
manners, and awareness of European literature and ideas. Isaac Euchel,
for example, represented a new generation of Jews. He maintained a
leading role in the German Haskalah, being one of the founding editors
of Ha-Me/assef. Euchel was exposed to European languages and culture
while living in Prussian centers:
Berlin and Koenigsberg. His
interests turned towards promoting the educational interests of the
Enlightenment with other Jews.
Moses Mendelssohn as another
enlightenment thinker was the first Jew to bring secular culture to
those living an Orthodox Jewish life. He valued reason and felt that
anyone could arrive logically at religious truths, while arguing that
Judaism unique is its divine revelation of a code of law.
Mendelssohn's commitment to
Judaism lead to tensions even with some of
those who subscribed to Enlightenment philosophy. Faithful Christians
who were less opposed to his rationalistic ideas than to his adherence
Judaism found it difficult to accept this Juif de Berlin. In most
of Western Europe, the
Haskalah ended with large numbers of Jews
Jews stopped adhering to Jewish law, and the
struggle for emancipation in
Germany awakened some doubts about the
Europe and eventually led to both immigrations to
America and Zionism. In Russia, antisemitism ended the Haskalah. Some
Jews responded to this antisemitism by campaigning for emancipation,
while others joined revolutionary movements and assimilated, and some
turned to Jewish nationalism in the form of the Zionist Hibbat Zion
Reorganization of the German Jewish Community
The empowerment of the
Jews and the rebirth of Jewish science led to a
transfer of ancient traditions to the newer generations. Geiger and
Holdeim were two founders of the conservative movement in modern
Judaism accepted the modern spirit of liberalism. Samson Raphael
Hirsch defended traditional customs: denying the modern "spirit".
Neither of these beliefs was followed by the faithful Jews; Zachary
Frankel created a moderate reform movement in assurance with German
communities, public worships were reorganized, reduction of medieval
additions to the prayer, congregational singing was introduced, and
regular sermons required scientifically trained rabbis. Religious
schools were enforced by the state due to a want for the addition of
religious structure to secular education of Jewish children. Pulpit
oratory started to thrive mainly due to German preachers, such as M.
Sachs and M. Joel. Synagogal music was accepted with the help of Louis
Lewandowski. Part of the evolution of the Jewish community was the
Jewish literature and associations created with
teachers, rabbis, and leaders of congregations.
Another vital part of the reorganization of the Jewish-German
community was the heavy involvement of Jewish women in the community
and their new tendencies to assimilate their families into a different
lifestyle. Jewish women were contradicting their view points in the
sense that they were modernizing, but they also tried to keep some
traditions alive. German Jewish mothers were shifting the way they
raised their children in ways such as moving their families out of
Jewish neighborhoods, thus changing who Jewish children grew up around
and conversed with, all in all shifting the dynamic of the then
close-knit Jewish community. Additionally, Jewish mothers wished to
integrate themselves and their families into German society in other
ways. Because of their mothers, Jewish children
participated in walks around the neighborhood, sporting events, and
other activities that would mold them into becoming more like their
other German peers. In order for mothers to assimilate into German
culture, they took pleasure in reading newspapers and magazines that
focused on the fashion styles, as well as other trends that were up
and coming for the time and that the Protestant, bourgeois Germans
were exhibiting. Similar to this, German-Jewish mothers also urged
their children to partake in music lessons, mainly because it was a
popular activity among other Germans. Another effort German-Jewish
mothers put into assimilating their families was enforcing the
importance of manners on their children. It was noted that non-Jewish
Jews as disrespectful and unable to grasp the concept of
time and place. Because of this, Jewish mothers tried to
raise their kids having even better manners than the Protestant
children in an effort to combat the pre-existing stereotype put on
their children. In addition, Jewish mothers put a large emphasis on
proper education for their children in hopes that this would help them
grow up to be more respected by their communities and eventually lead
to prosperous careers. While Jewish mothers worked tirelessly on
ensuring the assimilation of their families, they also attempted to
keep the familial aspect of Jewish traditions. They began to look at
Shabbat and holidays as less of culturally Jewish days, but more as
family reunions of sorts. What was once viewed as a more religious
event became more of a social gathering of relatives.
Birth of the Reform Movement
The beginning of the Reform Movement in
Judaism was emphasized by
David Philipson, who was the rabbi at the largest Reform congregation.
