Due to the growing interest of those who did to see the home town of their youth again, we started a visiting program for Jewish former citizens who had emigrated between 1933 and 1945, inviting them to Hamburg. From 1966 to 1971 individual invitations were extended by the Lord Mayor. Starting 1972, groups were invited.
The visiting program attests to the deep inner connection with the survivors and keeps knowledge about the terrible events alive as a warning and a caution for the future. Meeting our Jewish former citizens offers a chance for a conversation between those who suffered and those who were born later. Establishing real contact demands a careful approach, a gentle start to a conversation, aware of the past, accepting each other with empathy. Thus we can establish the trust necessary for further contact.
Moreover, such a visit offers our guests a chance for an encounter with their former home and to gather personal information about Hamburg and Germany today.
In 2010, Hamburg Parliament paved the way for a broader approach by deciding that in future second generation relatives, i.e. the children of Jewish former citizens, would also be invited. Opening the program for the children’s generation led to more and more multigenerational family groups joining the visiting program, enjoying the shared experience of visiting sites from the parents’ past.
Conversations were often about more than past experiences and suffering. Sometimes, we were able to provide our visitors with information about ancestors or what happened to family members through genealogical research – not rarely for the first time. So taking part in the visiting program helps to open a door to the lives and experiences of our guests’ parents, grandparents and other family members.
We are very pleased that our guests are happy to make use of this offer as it is this interest in family history and roots which keeps our visiting program alive. It is this interest which helps us fight oblivion, and promote encounters and exchange to keep the darkest chapter of German history alive. A central part of our visiting program has always been meeting with students from Hamburg schools.
A study on the history of our visiting program conducted in 2011 focused on the lives and experiences of four former Hamburg citizens and on their contacts with the Senate Chancellery and their trip to their city of birth. The study, published in 2011, is available at „Zwischen Imagepflege, moralischer Verpflichtung und Erinnerungen. Das Besuchsprogramm für jüdische ehemalige Hamburger Bürgerinnen und Bürger - fzh (zeitgeschichte-hamburg.de)“
The Digital Visiting Program 2021
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we had to postpone the visiting program scheduled for 2020 until 2021, and now we find that we have to re-schedule again, given the continued restrictions necessary due to the pandemic. Therefore, we have decided to offer a ‘digital substitute’ to our guests from all over the world.
We hope that this website and the attached platform (limited access) will allow us to stay in touch with our guests and that they will use the opportunity to meet each other as well as the students of the Hamburg High School Gymnasium Buckhorn. There are also links for easy contact with Jewish Congregations and Jewish organizations and institutions in Hamburg.