Trials and Tribulations on Mt Scopus: the Auguste Victoria Foundation from 1898-1939

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2015

34 Pages


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Cultural and Religious Variety?
a) Craftsmen and Employees on the Mount of Olives
b) The Guests of the Auguste Victoria Foundation

3. Changing Relationships

4. National Protestant Chauvinism

5. A Glimpse into the Thirties Abbreviations



illustration not visible in this excerpt

Statue of Empress Auguste Victoria,

Auguste Victoria Courtyard, Jerusalem

(M. Trensky, Evangelische Himmelfahrtkirche …, p. 13)

1. Introduction

"Every enterprise and organization has its own story, generally motivated by an idea, unfulfilled needs, or a certain occasion. The story of the Auguste Victoria Foundation (= AVF) began with the German Emperor’s journey to Jerusalem at the end of the 19th century."[1]

Wilhelm II visited Jerusalem on the occasion of the opening of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem's Old City on October 31, 1898. Two days later, the Emperor received visitors, deputations, and petitioners in his tent next to Damascus Gate. Among the many groups were members of the German Protestant community in Jerusalem. They represented the approximately 120 to 200 Germans living in Jerusalem, mainly working for different Christian welfare organizations. They approached the Emperor to request his support for the construction of a German Protestant center for relaxation and recuperation on the Mount of Olives.[2] It is not clear if this location was the choice of Jerusalem's German Protestants, or of the Emperor’s wife Auguste Victoria, or of William II himself, who had taken an inspiring ride on the Mount of Olives to the north where the mountain becomes the Mount Scopus. Geographically, the AVF complex is not located on the Mount of Olives, but is part of the foothills of Mount Scopus. However, German Protestants called that hilltop "Mount of Olives" since the building complex includes the Church of Ascension - according to Christian tradition the ascension took place on the Mount of Olives.[3]

Like the local inhabitants, the Germans suffered from the heat, the desert storms, and from diseases such as malaria and cholera. They felt a health resort was needed where they could escape the heat and dust of the city and recuperate from any illnesses contracted. It would have to be in beautiful surroundings, suitable for the celebration of the Christian and German national holidays.[4] William II agreed to support the new German project in Jerusalem and to help the idea become a reality. However, it took almost five years before a fitting place was found with the help of the German Consul in Jaffa on the Mount of Olives. Land was purchased from Arab families in 1903, 1904, and 1905/06. Generous donations from the imperial family and fundraising by the Oelberg-Verein (Society of the Mount of Olives, an auxiliary committee of the AVF project) helped facilitate the purchase and the initial construction of the new complex in Jerusalem. Furthermore, the generous gift of one million gold marks by Laura Oelbermann (1846-1929), president of a Protestant women's in Cologne, considerably helped the project get underway.[5]

Following the request by Wilhelm II, the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Pfingsthaus-Stiftung[6] in Potsdam (Germany) committed itself to carrying out the venture in January 1904. Its board members named the future building complex after its patroness: Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Stiftung auf dem Oelberge (Empress Auguste Victoria Foundation on the Mount of Olives).[7] "Once the project was taken over by the Pfingsthaus-Stiftung, the plan to establish a German Protestant meeting place and recreation home for deaconesses and missionaries was extended to include a guesthouse for German tourists and pilgrims as well a church."[8] "Construction proved very difficult as except for the lime and stone almost everything was imported from Germany. Long distances, time-consuming transportation from Germany, bad road conditions in the region, stormy weather in winter, and lack of water in summer all made the construction work tremendously complicated."[9]

In spite of these difficulties, the opening of the AVF building took place as planned on April 9, 1910, followed by a festive banquet on April 11. Important and high-ranking guests from Palestine and abroad attended the opening.[10] Once the celebration was over, the construction work continued with the interior still unfinished and some improvements yet to be made.[11] It was not until July 1914 that the last worker left the site. At that time the guesthouse, including its interior, was finally complete.[12] "The total sum spent in construction was 2.992.575 gold marks including land, furniture, paintings, transport from Germany and roads for the transit of the church bells."[13]

