The Other Bethlehem – Part 2

The unique buildings we now see in the little village of Beit Lehem HaGlilit (Galilean Bethlehem) were erected in the 1930s by a group of German nationals. A 2008 article by Lydia Aisenberg in the Jerusalem Post explains the origin and dispersion of the group. Aisenberg says that Beit Lehem HaGlilit and the nearby town of Waldheim (now Alonei Abba)…

…were built by the Templars [or Templers], a German-Christian sect and Nazi sympathizers who were rounded up by the British in 1939 and deported out of Mandate Palestine. Some chose to return to Germany, but the majority of the Templar community’s members emigrated to Melbourne, Australia.

The sect originated in southern Germany and carried a holy mission known as the Tempel Gemeinde, or Tempelgesellschaft. The sect’s name was later shortened to just “Templars,” often confused with another group, the Crusader-era Templer Knights.

The Templars arrived in the Ottoman controlled Holy Land in mid-l880 and began to build communities in different parts of the country: Haifa, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Sarona (Tel Aviv), as well as the two communities Beit Lehem HaGlilit and Waldheim in the Jezreel Valley.

After World War I, the British sent the Templars packing, but members of the sect were later allowed to return. They were banished for a second and final time when their Nazi connections were discovered in the late 1930s.

Templar youth from Palestine had been sent to attend “educational” youth activities and family visits in Germany, where they met with top Nazi officials. Photographs on display at the Beit Lehem HaGlilit home of the Fleischman family depict Templar sect members wearing swastika armbands and congregating in one of the large courtyards between the two-story buildings and outhouses.

The Templars of Beit Lehem HaGlilit (Galilean Bethlehem) and neighboring Waldheim (meaning “Forest Home” in German) were eventually rounded up by the British and sent to detention camps until their deportation, after which British Mandate soldiers and police were billeted in the Templars’ former homes.

When Jewish refugee families later moved into the Templar houses in Beit Lehem HaGlilit and Alonei Abba, they discovered hidden Templar belongings that attested the sect’s support of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. Items discovered in the community’s homes included Nazi party pennants, badges, banners, pamphlets and flags, in addition to photographs.

The stone house below, built by the Templars, served as a community house for the German nationals who lived in Galilean Bethlehem in the 1930s.

The Community House at Beit Lehem HaGilit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Community House at Beit Lehem HaGilit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo is of the Holocaust memorial erected by the residents of the town in 2007. Aisenberg explains the significance of the monument.

Its six large marble slabs lean forward, as if struggling to keep their pride and stay erect under the heaviest of loads.

Engraved on the memorial are the names of Jews snatched from their homes, transported and murdered by the Nazis. The names of the European towns and villages in which they had lived for generations are also etched deep in the stones, which seem to strain under the weight of memorializing so many thousands of murdered Jews and their annihilated communities.

The victims whose memories are honored on the six marble blocks, unveiled last year, are extended family members of today’s residents of the pleasant, upscale community of Beit Lehem HaGlilit.

A smaller block of marble at the side of the memorial boasts an inscription reading: “Erected by the community of Beit Lehem HaGlilit, second generation since the Holocaust, in recognition of our parents who survived the Holocaust, made aliya to Eretz Israel, participated in the founding of the state and amongst the founders of Beit Lehem HaGlilit, our home and in memory of our family members who were murdered by the Nazis in Europe during the years of 1939-1945.”

Monument to Holocaust Victims at Beit Lehem HaGelit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Monument to Holocaust Victims at Beit Lehem HaGelit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The complete article by Lydia Aisenberg may be read here.

After Part 1 was posted, Erik Wold left a comment and link that is pertinent at this point. The Dec. 26, 2014 issue of the London Mirror carried an article entitled “Is this secret Nazi enclave the REAL Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was born?” here.

The authors of the article claim that the settlement in Galilean Bethlehem was an effort by Hitler and Himmler “to show that Jesus was born an Aryan, not a Jew.”

This is home to a secret Nazi sect waiting for the Second Coming in the heart of the Holy Land.

And behind it all is an anti-Semetic [Semitic] fantasy dreamed up by Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler to show that Jesus was born an Aryan, not a Jew.

It may seem stranger than fiction but it all really happened in Bethlehem of Galilee, nine miles west of Nazareth.

The article also advances the theory of Dr Aviram Oshri that Jesus was born in Galilean Bethlehem, while acknowledging that the Israel Antiquities Authority “dismiss his claim as ‘worse than a joke.'”

As a result of something I read in the Mirror article I was led to Heidemarie Wawrzyn’s Nazis in the Holy Land 1933-1948. She says that the German colonies were used to aid Arab rebels. All of this came to a head about 1938 and resulted in the expulsion of the settlers.

I do not claim much knowledge about the Templars or the German settlement at Bethlehem, but I do find all of this intriguing as a prelude to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.

Added Note: See the comment below by Tom Powers. Here is a copy of the photo he mentions. Use Tom’s link for the original at the Library of Congress.

Photo taken on Coronation Day of King George VI in 1937. The Fast Hotel, on lower Jaffa Road, was owned by a Templer family.

Photo taken on the Coronation Day of King George VI in 1937. The Fast Hotel, on lower Jaffa Road, was owned by a Templer family. Notice both Nazi Flags and the Union Jack.

3 responses to “The Other Bethlehem – Part 2

  1. Ferrell: Very interesting post. I was not familiar with this particular pocket of German Templer settlement. Imagine the shock of the Jewish moshavniks on finding Nazi paraphernalia squirreled away in their new homes!

    As for the British “discovering” the Templers’ Nazi connections: This was not really too hard, as I understand it, as the Templers were not secretive about it at all. I think of Jerusalem’s Fast Hotel, owned by a Templer family, which stood on lower Jaffa Road not far from Jaffa Gate at the time. There is a rather amazing American Colony photograph taken on the Coronation Day of King George VI in 1937 — It shows the building festooned with both Nazi flags and the Union Jack! See here: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/matpc/item/mpc2010002490/PP/resource/. During WW2 the hotel, under British control, was used as a hostel and club for Allied servicemen.

    Another little-known fact: The architect Antonio Barluzzi, builder of so many of the 20th century pilgrim churches we know, was also the head of an Italian fascist cell in Palestine during the pre-war years.

    TOM POWERS / Waynesville, NC

  2. Tom, thanks for the additional info. My use of “discovering” probably reflects my lack of knowledge more than anything else. Your comments are always helpful. I have posted a small image of the Matson photo with the post so that those without inclination to dig further may see it.

  3. Pingback: Plans to excavate Tel Shimron | Ferrell's Travel Blog

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