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TEMPLERS (Tempelgesellschaft ), German sect which founded settlements in Ereẓ Israel in the 19th and 20th centuries. The sect, which had its origin in the Pietist movement, was expelled from the Lutheran Church in 1858 and established itself under the name of Tempelgesellschaft ("Temple Society") as an independent religious community. Its aim was to realize the apocalyptic visions of the prophets of Israel by establishing colonies in the Holy Land. In 1860, when it had a membership of 5,000, four of its members went to Ereẓ Israel to study conditions, and six years later several farming families belonging to the Templers made an abortive attempt to settle in what is today the Nahalal area. Two years later, in 1868, several dozen Templer families from Wuerttemberg established a colony in Haifa, at the foot of Mt. Carmel. For some time the leader of the sect, Christoph Hoffmann, tried to persuade the Turkish government to make the sect a free grant of agricultural land, and in 1871, when his attempts had failed, he purchased a tract of land on the site of what is today the Kiryah (government offices' area) in Tel Aviv, and founded an agricultural settlement there, naming it Sarona. Although the settlers suffered great hardship and many (especially infants) succumbed to malaria and the unaccustomed climate, they eventually became prosperous farmers.

Individual Templers also settled in Jerusalem and in 1878 founded a residential quarter (the German Colony) in the Emek Refaim district; others settled in Jaffa and Haifa. In 1875, according to figures given by the founders of the sect, there were 750 Templers living in Ereẓ Israel, who maintained two schools and a hospital. In 1902 they founded a settlement in the Lydda plain, naming it Wilhelma (after the Kaiser), and in 1906 two small villages, Bethlehem and Waldheim, were established in Lower Galilee by Templers who had rejoined the Lutheran Church. In the towns, Templers and ex-Templers (who had returned to Lutheranism) owned hotels, stores, and workshops. By 1914 their number had risen to 1,200. When the British conquered Palestine in 1917/18, the German settlers were deported as enemy aliens, but they were allowed to return after the war. In the summer of 1938 there were 1,500 Germans of Templer origin living in the country, owning a total of 6,700 acres of land. When World War ii broke out, they were interned and by 1943 they were repatriated to Germany – in exchange for Palestinians who had fallen into German hands – or deported to Australia. Their property was taken over by the Israel government in 1948, and was taken into account in the *Reparations Agreement concluded with the German Federal Republic.

At no time did the Templers succeed in formulating a uniform religious ideology. In 1845 Hoffmann founded a weekly, Sueddeutsche Warte ("South German Lookout"), which acknowledged the divine origin of the prophetic books, but denied the historical authenticity of the Bible stories. The weekly had a large circulation. In the wake of the Crimean War, Hoffmann, like other visionaries of the period, came to believe that the Day of Judgment was at hand, and that the people of Jesus – not the Jews – would inherit the Holy Land. After he had settled in Ereẓ Israel, Hoffmann's views underwent a further development and he gave up his belief in the Trinity, and in the divinity of Jesus and his expiation of man's sins. In Germany itself the sect did not last long, and it continued to exist only in Ereẓ Israel. Even there the Templers, especially those living in the towns, failed to preserve their distinctive character: the second generation, and even more so the third, adopted a levantine way of life. On the other hand, they kept up their ties with Germany and became ardent German nationalists.

[Abraham J. Brawer]

German National Socialist Party in Palestine

Decreasing religious fervor and strong German nationalism made the Templers receptive to the Nazi ideology introduced by the Auslands Organisation der nsdap (Organization of Nazis Abroad). A Templer in Haifa, Karl Ruff, became the first member and local leader of the Palestine National Socialist Party in January 1932. Fearing economic repercussions from the yishuv, few settlers joined the party formally; but sympathy for *National Socialism was widespread, particularly among the younger settlers. By 1934 the seven German colonies in Palestine were linked by a network of officials, and Nazi party activities penetrated all spheres of the community life. Dissension grew among the colonists after the Nazi Party failed in having one of its members elected to the post of president of the Temple Society in January 1935. Cornelius Schwarz, however, a National Socialist from Jaffa, became Landesgruppenleiter of the Nazi Party for Palestine in October 1935. Meanwhile local party pressure had secured the dismissal of Heinrich Wolff, the German consul-general in Jerusalem, whose more extreme successor, Walter Doehle, actively supported the local leaders. By September 1939, only about 350 Palestinian Germans were of the Nazi Party, but approximately half had joined the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (the German labor organization created by the Nazis) or similar organizations. By mid-1938 all full-time German teachers in Palestine were enrolled in the Lehrebund (German teachers' organization) which, along with the rest of the educational system and youth organizations, had been pervaded by National Socialism.

Nazi agents distributed antisemitic literature (e.g., Hitler's Mein Kampf) in Arabic among the population of Palestine. Some of them actively aided the Arab revolt (1936–39). The younger generation especially identified itself with the aims of the Nazi Party in Germany, and 400 of them entered the German army, some as volunteers. From the outbreak of World War ii the colonists were interned as enemies, and, as a result, the party was paralyzed; but they maintained their loyalty to Hitler till the end.

[Ann Ussishkin]

Further Information

The Templers who were deported from Palestine to Australia in 1943 by the British authorities joined the local community, which grew to some 1,350, mostly in Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide. In Germany they numbered some 800 with their center in Stuttgart, and continued to issue their periodical, which first appeared in 1845. The Australian group also produced a periodical. The Templers in Russia disappeared after the 1917 Revolution, while those in the U.S. joined the Unitarians.

Some scores of the Templers who remained in Israel were deported in 1950, and the few permitted to remain are no longer associated with the sect. The number of Templers throughout the world has remained comparatively stable during the last decades at some 2,200, with a slight tendency to increase. They have never engaged in missionary activity.


H. Kanaan, Ha-Gayis ha-Ḥamishi: Ha-Germanim be-Ereẓ Yisrael ba-Shanim 19331948 (1968); Ch. Hoffmann, Occident und Orient (1875, 19262); idem, Mein Weg nach Jerusalem, 2 vols. (1881–84); Ch. Rohrer, Die Tempelgesellschaft (1920); idem, Ist die Bibel die Quelle der Gotteserkenntnis? (1935); Schmidt, in: International Affairs, 28 (1952), 460–9; Erez, in: wlb, 17:2 (1963), 25 (includes bibliography); L. Hirszowicz, Third Reich and the Middle East (1966). add. bibliography: P.P. Read, The Templars (1999).

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