Karl Kuhnert 1870-
Kuhnert was born on May 25th, 1870, at Krotoschin, in Posen, one of the Prussian provinces.
Of his history he says:
my father was a furrier, who, in the family of his grandfather, a rabbi at Breslau, received not only the usual superficial knowledge of Judaism, but at the same time a truly orthodox education, and, as a pious Jew, he took good care that the laws of his people should be strictly kept by his whole family.
I was named Karl, after this great grandfather, and I was expected to follow his profession likewise. As far as I can remember, I assisted at Divine service every morning and evening from about the third year of my life, and from the age of four I joined in the prayers whenever they were offered. Nor were the other branches of my education in any way neglected. Being able to read and write when quite a little boy of five, I became well versed in the history of my people and country. When nine years of age I was sent to the college of my native town, and later on, when my parents removed to Breslau, I visited the Catholic college of that town, but at the same time the Jewish school. It was at this period of my life that I got a very strong antipathy to Christ and His adherents. Is that to be wondered at? All I saw was the thoughtless worship of Popish idols. And then, the greater evil to my young soul was wrought by my fellow-pupils, who, though educated in the Catholic faith, nevertheless found much pleasure in laughing at each new thought or new religious exercise, and spent much time in reading all kinds of immoral books.
I was very fond of reading, and in the memorable year 1885, the Lord led me to purchase that New Testament. There was a certain sacristan at Breslau Foreign Bible Society, and often on Sundays, about dinner time, I went to see him and to buy books to read. In this way I came into possession of the New Testament in Greek, German and French. But the sacristan never uttered a word in favour of the Gospel, and I thought him a very greedy man who sold Christian books for the only purpose of gaining money. Such behaviour in a professing Christian, together with the sad experiences in my school-time, made me an embittered enemy of Christ and His Church. During my time at college I visited the University and the Rabbinic Seminary, in order to prepare myself for the chosen profession of a Rabbi. The bitter hatred of all who confessed Christ grew more and more intense, and at last, I triumphantly delivered a public lecture at Berlin against Christianity.
But already, at the time of my visiting the Rabbinic Seminary, I felt an inner restlessness, and even when I changed theological studies for other pursuits, this uneasiness would not quit me. I used to perform the Jewish law with a still greater zeal, notwithstanding that the inner voice told me most distinctly that I was wrong and would never find true happiness in this way. I could speak to no one about this conflict of my soul. The Jews did not understand me, and Christian people I most heartily despised.
I then resolved to go to Paris, firmly believing that new surroundings would restore my peace of mind, and I felt I must conquer the heartfelt unrest at any rate. But on the very day of my arrival in Paris I took the train for Antwerp, and the next morning found me wandering about the streets of that town in dread despair. At length I resolved to return home, and that once more at Berlin I would seek rest in work. But in vain. I wandered under the old trees of the Tiergarten for long hours wrestling with my God, whom I was willing to serve, but after my own fashion as a Jew. I would not yield, and though I was hardly able to bear this inward conflict longer, I still went on with praying in public on the Day of Atonement.
At the close of November, 1898, my anxiety grew so strong that I resolved to start for Altona, in order to be thoroughly instructed about Christianity, in a mission house. Nobody had told me of such an institution, but by chance I learned of its existence from one of its former inmates. The 26th of November, 1898, found me at Hamburg. But still the old Adam would not yield, and I never entered the mission house till the utmost need forced me to go and see the Rev. A. Frank. He received me most kindly, and was willing to give me shelter in the house, but told me that, like all other inmates, I would have to engage in manual labour. I most gladly agreed to this, and I became a pupil of the mission on December 1st.
Far from the noise and influence of the world I first met my Saviour in all His glory. There was no question now about justification by performing Moses’ laws; His light made me see my sins in all their awfulness, and I broke down crying, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear’ (Gen. iv. 13). But soon Divine love made me sing, ‘My life is preserved’ (Gen xxxii. 30), and all my heart went out to my Saviour who had done so much for me. I was baptized on April 23rd by Pastor Aston. For a short time after I stayed at Hamburg as a private teacher, and the Lord’s blessing was with me; but I was soon asked by our dear Pastor Dworkowicz if I would be willing to work as missionary to the Jews, and he felt I might be of service at Koelnigsberg. Circumstances at the beginning of 1901 made my way clear. I knew then that it was after my Saviour’s will that I should enter upon this work; so I applied to the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews, and I was accepted on June 9th, on the recommendation of Pastors Dworkowicz, Aston and Frank, of Hamburg. I commenced work there under the direction of the first names, but on March 15, 1902, I started for Koelnigsberg, in order to labour in that city for the glory of God my Saviour. ‘The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad’ (Ps. cxxvi. 3).
Bernstein, A. Jewish Witnesses for Christ. Keren Ahvah Meshichit, new edition 1999.