The City of Hamburg, Germany

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk



With 1.8 million inhabitants, Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany. Only Berlin is larger. Hamburg is located at the confluence of the Alster and the mighty Elbe River which flows 725 miles from its source in the Giant Mountains of Bohemia to the North Sea. The distance from Hamburg to the mouth of the Elbe is 75 miles. The Elbe is 1.8 miles wide after it passes Hamburg, so that the city has a harbor which rivals London and Rotterdam, because it is inland and yet easily accessible to any ocean going vessel.

As a boy I often rode my bicycle to the Hamburg harbor to see the big American ships, which docked there even in Hitlerís day.

Visitors to Hamburg are impressed not only by that magnificent harbor but also by the monument to the first German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, located on a small hill overlooking the harbor. Hamburg has many monuments to past emperors and great men. It also has a medieval looking city hall which appears to be centuries old and exhibits an architecture hardly seen anywhere else today. The truth is that the city hall is only fifty years old because the original was bombed to trash, as was all of Hamburg during the allied air raids of the 2nd World War.

The Alster river, a small tributary of the Elbe, forms a lake at the center of the city. In the summer time Hamburgers and their visitors travel along that lake in excursion boats and visit the colonnades and arcades along the Alster shores, which make the city a truly beautiful European gem. Hamburg also has a great university located near the center of the city. The university has a large auditorium with a seemingly ancient architecture and a green roof. That too was rebuilt after the bombing raids of 1944-45, which caused such a firestorm in Hamburg that the entire city was reduced to rubble.

Directly next to the library of the University of Hamburg there is a small park. The park is a triangle. On one side is a major thoroughfare called Grindelallee. It is named after an early mayor of the city. On the other two sides there are two small streets allowing only for one way traffic. There are a few benches in that park where citizens can sit in the summertime and read newspapers. Perhaps one or two of the readers might have noticed that the park also holds a sign which tells them that it was from this small park that, in 1942, the Jewish citizens of Hamburg were deported to the death camps of Poland, Hungary and Lithuania. There is an apartment house across the street from that park where the Jews were held overnight before the deportation by bus to the nearby railroad station. Today, the citizens of Hamburg race by that park on the bicycle paths which are part of every German sidewalk. They never see that sign.

Within walking distance of that small park there is a building belonging to the University of Hamburg which houses the School of Library Science and the Department of Computer Sciences. This building was built in 1909 and displays over its three entrance doors the astonishing words, carved into the stone: Talmud Tora Realschule. This was indeed the Jewish Community School for Boys. My father graduated from there when he was 14 years old and I attended there as well, after we Jews were expelled from the public schools. This school too was an assembly point for deportations of Jews to the death camps, including children attending that school. No citizen of Hamburg knows that now nor is that school on the list of sites of interest to visitors of Hamburg. It must be said in favor of the current university administration that there are two plaques located in the entrance hall of the school commemorating the Jewish students and teachers who were murdered between 1933 and 1945. Visitors are also given a booklet describing the history of that school. Until 1996 this was only in German. I translated the booklet into English and now it is also distributed in our language.

Next door to the school there is an empty square. Observant visitors will note that the mosaic in that square follows the outline of the great Hamburg synagogue once located there and dynamited on November 9, 1938. There is also a sign located at that square. It tells the visitor that this is the Joseph Carlebach Square, named after the last Chief Rabbi of Hamburg. Rabbi Carlebach held a doctorate in physics and mathematics from the University of Berlin and was also regarded as one of the leading authorities in Jewish law at that time. In 1942 he was murdered in the Jungfernhof Concentration Camp in Lithuania together with his wife and three of his nine children. One of his children is a rabbi in New York City, another a professor in England and the others succeeded in fleeing to Israel. The Joseph Carlebach Platz is also not on the itinerary of Hamburg sightseers.

There is another former Jewish school in Hamburg. It is today a school for adults and is open only in the evening for those who work all day. It is unlikely that any of those who pass by would know that this was once the Israelitische TŲchterschule or School for the Daughters of Israel. This was the local Jewish girls' school. On the third floor of that school there are several bulletin boards. On those boards are the pictures of a number of little girls who once attended that school. The name of each child is recorded there, together with the legend that each of the girls had been gassed in 1942. I recognized two of my cousins among those pictures when we visited in 1994.

There is also in Hamburg a large high school called the Heinrich Hertz Gymnasium. This school is named after the Jewish physicist Hertz. He discovered that electricity can be transmitted by electromagnetic waves. This led to the development of the radio by Marconi. To this day radio frequencies are called Hz or Khz in his memory.

A visitor to that school will find that on the second floor there is a long corridor. On the wall of that corridor are the pictures of numerous former Jewish students who had once attended that school but who were murdered between 1933 and 1945.

There are other such sights in the great city of Hamburg. These places are not part of a Hamburg Visitors Tour nor does the Chamber of Commerce mention them in its brochures. All German cities have such locations. But the citizens donít know about them or say they donít. Even the new synagogue in Hamburg, built after 1970, is located in an out-of-the way area and is unknown to the local population. That synagogue has a high wall topped by barbed wire. A police car is always in the area lest the synagogue be attacked.

Today, the German Jews are once more under siege, as are all European Jews. Once more Jewish gravestones are overturned and smeared with hate slogans. The Holocaust is denied. Jews cannot walk safely on the streets and the churches rant against the Jews as ever. Europe has become Eurabia, as Moslems roam the streets freely looking for Jewish targets, to the applause of the locals who know nothing about the fate of their erstwhile countrymen. They donít even know where the old monuments are.

Shalom uívracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Man's Ascent to Reason (2003) & the forthcoming Football & American Identity.

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