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The Eduard Duckesz House
and the Jewish cemetery Altona

The large Jewish cemetery in Altona, just under 1.9 hectares (ca. 2.5 acres), is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Hamburg and the oldest Portuguese-Sefardic Jewish cemetery in northern Europe. Because of its age and its unique gravestone masonry art, in 1960 it was classified as a protected monument. For years now, scientists have been calling for its inclusion in the World Heritage List of UNESCO, together with the Jewish burial grounds in Curaçao, Jamaica and Surinam. Between 1611 and the 1870s, there were some 9,000 burials, here, 2,000 in the Portuguese-Jewish section and 7,000 in the German-Jewish Ashkenazic part of the grounds. There are more than 6,000 German and 1,600 Portuguese gravestones which are completely or fragmentarily preserved.

 

The cemetery is the property of the Jewish Community of Hamburg. The Office for Monument Protection is responsible for restoring the gravestones, the Institute for the History of the German Jews researches the cemetery together with the Salomon Ludwig Steinheim Institute in Duisburg. The German Foundation for Monument Protection maintains the reception building for the cemetery, the Eduard Duckesz House (EDH) nearby,  and the program for visitors and continuing education.

 

RESEARCH

The Portuguese cemetery has been extensively researched in the past hundred years. Notable researchers included the Sefardic Congregation head Isaac Cassuto (1848-1923), Rabbi Dr. Max Grunwald (1871-1953) and the student of Romance languages Alfonso Cassuto (1910-1990). Every gravestone in the cemetery has been mapped, documented, photographed and its inscription translated. Each gravestone has been assigned a number in a grid, which makes it easy to locate. However, there is no printed guide plan. For this reason, visitors are requested to contact the staff at the Eduard Duckesz House.

 

EDUARD DUCKESZ HOUSE

Since November 2007, a reception and information center has been located at the cemetery (Königstraße 10 a, previously Königstraße 169 or 63) in the Sefardic section, named after Rabbi Eduard Duckesz (1868-1944). Rabbi Duckesz was rabbi of the Altona Klaus synagogue and researched Jewish gravestones and genealogy in the Hamburg area Jewish communities. He was deported to Auschwitz in 1943 and murdered there in March 1944. In the 1860s, the master monumental mason Samuel Holländer lived with his family on the premises. The Eduard-Duckesz-House was set up and is operated by the German Foundation for Monument Protection. The center maintains a seminar room for lectures and exhibitions, a library and a workroom for restoration specialists. Information sheets are available there in German, English, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese. The Duckesz House has an irregular publication series »Archiv aus Stein«, which reports on new research on the cemetery. The Eduard Duckesz Fellow Program established by the Hermann Reemtsma Foundation supports scientific projects working together with the Institute for the History of the German Jews, and also assists the development and cataloguing of the Eduard Duckesz Library.

 

EDUARD DUCKESZ LIBRARY

The library of the Eduard Duckesz House is a scholarly specialist library containing literature on research areas such as iconography and epigraphy, death and mourning in Judaism, Jewish cemeteries (Germany, Europe and the Caribbean), Jewish art, European Jewish history, Sefardic history, European Jewish history of language, literature, book printing and culture, Jewish museums, the history of the Jews in Hamburg and in northern Germany, as well as Jewish pedagogy. The holdings are currently being catalogued.

 

 

Literature

Studemund-Halévy, Michael: Das Eduard-Duckesz-Haus, idem, Zerstört die Erinnerung nicht, Hamburg 2010, S. 210-212