The increasing political centralization of the late 18th and early
19th centuries undermined the societal structure that perpetuated
traditional Jewish life. Enlightenment ideas began to influence many
intellectuals, and the resulting political, economic, and social
changes were overpowering. Many
Jews felt a tension between Jewish
tradition and the way they were now leading their lives-religiously-
resulting in less tradition. As the insular religious society that
reinforced such observance disintegrated, falling away from vigilant
observance without deliberately breaking with
Judaism was easy. Some
tried to reconcile their religious heritage with their new social
surroundings; they reformed traditional
Judaism to meet their new
needs and to express their spiritual desires. A movement was formed
with a set of religious beliefs, and practices that were considered
expected and tradition. Reform
Judaism was the first modern response
to the Jew's emancipation, though reform
Judaism differing in all
countries caused stresses of autonomy on both the congregation and
individual. Some of the reforms were in the practices: circumcisions
were abandoned, rabbis wore vests after Protestant ministers, and
instrumental accompaniment was used: pipe organs. In addition, the
traditional Hebrew prayer book was replaced by German text, and reform
synagogues began being called temples which were previously considered
the Temple of Jerusalem. Reform communities composed of similar
Judaism changed at the same pace as the rest of society
had. The Jewish people have adapted to religious beliefs and practices
to the meet the needs of the Jewish people throughout the
1890: Gustav Ermann, a Jewish soldier in the German Kaiser's army,
born in Saarbrücken
The headstones of the fallen Jewish soldiers who fought for Germany
World War I
World War I were removed during World War II, and were later
replaced. This cemetery is in northern France.
Map showing the distribution of
Jews in the
German Empire in the
A leaflet published in 1920 by the Reichsbund jüdischer
Frontsoldaten (German Jewish veterans organization) in response to
accusations of lack of patriotism: Inscription on the tomb: "12,000
Jewish soldiers died on the field of honor for the fatherland".
Willi Ermann of Saarbrucken, a German Jewish soldier in World War I:
Ermann was murdered at
Auschwitz in the Holocaust.
Napoleon I emancipated the
Jews across Europe, but with Napoleon's
fall in 1815, growing nationalism resulted in increasing repression.
From August to October 1819, pogroms that came to be known as the
Hep-Hep riots took place throughout Germany. Jewish property was
destroyed, and many
Jews were killed.
During this time, many
German states stripped
Jews of their civil
rights. In the Free City of Frankfurt, only 12 Jewish couples were
allowed to marry each year, and the 400,000 gulden the city's Jewish
community had paid in 1811 for its emancipation was forfeited. After
Rhineland reverted to Prussian control,
Jews lost the rights
Napoleon had granted them, were banned from certain professions, and
the few who had been appointed to public office before the Napoleonic
Wars were dismissed. Throughout numerous German states,
Jews had their rights to work, settle, and marry restricted. Without
special letters of protection,
Jews were banned from many different
professions, and often had to resort to jobs considered unrespectable,
such as peddling or cattle dealing, to survive. A Jewish man who
wanted to marry had to purchase a registration certificate, known as a
Matrikel, proving he was in a "respectable" trade or profession. A
Matrikel, which could cost up to 1,000 gulden, was usually restricted
to firstborn sons. As a result, most Jewish men were
unable to legally marry. Throughout Germany,
Jews were heavily taxed,
and were sometimes discriminated against by gentile craftsmen.
As a result, many German
Jews began to emigrate. The emigration was
encouraged by German-Jewish newspapers. At first, most
emigrants were young, single men from small towns and villages. A
smaller number of single women also emigrated. Individual family
members would emigrate alone, and then send for family members once
they had earned enough money. Emigration eventually swelled, with some
German Jewish communities losing up to 70% of their members. At one
point, a German-Jewish newspaper reported that all the young Jewish
males in the Franconian towns of Hagenbach, Ottingen, and Warnbach had
emigrated or were about to emigrate. The
United States was
the primary destination for emigrating German Jews.
Revolutions of 1848
Revolutions of 1848 swung the pendulum back towards freedom for
the Jews. A noted reform rabbi of that time was Leopold Zunz, a
contemporary and friend of Heinrich Heine. In 1871, with the
Germany by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, came their
emancipation, but the growing mood of despair among assimilated Jews
was reinforced by the antisemitic penetrations of politics. In the
1870s, antisemitism was fueled by the financial crisis and scandals;
in the 1880s by the arrival of masses of Ostjuden, fleeing from
Russian territories; by the 1890s it was a parliamentary presence,
threatening anti-Jewish laws. In 1879 the
Wilhelm Marr introduced the term 'anti-Semitism' into the
political vocabulary by founding the Anti-Semitic League.