The new building complex significantly changed Jerusalem's skyline; its bell-tower was visible from almost every location in and around Jerusalem. The AVF's purpose and goal was defined by the board of trustees in Potsdam: The building was to serve as a meeting place and recreation home for deaconesses, clergymen, missionaries, and other Germans living in Ottoman Palestine, Syria and Egypt. It was also meant to serve as a Christian guesthouse for thirty tourists. Six luxurious rooms, called the Herrenmeister-Apartment, were established and reserved for royalty and other high-ranking guests.[14]
The deaconesses of the Protestant Order in Kaiserswerth[15] were asked by the AVF board to take over the management of the guesthouse. Four deaconesses worked at the AVF under the guidance of Sister Theodore Barkhausen. They devoted all their time and energy to the new project, their efforts intended to create a comfortable German guesthouse with a homey atmosphere and Christian Protestant values.[16]

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Place Card, Banquet, Auguste Victoria Foundation, April 11, 1910

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AVG Ground Plan

(Die deutschen Festtage, 1912, picture 12)

2. Cultural and Religious Variety?

a) Craftsmen and Employees on the Mount of Olives

After the AVF board of trustees had agreed to the draft of the German architect Robert Leibnitz, Arabs were hired to work on the construction of the AVF in 1906.[17] Cooperation with the Arab workers proved difficult and different from working with German craftsmen. Otto Hoffmann, site manager from 1909/10, [18] described the Arabs’ working methods as unreliable and erratic. He praised their good spirits - they sang, laughed, talked and even prayed at work. At the same time, Hoffmann criticized their slow work habits and their cruelty to the children who carried sand and mortar to the site. Up to 100 children, aged six to ten, worked at the construction site every day supervised by an adult who sometimes beat them. Hoffmann also complained about Arab brutality to donkeys.[19] However, according to his report, it was the Arab laborers who did most of the construction work. Among them were many untrained men who carried the water and heavy building material. Stonemasons, bricklayers and sculptors also came from the Arab population. Hoffmann praised their skill and their willingness to learn new techniques. He pointed out that some were expert in building arches, surpassing even the German craftsmen in this field. He also reported that one skilled and ambitious man actually built the entire church alone.[20] Only at the very end of his report did Hoffmann mention that Jews had also been employed at the site.[21] Additional information about the Jewish contribution to the AVF building was contained in German Jewish newspapers. There readers learned of Jewish sculptors and craftsmen working for the Auguste Victoria Foundation.[22] The jeweler M. A. Sozolska, who lived in Jerusalem, created a silver key for the guesthouse. The German Emperor thanked him for his marvellous work by awarding him the decoration "Goldene Adlernadel."[23] The work of the glaziers and carpenters was done mainly through Jewish companies in Jerusalem.[24] When Prince Eitel Friedrich arrived in Jerusalem for the AVF's festive opening in 1910, clergymen of all religious traditions came to welcome him at the Jerusalem train station. [25] The Arab mayor of Jerusalem gave a speech at Jaffa Gate and a Jewish girl presented flowers to the German princess.[26]

After the official opening of the AVF guesthouse, Deaconess Theodore Barkhausen, chief sister of the AVF, employed Arab servants, an Arab coachman (Kutscher Mosle) and a Nubian doorman (Hadsch Abdallah), the latter described as loyal and of very special character.[27] The gardener of the AVF complex was a German called Schauwecker. Pleased with his work and family, Sister Theodore wanted to extend his contract and raise his salary in 1911. Writing to the board of trustees, she spoke of Schauwecker’s German nationality and his "orderly wife and well-behaved children." It was important to Sister Theodore to have such an employee among the Arab workers, someone who spoke Arabic and knew how to interact with the "notorious inhabitants on the Mount of Olives," as she put it.[28]

b) The Guests of the Auguste Victoria Foundation

From its opening in April 1910 until July 1914 there were generally few guests staying at the AVF guesthouse. The head of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and Sister Theodore reported on several occasions that the number of visitors was small and that the guesthouse was not being used to its full potential because of the inconvenience caused by ongoing construction work.[29] In 1912 Sister Theodore reported that the British appreciated the AVF's comfortable accommodation more than the Germans. As the guests comprised mainly Jews, Arabs, and the British, she came to the conclusion: "… foreigners trust us more than the Germans who do not react in a very friendly manner towards us, excepting a few."[30] In January 1913, she interpreted the hesitation and resentment of the Germans as mistrust of the new Protestant Foundation.[31] Competitiveness between the different Protestant organizations in Jerusalem might also have been a cause. Gradually the German Protestants of Palestine came to accept the new institution on the outskirts of the city. Deaconesses came for relaxation and recuperation. Groups from the Syrian Orphanage and members of the Temple Society[32] took day trips there.[33]

