Grosse Hamburger Strasse Cemetery

This is the oldest of Berlin’s Jewish cemeteries and was in use between 1672 and 1827. The first 50 Jewish families entitled to live in Berlin, 100 years after the last expulsion, established the cemetery. These families were the so-called “Schutzjuden" (Jews under the special protection of the head of the state) who had come from Vienna in 1671 and had been allowed to settle in the area known as Spandauer Tor, not far from the cemetery. In all, 2,767 graves were counted at the cemetery’s closing in 1827. Several prominent members of Berlin’s Jewish community, including the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), Veitel Heine Ephraim (1703-1775), the coin- and silver-trader Daniel Itzig (1725-1799) and his son Isaac Daniel Itzig (1750-1806), the physician and philosopher Marcus Herz (1747-1803), Jacob Herz Beer (1769-1825) and the father of operetta composer Giacomo Meyerbeer were buried here.


Berlin’s first Jewish home for the aged was erected in a building just across from the cemetery. The Jewish School for Boys was located in the adjacent property. During the National Socialist period, the Gestapo confiscated both buildings and converted them into internment centres or “Judenlager”. They were veritable prisons – floodlit and with barred windows – holding Jews prior to their deportation. In 1943, the Jewish cemetery was destroyed on orders of the Gestapo. The Nazis desecrated the graves and turned the entire grounds into air raid shelters, the walls of which were reinforced with demolished gravestones. In April 1945, the authorities used the grounds as a mass grave for soldiers and civilians killed during Allied air raids. In the 1970s, East Berlin’s Department of Parks and Gardens removed the remaining Jewish gravestones as well as the wooden crosses marking the graves of air raid victims. Today, a symbolic tombstone in honour of Moses Mendelssohn, as well as a sarcophagus filled with destroyed gravestones, are the only concrete reminders of the cemetery’s history. Approximately 3,000 war victims (only 2,000 are known by name) were buried there alongside approximately 3,000 Jewish dead.

Grosse Hamburger Strasse could easily be called the “Street of Tolerance and of Death”. Jewish sites existed alongside other historic places such as the St. Hedwigs Catholic Hospital and the famous Protestant cemetery of the Sophien Church, where the graves of such prominent Berliners as Karschin, Zelter and Ranke lie. Given the Nazis’ attempts to eradicate all signs of previous Jewish life, it is practically a miracle that the original lettering and sculptural reliefs still adorn the portico of the Jewish School for Boys, reading “Knabenschule der Jüdischen Gemeinde” (Jewish Community School for Boys). Air pollution has left tear-like stains on the face of the figure over the doorway. In 1993, the Jewish community reopened the school as a public middle and high school. The first post-war graduation took place in the summer of 2000.

The predecessor of the boy’s school was the Jewish Free School (Jüdische Freyschule). David Friedländer, Isaac Daniel Itzig and Hartwig Wessely founded it on an initiative of Moses Mendelssohn, in 1778. Daniel Itzig financed the project. The school operated for 48 years. It was originally located on Rosenstrasse 12 and moved to its current site on Grosse Hamburger Strasse in 1863. Johann Hoeniger, the Jewish community’s master architect, designed and erected the building between 1905 and 1906. On March 11, 1942, the National Socialists’ Reich Main Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt – headquarters of the SS) ordered the school’s closure. Its doors were shut on June 30 of the same year, and the Gestapo turned it – together with the neighbouring Jewish home for the aged – into a transit camp for Berlin Jews destined for deportation. More than 55,000 Jews were deported from there to the extermination camps in “the east.” A bust of Moses Mendelssohn that had stood in the school’s front yard, sculpted by Ludwig Marcuse in 1909 and destroyed by SA-members in 1941, was replaced in 1983 by a bas-relief of Moses Mendelssohn by sculptor Gerhard Thieme, thanks to the efforts of the unforgettable feature writer for the former Wochenpost, the Berliner Heinz Knobloch. On the wall with the portrait is a plaque inscribed with a quote from Mendelssohn: “Discover truth, love beauty, seek goodness, do the best one can”  (“Nach Wahrheit forschen, Schönheit lieben, Gutes wollen, das Beste tun”).

On the neighbouring property, long after the cemetery had been closed, the Jewish community opened its home for the aged in 1844. Until its forced closure in 1942, the home remained one of the most desirable residences for the Jewish community’s elderly members.

For those who survived the Holocaust in Berlin, Grosse Hamburger Strasse remained a synonym for deportation and death, until the aforementioned Jewish school was reopened there in 1993. A bombing raid destroyed the home for the aged during the last days of the war, in 1945. A memorial serves as a reminder of the unfathomable events of those years. In 1985, a sculptural group of figures by Will Lammert was installed next to the memorial stone. The sculpture was originally intended for the Ravensbrück camp memorial.

Source: "Jüdische Orte in Berlin", Andreas Nachama/Ulrich Eckhardt. Copyright by Nicolai Verlag

Address & Contact

Friedhof Große Hamburger Straße

Große Hamburger Str. 26
10117 Berlin
Tel.: (0 30) 88 02 8 - 0


Summer: 01.04. – 30.09.

Mon – Thu 7:30 – 17:00

Fri 7:30 - 14:30

Sun 8:00 – 17:00

Winter: 01.10. – 31.03.

Mon – Thu 7:30 – 16:00

Fri 7:30 - 14:30

Sun 8:00 – 16:00

Shabbat (Saturday) and Holidays


Send a message