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Ihr Krankenhaus mit Herz



The Jewish Hospital in Heinz-Galinski-Strasse, situated in the current capital district Mitte, is the third hospital building to be built by the Jewish community in Berlin.

Throughout its 267-year history, the Berlin Jewish Hospital symbolizes the ups and downs of German-Jewish history and culture. Important names in medical science and research have always been closely connected with this organization.

The Berlin Jewish Hospital is the only institution in the whole of Germany to survive the Nazi terror. It is the oldest institution to have been established by people of the Jewish faith in Berlin and to consistently serve the same function.

The information below is courtesy of the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies and originates form the book From Heqdesh to Hitech, polished in 2007.



One can assume that Jews settled in the Berlin region prior to the 13th century. However, the earliest tangible source is a guild letter dated October 28th, 1295, which prohibits Christian weavers to buy thread from Jews. There is another early document from 1517. Today the "Jüdenstrasse (Jew Street) refers to the Jewish settlement in the heart of Berlin from medieval times onwards. When Berlin is visited by the plague in 1349 Jews are accus- ed of poisoning the wells and thus expelled from Brandenburg.

The Grand Elector Friedrich Wilhelm (1620-1688) is the first to allow Jews back in Bran- denburg with an Edict from May 21st, 1671. Shortly after the establishment of the Jewish community the Jews of Berlin purchase a plot of land for their cemetery. The building of a Synagogue is only allowed in 1712. In the meantime services are held in prayer rooms in private houses. The official opening of the Synagogue in the Heidereuthergasse, long considered the most exquisite House of God in Europe, makes Jewish life in Berlin visible to the public.

Compassion (Rahmanut) and charity (Ahaval Ha Sulat) are central religious responsibilities (Mitzvah) and laws (Zedek) of the Jewish people, Hospitality towards strangers, visiting the sick (Biqur Cholim), caring for the poor, for widows and orphans, as well as escorting the dead to their burial (Chevra Kadisha) are duties of each community. Even before the expulsion of the Brandenburger Jews, the Jewish community runs a house for the poor and sick, the Hegdesh


Jewish inn at Rosenthaler for Jewish beggars are offered food and lodging while passing through (Drawing from Leopold Ludwig Müller, 1807)



In some provinces the protection money of the resident Jews has to be paid collectively by the local Jewish community. Therefore, an eye is kept on people travelling through, as to avoid them settling there. The permit shown grants the entering Jew an eight-day stay


The Haskalah [Hebr. Enlightenment) reaches distant circles of Judaism at the end of the 18th century One of its main aims is teaching the Jewish population secular education and adaption to the dominant, non-Jewish society. This implies learning the vernacular. Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) translates the Torah into German in 1780 and thus face litates learning the German language for his fellow believers. In collaboration with David Friedländer, he writes a textbook which gives the pupils at the newly established Jewish Free-School (Jüdische Freischule) a broad general education

With help from the Society of Patients Visitors (Chevra Bikur Cholim) the property Ora nienburger Strasse 7/8 is bought in 1753 and the Jewish community's hospital is opened near the Jewish cemetery in 1756. "It is four stories high and 20 windows wide. The building includes 12 rooms, five for female and seven for male patients. There is also a convalescence hall, a storage room, a prayer parlour and an apartment for the director of the hospital" (Johann Georg Krünitz, Oeconomische Encyklopädie, 1791)

In 1760 the Sephardic doctor Benjamin de Lemos (1711-1789), who had already worked at the headesh, takes on the medical direction of the new hospital. His son-in-law Marcus Herz (1747-1803) succeeds him in 1779. As one of the Maskilim in Berlin, Herz takes care of about 30 patients in the hospital in the morning, takes on equally as many housecalls to sick people in town in the afternoon and spends his evenings giving lectures at the salon at his home or writing medical and philosophical publications. His work "Über die frühe Beerdigung der Juden" ("About the Early Burial of the Jews," 1788) causes a sensation provoking a dispute about the appropriate time of burial.

In 1796 the hospital treats about 350 to 400 patients, a number that equals the capacity of the "Charité," which is why it becomes known as the "little Charité" up until the 20th century.


