The Nazi terror had wiped out centuries of Jewish life in Germany in just 12 years between 1933 and 1945. After the surrender of the German Reich on May 8, 1945, some Jews returned from exile to help re-educate Germans and build a democratic, free state. They were active in interrogating German prisoners of war, in radio broadcasting, or in the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Other Jews returned to Germany, but mostly only temporarily until they left for the new state of Israel.

In addition to the approximately 15,000 Jews living in Germany in 1950, there were about 200,000 Jews who, as former forced laborers from Eastern Europe, were unable to return to their homeland during the emerging Cold War. Some of them stayed here or emigrated to Israel. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many mostly Orthodox Jews from the former Soviet republics came to Germany. At the beginning of the 21st century, there are about 230,000 Jews living in 105 communities.

In the summer of 1945, a Central Committee of the liberated Jews in the American zone was formed to represent their interests. On July 19, 1950, this committee joined with other committees to form the new Central Council of Jews in Germany. This council had to deal with various topics and problems: in the founding years of the Federal Republic of Germany, questions of reparations had to be introduced into the legislative process and the criminal and historical-political reappraisal of the Nazi era had to be demanded in view of new right-wing extremist parties and renewed anti-Semitism in the 1960s/70s.

Fig. 1: David Ben Gurion reading the Declaration of Independence of Israel on May 15, 1948 (Source: Flickr – Government Press Office (GPO) – David Ben Gurion reading the Declaration of Independence, Government Press Office (Israel), via Wikimedia Commons).
Fig. 2: New Synagogue Darmstadt (Source: Stadtarchiv Darmstadt, Photo Roland Koch)
Fig. 3: Former synagogue in Pfungstadt (Source: Former synagogue Pfungstadt, Commander-pirx, via Wikimedia Commons)