August 10th, 2005

Foundation

Only two months after the Allies liberated Germany and its Nazi leaders capitulated, the "salvaged leftovers" of Germany's Jews had formed an association. 1 July 1945 saw the birth of the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the American Zone, one of the seeds of the Central Council founded five years later. Similar moves followed in the other occupied zones. 51 communities in all were re-established during 1945, and a year later their number had grown to 67.

On 19 July 1950 the Central Council of Jews in Germany was founded in Frankfurt (Main). The constituent meeting was attended by delegates from Jewish communities that had been re-established in the four occupied zones under American, British, French and Soviet administration. It was intended to defend its members interests during a transition period until they could finally leave the country. There were about 15,000 Jews living in post-war Germany at this time. Management of the umbrella organization was entrusted to the Directorate of four. 15 community representatives formed the Council, the supreme decision-making body. The Jewish communities in the Soviet-occupied zone only belonged to the Central Council of Jews until the early sixties.


These survivors were joined in those early post-war years by people returning from exile to their old homes, a decision that was extremely controversial within the international Jewish community. Another 200,000 Jews arrived from Eastern Europe, either unable or unwilling to return to their former homes. They were known as the displaced persons (DPs). Their ranks were to swell as many Jews left Poland following pogroms. However, most of these refugees only regarded Germany as a stopover on their way to Eretz Israel. The Jewish communities were seen during this period as "communities in liquidation" that were about to be wound up. But for a not inconsiderable number this transition gave way to a new future, albeit for very different reasons. Gradually the suitcases packed for emigration were unpacked again. During those post-war years the number of Jewish communities remained relatively stable in West Germany at around 50, with about 26,000 individual members.

According to official East German statistics there were just under 500 Jews living in the GDR, and they belonged to five Jewish communities. In December 1990 these five associations were integrated into the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Since 1 April 1999 the administration of the Central Council of Jews in Germany has been based in the new capital Berlin. In 2000 the Central Council celebrated its 50th anniversary. It currently embraces 108 Jewish communities with ca. 101,300 members.