"Sick people of all kinds are admitted, be it locals, servants or students, whether foreigners from Poland, Prussia or from the Empire who either got ill here or who have been sent here to be cured. The care is exceptionally good and the doctor prescribes the best and most expensive medicine - and when necessary, they even order wine, chicken and choco- late." (Ludwig Formey, Versuch einer medizinischen Topographie, 1796)


The large number of destitute invalids, especially from abroad, who are treated for free, causes financial trouble for the hospital. The annual expenses amount to 4,000 Taler. The Jewish community cannot pay for this sum with their membership fees and is forced to consider limiting free medical treatment and collecting an extra duty from all non-resident Jews. At the secular celebration in 1805, an appeal for donations is made and successfully raises 16,000 Taler by the middle of the year. This sum serves as the foundation of the Jubelfonds or Celebratory Fund (Keren-hayovel Bikur Cholim).

After many years of debating plans for a new building, the assembly of representatives of the Jewish community decides to purchase a new plot on Auguststrasse in 1857. The architectural responsibility is assigned to the royal government building officer Eduard Knoblauch (1801-1865), who simultaneously designs, the New Synagogue. After three years of construction, the most modern hospital in Berlin, after the Chanté, opens on September 3, 1861. The total costs for the classical, four-storey building including the plot and furni shings are 172,000 Talers

The new building is the final step in the advance- ment from an institution that is concerned with the healing, care and support at poor people to a medical institution that is also acknowledged by middle class society. As one of the most modern hos- pitals in Europe, with facilities that are clearly above the standard of the time, the hospital is appreciated for its exemplary treatment and care, as well as its trend-setting medical research


The demand for educated nursing staff already led to the foun- dation of the first Christian nursing schools at the end of the 18th century: Special attention was paid to educating and sensitizing the nursing staff Medical methods, medication guidelines, and the skillful treatment of patients were taught to interested and dedicated young women.

The establishment of the nursing school at the lewish Hospi tal of Berlin on April 3rd, 1894 by the Association of Jewish Nurses of Benin, an organization founded one year prior, was a reaction to numerous historical developments. The establishment of the German Reich in 1871 and the introduction of social secunty and health insurance in the 1880s led to burgeoning numbers of pau ents in all nursing institutions. The demand for nursing personnel also rose in the Jewish hospital on Auguststrasse.

Mostly, the nurses who were being employed had been ed- ucated at various institutions. One such institution was the Vic toria House of Nursing in Berlin. The desire for educating Jewish nurses directly at the Jewish hospital led to the establishment of a one year program, that consisted of both theoretical and practical instruction. The applicants had to commit themselves to working for three years at the Jewish hospital upon completing their training Until personnel restrictions come into effect due to World War, the teaching was carried out by doctors, who were sup ported by semoonuses in matters concerning educational issues The greater involvement of employed nurses in the educational process during wartime allowed for a continuation of the school which could therefore establish itself as a significant part of the hospital after 1918, in accordance with new exam guidelines, the traming was extended to two years during the Weimar Republic and was open to both Jewish and Christian applicants under the Nan dictatorship, the importance of a Jewish nursing school as place of education and work grew. The influence of those in pow er on the training extended to the introduction of race-related subjects to the closing of the school in 1943, which was secretly circumvented by educating so-called domestic servants.

The nursing school was eventually re-opened by the Berlin magistrate at the end of 1945 and was the only such institution at any Jewish hospital. It educated nursing staff until it was once again dosed in September 2005. Financial problems and numerous educatio- nal reforms made the continuation of the program impossible.


Berlin Wedding is a typical working-class district at the beginning of the 20th century. The Jews make up less than 1% of the population. Cheap property prices and the location outside of the city center aid the Jewish community in their decision to build their new hospital here. It is also possible, however, that part of the decision was based on the hope that poor patients would not travel all the way to Wedding but instead utilize the polyclinic for outpatient treatment which remains in the Auguststrasse even after the move


The New Grounds
The official opening of the new building of the Jewish Hospital takes place just days prior to the outbreak of World War I. Numerous religious and political dignitaries, especially tho- se whose donations helped construct the new building are present at the opening on June 22, 1914. The premises on the corner of Exerzierstrasse and Schulstrasse (today: Iranische Strasse) has been under the ownership of the Jewish community since 1905 and houses seven large, and for the times, very modern buildings equipped with the newest medical technology.


