Cologne / Köln


In a letter written to his solicitor towards the end of September 1960, Werner Weissenberg makes reference to ‘sad occurrences’ in Cologne, which, as the letter progresses, have clearly angered him at least as much as they have saddened him – especially coming as they did alongside monthly demands by the postwar German government for further (largely unobtainable) information about his family’s fate in the Shoah.

"In view of the sad occurrences in Cologne and other places, which have taken place, I have completely lost faith in any credibility of German officialdom."

I consulted a number of sources to try to find out what these events were, and it seems that the Cologne synagogue and the memorial to victims of Nazism had recently been vandalised. The synagogue was daubed with a swastika and with the words ‘Juden raus’ (Jews out). Swastikas were also painted on park benches in Brunswick. At Gelsenkirchen, a swastika was painted on the facade of a Catholic church.

Meanwhile, federal officials reported that at Offenbach an anonymous letter had been sent, threatening 85-year-old Isaac Hamburger.

Köln cathedral, 2017. C Weissenberg

David B. Green wrote about these events in Haaretz in 2014:

"On December 24, 1959, a synagogue in Cologne, West Germany, was daubed with a swastika and the words “Juden raus” (Jews out). Coming less than 15 years after the end of the Holocaust, this expression of anti-Jewish hatred in Germany was noted internationally, even though the physical damage was minor. What made the incident especially noteworthy – even shocking – however, is the fact that it was followed by a veritable flood of similar anti-Semitic acts, in countries around the world."

Following this, Green goes on to state, synagogues and community buildings came under attack in a number of countries.

Apparently, Köln’s Roonstraße synagogue – destroyed in November 1938 – had only recently been reconstructed. The dedication had been attended by Chancellor Adenauer.

Green’s article concludes:

"Within a week of the Christmas Eve incident in Cologne, a spate of similar acts were reported around West Germany: swastikas were painted on the Monument to Victims of Nazism, in Brunswick, and on the front of a Catholic church in Gelsenkirchen. In Offenbach, an 85-year-old Jewish man received a threatening letter. There were also reports of attacks in East Germany ... 

According to the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, during the first months of 1960, nearly 2,500 anti-Jewish actions were reported as taking place in 400 different locations globally, most of them desecrations of synagogues or cemeteries".

The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) also wrote on these events in the Journal in February 1960, including a piece on reactions in the UK:

“The anti-semitic incidents in Germany, this country and other parts of the world have been widely reported and commented on in the national press as well as on sound and television broadcasts. 

A silent protest march to the German Embassy in London, organised by the Association of Jewish ex-Service Men and Women took place on Sunday, 17th. It is estimated that approximately 35,000 persons (about one-third of them non-jews) took part”.

The AJR article can be read in full here:

Köln Bahnhof and cathedral, 2018. C Weissenberg, pers. archive, copyright retained

I can’t be sure that these were the events to which my father was referring in his letter (above), but it’s the closest I have been able to come, to date.