A Childhood in Flatow

The first episode in our blog series: “Memories from the Life of Walter Frankenstein”

Walter Frankenstein in a baby carriage at the age of 7 ½ months, Flatow, February 1925; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Leonie and Walter Frankenstein

When I look at the picture of the infant in his baby carriage, it’s difficult for me to believe that it’s the same person who sat across from me just a few weeks ago in Stockholm at the age of nearly ninety-three years. It’s even harder for me to imagine the eventful life that lay between these two moments, which was shaped by a variety of sudden and in some cases tragic developments, as well as bold new starts.

I’m referring to the life of Walter Frankenstein, who donated more than 1,100 photographs to the Jewish Museum Berlin. Photos that depict his entire life from the earliest days of his childhood into old age. The picture of the baby carriage is the oldest photo among them. It shows Walter in February 1925 at the age of 7-1/2 months on a sidewalk in his hometown of Flatow (today known as Złotów), where he was born on June 30, 1924. His father, Max Frankenstein, owned a country shop and an inn there, which he had inherited from the parents of his first wife, Emma Frankenstein. After Emma died of sepsis in 1917, he married Walter’s mother, Martha Frankenstein née Fein.

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An Unsolvable Mystery?

A Photo Collection Found Hiding in Berlin-Friedrichshain

Black and white photograph of a girl standing in front of a door

A girl standing in front of a door, presumably Berlin, about 1918–1922; Jewish Museum Berlin

Every time I open a new folder of photos, I can’t know what’s waiting for me – what faces I’ll find or fates will be revealed. Images are often part of a larger collection, consisting of documents, everyday articles and artwork, for which we already know the biographies of those pictured or can further research. Such was the case, for example, of the cabaret artist, Olga Irén Fröhlich, whom I’ve written about before on this blog. This time, however, the people in the photographs will remain unknown to me; I won’t be able to attach names or histories to them. Perhaps you can!

It’s not out of the ordinary to work with collections that have been in the Museum’s possession for decades.  continue reading


Salvaged from the Trash: the Photo Albums of the Artist Olga Irén Fröhlich

Anna Rosemann with an open photo album

At work, view over the shoulder – open photo album of Olga Irén Fröhlich © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Oliver Stratz

I’m looking at recorded instants of an eventful life. 511 moments. Captured by photography, meticulously organized according to subject matter over four photo albums. They come from the estate of Olga Irén Fröhlich, a German-Jewish singer and cabaret artist who worked from the 1930s into the 1960s.

Interesting and poignant biographical stories are often hidden behind the photographs that come into my hands every day. The history of these four photo albums and their one-time owner is a very particular one for me, however, because it’s at once unusual and moving.  continue reading