The Old Community (1295–1573)
Jews are first mentioned in a letter from the Berlin local council of Oct. 28, 1295, forbidding wool merchants to supply Jews with wool yarn. Suzerainty over the Jews belonged
From 1354, Jews again settled in Berlin. In 1446 they were arrested with the rest of the Jews in *Brandenburg, and expelled from the electorate after their property had been confiscated. A year later Jews again began to return, and between 1454 and 1475 there were 23 recorded instances of Jews establishing residence in Berlin in the oldest register of inhabitants. A few wealthy Jews were admitted into Brandenburg in 1509. In 1510 the Jews were accused of desecrating the *Host and stealing sacred vessels from a church in a village near Berlin. One hundred and eleven Jews were arrested and subjected to examination, and 51 were sentenced to death; of these 38 were burned at the stake in the new market square together with the real culprit, a Christian, on July 10, 1510. Subsequently, the Jews were expelled from the entire electorate of Brandenburg. All the accused were proved completely innocent at the Diet of Frankfurt in 1539 through the efforts of *Joseph (Joselmann) b. Gershom of Rosheim and *Philipp Melanchthon. The elector Joachim II (1535–71) permitted the Jews to return and settle in the towns in Brandenburg, and Jews were permitted to reside in Berlin in 1543 despite the opposition of the townspeople. In 1571, when the Jews were again expelled from Brandenburg, the Jews of Berlin were expelled "for ever." For the next 100 years, a few individual Jews appeared there at widely scattered intervals. About 1663, the Court Jew Israel Aaron, who was supplier to the army and the electoral court, was permitted to settle in Berlin.
Beginnings of the Modern Community (to 1812)
After the expulsion of the Jews from *Vienna in 1670, the elector issued an edict on May 21, 1671, admitting 50 wealthy Jewish families from Austria into the mark of Brandenburg and the duchy of Crossen (Krosno) for 20 years. They paid a variety of taxes for the protection afforded them but were not permitted to erect a synagogue. The first writ of privileges was issued to Abraham Riess (Abraham b. Model Segal) and Benedict Veit (Baruch b. Menahem Rositz), on Sept. 10, 1671, the date considered to mark the foundation of the new Berlin community. Notwithstanding the opposition of the Christians (and also of Israel Aaron who feared competition) to any increase in the number of Jewish residents in Berlin, the community grew rapidly, and in the course of time the authorities granted letters of protection to a considerable number of Jews. In addition, many unvergleitete Jews (i.e., without residence permits) infiltrated into Brandenburg. The first population census of 1700 showed that there were living in Berlin at that time 70 Jewish vergleitete families with residence permits, 47 families without writs of protection, and a few peddlers and beggars (about 1,000 persons). The refugees from Austria now became a minority, and quarrels and clashes broke out within the community (see below). The Jews of Berlin engaged mainly in commerce. The guilds and merchants were bitterly opposed to them and they were accused of dealing in stolen goods. The Christians demanded the expulsion of the foreign Jews or restriction of their economic activity to dealing in secondhand goods and pawnbroking, not to be conducted in open shops. The government responded only partly to such demands, being interested in the income from the Berlin Jews. It imposed restrictions upon the increase of the Jewish population in the city and issued decrees increasing their taxes, making the community collectively responsible for the payment of protection money (1700), for prohibiting Jews from maintaining open shops, from dealing in stolen goods (1684), and from engaging in retail trade in certain commodities except at fairs (1690). Nevertheless, the number of Jewish stores grew to such an extent that there was at least one in every street. The Jews were subsequently ordered to close down every store opened after 1690, and all other Jews were forbidden to engage in anything but dealing in old clothes and pawnbroking. They could be exempted from these restrictions on payment of 5,000 thalers.
