“New German Stories”

the three authors during the author reading and signing their book

The authors signing their book
© Jewish Museum Berlin

Alice Bota, Khuê Pham and Özlem Topçu recently presented their book “We, the New Germans: Who We Are and What We Want” at the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin. The three women, all journalists for the newspaper Die Zeit, discussed with one hundred guests what it means to be German in the 21st century. Before the event we asked the three authors a number of questions, including: “What inspired you to write this book?” They responded:

“We three are colleagues. We are political editors. And we are children of foreigners. But we find that despite being quite different, we share an outrage at those who would like to tell us who we are. By writing this book, we wanted to voice our concern, claim our identities and share our families’ stories. We wanted to demonstrate that immigrants’ stories are not necessarily about failure, and that broken and mixed family histories can in fact lead to personal success.”  continue reading

The story of Uri Kozower

Photo of Gisela and Phillip Kozower with their baby in 1932

Gisela and Philipp Kozower with their daughter Eva in August of 1932
© Friends of the Jewish Museum New York, Princeton; photographer: unknown, donated by Klaus M. Zwilsky

Lawyer Philipp Kozower was 37 when he married the 23-year-old medical student Gisela in 1931. A year later she gave birth to their first child, a daughter called Eva. The new parents had their picture taken with their baby in Berlin’s Monbijou Park: wearing a bright dress and straw hat, Gisela holds the baby towards the camera somewhat awkwardly, as if the picture should document that Eva exists.

By the time Eva’s sister Alice was born in 1934, the National Socialists had already enacted numerous laws against Jews as well as taken measures to exclude them from public life. Our online project “1933: The beginning of the end of German Jewry” presents a variety of source materials from the Jewish Museum Berlin’s archives that bear witness to the disenfranchisement of German Jews. A display case with photographs and letters in our permanent exhibition details the Kozower family’s story:  continue reading

“Was Goethe a Jew too?”

When you do a search of our library catalog for Goethe you could get this idea: 70 hits for works by or about the German poet (by contrast, Schiller only gets 16). And until a few years ago the impressive 1867 Cotta’schen edition of Goethe appeared in our permanent exhibition. Many people used to ask the visitor’s desk: “Was Goethe Jewish?” No, he wasn’t. But for many Jews he was the paragon of German culture, and his works symbolized membership in the German educated middle-class.

a bust of Goethe and books in the museum

Former Goethe installation in the permanent exhibition
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Marion Roßner

A few months ago, the Richard M. Meyer Foundation gave us more than 100 books by and about Richard M. Meyer himself. The son of a banker, art collector, and man of letters was a Goethe scholar. Meyer never acquired a proper professorship, but his 1895 biography of Goethe won awards and was published again and again – as a single volume, in multiple volumes, as a people’s edition and a reserved edition. According to the biography, Goethe saw “nationalities merely as transitional forms” (Volksausgabe [People’s Edition] 1913, p. 352). Statements like this illustrate the dilemma of German-Jewish assimilation during that period. If a Jewish reader of Goethe placed the poet’s cosmopolitanism in the foreground, he exposed himself to the accusation of misunderstanding the German essence of his writings. But when he explicitly recognized just this quality in Goethe’s language, his very right to have a say was contested.  continue reading