"Best Chance to Recuperate"
in building the new hospital [the Jewish community has managed], by all means of medical knowledge, to establish an institution best-suited for giving patients in their care the very best chance to recuperate no matter their religious faith and for making their stay pleasant in every possible respect." (Extract from: Zentralblatt der Bauverwaltung March 20, 1915) On the premises there are different wards and a modern polyclinic, as well as labs, educational facilities for the medical staff and a synagogue.

The saddest chapter in the tradition-steeped history of the Jewish community hospital took place when the national socialists seized power in Germany. Jews were politically, socially and physically persecuted; Jewish doctors were denied their licenses to practice medicine and were allowed to treat Jews only. Hermann Strauss and Paul Rosenstein are representative of many famous doctors who worked at the Jewish Hospital in Wedding after 1933.

The hospital was a collecting station and a stopover for the transportation of Jews to the concentration camps. It turned into a ghetto but also a sanctuary for those in hiding. Up to their liberation in 1945, between 800 and 1,000 people are said to have hidden inside its walls.



On 11 May 1945, a child was once again born at the Jewish Hospital. Jewish life in Berlin slowly came back to life but the majority of the survivors from the Jewish community had chosen to leave the city as well the country as a whole. The few community members who stayed behind were not able to financially sustain a hospital with 400 beds and in 1963 the Jewish Hospital became a “foundation under public law”.

These days you can hear a mixture of voices in a large variety of native languages in the hospital corridors, in the patient rooms and in the cafeteria. Language issues are an absolute exception at the Jewish Hospital. We almost always find someone from our team who can speak the respective language of the patient. We employ people from a range of different nationalities and creeds in all hospital areas.



In front of the building, at the entrance in Heinz-Galinski-Strasse, the street which so many Jewish citizens of our country had to pass through in order to wait in the Gestapo cells for their deportation to the extermination camps afterwards, a commemorative plaque serves as a reminder of these historically significant events.

On the premises of the hospital, directly at the entrance, is a bust of Heinz Galinski. He was the chairman of the Jewish community in Berlin for many years and President of the central council of Jews in Germany for a long time. The bust, as well as the street that was named after him, are there to remind us of the outstanding services of this individual who brought his personal fate to fruition for the German-Jewish reconciliation process. It expresses esteem and respect for this person, his strength and humanity, particularly during a time in which fear, also of attacks on Jewish establishments, was wide-spread and bravery as well as civil courage seemed to dwindle. Heinz Galinski was a person who could not forget but was nevertheless able to forgive.

A permanent exhibition called “Memory is Present Day” (“Erinnerung ist Gegenwart”) is on view which documents the lively and impressive story of the hospital. When taking a closer look, further signs of Jewish life can be discovered. A mezuzah is attached to the pillars of the front doors leading to the wards.

A rabbi from the Jewish community visits our Jewish patients at their request. On request they also receive kosher food. What has remained is the unwritten law that a bed will always be provided for Jewish patients.

One of the events which we celebrate at the Berlin Jewish Hospital, together with patients, staff, children from the Jewish primary school and friends of the hospital, is Hanukkah.

The Jewish Hospital also includes a synagogue, the ceremonious re-opening of which took place in May 2003. It is open to people of all creeds and serves as an oratory and prayer room. In consideration of the images and traces of the old, the intention was not do something new but to do again that which has proven to be valuable. Especially in times of increasing intolerance towards “others and foreigners” we also wanted to send out a message of reconciliation through the re-opening of our synagogue and to promote Jewish life in our city. The association “Freunde des Jüdischen Krankenhauses Berlin e.V.” (Friends of the Berlin Jewish Hospital) has been merited with the realization of this long-held dream, by collecting donations for rebuilding the synagogue by organizing a large-scale benefit gala.

Jewish elements are also present in our supervisory board, the hospital’s board of trustees. In accordance with our articles, the board also includes two members from the Jewish community in Berlin, in addition to representatives from the senate and hospital staff.