4 June 1883 – Birth of Hans Ehrenberg – Pastor, Philosopher, Protester against Injustice and Anti-Semitism #otdimjh

Hans Philipp Ehrenberg (4 June 1883 – 21 March 1958) was a German Jewish philosopher and theologian. One of the co-founders of the Confessing Church, he was forced to emigrate to England because of his Jewish ancestry and his opposition to National Socialism.

Hans Ehrenberg was born into a liberal Jewish family, the eldest of three children. His parents were Emilie (née Fischel) and Otto Ehrenberg, brother of Victor Ehrenberg, a German jurist, and Richard Ehrenberg, a German economist. His younger brothers were Paul Ehrenberg and the historian Victor Ehrenberg, father of British historian Geoffrey and physicist Lewis Elton, and grandfather of comedian Ben Elton.

From 1898 to 1900, Hans attended the Christianeum in Altona. After his graduation exam at the Wilhelm Gymnasium in Hamburg in 1902, he studied economics, law and political studies (Rechtswissenschaften und Staatswissenschaften) in Göttingen, Berlin, Heidelberg and Munich. His supportive attitude towards workers was already clear by 1906, when he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on the situation of steel workers (Hüttenarbeiter) in the Ruhr Valley. After his military service in 1907–1908, he continued his studies in philosophy and completed his doctorate in Heidelberg in 1909 and habilitation in 1910.

He first became a private teacher, then a professor of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg. His philosophical interests included the landscape of peace, truth, goodness and liberation. Ehrenberg was baptised as a Protestant Christian in Berlin in 1911. Around this time, he developed a close friendship with his cousin Franz Rosenzweig, and with Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Viktor von Weizsäcker, and Martin Buber. Rosenzweig, the author of “Star of Redemption” and seminal Jewish thinker on Jewish-Christian relations, later claimed that “Ehrenberg was my real teacher in philosophy”.  According to Rozenzweig’s wife, Ehrenberg understood Rosenzweig’s position on dialogue better than Rosenstock-Huessy, and helped Rosenzweig develop his own thinking that would emerge in “Star of Redemption” and become a major focus and structuring principle of Jewish-Christian relations since 1945.

Hans Ehrenberg’s marriage to Else Zimmerman, 1913. The wedding party included Franz Rosenzweig and Victor Ehrenberg.

In 1913, Ehrenberg married Else Anna Zimmermann (1890–1970), a linguist, teacher and descendant of Martin Luther. They had two children, Juliane and Andreas. One of his uncles was Victor Mordechai Goldschmidt. One of his cousins, Hedwig Ehrenberg, studied physics and mathematics at the University of Goettingen, where she met and later married Max Born. Hans Ehrenberg, with Franz Rosenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock, was in regular correspondence with Louis D Brandeis through the friendship of their maternal families. In view of Hans Ehrenberg’s father’s and uncles’ relatives, friends and acquaintances, and their travels over the lands and voyages across the seas and oceans, the reach of his communications extended to a world-wide network in many countries in all continents.

1914–1933

Ehrenberg volunteered for the First World War and served as a non-commissioned officer, then a lieutenant after late 1914. He won the Iron Cross, 2nd Class as well as the Badische Offiziersorden (Zähringer Löwe 2nd Klasse). He left the war and army early due to reasons of health, as did many philosophers, thinkers, musicians and writers, in all armies and on all fronts. He devoted more time to his philosophical and literary interests.

Ehrenberg had seen the war as a legitimate defensive war, but during this time and afterwards, his views changed completely. He spoke of war crimes and German guilt. He joined the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1918, and for 18 months, was a city councilman in Heidelberg, as well as a member of workers’ and soldiers’ committees. He began making Christian pacifist statements in 1919. In the same year, he received an associate professorship in Heidelberg. At this time, working with Christian socialists, he began to think about becoming a Protestant minister.

Ehrenberg began his theological studies in Münster, in 1922, completing his second theological exam in 1924. In 1923 and 1925, he and Nicolai von Bubnov published two volumes of German translations of Russian theological writings which were acquired and read by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and twice quoted from an essay that was in the second volume. He attended the World Conference of Life and Work in Stockholm, in 1925, and became friends with Nathan Soderblom and the English ecumenist George Bell. With Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy he was a co-founder, and also a prolific member of the philosophical discussion group and journal, “Die Kreatur”, during the time 1925 to 1930.

