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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 260-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 Beginnings

The very first Jewish community “hospital” in Berlin was founded in 1756 in Oranienburger Strasse. Therefore, the Jewish Hospital is the oldest and most tradition-steeped hospital in our city, apart from Charité.

The original building consisted of four storeys, was 20 windows wide and included 12 rooms. The well-known doctor and philosopher Marcus Herz was the resident physician at the Jewish Hospital. After a period of restructuring it was renamed “Krankenverpflegungsanstalt der Jüdischen Gemeinde” (Patient Care Institute of the Jewish community). Similar to Charité, it was an institution which existed to help the poor. Its duties were aimed at recovery, care and support of the poor and needy.

Significant problems concerning space made it necessary to erect a new building. This was decided by the Jewish community assembly of representatives in 1857. The royal architect, Eduard Knoblauch, was assigned to provide the designs for a new Jewish Hospital, shortly after having built the synagogue in Oranienburger Strasse.

1861: The Jewish Hospital in Auguststrasse

The Jewish Hospital in Auguststrasse opened in 1861. In Berlin, as well as in the whole of Germany, this hospital was considered to be an exemplary and forward-looking institution in medical teaching, research and patient care. Well-known physicians such as Ludwig Traube, Bernhard von Langenbeck, Hermann Strauss and James Israel worked in the Jewish Hospital.

James Israel was a recognized expert with an international reputation in the field of kidney and bladder surgery. In 1915, Israel travelled to Istanbul on a secret mission to treat Sultan Mohammed V.

1914: The Jewish Hospital in Schulstrasse; today in Heinz-Galinski-Strasse

Between 1885 and 1900, the number of inhabitants in Berlin grew immensely from 1,315,000 to 1,888,000. The number of Jews who lived in the city increased from 64,383 to 92,206 and the number of patients at the Jewish Hospital rose steadily. Furthermore, diagnostics and treatment options were becoming increasingly more comprehensive as a result of rapid improvements in the medical field. Once again, the construction of a new hospital building in Schulstrasse became necessary. On 22 June 1914, the new Jewish community hospital in Wedding was inaugurated.

1933: The Jewish Hospital under National Socialism

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.

The Jewish Hospital after 1945

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”.

Today: We are a “Multicultural Hospital”

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.

Signs of Jewish life: Keeping history alive

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.