All in all, the guests at the AVF were a colorful bunch. Arabs, Jews, Turks, Americans and British liked to lodge and celebrate there. The visitors represented many different religions and nations and professions: an English minister, two English archaeologists, a pastor’s wife from Bethlehem, a German lady recovering from a serious disease, deaconesses from Jerusalem, an elderly English bishop, the American Consul and his wife, the director’s wife from the American Colony[34] and the Provost’s wife Mrs. Jeremias. A Jewish lawyer and his family also stayed at the guesthouse. A malaria committee from Germany was scheduled to come for a certain period of time.[35] In 1912 a Turkish doctor from Constantinople intended to visit the AVF guesthouse with his two wives. In the end he cancelled his trip, relieving Sister Theodore of a moral dilemma; a husband with two wives would have disturbed the European ambience.[36]

Various festivities took place at the AVF including the wedding of Jerusalem’s mayor in 1912. The majority of the wedding guests belonged to government circles. After the wedding ceremony, a banquet was held with many European ladies in attendance; however, the mayor’s wife, his sister, his sister-in- law, and about twenty women friends had to eat separately in the reading room as Arab women were not allowed to participate in mixed festivities. Sister Theodore was charged with meeting visitors' expectations and making suitable arrangements.[37] In 1915, the anniversary of the Sultan’s accession to the throne was celebrated in the garden of the Foundation.[38] On another occasion the Governor of Jerusalem gave a banquet in the AVF's banquet hall with one hundred and fifty guests in attendance, including the Governor’s employees and friends, consuls of different nationalities, and Arab sheikhs. It was reported to be an amazing sight, with guests arriving at the main entrance and being welcomed by the Governor. The sheikhs, wearing beautifully decorated clothes and bearing weapons, arrived at the Mount of Olives on horseback.[39]

While German Protestants were initially hesitant about the new resort on the Mount of Olives, Arabs and Jews liked to lodge there from the very start.[40] In the summer of 1913, Sister Theodore wrote that she could easily fill the entire house with Jews. She even wondered if she should offer kosher food but assumed that the board of trustees would not agree. Only a few days later, Baron Mirbach, the first trustee of the Foundation, assured her that the establishment of a Jewish kosher kitchen was not to be discussed. The guesthouse was meant for Christians.[41] That same year the deaconesses began breeding pigs on the Mount of Olives. This probably ended the discussion.[42]


1 Wawrzyn 2005: 17.

2 Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 119-120; Elan 1984: 17-18; 21-22. Geographically, the AVF complex is not located on the Mount of Olives, but is part of the foothills of Mount Scopus. However, German Protestants called that hilltop "Mount of Olives" since the building complex includes the Church of Ascension - according to Christian tradition the ascension took place on the Mount of Olives (Dalman 1916: 74; Wawrzyn 2005: 15).

3 Dalman 1916: 74; Wawrzyn 2005: 15.

4 Wawrzyn 2005: 17

5 Wawrzyn 2005: 19.

6 The Protestant foundation under Empress Auguste Victoria’s patronage was founded in 1904 and headquartered in Potsdam, Germany.

7 Ev. Zentralarchiv Berlin (= EZA): 5/2027: 17th Annual AVF Report 1919 (17. Bericht des Ordenshauses Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Stiftung für 1919): 13; Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 1.

8 Wawrzyn 2005: 20; see also EZA 5/2027: 5, 7, and 56.

9 Wawrzyn 2005: 23; see also Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 102, 109-110.

10 Wawrzyn 2005: 24; see also Die deutschen Festtage, 1912, esp.: 27-62.

11 Wenzel 1999: 12-13.

12 Felgentreff 2002: 2.

13 EZA 5/2027: Letter by Mirbach, July 15, 1920 and list of costs, Dec. 31, 1919; Wawrzyn 2005: 25.

14 Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 90-91, 145.

