Hans Philipp Ehrenberg
was a German theologian. One of the co-founders of the Confessing Church, he had to emigrate to England because of his Jewish descent and opposition to National Socialism.
Hans Ehrenberg was born into an emancipated Jewish family. From 1898 to 1900 he attended the Christianeum in Altona. After his graduation exam at the Wilhelm-Gymnasium in Hamburg in 1902, he studied law and political studies (Rechtswissenschaften snd Staatswissenschaften) in Göttingen, Berlin, Heidelberg and München. In his Dissertation in 1906, on the situation of the Hüttenarbeiter in the Ruhr Valley, his attitude towards the workers was already clear. After his military service in 1907/08 he continued his studies, now in philosophy and in Heidelberg, leding to his second graduation (in Philosophy) in 1909 and habilitation in 1910. In 1910 he became a Privatdozent in philosophy in Heidelberg. In 1909 Ehrenberg was baptised as a Protestant Christian in Berlin. At this time arose a close friendship with his cousin Franz Rosenzweig. In 1913 he married the teacher Else Anna Zimmermann (1890-1970).
In the First World War Ehrenberg was a Offiziersstellvertreter or NCO, then (from the end of 1914) a lieutenant. He won the Iron Cross 2nd Class as well as the Badische Offiziersorden (Zähringer Löwe 2.Klasse).
Ehrenburg had seen the war as a legitimate defensive war, but after it his view changed radically, speaking of war crimes and German guilt. He joined the SPD in 1918, and was for 18 months their Stadtverordneter in Heidelberg, as well as a member of workers’ and soldiers’ committees. In the same year, he received an extraordinary professorship in Heidelberg. At this time arose his wish to become a Protestant minister, as he collaborated with the Christian socialists.
In 1922 Ehrenberg began his theological studies in Münster, which he completed in 1924 with his second Theological Exam. Abandoning a promising academic career, in 1925 he became the minister of the Christuskirche at Bochum in a heavily working-class area. He got involved in the “Kampfbund christlicher Arbeiter” (War-alliance of Christian Workers), though he left the SPD, feeling he could not keep up his parish work at the same time as party-political work. In 1927 made speeches on “Church and Antisemitism” in opposition to riots organised by the SA.
When the Nazi party rose to power in 1933, Ehrenberg became one of the founders of the Confessing Church. Already in May 1933 he and four other Westphalian ministers had formulated the Bochumer Confession, the first of its kind, containing a denial of Nazi ideology and a confession of Christianity’s Jewish origins. In July 1933 he published 72 guiding principles on Jewish-Christian questions, clearly relating his own opposition to antisemitism and calling on the Evangelischen Kirche to share it. In the face of increasing pressure from the Nazi Party and the German Christians, the church authorities sought to force him into retirement in 1937 for his work for the Westfälische Bruderrat of the Confessing Church. Ehrenberg, however, continued to work for the Confessing Church, whose ministers in Bochum publicly showed solidarity with him.
In September 1938 he was totally banned from delivering speeches and sermons. In the November pogroms of 1938 his home was trashed and a few days later he was taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In 1939 he was able to emigrate to England thanks to intervention and pledges by the bishop of Chichester, George Bell, with his family joining him shortly afterwards. He and his family were thus saved from the horrors to come in the Holocaust.
After the war, Ehrenburg returned to Germany in 1947, where he worked first of all as minister for adult education in Bethel. In 1953 he returned to Heidelberg, where he died in 1958. His will is held in the Landeskirchliches Archiv Bielefeld (Bestand 3,17).
- (German) Werner Licharz: Franz Rosenzweig und H.E.- Aspekte einer fast vergessenen Freundschaft in: W. Schmied-Kowarzik (Hg): Der Philosoph Franz Rosenzweig 1886 – 1929 Freiburg 1988
- (German) Günter Brakelmann: Hans Ehrenberg. Ein judenchristliches Schicksal in Deutschland. Teil 1: Leben, Denken und Wirken 1883-1932. Teil 2: Widerstand, Verfolgung und Emigration 1933-1939. Schriftenreihe der Hans–Ehrenberg–Gesellschaft, Bände 3 und 4. Waltrop, 1997/1999
- (German) Günter Brakelmann (Hg.): Hans Ehrenberg. Autobiographie eines deutschen Pfarrers und weitere Zeugnisse aus der NS-Zeit. Schriftenreihe der Hans–Ehrenberg–Gesellschaft, Band 5. Waltrop, 1999
- (German) Wolfdietrich Schmied-Kowarzik: Rosenzweig im Gespräch mit Ehrenberg, Cohen und Buber. Freiburg 2006
- Works on and by Hans Ehrenburg in the catalogue of the Deutschen Nationalbibliothek
- Peter Noss: Hans Ehrenberg. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon(BBKL). Bd. 19, Nordhausen 2001, ISBN 3-88309-089-1, Sp. 201–219.
- Hans-Ehrenberg-Schule (HES) in Bielefeld-Sennestadt
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