The Old Jewish Cemetery in the Grosse Hamburger Strasse in today's Berlin district of Mitte is after Judenkiewer Spandau 's oldest cemetery for place of the Jewish Community of Berlin . In the area of today's entrance there has been a retirement home of the Jewish community since 1844.
Use of the cemetery
After the Brandenburg Elector Friedrich Wilhelm had allowed 50 Jewish families expelled from Vienna to settle in the Mark Brandenburg by decree in 1671 and thus Jews were resident in Berlin for the first time in a hundred years , Mordechai Model (also Model Riess) bought it in advance at the gates of the city and handed it over to the newly established community as a burial place. The entrance to the cemetery was originally on Oranienburger Strasse. Until its closure in 1827, the 0.59 haAccording to older sources, 12,000 Jews were buried in a large area. However, recent research considers this number to be too high and in some cases only assumes around 3,000 graves.  The cemetery inspector Leiser Landshuth had created a list of 2,767 grave sites with their names based on still decipherable tombstones in 1872. A burial register from 1751 to 1827 is said to record 7,063 buried people.  Gumpricht Jechiel Ashkenazi was the first to be buried here in 1672.
The tombstones in the cemetery were, following the Jewish burial culture of the time, relatively uniform, mostly simple sandstone marks rounded at the top, arranged closely in long rows, with the writing facing south. However, there were gravestones of different sizes and probably also a not insignificant number of wooden tombs. On the south side, closest to the entrance, was the "row of rabbis"; the rabbis of the community were buried here. Close by were the oldest graves of the founders of the community, the Jews who immigrated from Vienna. These tombstones were later set into the south wall, probably towards the end of the 19th century, and thus survived the Nazi era unscathed.
The most famous grave of the cemetery was that of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), who as a model for the character of Nathan in the drama Nathan the Wise of his friend Gotthold Ephraim Lessing served and considered one of the pioneers of the Jewish Enlightenment, the Haskalah viewed becomes. Today the stone that is supposed to remember Mendelssohn is the only one left in the cemetery. However, this is the third copy of the original stone. The relatively simple original stone, the appearance of which is taken from a copper engraving by Wilhelm Chodowiecki (1765–1805), Daniel Chodowiecki's son, is known, was replaced in 1896 by a representative, fenced granite monument with gold inscription. After the destruction by the National Socialists, a simple rectangular tombstone followed in 1962. The shape of today's stone, erected in 1990, is based on the original. Since the exact location of Mendelssohn's grave is unknown, the tombstone is only roughly at the location of the grave.
Other people buried in the cemetery included the rabbi and teacher Mendelssohns David Hirschel Fraenkel (1707–1762), the coin entrepreneur and builder of the Ephraim-Palais Veitel Heine Ephraim (1703–1775) as well as the head of the Jewish hospital and husband of the Salonniere Henriette Herz , Marcus Herz (1747-1803). The originally exposed cemetery was later surrounded by houses.
After the cemetery was closed, the old people's home
The first old people's home of the Jewish community was built on Oranienburger Strasse in the immediate vicinity of the cemetery and was opened on July 27, 1829. In 1844 the final retirement home was built on Große Hamburger Straße and after completion on July 28, 1844, we moved into. Two extensions were built between 1867 and 1874, so the home had 120 places after 1874.
As early as 1794, an ordinance was issued in Prussia prohibiting cemeteries in inhabited areas. After the Jewish community had been asked several times to create a new cemetery at the gates of Berlin, it finally acquired a site in Schönhauser Allee , where the new cemetery was opened in 1827 . There were no more funerals in the old cemetery. The entrance was through the old people's home from Große Hamburger Straße. The cemetery was preserved and served as a park for the old people's home, for example. But the neighboring Jewish boys' school also used the cemetery for teaching natural history and later for creating a school garden.
Cemetery and retirement home during the Nazi era
During the time of National Socialism, Rabbi Martin Riesenburger worked in the nursing home between 1933 and 1942. In 1942 the Gestapo took possession of the building and set up a collection camp in the building, in which around 55,000 Jewish citizens of Berlin were collected and transported to the Auschwitz and Theresienstadt concentration camps . A year later the house was destroyed.
The cemetery was destroyed by the Gestapo in 1943 . A splinter trench was dug on the site , which was secured with gravestones, and the bones were disposed of. In the last days of the war, 2,427 war dead were buried in mass graves in the cemetery; a memorial stone in the eastern perimeter wall reminds of this. The whereabouts of some of the gravestones that still existed at the end of the war is unclear today.