Antisemites of the völkisch movement were the first to describe
themselves as such, because they viewed
Jews as part of a Semitic race
that could never be properly assimilated into German society. Such was
the ferocity of the anti-Jewish feeling of the völkisch movement that
by 1900, anti-Semitic had entered German to describe anyone who had
anti-Jewish feelings. However, despite massive protests and petitions,
the völkisch movement failed to persuade the government to revoke
Jewish emancipation, and in the 1912 Reichstag elections, the parties
with völkisch-movement sympathies suffered a temporary defeat.
Jews experienced a period of legal equality after 1848. Baden and
Württemberg passed the legislation that gave the
equality before the law in 1861–64. The newly formed German Empire
did the same in 1871. Historian
Fritz Stern concludes that
by 1900, what had emerged was a Jewish-German symbiosis, where German
Jews had merged elements of German and
Jewish culture into a unique
new one. Marriages between
Jews and non-
Jews became somewhat common
from the 19th century; for example, the wife of German Chancellor
Gustav Stresemann was Jewish. However, opportunity for high
appointments in the military, the diplomatic service, judiciary or
senior bureaucracy was very small. Some historians believe
that with emancipation the Jewish people lost their roots in their
culture and began only using German culture. However, other historians
including Marion A. Kaplan, argue that it was the opposite and Jewish
women were the initiators of balancing both Jewish and German culture
during Imperial Germany. Jewish women played a key role in
keeping the Jewish communities in tune with the changing society that
was evoked by the
Jews being emancipation. Jewish women were the
catalyst of modernization within the Jewish community. The years
1870-1918 marked the shift in the women's role in society. Their job
in the past had been housekeeping and raising children. Now, however,
they began to contribute to the home financially. Jewish mothers were
the only tool families had to linking
Judaism with German culture.
They felt it was their job to raise children that would fit in with
bourgeois Germany. Women had to balance enforcing German traditions
while also preserving Jewish traditions. Women were in charge of
keeping kosher and the Sabbath; as well as, teaching their children
German speech and dressing them in German clothing. Jewish women
attempted to create an exterior presence of German while maintaining
the Jewish lifestyle inside their homes.
The Jewish population grew from 512,000 in 1871 to 615,000 in 1910,
including 79,000 recent immigrants from Russia, just under one percent
of the total. About 15,000
Jews converted to Christianity between 1871
World War I
A higher percentage of German
Jews fought in
World War I
World War I than of any
other ethnic, religious or political group in Germany; some 12,000
died for their country.
Prominent Jewish industrialists and bankers, such as Walter Rathenau
Max Warburg played major roles in supervising the German war
In October 1916, the German Military High Command administered the
Judenzählung (census of Jews). Designed to confirm accusations of the
lack of patriotism among German Jews, the census disproved the
charges, but its results were not made public. Denounced
as a "statistical monstrosity", the census was a catalyst
to intensified antisemitism and social myths such as the
"stab-in-the-back myth" (Dolchstoßlegende).
Weimar years, 1919–33
Under the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933, German
Jews played a major
role in politics and diplomacy for the first time in their history,
and they strengthened their position in financial, economic, and
Hugo Preuß was Interior
Minister under the first post-imperial regime and wrote the first
draft of the liberal Weimar Constitution. Walther
Rathenau, the chairman of General Electric (AEG) and head of the
German Democratic Party
German Democratic Party (DDP), served as foreign minister in 1922,
when he negotiated the important Treaty of Rapallo. He was
assassinated two months later.
Already by 1914, the
Jews were well represented among the wealthy,
including 24 percent of the richest men in Prussia, and eight percent
of the university students.
There was sporadic antisemitism based on the false allegation that
Germany had been betrayed by an enemy within. There was some
violence against German
Jews in the early years of the Weimar
Republic, and it was led by the paramilitary Freikorps. The Protocols
of the Elders of Zion (1920), a forgery which claimed that
taking over the world, was widely circulated. The second half of the
1920s were prosperous, and antisemitism was much less noticeable. When
the Great Depression hit in 1929, it surged again as
Adolf Hitler and
Nazi party promoted a virulent strain.
