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Central Welfare Office of the Jews in Germany

Klöckner (2013)

Klöckner, Jennifer, 2013: Central Welfare Office of the Jews in Germany. S. 201-214, in Cloke, Paul, Justin Beaumont und Andrew Williams (Hrsg.): Working Faith. Faith-Based Organizations and Urban Social Justice. Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press.



ZWST (Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Juden in Deutschland, Central Welfare Office of the Jews in Germany) is the umbrella organisation of Jewish welfare associations and a non-political representative of Jewish communities in Germany. During the First World War, ZWST was founded to take care of the Jewish survivors and to alleviate their suffering. Before the Second World War, about two hundred facilities were under ZWST’s leadership and approx. six hundred thousand Jews lived in Germany. Only 15,000 Jews survived the Nazi regime and only a few refugees came back to Germany. While the membership figure in Eastern Germany decreased to an extremely low level during the times of the Iron Curtain, tens of thousands of Soviet Jews immigrated to the reunited Germany after 1989. By 2008, ZWST served about 104,000 clients, 90 per cent of which were migrants, the majority from Russia and the former Soviet Union. This has changed the tasks of ZWST dramatically.

This article addresses the conflicts between the old-established, more orthodox and the “new”, more liberal Jews in Germany, and examines the crucial role that a single FBO – the ZWST – plays in reconciling these wider shifts in religious culture, ethnicity and population mobility within Jewish communities.