Elector Frederick III, who became King Frederick I of Prussia in 1701, began a systematic exploitation of the Jews by means of various taxes. The protection tax was doubled in 1688; a tax was levied for the mobilization and arming of an infantry regiment; 10,000 ducats were exacted for various misdemeanors; 1,100 ducats for children recognized as vergleitete; 100 thalers annually toward the royal reception in Berlin; 200–300 thalers annually in birth and marriage taxes; and other irregular imposts. Frederick William I (1713–40) limited (in a charter granted to the Jews on May 20, 1714) the number of tolerated Jews to 120 householders, but permitted in certain cases the extension of letters of protection to include the second and third child. The Jews of Berlin were permitted to engage in commerce almost without restriction, and in handicrafts provided that the rights of the guilds were not thereby infringed. By a charter granted in 1730, the number of tolerated Jews was reduced to 100 householders. Only the two oldest sons of the family were allowed to reside in Berlin – the first, if he possessed 1,000 thalers in ready money, on payment of 50 thalers, and the second if he owned and paid double these amounts. Vergleitete Jews might own stores, but were forbidden to trade in drugs and spices (except for tobacco
The Jews in Berlin in the 18th century primarily engaged as commercial bankers and traders in precious metals and stones. Some served as *court Jews. Members of the *Gomperz family were among the wealthiest in Berlin. In the course of time, all trade in money in Berlin was concentrated in Jewish hands. One of the pioneers of Prussian industry was Levi Ilf, who established a ribbon factory in Charlottenburg in 1718. At the same time the royal policy continued of restricting the Jewish population of Berlin, and even decreasing it as far as possible. When in 1737 it became evident that the number of Jewish families in Berlin had risen to 234, a decree was issued limiting the quota to 120 families (953 persons) with an additional 48 families of "communal officers" (243 persons). The remainder (584) were ordered to leave, and 387 did in fact leave. However in 1743 Berlin had a Jewish population of 333 families (1,945 persons).
*Frederick the Great (1740–86) denied residence rights in Berlin to second and third children of Jewish families and wished to limit the total number of protected Jews to 150. However, the revised Generalprivilegium and the royal edict of April 17, 1750, which remained in force until 1812, granted residence rights to 203 "ordinary" families, whose eldest children could inherit that right, and to 63 "extraordinary" families, who might possess it only for the duration of their own lifetime. A specified number of "public servants" was also to be tolerated. However, during his reign, the economic, cultural, and social position of the Jews in Berlin improved. During the Seven Years' War, many Jews became wealthy as purveyors to the army and the mint and the rights enjoyed by the Christian bankers were granted to a number of Jews. In 1763, the Jews in Berlin were granted permission to acquire 70 houses in place of 40. While their role in the retail trade decreased in importance because of the many restrictions imposed, the number of Jewish manufacturers, bankers, and brokers increased. On May 2, 1791, the entire *Itzig family received full civic rights, becoming the first German Jews to whom they were granted. At the same time, the king compelled the Jews to supply a specified quantity of silver annually to the mint at a price below the current one (1763), to pay large sums for new writs of protection (1764), and, in return for various privileges and licenses, to purchase porcelain ware to the value of 300–500 thalers from the royal porcelain factory and sell it abroad.
As a concomitant of economic prosperity, there appeared the first signs of cultural adaptation. Under the influence of Moses *Mendelssohn, several reforms were introduced in the Berlin community, especially in the sphere of education. In 1778 a school, *Juedische Freischule (Ḥinnukh Ne'arim), was founded, which was conducted along modern comprehensive principles and methods. Mendelssohn and David *Friedlaender composed the first German reader for children. The dissemination of general (non-Jewish) knowledge was also one of the aims of the Ḥevrat Doreshei Leshon Ever ("Association of Friends of the Hebrew Language"), founded in 1783, whose organ Ha-Me'assef (see *Me'assefim) began to appear in Berlin in 1788. Mendelssohn's home became a gathering place for scholars, and Berlin became the fount of the Enlightenment movement (*Haskalah) and of the trend toward *assimilation. The salons of Henrietta *Herz, Rachel *Varnhagen, and Dorothea *Schlegel served as rendezvous for both Jews and Christians of the social elite of Berlin. However, progress toward legally recognized civil equality was slow. After the new Exchange building was erected in Berlin in 1805, a joint "corporation" of Christians and Jews was established in which the latter were in the majority and had equal rights. In 1803–04, during the literary controversy over the Jewish question, the government took no action whatever on behalf of the Jews, but after the Prussian defeat by Napoleon the Municipal Act of Nov. 19, 1809, facilitated their attainment of citizen status. Solomon *Veit was elected to the Berlin municipal council and David Friedlaender was appointed a city councilor. The edict of March 11, 1812, finally bestowed Prussian citizenship upon the Jews; all restrictions on their residence rights in the state, as well as the special taxes they had to pay, were now abolished.