Author Jay Howard Geller says that four possible responses were
available to the German Jewish community. The majority of German Jews
were only nominally religious and they saw their Jewish identity as
only one of several identities; they opted for bourgeois liberalism
and assimilation into all phases of German culture. A second group
(especially recent migrants from eastern Europe) embraced
Zionism. A third group of left-wing elements endorsed the universalism
of Marxism, which downplayed ethnicity and antisemitism. A fourth
group contained some who embraced hardcore
German nationalism and
minimized or hid their Jewish heritage. When the Nazis came to power
in 1933, a fifth option was seized upon by hundreds of thousands:
escape into exile, typically at the cost of leaving all wealth
The German legal system generally treated
Jews fairly throughout the
period. The Centralverein, the major organization of
German Jewry, used the court system to vigorously defend Jewry against
antisemitic attacks across Germany; it proved generally
Heidelberg University was considered to be one of the most eminent
institutions of Jewish-Gerrman learning
Jewish intellectuals and creative professionals were among the leading
figures in many areas of Weimar culture. German university faculties
became universally open to Jewish scholars in 1918. Leading Jewish
intellectuals on university faculties included physicist Albert
Einstein; sociologists Karl Mannheim, Erich Fromm, Theodor Adorno, Max
Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse; philosophers
Ernst Cassirer and
Edmund Husserl; communist political theorist Arthur Rosenberg;
sexologist and pioneering
LGBT advocate Magnus Hirschfeld, and many
others. Seventeen German citizens were awarded Nobel prizes during the
Weimar Republic (1919–1933), five of whom were Jewish scientists.
The German-Jewish literary magazine, Der Morgen, was established in
1925. It published essays and stories by prominent Jewish writers such
Franz Kafka and Leo Hirsch until its liquidation by the Nazi
government in 1938.
Jews under the Nazis (1933–45)
Main articles: Anti-Jewish legislation in prewar Nazi
Germany and The
Part of a series onThe Holocaust
Jews on selection ramp at Auschwitz,
Collaborators during World War II
Jews during World War II
Romani people (Gypsies)
Slavs in Eastern Europe
People with disabilities
Jewish ghettos inGerman-occupied Poland
List of selected ghettos
Nazi extermination camps
Nazi concentration camps
Transit and collection camps
Concentration Camps Inspectorate
Extermination through labour
Human medical experimentation
End of World War II
Resistance movement in Auschwitz
Związek Organizacji Wojskowej
Allied responseJoint Declaration by Members ofthe United Nations
Auschwitz bombing debate
Central Committee of the Liberated Jews
Reparations Agreement between
Israel and West Germany
Deportations of French Jewsto death camps
Survivors of Sobibor
Timeline of Treblinka extermination camp
Victims of Nazism
Rescuers of Jews
Memorials and museums
List of books about Nazi Germany
The Destruction of theEuropean Jews
Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos
Days of remembrance
Memorials and museums
Righteous Among the Nations
Taken in March 1933, immediately after the Nazis seized power, this
photo shows Nazi SA militants forcing a Jewish lawyer to walk barefoot
through the streets of
Munich wearing a sign that says "I will never
again complain to the police"
In Germany, according to historian Hans Mommsen, there were three
types of antisemitism. In a 1997 interview, Mommsen was quoted as
One should differentiate between the cultural antisemitism symptomatic
of the German conservatives—found especially in the German officer
corps and the high civil administration—and mainly directed against
Jews on the one hand, and völkisch antisemitism on the
other. The conservative variety functions, as Shulamit Volkov has
pointed out, as something of a "cultural code." This variety of German
antisemitism later on played a significant role insofar as it
prevented the functional elite from distancing itself from the
repercussions of racial antisemitism. Thus, there was almost no
relevant protest against the Jewish persecution on the part of the
generals or the leading groups within the Reich government. This is
especially true with respect to Hitler's proclamation of the "racial
annihilation war" against the Soviet Union.
Besides conservative antisemitism, there existed in
Germany a rather
Judaism within the Catholic Church, which had a certain
impact on immunizing the Catholic population against the escalating
persecution. The famous protest of the Catholic Church against the
euthanasia program was, therefore, not accompanied by any protest
against the Holocaust. The third and most vitriolic variety of
Germany (and elsewhere) is the so-called völkisch
antisemitism or racism, and this is the foremost advocate of using
In 1933, persecution of the
Jews became an active Nazi policy, but at
first laws were not as rigorously obeyed or as devastating as in later
years. Such clauses, known as
Aryan paragraphs, had been postulated
previously by antisemitism and enacted in many private organizations.
The boycott of April 1, 1933
The continuing and exacerbating abuse of
calls throughout March 1933 by Jewish leaders around world for a
boycott of German products. The Nazis responded with further bans and
boycotts against Jewish doctors, shops, lawyers and stores. Only six
days later, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil
Service was passed, banning
Jews from being employed in government.
This law meant that
Jews were now indirectly and directly dissuaded or
banned from privileged and upper-level positions reserved for "Aryan"
Germans. From then on,
Jews were forced to work at more menial
positions, beneath non-Jews, pushing them to more labored positions.