In 1948 the cemetery was handed back to the Jewish community, which still remembers the cemetery and its destruction with a plaque attached to the south wall. The southern half of the cemetery was turned into a public park in the 1970s. Apart from the memorial plaque, the stand-alone memorial stone for Moses Mendelssohn and 15 of the oldest tombstones, which had been set into the southern wall since around 1885 and were now located under the plaque, nothing more reminded of the Jewish cemetery. The old gravestones were removed from the wall in 1989 due to weathering damage and taken to the Jewish cemetery in Berlin-Weißensee , where they were left to deteriorate further.
In 1985, the sculpture Jewish Victims of Fascism by the sculptor Will Lammert , which was originally created in 1957 for the Ravensbrück memorial , was erected on the site of the destroyed old people's home next to an existing memorial stone . There are 13 person sculptures that were cast in bronze and grouped. Due to several attacks, the memorial is now temporarily guarded; like the entire cemetery, it has been a listed building since 1974 .
Reconstruction as a cemetery
From 2007 to 2008 the cemetery and the memorial were built with funds from the Berlin Senate and the Berlin Jewish Community according to a plan by Dr. Jacobs & Hübinger repaired. The cemetery, which is recognizable as such after the repair, was fenced in and separated from the street by a gate. A wall that cut through the grave fields was replaced by a transparent fence, so that the part of the cemetery that was not previously part of the park is visible again. Paths were renewed and the areas of the grave fields were planted with ivy. A water basin for ritual hand washing was installed at the entrance and a prayer board was attached. The location of the collective graves from the time of the Second World War was located by an information board at the entrance.
With the use of considerable funds by the Jewish Community in Berlin, the area of the former old people's home was converted in a second step. The new concept for the memorial called for the foundation walls of the old people's home to be determined by means of search excavations and to make the historical spatial structure above ground visible again by means of masonry. Recognizable modern paths were laid across this structure, leading to a plaque from the GDR era integrated into the newly built cemetery wall, to the relocated Lammert group and to the cemetery entrance. On September 24, 2008, the cemetery and memorial were officially reopened as part of a ceremony.
The epitaphs and epithaph fragments deposited at the Jewish cemetery in Berlin-Weißensee since 1988/89 were restored in September / October 2009, transported from the Weißensee cemetery to the Jewish cemetery in Große Hamburger Straße and set up again there.
On December 17, 2009 the installation of the epitaphs was inaugurated in the presence of the chairwoman of the Jewish community in Berlin Lala Süßkind, Rabbi Tovia ben Chorin, State Secretary André Schmitz and the deputy head of the Berlin State Monuments Office, Klaus von Krosigk. Rabbi ben Chorin spoke psalms and said the traditional Jewish funeral prayer in memory of those buried on the Bet ha Chaim.
- Alfred Etzold, Joachim Fait, Peter Kirchner, Heinz Knobloch: The Jewish cemeteries in Berlin . Henschel Verlag, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-362-00557-8
- Michael Brocke, Eckehart Ruthenberg, Kai Uwe Schulenburg: Stone and Name. The Jewish cemeteries in East Germany (New Federal States / GDR and Berlin) . Institute Church and Judaism, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-923095-19-8
- Klaus Hammer: Berlin cemetery guide . Jaron Verlag, 2001, ISBN 3-89773-081-2
- Hans-Jürgen Mende, Kurt Wernicke: Berlin district lexicon - center . Edition Luisenstadt, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89542-111-1
- Nathanja Hüttenmeister , Christiane E. Müller: Controversial rooms: Jewish cemeteries in Berlin - Große Hamburger Straße and Schönhauser Allee . Metropol Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-936411-55-7 , pp. 15–159 = reconstruction of the cemetery.
- Jörg Haspel, Klaus von Krosigk (ed.) For the State Monuments Office Berlin, edited by Katrin Lesser, Jörg Kuhn, Detlev Pietzsch: Garden monuments in Berlin - Friedhöfe ( contributions to monument preservation , 27). Petersberg 2008, ISBN 978-3-86568-293-2 .
- Michael Brocke : The stones of Berlin-Mitte . In: Jüdische Allgemeine , November 21, 2013, p. 17
- Jews in Berlin in the past and present . ( Memento from May 3, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 271 kB) Working report of a project seminar at the Humboldt University in Berlin
- Entry in the Berlin State Monument List
- Alfred Etzold, Joachim Fait, Peter Kirchner, Heinz Knobloch: The Jewish cemeteries in Berlin . Henschel Verlag, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-362-00557-8 , p. 13.
- Michael Brocke, Eckehart Ruthenberg, Kai Uwe Schulenburg: Stone and Name. The Jewish cemeteries in East Germany (New Federal States / GDR and Berlin) . Institute Church and Judaism, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-923095-19-8 , p. 87.