Jews in Germany past their peak

A number of years all sound good: The number of Jews increased from 1989 from 28.000 to some 130.000, what is less than a quarter of the number of Jews living in Germany in 1933, when Hitler rose to power. Several Jewish Communities all over Germany were reestablished, some of them even occupied Rabbis, the first time for 60 years and … worldwide headlines  announced a kind of Jewish Renewal in Germany. Only some years ago German newspapers relished that the number of Jewish immigrants from Russia to Germany exceeded the one to Israel. But this was just a snap-shot …

 Julius Schoeps, historian and head of the Moses-Mendelssohn Center in Potsdam in view of declining figures of member in Jewish Communities in Berlin as well as Brandenburg suggested to pool them together in order to keep the Jewish Communities “alive”. In Berlin for instance last year there was a decrease of 121 people.  139 arrivals (immigrants, removals and births) contrasted 260 leavings (deaths, removals). The decrease is an underestimated trend for some years. In 2003 the Jewish Community in the German Capital had more than 13.000 members, now at the end of 2008 the figure shrank to mere 10.794 (that is a downturn of  17 % in 5 years). Smaller communities of course are affected by this trend more badly, the more so because there was a trend in recent years that Communities like Berlin advanced there growth by people moving in from surrounding localities.

The situation in Berlin and Brandenburg is representative for the situation of the development in whole Germany. The figure of immigrants decreased to less than one thousand a year – it was at an annual average of 10.000 a couple of years ago. Since a vast majority of the immigrants from former Soviet Union were elderly people, figure of deaths is exceeding nationwide. Especially in smaller communities there are few births, circumcisions or bar mitzvahs.

As few experts predicted the figures of Jewish growth in Germany had reached the point of culmination in 2004/5 and are decreasing since. The high rate of inter-marriages, the increasing leaning towards splitting up into sectarian “liberal” or “reform” communities as well as the current age distribution illustrate that the often acclaimed “normalization” of Jewish life in Germany merely was a kind of flash in the pan. You don’t need to be a prophet to predict that the speed of the diminishment will increase. Maybe as early as 2025 the figures of Jews in Augsburg, Bavaria and Germany again will reach the level of 1990.


uncertain future

uncertain future


11 Responses to Jews in Germany past their peak

  1. Ruven says:

    One of the problems of Judaism always has been its diversity -which of course in ohter respects is a main advantage. But since Jews are used to live most of their times in a diaspora situation, the split or division on different branches is existing-threatening to smaller communities and also causes trouble and disturbance in even greater ones. In general we may regard it as failure of the existing communities not to attracting all Jews in the town or region, but a synagogue of course is no municipal parliament where are debates on all issues or where is time to have a focus on all trouble shooters. Especially the situation in Europe and Germany also decades after the extinction of the Jewish infrastructure is hard to compensate, inasmuch as the majority of the members of the communities virtually are Gentiles from the Halachic point of view. Only a small fractional part of the Jews from the former Sovjetunion will educate their children or grandchildren according to the Jewish tradition, so that it shouldn’t be too difficult to predict the future development. Strange to say, but the only counter movement in the past war era is the immigration of eastern European Atheists who define their Jewishness almost exclusively on the basis of descent. That however is the same argument used by the Nazis at their attempt to wipe out the Jews in Germany. Corresponding to this it is often said that the immigration to Germany is a way to say Hitler has not obtained.

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  3. There’s none so deaf as those who will not hear.

  4. yehuda says:

    The only basis is the official record, since there is no enduring Judaism without Jewish Communities. You may object a single Community of course, but if you avoid all Jewish Communities it makes so sense at all.

  5. My point was precisely that statistical analysis about the Jewish population in Germany based on the groundless assumption that “it is obvious that by definition the number of unregistered Jews obviously can’t be that high” should not be called scientific expertise but rather pure guesswork.

  6. yehuda says:

    Well, all commonly quoted figures refer exclusively to registered members of a Jewish Community and of course there are some Jews in Germany who are not. But on what basis to ballpark any figures? Nobody knows.

    But according to Halacha you need to prove your maternal filiation to be Jewish and the only capable and reliable source and authority to do so is the Rabbinate – as it was practice at least since the days of Ezra, when Kohanim were excluded from priesthood because they lost their ancestral registration. That so far is an unchallenged precedent. If we bring that into account, it is obvious that by definition the number of unregistered Jews obviously can’t be that high – unless no unauthenticated “new” definition of Jewishness without precise criteria is introduced.

    Supposing your nickname “Atheist Jew in Germany” has a kind of self-reflexive meaning I do not get it, what exactly was your problem with Jewish Communities in Germany or Bavaria (beside the fact that also Jewish functionaries are mere functionaries in one way)– since the vast majority of their members are Russian and Atheist as well.

    You would be worse off if you lack Russians language skills … Lacking Jewish tradition however unlikely will be a stumbling block for an Atheist, right?

  7. I read your post with wry amusement. In my personal experience, Jewish communities and Jewish associations in Germany – and specifically in Bavaria – are utterly, completely and supremely unwelcoming.

    The truth is that the Moses-Mendelssohn Center in Potsdam has absolutely no estimate whatsoever of how many Jews who are not members of a community live in Germany.

    So I would be very curious to hear who in Germany has any “expertise” on the question.

  8. Interesting to see that you did not publish my reply.
    Why do you have a reply box then ?

  9. Joshua says:

    So I left just in time … 😉

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