The Civil Service Law reached immediately into the education system
because university professors, for example, were civil servants. While
the majority of the German intellectual classes were not thoroughgoing
National Socialists, academia had been suffused with a
"cultured antisemitism" since imperial times, even more so during
Weimar. With the majority of non-Jewish professors holding
such feelings about Jews, coupled with how the Nazis' outwardly
appeared in the period during and after the seizure of power, there
was little motivation to oppose the anti-Jewish measures being
enacted—few did, and many were actively in favor.
According to a German professor of the history of mathematics, "There
is no doubt that most of the German mathematicians who were members of
the professional organization collaborated with the Nazis, and did
nothing to save or help their Jewish colleagues." "German
physicians were highly Nazified, compared to other professionals, in
terms of party membership," observed Raul Hilberg and some
even carried out experiments on human beings at places like
On August 2, 1934, President
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg died. No new
president was appointed; with
Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany,
he took control of the office of Führer. This, and a tame government
with no opposition parties, allowed
Adolf Hitler totalitarian control
of law-making. The army also swore an oath of loyalty personally to
Hitler, giving him power over the military; this position allowed him
to enforce his beliefs further by creating more pressure on the Jews
than ever before.
In 1935 and 1936, the pace of persecution of the
Jews increased. In
Jews were forbidden to join the
Wehrmacht (Armed Forces),
and that year, anti-Jewish propaganda appeared in Nazi German shops
and restaurants. The
Nuremberg Racial Purity Laws
Nuremberg Racial Purity Laws were passed around
the time of the Nazi rallies at Nuremberg; on September 15, 1935, the
Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor
Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor was passed,
preventing sexual relations and marriages between Aryans and Jews. At
the same time the
Reich Citizenship Law
Reich Citizenship Law was passed and was reinforced
in November by a decree, stating that all Jews, even quarter- and
half-Jews, were no longer citizens (Reichsbürger) of their own
country. Their official status became Reichsangehöriger, "subject of
the state". This meant that they had no basic civil rights, such as
that to vote, but at this time the right to vote for the non-Jewish
Germans only meant the obligation to vote for the Nazi party. This
removal of basic citizens' rights preceded harsher laws to be passed
in the future against Jews. The drafting of the
Nuremberg Laws is
often attributed to Hans Globke.
Jews were banned from all professional jobs, effectively
preventing them from exerting any influence in education, politics,
higher education and industry. Because of this, there was nothing to
stop the anti-Jewish actions which spread across the Nazi-German
After the Night of the Long Knives, the
Schutzstaffel (SS) became the
dominant policing power in Germany. Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler
was eager to please Hitler and so willingly obeyed his orders. Since
the SS had been Hitler's personal bodyguard, its members were far more
loyal and skilled than those of the
Sturmabteilung (SA) had been.
Because of this, they were also supported, though distrusted, by the
army, which was now more willing to agree with Hitler's decisions than
when the SA was dominant. All of this allowed
Hitler more direct control over government and political attitude
Jews in Nazi Germany. In 1937 and 1938, new laws were
implemented, and the segregation of
Jews from the true "Aryan" German
population was started. In particular,
Jews were penalized financially
for their perceived racial status.
On June 4, 1937, two young German Jews,
Helmut Hirsch and Isaac
Utting, were both executed for being involved in a plot to bomb the
Nazi party headquarters in Nuremberg.
As of March 1, 1938, government contracts could no longer be awarded
to Jewish businesses. On September 30, "Aryan" doctors could only
treat "Aryan" patients. Provision of medical care to
Jews was already
hampered by the fact that
Jews were banned from being doctors or
having any professional jobs.
German Jewish passports could be used to leave, but not to return.
Beginning August 17, 1938,
Jews with first names of non-Jewish origin
had to add
Israel (males) or Sarah (females) to their names, and a
large J was to be imprinted on their passports beginning October 5. On
November 15 Jewish children were banned from going to normal schools.
By April 1939, nearly all Jewish companies had either collapsed under
financial pressure and declining profits, or had been forced to sell
out to the Nazi German government. This further reduced Jews' rights
as human beings. They were in many ways officially separated from the
Synagogue at Nuremberg, c. 1890–1900. The structure was destroyed
The increasingly totalitarian, militaristic regime which was being
Germany by Hitler allowed him to control the actions of the
SS and the military. On November 7, 1938, a young Polish Jew, Herschel
Grynszpan, attacked and shot two German officials in the Nazi German
embassy in Paris. (Grynszpan was angry about the treatment of his
parents by the Nazi Germans.) On November 9 the German Attache, Ernst
vom Rath, died. Goebbels issued instructions that demonstrations
Jews were to be organized and undertaken in retaliation
throughout Germany. The SS ordered the Night of Broken Glass
(Kristallnacht) to be carried out that night, November 9–10, 1938.
