Tour 5: Jewish-Christians in Hamburg

Jerusalem in Hamburg – the Jewish-Christian movement in the 20th century

The Irish-Presbyterian Church of Northern Ireland sent Pastor James Craig to Hamburg in 1845 to support Jewish emigrants in their material needs and to introduce them to the Jewish Gospels. Before the turn of the 20th century the Hungarian Jew Arnold Frank was responsible for the further development of the Jerusalem congregation in Hamburg. When the church was erected, the foundation stone was layed April 7, 1911 and the building was consecrated and opened on Easter 1912, many Jews recognized, that from the inside the architecture of the building resembled a synagogue. They very much felt at home in this ‘Jewish’ environment. Before WWII a vibrant international messianic movement existed here. The church hosted the 2. International Jewish-Christian conference in 1928. Messianic Jews from all over Europe came here to participate. The speakers had to be translated into more than 25 languages. A focus of the conference was to counter the rising antisemitism in Germany.

During the persecution and disenfranchisement of Jews in Germany by the National-Socialist government from 1933 onwards – German Jews were banned from public offices and lost their jobs as judges or state attorneys – the Jewish pastor Dr. Arnold Frank helped members of the Jerusalem congregation and the Jewish communities of the neighbourhood to escape to England and herewith saved many lives. From 1936 on the Gestapo (German Secret Police) severely oppressed the members of the congregation and administration of the Jerusalem church. In 1938 Arnold Frank, almost 80 years-old still Holding a British passport, and his colleague Ernst Moser were arrested twice and threatened to death by the Hamburg police while in custody. Through diplomatic intervention of the British Consular in Hamburg and foremost Anthony Eden, then the British foreign minister, Ernst Moser and Arnold Frank were set free. Frank fled with his daughter via Denmark to Great Britain. With a heavy heart he had to leave behind the people he cared for at the Jerusalem congregation as well as all of his personal belongings. The church was shut down in 1939 by the municipality of the city of Hamburg. The hospital, which was part of the Jerusalem complex, was allowed to keep its gates open but was forced to change its name from Jerusalemkrankenhaus (Jerusalem Hospital) into ‘Krankenhaus am Moorkamp’! The Jewish doctors had been dismissed already.

Jerusalem Church Hamburg (then Irish-Presbyterian) during air raid 1942
© Annemarie Kohl

After WWII in 1948 Pastor Anderson from Ireland helped Dr. Arnold Frank, who lived in also Ireland, to rebuild the destroyed church and both, as well as Pastor Frey from Switzerland, tried to revive the community life of the Jerusalem church. Many members of the congregation had been – due to the NS racist ideology – deported and killed because they were Jews – only a few survived. During the bombing of Hamburg in 1942 by air squadrons of the allied forces of the British and Americans the church building had been severely hit and almost burnt down, only the walls remained intact. The German firebrigade was instructed not to extinguish the fire because it was considered a ‘Church of Jews’ – a Jewish Church! From 1951 to 1953 the edifice was rebuilt in a slightly different way. According to a contract between the Irish-Presbyterian Church of Northern Ireland and the Evangelische Kirche Nordelbien, the Jerusalem-Church and the surrounding estate was auctioned off to the Evangelische Kirche Hamburg (then Nordelbien), which today is known as Nordkirche.

Jerusalem Hospital and Jerusalem Church today

We do offer guided tours on the interesting historical movement of Jewish-Christians in Hamburg!