Abandoning a promising academic career, in 1925, he became the minister of Pauluskirche in Bochum, in a heavily working-class area. He got involved in the Kampfbund christlicher Arbeiter (The Fighting Christian Workers), though he left the SPD, feeling that parish work was incompatible with political party activism. In 1927, he made speeches on church and anti-semitism in opposition to riots organised by Nazi brownshirts. One lecture he gave in Hattingen, entitled “The Church and Anti-semitism” prompted a letter of complaint against him to the consistory in Münster:

“We cannot believe that a governing body of our Church approves of a race-conscious Jew who, as a Protestant clergyman, lectures German Protestant Christians about political anti-semitism based on racial attitudes.

1933–1945

Pauluskirche (St. Paul’s Church), where Ehrenberg began preaching in 1925, was completely destroyed in the war and was rebuilt in 1950.

After the Nazis seized power in 1933, more attacks followed and Ehrenberg’s moral and pedagogical integrity were put in question.

Bochum Confession

Ehrenberg became one of the founders of the Confessing Church. He and four other Westphalian ministers had already formulated the “Bochum Confession” in May 1933. The first of its kind, it contained a denial of Nazi ideology and a confession of Christianity’s Jewish origins.

In July 1933, he published 72 Leitsätze zur judenchristlichen Frage (Seventy-Two Theses to the Jewish-Christian Question), clearly stating his own opposition to anti-semitism and calling on the Protestant church to do the same. After he was the target of attacks in the Nazi propaganda journal Der Stürmer, and facing pressure from the German Christian church authorities, Ehrenberg asked for early retirement in 1937. He continued, however, to work for the Confessing Church, whose ministers in Bochum openly showed solidarity with him.

The “Bochum Confession” for which Hans Ehrenberg was responsible already testified in July 1933 to the “son of the living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. According to Günter Brakelmann, in the years of church struggle “there is hardly a theologian who has worked so steadfastly on the church’s being as a counter-model to the neo-pagan NS temple like Ehrenberg”. At the same time, Hans Ehrenberg is one of the founders of the philosophy of dialogue and the prize named after him is committed to the Protestant principle of changing the world towards God in dialogue with people of different political, religious and scientific convictions.

In September 1938, he was barred from delivering any speech or sermon. His home was destroyed in the pogroms of Kristallnacht and a few days later, he was taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In 1939, he was able to emigrate to England, thanks to the intervention and pledges of George Bell, Anglican bishop of Chichester. He had had a correspondence with Bell and was perhaps more significant than Franz Hildebrandt or Bonhoeffer in convincing Bell of the growing crisis in German churches under the Nazi state. His family joined him shortly afterward. Ecumenism, religious unity, became increasingly important to him here.

Even though Ehrenberg was strictly anti-communist, his life was saved on several occasions by a communist trade union leader, in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Ehrenberg spoke openly about the German confessional church in England in an effort to prevent the growing disaster in Germany. George Bell also spoke out about Nazi interference in the church. Ehrenberg and George Bell were of the same view that civilians and civilian infrastructure should not be affected by the ongoing war in central Europe.

His close friends included Pastor Dr. Werner Koch, a surviving member of the German resistance and the youngest brother of Hans Koch.

Ehrenberg’s home in Bochum looted and destroyed on Kristallnacht 1938

The Party of Philosophy: Studies Against Hegel and the Kantians

Return to Germany. Fragments from the Christian conversation between British and German Christians

Hans Ehrenberg: Autobiography of a German pastor, with self-testimonies and a documentary of his discharge from office

In September 1938, he was barred from delivering any speech or sermon. His home was destroyed in the pogroms of Kristallnacht and a few days later, he was taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In 1939, he was able to emigrate to England, thanks to the intervention and pledges of George Bell, Anglican bishop of Chichester. He had had a correspondence with Bell and was perhaps more significant than Franz Hildebrandt or Bonhoeffer in convincing Bell of the growing crisis in German churches under the Nazi state. His family joined him shortly afterward. Ecumenism, religious unity, became increasingly important to him here.

Even though Ehrenberg was strictly anti-communist, his life was saved on several occasions by a communist trade union leader, in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Ehrenberg spoke openly about the German confessional church in England in an effort to prevent the growing disaster in Germany. George Bell also spoke out about Nazi interference in the church. Ehrenberg and George Bell were of the same view that civilians and civilian infrastructure should not be affected by the ongoing war in central Europe.

His close friends included Pastor Dr. Werner Koch, a surviving member of the German resistance and the youngest brother of Hans Koch.

1945–1958

Ehrenberg returned to Germany in 1947, after the war, working as a minister at the Bethel Institution in Bielefeld. In 1953, he returned to Heidelberg, where he died in 1958.His papers are archived at the Westphalian Protestant church archives in Bielefeld. Unlike his colleague and friend, Hermann Maas, he was unable to travel for personal health reasons to Israel after 1950 to visit friends and colleagues there, namely Martin Buber, Raphael Rosenzweig, among others.