The storefronts of Jewish shops and offices were smashed and
vandalized, and many synagogues were destroyed by fire. Approximately
Jews were killed, and another 30,000 arrested, mostly able bodied
males, all of whom were sent to the newly formed concentration camps.
In the following 3 months some 2,000–2,500 of them died in the
concentration camps, the rest were released under the condition that
they leave Germany. Many Germans were disgusted by this action when
the full extent of the damage was discovered, so Hitler ordered that
it be blamed on the Jews. Collectively, the
Jews were made to pay back
Reichsmark (equivalent to 4 billion 2009 euros) in
damages, the fine being raised by confiscating 20 per cent of every
Jewish property. The
Jews also had to repair all damages at their own
Jews emigrating from
Berlin to the United States, 1939
Increasing antisemitism prompted a wave of Jewish mass emigration from
Germany throughout the 1930s. Among the first wave were intellectuals,
politically active individuals, and Zionists. However, as Nazi
legislation worsened the Jews' situation, more
Jews wished to leave
Germany, with a panicked rush in the months after
Palestine was a popular destination for German Jewish emigration. Soon
after the Nazis' rise to power in 1933, they negotiated the Haavara
Agreement with Zionist authorities in Palestine, which was signed on
August 25, 1933. Under its terms, 60,000 German
Jews were to be
allowed to emigrate to Palestine and take $100 million in assets with
them. During the Fifth Aliyah, between 1929 and 1939, a
total of 250,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in Palestine—more than
55,000 of them from Germany, Austria, or Bohemia. Many of them were
doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, and other professionals, who
contributed greatly to the development of the Yishuv.
United States was another destination for German
Jews seeking to
leave the country, though the number allowed to immigrate was
restricted due to the Immigration Act of 1924. Between 1933 and 1939,
more than 300,000 Germans, of whom about 90% were Jews, applied for
immigration visas to the United States. By 1940, only 90,000 German
Jews had been granted visas and allowed to settle in the United
States. Some 100,000 German
Jews also moved to Western European
countries, especially France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. However,
these countries would later be occupied by Germany, and most of them
would still fall victim to the Holocaust. Another 48,000 emigrated to
United Kingdom and other European
The Holocaust in Germany
Main article: The Holocaust
Administrative divisions of Nazi
Germany in 1944.
Overall, of the 522,000
Jews living in
Germany in January 1933,
approximately 304,000 emigrated during the first six years of Nazi
rule and about 214,000 were left on the eve of World War II. Of these,
160,000-180,000 were killed as a part of the Holocaust. On May 19,
1943, only about 20,000
Jews remained and
Germany was declared
judenrein (clean of Jews; also judenfrei: free of Jews). 
Persistence of antisemitism
During the medieval period antisemitism flourished in Germany.
Especially during the time of the
Black Death from 1348 to 1350 hatred
and violence against
Jews increased. Approximately 72% of towns with a
Jewish settlement suffered from violent attacks against the Jewish
World War I
World War I
Antisemitism grew again, during the time of the
Weimar Republic and later on during the Nazi reign.
Regions that suffered from the
Black Death pogroms were 6 times more
likely to engage in anti-Semitic violence during the 1920s, the Nazi
parties like the DNVP, NSDAP and DVFP gained a 1.5 times higher voting
share in the 1928 election, their inhabitants wrote more letters to
anti-Semitic newspapers like “Der Stürmer”, and they deported
Jews during the Nazi reign. This is due to cultural
A simple model of cultural transmission and Persistence of attitudes
comes from Bisin and Verdier who state, that children acquire their
preference scheme through imitating their parents, who in turn attempt
to socialize their children to their own preferences, without taking
into consideration if these traits are useful or not.
Economic factors had the potential to undermine this persistence
throughout the centuries. Hatred against outsiders was more costly in
trade open cities, like the members of the Hanseatic League. Faster
growing cities saw less persistence in anti-Semitic attitudes, this
may be due to the fact that trade-openness was associated with more
economic success and therefore higher migration rates into this
Germany from 1945 to the reunification
When the Soviet army took over
Berlin in late April 1945, only 8,000
Jews remained in the city, all of them either in hiding or married to
non-Jews. Most German
Jews who survived the
war in exile decided to remain abroad; however, a small number
returned to Germany. Additionally, approximately 15,000 German Jews
survived the concentration camps or survived by going into hiding.
Jews were joined by approximately 200,000 displaced
persons (DPs), Eastern European Jewish
Holocaust survivors. They came
to Allied-occupied western
Germany after finding no homes left for
them in eastern
Europe (especially in Poland) or after having been
liberated on German soil. The overwhelming majority of the DPs wished
to emigrate to Palestine and lived in Allied- and U.N.-administered
refugee camps, remaining isolated from German society. When Israel
became independent in 1948, most European-Jewish DPs left for the new
state; however, 10,000 to 15,000
Jews decided to resettle in Germany.
