Jewish History in Hamburg (part I)


Pottery that belonged to Sephardic Jews

Like in Amsterdam, the first Jews to settle in Hamburg were Portuguese and Spanish conversos in the 1580s. They were merchants and at first were welcome because of their commercial connections in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, where other conversos had settled.

When it became clear that they were Jews who practised their religion, some of the citizens demanded their expulsion, but the city council, pointing to the economic benefits increasing from their presence, opposed the measure. Some of these settlers took part in the founding of the Bank of Hamburg in 1619.


Sephardic tombstones

In 1611, the Jews of Hamburg acquired a plot of land in Altona (jst outside the city bounds then) to be used as burial grounds. This cemetery was closed in 1869 along with all the cemeteries in the inner city of Hamburg. Because of its hstorical significance this burial place was officially classified in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1960 and is open to visitors three afternoons a week.


Ashkenazic tombstones

Sephardic Jews as well as Ashkenazim are buried there. The Sephardic tombs are easily identified as the tombstones are lying flat and the epitaphs are in Hebrew and Portuguese or Hebrew and Spanish. Ashkenazic tombstones on the other hand stand erect and the epitaphs are in Hebrew only.

14 thoughts on “Jewish History in Hamburg (part I)

  1. Thank you – I look forward to reading more.

    “the city council, pointing to the economic benefits increasing from their presence, opposed the measure” – the good ole days? Or “this won’t last”?

    Interesting, the different styles of tombs.

    • For about two centuries there was a to and fro movement between acceptance and rejection. So the Jewish community had several settlements, one of them under the jurisdiction of the Danish king, in case they needed to relocate. The 19th century was better.

      Envoyé de mon iPhone

  2. Thank you for the historical information and the photographs.

    I find the difference in the tombstones to be interesting.

  3. Very interesting! Thank you for sharing.

    Over Tisha B’Av, I reread “The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln.” She was born in Hamburg in 1646 and lived there as a child and again after her marriage.

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