Legacy

https://www.hans-ehrenberg-schule.de/

Entrance to Hans Ehrenberg Schule in Bielefeld

Hans Ehrenberg was one of the few German Protestant theologians, even within the Confessing Church, to publicly express his vehement opposition to the anti-semitism of the Nazis and publicly declare his support of the Jewish people. He strongly urged the Protestant church to take the same stand. He criticised Christian anti-semitism and emphasized the similarities between Judaism and Christianity. Also, his special program, “World Peace without Weapons”, toward the problems and rights of workers’ (since 1905), and world peace (since 1903, also with Franz Rosenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy) was in advance of universities, municipal councils, judiciary, governments, parliaments, international organizations and churches of his times, In addition to his practical theological work, he wrote a number of philosophical and theological articles and treatises.

In Ehrenberg’s honor and memory, the secondary school administered by the Protestant church in the Bielefeld neighborhood of Sennestadt was renamed the Hans-Ehrenberg-Schule in 1963. There is also a square in Bochum named after him.

Hans Ehrenberg is one of the rather forgotten pioneers of a reorientation of Protestant theology – but also of philosophy – after the “long” 19th century, which came to an end with the First World War. Ehrenberg was and is often in the shadow of more powerful theologians and philosophers, such as Karl Barth, Franz Rosenzweig or Martin Buber, although they owe important impulses for their work to Hans Ehrenberg. The Hans Ehrenberg studies collected in this volume aim to contribute to the reappraisal of some of Ehrenberg’s still fundamental impulses and to incorporate them into current discourses.

Reflection and Prayer:

Hans Ehrenberg was gifted, connected and devoted – to God, to Israel, to Justice. His life reads like a “Who’s Who” of German intellectual and theological history, with friendships with Buber, Rosenzweig, Barth and Bonhoeffer. His voice was used to harness opposition to National Socialism, and he was fortunate that his friendship with Bishop Bell of Chichester provided a way of escape. After the war he was not warmly welcomed back, and others have noted how he was denied the prestigious pulpits and pastoral roles he had previously occupied. But I don’t think he was that bothered. What surprises me is how little he is known today, especially by Jewish disciples of Yeshua, who have much to learn from his character, faith and life of service. I would like to see a full biography or a republished version of his autobiography – we have much to learn from this man of his times and man of faith!

Lord, give us wisdom and integrity, passion and perseverance, as you gave to Hans Ehrenberg. Help us to challenge evil and injustice wherever we may be, and serve you and all humanity with love, respect and faith. In Yeshua’s name we pray – Amen.

FURTHER RESOURCES – AWAITING EDITS

Constancy and change. Hans Ehrenberg’s three-dimensional methodology and the ‘Jewish question’ (1932-1954). Ulrike Lange; University of Birmingham, 2004

http://www.ev.rub.de/aktuelles/2019/news00247.html.de

https://hansehrenberg.info/

https://www.booklooker.de/B%C3%BCcher/Angebote/autor=Ehrenberg+Hans

antiquarisches Buch – Ehrenberg, Hans; Steck, Karl Gerhard (Hrsg.); Eichholz, Georg (Hrsg.) – Die Paradoxien des Evangeliums. [Theologische Existenz heute. Neue Folge. Heft Nr. 58.]

– The Nazi Religion and the Christian Mission, in: The International Review of Missions 30, 1941, S. 363-373, 440f

– The Church Militant, a Biblical Meditation, in: Churchman, April-June 1941. S. 1-14

– The Confessional Pastor and his Struggle. in: Churchman, January-March 1942. S. 1-14

– Concerning the Protestant Church in Germany. in: Blackfriars – a monthly review, July 1942, S. 265-270

– Autobiography of a German Pastor. SCM Press LTD., London 1943,160 S.

– The Rediscovery of the Jew in Christianity (with special reference to Pascal), in: The Internat. Rev. of Missions, 33,1944, S. 400-406

– Bossuet. in: The Internat. Rev. of Missions, 1944

– Is there an ecumenical theology? in: The Presbyter 1945

– Prayer for Christian Unity. in: The Internat. Rev. of Missions 35, 1946, S. 194-198

– After the Totalitarian World Revolution. Some Thoughts on Church and State in the World Church after the War. in: The Internat. Rev. of Missions January 1947, S. 81-87

– Luther speaks. (With other contributors) Lutterworthpress, London 1947 (Darin von Ehrenberg: Preface; Luther and private Prayer; Luther as Theologian; PostScript – At Luther’s Grave 1946

Barth

About richardsh

Messianic Jewish teacher in UK
This entry was posted in otdimjh. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.