Despite hesitations and a long history of antagonism between German
Jews (Yekkes) and East European
Jews (Ostjuden), the two disparate
groups united to form the basis of a new Jewish community. In 1950
they founded their unitary representative organization, the Central
Jews in Germany.
Jews of West Germany
The Jewish community in West
Germany from the 1950s to the 1970s was
characterized by its social conservatism and generally private nature.
Although there were Jewish elementary schools in West Berlin,
Frankfurt, and Munich, the community had a very high average age. Few
young adults chose to remain in Germany, and many of those who did
married non-Jews. Many critics[who?] of the community and its
leadership accused it of ossification. In the 1980s, a college for
Jewish studies was established in Heidelberg; however, a
disproportionate number of its students were not Jewish. By 1990, the
community numbered between 30,000 and 40,000. Although the Jewish
Germany did not have the same impact as the pre-1933
Jews were prominent in German public life, including
Hamburg mayor Herbert Weichmann;
Schleswig-Holstein Minister of
Justice (and Deputy Chief Justice of the Federal Constitutional Court)
Hesse Attorney General Fritz Bauer; former
of Economics Heinz-Herbert Karry; West
Berlin politician Jeanette
Wolff; television personalities Hugo Egon Balder, Hans Rosenthal, Ilja
Richter, Inge Meysel, and Michel Friedman; Jewish communal leaders
Heinz Galinski, Ignatz Bubis, Paul Spiegel, and Charlotte Knobloch
(see: Central Council of
Jews in Germany), and Germany's most
influential literary critic, Marcel Reich-Ranicki.
Jews of East Germany
The Jewish community of communist East
Germany numbered only a few
hundred active members. Most
Jews who settled in East
Germany did so
either because their pre-1933 homes had been there or because they had
been politically leftist before the Nazi seizure of power and, after
1945, wished to build an antifascist, socialist Germany. Most such
Jews were not religious or active in the official
Jewish community. They included writers such as Anna Seghers, Stefan
Heym, Stephan Hermlin, Jurek Becker,
Stasi Colonel General Markus
Wolf, singer Lin Jaldati, composer Hanns Eisler, and politician Gregor
Gysi. Many East German
Jews emigrated to
Israel in the 1970s.
Jews in the reunited
Antisemitism in 21st century Germany
Historical German Jewish
The end of the
Cold War contributed to a growth of the Jewish
community of Germany. An important step for the renaissance of Jewish
Germany occurred in 1990 when
Helmut Kohl convened with Heinz
Galinski, to allow Jewish people from the former
Soviet Union to
emigrate to Germany, which led to a large Jewish
Germany is home to a nominal Jewish population
of more than 200,000 (although this number reflects non-Jewish spouses
or children who also immigrated under the Quota Refugee Law); 104,024
are officially registered with Jewish religious
communities. The size of the Jewish community in
estimated at 120,000 people, or 60% of Germany's total Jewish
population. Today, between 80 and 90 percent of the Jews
Germany are Russian speaking immigrants from the former Soviet
Israelis also move to Germany,
particularly Berlin, for its relaxed atmosphere and low cost of
living. Olim L'Berlin, a Facebook snowclone asking
emigrate to Berlin, gained notoriety in 2014. Some
eventually return to
Israel after a period of residence in
Germany. There are also a handful of Jewish families from
Muslim countries, including Iran, Turkey, Morocco, and Afghanistan.
Germany has the third-largest Jewish population in Western Europe
after France (600,000) and Britain (300,000) and the
fastest-growing Jewish population in
Europe in recent years. The
influx of immigrants, many of them seeking renewed contact with their
Ashkenazi heritage, has led to a renaissance of Jewish life in
Germany. In 1996, Chabad-Lubavitch of
Berlin opened a center. In 2003,
Berlin ordained 10 rabbis, the first rabbis to be
Germany since World War II. In 2002 a Reform
Abraham Geiger College, was established in
Potsdam. In 2006, the college announced that it would be ordaining
three new rabbis, the first Reform rabbis to be ordained in Germany
Partly owing to the deep similarities between
Jewish studies have become a popular
academic study, and many German universities have departments or
institutes of Jewish studies, culture, or history. Active Jewish
religious communities have sprung up across Germany, including in many
cities where the previous communities were no longer extant or were
moribund. Several cities in
Germany have Jewish day schools, kosher
facilities, and other Jewish institutions beyond synagogues.