Internal Life (17th–18th Centuries)
The fierce controversies that had broken out in the Jewish community during the communal elections in 1689 resulted in governmental intervention in the administrative affairs of the community. Thus the decree of January 24 and the statute of Dec. 7, 1700, included government-approved regulations for the Jewish community. The communal leaders (parnasim), elected for three years, were empowered to impose fines (two-thirds of which went to the state treasury and one-third to the communal charity fund) and to excommunicate members with the consent of the local rabbi and government. The "chief parnas" acted as mediator between the Jews and the state. In 1717, complete anarchy in the conduct of communal affairs became evident; the parnasim were deposed and a fine was imposed on the community amounting to 10,000 thalers, later reduced to 6,500. In 1722 and in 1723 new statutes were promulgated regulating the organizational structure of the community. Apart from the chief parnasim, who were appointed by the king and functioned under the supervision of a Jewish commission, a communal committee of three, four, or five parnasim was set up which would coopt to itself two optimates (tovim) and two alternates (ikkurim) for handling particularly important matters. To decide on matters of extreme importance larger committees were appointed
From the Edict of Equality to the Accession of the Nazis
The political history of the Jews of Berlin after 1812 becomes increasingly merged with that of the Jews of *Prussia and *Germany as a whole. In the 1848 Revolution the Jews played an active role as fighters on the barricades and members of the civic guard, as orators and journalists, and the like. Despite the edict of 1812 Jews continued to be hampered by a number of restrictions, and formal civic equality was not attained until July 1860. Subsequently, Jews began to enter Berlin's political and social life in increasing numbers, and the Berlin municipality was for a long time a stronghold of liberalism and tolerance. About one-fifth of Berlin's newspapers were owned by Jews. The Berliner Tageblatt and the Vossische Zeitung, whose publishers and editors were Jewish, were read abroad with particular attention, although it was known that they did not express the opinions of circles close to the government. Berlin Jews played a prominent part in literature, the theater, music, and art. Their successes aroused fierce reaction among the more conservative elements and Berlin became a center of antisemitism. The "Berlin Movement" founded by Adolf *Stoecker incited the masses against the Jews by alleging that they were the standard-bearers of capitalism and controlled the press (see *Antisemitic Political Parties and Organizations).
The Jewish population of Berlin numbered 3,292 in 1812; 11,840 in 1852; 108,044 in 1890; and 172,672 in 1925. Thus, within a century it had increased more than fiftyfold. The Jews comprised about 2% of the total population in 1840, 5.02% in 1890, and 4.29% in 1925. The Jews in Berlin comprised 1.4% of German Jewry in 1811–28, 7.03% in 1871, and 30.6% in 1925. Despite the increasing instances of intermarriage, renunciation of Judaism, and conversion to Christianity, and the decline in the Jewish birthrate, the Jewish population of Berlin continued to grow through the arrival of Jews from provincial centers, especially from the province of Posen (Poznan) and from Eastern Europe. As Berlin grew in importance as a commercial and industrial center, Jews played an increasingly important role in the city's economic life, especially as bankers (*Mendelssohn, *Bleichroeder, and others), owners of department stores (*Wertheim, *Tietz, Jandorf), and in the grain and metal trades, the textile and clothing industries, building construction, the manufacture of railway engines and cars, the brewing of beer, and other branches of the economy. Ludwig *Loewe headed a large armaments factory in Berlin. The General Electric Company (AEG) was founded by the Jewish engineer Emil *Rathenau, and both his son Walter *Rathenau and Felix Deutsch were active in it. In 1861 53.17% of the Jews in Berlin engaged in commerce, and 17.3% in industry and the manual trades; by 1910 the percentage of those occupied in commerce had decreased to 41.61%, while 35.16% earned their livelihood in industry and the manual trades.
