Hans Philipp Ehrenberg

Hans Philipp Ehrenberg was born in Hamburg-Altona on June 4, 1883, the son of Maximilian Otto Ehrenberg and Gabriella Emilie, née Fischel. His parents were emancipated Jews with National Liberal sympathies. Ehrenberg studied law and political science, philosophy and finally, as of 1922, theology. He had already converted to Christianity in 1909.

As a Social Democratic city councilman, he maintained close ties with religious socialism and dialectical theology. As of 1925, he worked as a pastor in Bochum’s Altstadt congregation. His Jewish heritage and his resolute defense of “Jewish Christians” in the church led to conflicts with the NSDAP as early as 1927. In 1934, he was banned from publishing,

He was stripped of his citizenship in 1935 on the basis of the “Nuremberg Racial Laws”. The NSDAP increasingly pressured the church, asserting that a pastor like Ehrenberg was intolerable. The majority of his congregation was adherents of the Confessing Church and stood behind him. The Evangelical High Consistory in Berlin put it to him that he should resign.

Ehrenberg also received scant support from within the Confessing Church, even from Superintendent Karl Koch. Ultimately, Ehrenberg was forced to submit a request for retirement in 1937. An absolute “ban on preaching and public speaking” was imposed on him in September of 1938. In the so-called “Kristallnacht” on November 9, 1938, SA units laid waste to his residence during his absence.

Out of fear of further attacks, he turned himself in to the police on November 11, 1938 and was taken into “protective custody”. He was sent to Oranienburg concentration camp (in Sachsenhausen) for three months. The intervention of George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, whom Ehrenberg knew through his intensive ecumenical activity, enabled him to emigrate with his family to England by way of Amsterdam in 1939.

He and his wife returned to Germany in 1947. Ehrenberg first lived in Bethel near Bielefeld and received a post as a pastor for adult education in the Evangelical Church of Westphalia. He was still writing at this stage of his life. As of 1953, he again resided in Heidelberg where he died in 1958.

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