Additionally, many of the Russian
Jews were alienated from their
Jewish heritage and unfamiliar or uncomfortable with religion.
Judaism (which originated in Germany), has
re-emerged in Germany, led by the Union of Progressive
Germany, even though the Central Council of
Germany and most
local Jewish communities officially adhere to Orthodoxy.
Public menorah in Karlsruhe
On January 27, 2003, then German Chancellor
Gerhard Schröder signed
the first-ever agreement on a federal level with the Central Council,
Judaism was granted the same elevated, semi-established legal
Germany as the
Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical
Church in Germany, at least since the Basic Law for the Federal
Germany of 1949.
The Central Council of
Germany is the nationally sanctioned
organization to manage the German-Jewish community.
Germany it is a criminal act to deny the
Holocaust or that six
Jews were murdered in the
Holocaust (§ 130 StGB);
violations can be punished with up to five years of
prison. In 2007, the Interior Minister of Germany,
Wolfgang Schäuble, pointed out the official policy of Germany: "We
will not tolerate any form of extremism, xenophobia or
anti-Semitism." Although the number of right-wing groups
and organisations grew from 141 (2001) to 182
(2006), especially in the formerly communist East
Germany, Germany's measures
against right-wing groups and antisemitism are effective: according to
the annual reports of the Federal Office for the Protection of the
Constitution the overall number of far-right extremists in
dropped in recent years from 49,700 (2001), 45,000
(2002), 41,500 (2003), 40,700
(2004), 39,000 (2005), to 38,600 in
Germany provided several million euros to fund
"nationwide programs aimed at fighting far-right extremism, including
teams of traveling consultants, and victims' groups".
Despite these facts, Israeli Ambassador Shimon Stein warned in October
Germany feel increasingly unsafe, stating that they
"are not able to live a normal Jewish life" and that heavy security
surrounds most synagogues or Jewish community centers.
Rabbi at the
Chabad Lubavitch in Frankfurt, does not
agree with the Israeli Ambassador and states in an interview with Der
Spiegel in September 2007 that the German public does not support
far-right groups; instead, he has personally experienced the support
of Germans, and as a Jew and rabbi he "feels welcome in his (hometown)
Frankfurt, he is not afraid, the city is not a
A flagship moment for the burgeoning Jewish community in modern
Germany occurred on November 9, 2006 (the 68th anniversary of
Kristallnacht), when the newly constructed Ohel Jakob synagogue was
dedicated in Munich, Germany. This is
particularly crucial given the fact that
Munich was once at the
ideological heart of Nazi Germany.
Jewish life in the capital
Berlin is prospering, the Jewish community
is growing, the Centrum Judaicum and several synagogues—including
the largest in Germany—have been renovated and opened,
and Berlin's annual week of
Jewish culture and the Jewish Cultural
Festival in Berlin, held for the 21st time, featuring concerts,
exhibitions, public readings and discussions
can only partially explain why
Rabbi Yitzhak Ehrenberg of the orthodox
Jewish community in
Berlin states: "Orthodox Jewish life is alive in
Berlin again. [...]
Germany is the only European country with a
growing Jewish community."
In spite of Germany's measures against right-wing groups and
antisemites, a number of incidents have occurred in recent years.
On August 29, 2012 in Berlin, a rabbi in visible Jewish garb was
physically attacked by a group of Arabic youths, causing a head wound
that required hospitalization. The rabbi was walking with his
six-year-old daughter in downtown
Berlin when the group asked if he
was a Jew, and then proceeded to assault him. They also threatened to
kill the rabbi's young daughter.
On November 9, 2012, the 74th
Kristallnacht anniversary, neo-Nazis in
Greifswald vandalized the city's
On June 2, 2013, a rabbi was physically assaulted by a group of six to
eight Arabic looking youths in a shopping mall in
Over the last few years,
Germany has witnessed a sizable migration of
young, educated Israeli
Jews seeking academic and employment
Berlin being their favorite
Association of German National Jews
HaGalil Online – an online magazine of
Jews in German-speaking
History of the
Jews in Cologne
History of the
Jews in Hamburg
History of the
Jews in Munich
History of the
Jews in Poland
Jewish Agency for Israel
List of German Jews
Peter Stevens (RAF officer)
^ This figure represents the "core Jewish population" (2014) including
temporary immigrants and those non affiliated with official Jewish
institutions. By adding the non-Jewish relatives of immigrants, the
"enlarged" Jewish population reaches almost 250,000 individuals. See
DellaPergola 2014, pp. 61-3 and table 11.
^ "World Jewish Population, 2013". Jewish Virtual
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