Internal Life of the Berlin Community (1812–1933)
Following the partitions of Poland-Lithuania, 1772–95, the Berlin community became increasingly influenced by the steady stream of Eastern European Jews (Ostjuden) who first arrived from the Posen district. This influx made up for the losses to the Jewish communities through assimilation and apostasy. Later there was growing immigration from the *Pale of Settlement. From the second half of the 19th century the increasing colony of Russian, mainly Jewish, students exerted a powerful cultural influence in Berlin. The organizational structure of the Jewish community was undermined after the emancipation of the Jews in 1812. The old regulations were abolished by the 1812 edict and no new regulations were instituted. For some time the community was not allowed to collect dues and faced disintegration. A statute issued in July 1837 permitted the renewal of normal communal life, and from then on the Berlin community was administered by a committee of seven members and three alternates and a council of 21 members and ten alternates. The first elections to the council took place in February 1854, and the community's first constitution was ratified in August 1860. During this period, the community was thrown into a ferment as a result of the aspiration of David Friedlaender and others for extreme liturgical reforms. The *Reform program was temporarily restrained by a decree of Dec. 9, 1823, which laid down that all divine worship was to take place in the local synagogue and according to accepted custom without any innovations in the language, ritual, prayers, and liturgy.
In 1819, the *Verein fuer Kultur und Wissenschaft des Judentums ("Society for Jewish Culture and Learning"), was founded in Berlin by Leopold *Zunz, I.M. *Jost, and Eduard *Gans, with Heinrich *Heine among its members (see *Germany). In the meanwhile, far-reaching changes had been introduced in education. The Ḥinnukh Ne'arim school was closed at the end of 1825 for lack of funds, and was replaced in 1826 by a new school for boys, founded by the community; Zunz was principal of this school until 1830. In 1835 the community founded a school for girls. There were also several Jewish private schools in Berlin, such as that of H.M. Bock (founded in 1807), whose principals were Jost (1816–35) and Sigismund *Stern (1835–45). R. Meir b. Simḥah Weyl, who charted a conservative course in education, opened a teachers' seminary in 1825. From 1840 to 1850 a teachers' seminary functioned under the direction of Zunz. A teachers' training institute was established in 1859 under the rectorship of Aaron *Horowitz.
In 1844 Michael Jehiel *Sachs was invited to be the third dayyan and preacher of the community. Although a Conservative, he was not opposed to moderate reform. In the wake of the foundation of the second Kulturverein ("cultural association"; 1840), Aaron *Bernstein founded the Reform Society in 1845, and later the Reform Congregation, which introduced far-flung liturgical reforms, especially during the rabbinate of Samuel *Holdheim (1847–60). At first, divine worship was held both on Saturdays and Sundays and later only on Sundays. The Reform Congregation was unsuccessful in its attempt to secede from the official community, but the latter was obliged to give very substantial financial support to the Reform Congregation since many of its members were among the largest taxpayers. The Berlin community was again violently shaken when many of its members pressed for the introduction of an organ and modification of the liturgy in the New Synagogue. The appointment of Abraham *Geiger as rabbi of the Berlin community (officiated 1870–74) met with strong opposition from Orthodox circles, and in 1869 Azriel (Israel) *Hildesheimer and his adherents left the main community and established the Adass Yisroel congregation, which received official recognition in 1885. Abraham Geiger had stipulated as a condition of his appointment that an institute for Jewish research be established in Berlin, and in 1872 the *Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums was opened there. A year later, Hildesheimer opened a rabbinical seminary for Orthodox Judaism (*Rabbinerseminar fuer das orthodoxe Judentum). Between 1880 and 1930, eight large synagogues were erected by the Berlin community, among them that in the Fasanenstrasse which was one of the most magnificent synagogues in the world. In all, the community owned 16 synagogues, seven of them Orthodox and the remainder Liberal and Reformist. Thirty rabbis served in Berlin after Abraham Geiger (12 Orthodox and the remainder liberal). In addition, most religious groups which were supported by the community had their own rabbis.
