Germany’s great Port on the River Elbe never had a large Jewish community, but the city has many unique grace notes in Jewish history. For instance, Hamburg was the only German city whose Jewish community was founded by Sephardim, refugees from the Spanish Inquisition. Today, it is Germany’s most mixed-heritage Jewish community.
Hamburg is the only major German city that, since 1933, had a Jewish mayor, and Hamburg’s Israelitisches Krankenhaus is the only hospital in Germany run under Jewish auspices.
It was in Hamburg that Reform Judaism was born. The congregation’s Bauhausstyle synagogue, at Oberstrasse, was erected in 1931 and was the only Hamburg synagogue to survive the Nazis.
If Ellis Island in New York is where most immigrants’ journeys ended, they began in the red-brick emigration halls of the Hamburg-Amerika line that in 2007 were transformed into The Ballinstadt Immigration Museum Hamburg, now one of the city’s most visited and fascinating sites.
The Hamburg Museum has a permanent exhibition “Jews in Hamburg”. At Joseph-Carlebach Platz, named for the last pre-war rabbi in Hamburg, is the Bornplatz Synagogue Monument, memorializing the synagogue damaged on Kristallnacht and later destroyed.
The history of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp is explored in an exhibit, photo-archive and library in the camp’s Documentation Center. One of the most moving Holocaust and anti-war memorials in all of Germany is to be found in the South Hamburg suburb of Harburg. The Harburg Monument Against Fascism was commissioned in 1979 by the Hamburg-Harburg Council to create a “monument against war, violence, fascism – for peace and human rights.”
The Schachar organization oversees a variety of exhibits, forums and the repertoire of The Jewish Theater of Hamburg.