15 The Rhineland-Westfalian Society of Deaconesses (Rheinisch-Westfälischer Diakonissen-Verein) was founded in Kaiserswerth in Düsseldorf (Germany) in 1836. Its members were dedicated to the organization as Catholic nuns are to their orders (the wearing of a habit, no salary, observing the order's rules, and obedience to the Mother Superior). In order to highlight this fact, the Rhineland-Westfalian Society of Deaconesses was defined as a Protestant Order.

16 EZA 5/2027: 11th Annual AVF Report 1913 (11. Bericht der Kaiserin Auguste Victoria-Stiftung für das Jahr 1913): 20; FKST, AKD: Letter by Theodore Barkhausen, July 13, 1912; Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 121, 143-145; Fünfzig Jahre Kaiserswerther Diakonissen-Arbeit 1901: 5, 71, 73; Blyth 1927: 135-136; Spafford Vester 1988: 246-247; Wawrzyn 2005: 27.

17 Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 89.

18 Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 4, 104-105.

19 Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 110-111.

20 Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 112-115.

21 Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 105-118, see also 10, 93.

22 Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums. Beilage: Der Gemeindebote, May 6, 1910: 3.

23 Die Welt, June 17, 1910: 592.

24 Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 102.

25 Israelitisches Familienblatt, April 14, 1019: 1.

26 Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 18-19; Wawrzyn 2005: 24, 53-54.

27 Die deutschen Festtage, 1912: 12.

28 FKST, AKD: Letter by Theodore Barkhausen, August 20, 1911.

29 EZA 56/83: Annual Reports, German Protestant Community Jerusalem, 1910-1912; FKST, AKD 274/V: Letter of January 20, 1913; Wawrzyn 2005: 28.

30 FKST, AKD 274/V: Letter of July 14, 1912. Also: FKST, AKD: Letter of August 27, 1912.

31 FKST, AKD: Letter of January 1, 1913.

32 The Temple Society members were Pietists who believed they could save the world from disaster by living as God’s pure pious people (Sauer 1985: 17ff). They were also convinced of the imminent return of Jesus, which would take place in Jerusalem. About 13 members of the Temple Society moved to Palestine in 1868. Their number grew to approximately 750 in 1875. They founded settlements in Haifa (1869), Jaffa (1869), Sarona (1871), Jerusalem (1873), Wilhelma (1902) and Bethlehem-Galilee (1906).

33 FKST, AKD 274/V: Letter of July 14, 1912; FKST, AKD: Letter of August 27, 1912; Wawrzyn 2005: 28-29,

34 Spafford Vester 1988: 246-247.

35 FKST, AKD: Letters of June 13, 1911, July 7, 1912, and August 27, 1912; AKD 274/V: Letters of July 14, 1912 and August 12, 1913.

36 FKST, AKD: Letter of June 16, 1912, July 7, 1912, and July 27, 1912; Wawrzyn 2005: 40.

37 FKST, AKD: Letter of July 7, 1912; Wawrzyn 2005: 40.

38 FKST, AKD: Letter of May 8, 1915.

39 EZA 5/2027: 17th Annual AVF Report 1919 (17. Bericht der Kaiserin Auguste Victoria-Stiftung für das Jahr 1919): 27f; Neueste Nachrichten aus dem Morgenlande (= NNM) 2/1920: 77-78.

40 FKST, AKD 274/V: Letters of 1912 and 1913.

41 FKST, AKD: Letters of August 12 and 25, 1913.

42 EZA 5/2027: 11th Annual AVF Report 1913 (11. Bericht der Kaiserin Auguste Victoria-Stiftung für das Jahr 1913): 20.

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Trials and Tribulations on Mt Scopus: the Auguste Victoria Foundation from 1898-1939
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Protestantism, Auguste Victoria Foundation, Empress Auguste Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm II., deaconesses, Theodore Barkhausen, Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Palestine, German Protestants, National Protestantism, National Socialism, Kaiserswerth, Jerusalemsverein
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Dr. Heidemarie Wawrzyn (Author), 2015, Trials and Tribulations on Mt Scopus: the Auguste Victoria Foundation from 1898-1939, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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