Berlin was the center of the national German-Jewish organizations, such as the *Deutsch-Israelitischer Gemeindebund (founded in 1869), Verband der deutschen Juden (1904), the *B'nai *B'rith (1883), *Central-Verein deutscher Staatsbuerger juedischen Glaubens (1893), *Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden (1901), Zentralwohlfartsstelle der deutschen Juden (1917), and others. Likewise, Jewish newspapers and periodicals were published in Berlin, including the communal organ, whose circulation reached 60,000 copies. The Berlin communal institutions and their activities in every field served as a model for Jewish communities throughout the world. The annual communal budget in the 1930s was about 10,000,000 marks (as against 5,000,000 marks in 1914). About 70,000 Jews in Berlin paid dues to the community.
For about 80 years the Liberals were predominant in the Berlin community. But Liberals and Orthodox worked together in full harmony in the central organizations in which, at least for a certain period, the Zionists also participated. The *Ḥibbat Zion movement met with but a lukewarm reception in Berlin, especially among the Orthodox, and the opposition to political Zionism was particularly keen. The Berlin rabbi S. *Maybaum was among the leaders of the "*Protest Rabbis," and the Central-Verein and the *Vereinigung fuer das liberale Judentum launched a concerted effort against the Zionistische Vereinigung fuer Deutschland and its organ, the *Juedische Rundschau. When the procedure for communal elections was changed after World War I, four representatives of the *Juedische Volkspartei (a coalition of Zionists, *Mizrachi, and the Verband der ostjuedischen Organizationen) and one of the *Po'alei Zion were elected in 1920 to the representative council (Repraesentantenversammlung), which consisted of 21 members; two Zionists sat on the communal committee (Gemeindevorstand). In the 1926 election, a coalition of the Juedische Volkspartei, the Conservatives, and the Mittelpartei won a majority. For three years, the Zionist Georg Kareski headed the communal committee. However, in the elections of November 1930, 24 Liberals were elected to the representative council, 14 from the Juedische Volkspartei, and three from among the small parties; seven Liberals, three Zionists, and one Conservative sat on the communal committee. Max Naumann and his faction were the spearhead of the extremist anti-Zionist faction which rejected all cooperation with non-German Jews and demanded that the Zionists be deprived of their German citizenship and permitted to reside in Germany only as aliens. In 1922, at the initiative of the Berlin community, the Preussischer Landesverband juedischer Gemeinden was founded, comprising 655 communities, not including the Orthodox communities which formed their own association. A great boon to the Berlin community was the government support which was granted for the first time during the inflation of late 1923, without which it could not have survived. In later years, the government subsidy to the community was insufficient.
After the murders of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa *Luxemburg in January 1919, antisemitic propaganda in Berlin increased. The Kapp Putsch (March 1920) had blatant anti-Jewish undertones. Walter Rathenau, the German foreign minister, was assassinated by antisemitic nationalists on June 24, 1922. On Nov. 5, 1923, antisemites attacked the Jews living in Grenadierstrasse and Dragonerstrasse, which were centers of Jewish residence. In 1926, after the appointment of Joseph *Goebbels as Gauleiter in Berlin, anti-Jewish rabble-rousing increased. On the eve of the Jewish New Year (Sept. 12, 1931), Jews returning from synagogue in Kurfuerstendam were assaulted by gangs of Nazis, organized by Count Wolff Heinrich von Halldorf (later chief of police in the Third Reich).
