The Grindel, Past and Present
Hamburg goes by many names: Venice of the North, Gate to the World, Free Hanseatic City. A bustling port town dating back to 808 CE, it is home to Europe’s second-largest harbor, Germany’s oldest stock exchange and more bridges than any other city in the world. It boasts a rich Jewish history commemorated by memorials and in museums across the city, and a flourishing Jewish community today, whose schools, cafes, shops and institutions have been springing up throughout Hamburg at an astonishing pace over the past few years. Simultaneously chic and gritty, calming and exciting, it is a dynamic and multicultural city full of countless historic sites and contemporary points of interest. Whether strolling around the Alster Lake, exploring the harbor fish market or admiring the magnificent New Dammtor Synagogue, visitors are sure to be delighted by this historic North European port.
The history of Jews in Hamburg dates back to the second half of the 16th century, when Sephardic Jews migrated here from Portugal. As bankers and traders, these immigrants were received much more warmly than the “less useful” eastern European Ashkenazi Jews who followed them in the mid-17th century. Though the latter were permitted to stay in the city, they were forced to live in the impoverished neighborhood of Neustadt. A century later, when the social, legal and economic restrictions on Hamburg’s Jews were lifted in 1860, most of the community moved to the blossoming Grindel neighborhood, which has been the center of Hamburg Jewish life ever since.
The Grindel quarter was once one of the most dynamic in Hamburg, but when the Nazis came to power in 1933, the lives of the Jews living there changed drastically. Between 1941 and 1945, around half of Hamburg’s 20,000 Jews were deported to concentration camps throughout Europe, where almost all were murdered. After the war, only a small handful of the survivors returned to the city. Today, however, Grindel is home once again to a thriving Jewish community. Perhaps the most inspiring symbol of this historic return is the newly re-opened Talmud Tora School. Built in 1911, the school was closed by the Nazis in 1942 and ceremonially re-opened in 2007. The building’s combination of traditional exterior and modern interior serves as a poignant – and visually stunning – reminder to look hopefully towards the future while paying respectful homage to the past. A site not to be missed!
Milk & Honey Tours offers both half-day tours through Hamburg and full-day tours that include sites of interest in the surrounding area. Our Grindel tour visits the Monument to the Deported Jews on Moorweiden Street; the remains of the Dammtor Synagogue, Grindel’s first Jewish place of worship; the site of the Bornplatz Synagogue and the Jewish homes on Born Street; the renovated Talmud Torah School; and much, much more. Come discover Jewish life in North Germany and breathe in the fresh sea breezes as you explore the colorful streets of Grindel past and present!
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