J. Meisl (ed.), Pinkas Kehillat Berlin 1723–1854 – Protokollbuch der juedischen Gemeinde Berlin (Heb. and Ger., 1962); idem, in: Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 1 (1946), 80–140; H.G. Sellenthin, Geschichte der Juden in Berlin (1959); Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 68–73; E.L. Landshuth, Toledot Anshei Shem (1884); P. von Gebhardt (ed.), Das aelteste Buergerbuch 1453–1700 (1927); L. Geiger, Geschichte der Juden in Berlin (1871); D. Kaufmann, Die letzte Vertreibung der Juden aus Wien (1889), 206–21; L. Davidsohn, Beitraege zur Sozialund Wirtschaftsgeschichte der Berliner Juden vor der Emanzipation (1920); M. Stern, Beitraege zur Geschichte der juedischen Gemeinde zu Berlin, 6 vols. (1926–34); Gemeindeblatt der juedischen Gemeinde zu Berlin (1911–38); Juedisches Jahrbuch fuer Gross-Berlin (1926–28) and Juedisches Jahrbuch (1929–33); D. Friedlaender, Akten-Stuecke, die Reform der juedischen Kolonien in den Preussischen Staaten betreffend (1793); I. Freund, Die Emanzipation der Juden in Preussen, 2 vols. (1912); S. Stern, Der preussische Staat und die Juden, 2 vols. (1925, repr. 1962); W. Heise, Die Juden in der Mark Brandenburg bis zum Jahre 1571 (1932); H. Rachel, Das Berliner Wirtschaftsleben im Zeitalter des Fruehkapitalismus (1931); H. Rachel et al., Berliner Gross-kaufleute und Kapitalisten, 3 vols. (1934–39); J. Jacobsohn (ed.), Die Judenbuergerbuecher der Stadt Berlin, 1809–1851 (1962); M. Sinasohn (ed.), Adas Jisroel, Berlin (1966); H. Seeliger, in: YLBI, 3 (1958), 159–68; I. Eisenstein-Barzilay, in: PAAJR, 25 (1956), 1–37; 29 (1960–61), 17–54; idem, in: Essays on Jewish Life and Thought (1959), 183–97; Barzilay, in: PAAJR, 29 (1960–61), 17–54; idem, in: JSOS, 21 (1959), 165–92; E. Hurwicz, in: YLBI, 12 (1967), 85–102. HOLOCAUST PERIOD: P. Littauer, My Experiences During the Persecution of the Jews in Berlin and Brussels, 1939–44 (1945); Irgun Olej Merkas Europa, Die letzten Tage des deutschen, Judentums (1943); Ball-Kaduri, in: Yad Vashem Studies, 3 (1959), 261–81; 5 (1963), 271–316; H. Gaertner, in: YLBI, 1 (1956), 123–42; F. Friedlaender, ibid., 3 (1958), 187–201; S. Shiratzki, ibid., 5 (1960), 299–307. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Nachtrichtenblatt der juedischen Gemeinde von Gross-Berlin D.D.R. (1961); A. Brass, Aufbau (March 12, 1971); idem, Geschehnisse auf dem Friedhof Berlin-Weissensee in den Jahren 1936–45; B. Scheiger, in: S. Jersch-Wenzel (ed.), Von Zuwanderern zu Einheimischen (1990), 153–488; W. Gruner, Judenverfolgung in Berlin (1992); B. Meyer, in: H. Simon (ed.), Juden in Berlin 1938–1945 (2000); A. Nachama (ed.), Juden in Berlin (2001). HEBREW PRINTING: H.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Arim Augsburg… (1935), 87ff.; R.N. Rabinowitz, Ma'amar al Hadpasat ha-Talmud (1952), 108f., 152f.; Steinschneider, in: ZGJD, 1 (1887), 377ff.; 2 (1888), 200ff.; 3 (1889), 84ff., 262ff.; A.M. Habermann, Ha-Sefer ha-Ivri be-Hitpatteḥuto (1968), index.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.