Names Come to Life

Black and white photograph of an elderly couple

Emanuel and Johanna Stern, ca. 1903; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Alexander Summerville

Just over two years ago, I penned a blog text describing a Passover Haggada that I had purchased online. It caught my attention due to the lists of names written on the inside front and back covers of individuals who attended the Passover Seders over the course of seven years that were held in two residences in Berlin, both of which were in close proximity to the Jewish Museum Berlin. Research revealed a substantial amount of information about various persons named therein and my text concluded with the hope that contact might be established with descendants of some of those found in the lists.

At the end of March of this year, I flew to Stockholm to visit Alexander Summerville, the great grandson of Paul Aron, in whose home in the Hedemannstraße 13/14 Passover Seders took place in five of the years for which lists exist in the Haggada.  continue reading


Shot by German Police in 1946

The Tragic Fate of Shmuel Dancyger Z. L.

Black and white photograph of people at a grave

The family at the grave of Shmuel Dancyger; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Morris Dancyger

During a visit to my hometown of Calgary Alberta, Canada in the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to meet with Morris and Ann Dancyger, both child survivors of the Holocaust. Morris Dancyger was one of the very few children to have been liberated by the Russians at Auschwitz on 27 January 1945. In the iconic footage of the children displaying their tattooed arms, four year old Morris is in the center of the picture. Ann Dancyger and her mother had miraculously survived an execution in 1942 near the town of Ratno where she was born, and spent nearly three years thereafter in hiding. After a nearly two year trek to Germany following the end of the war, she was able to come to Calgary where relatives lived. I had not known the Dancygers while growing up in the city, and although I had much later read about the tragic fate of Morris Dancyger’s father Shmuel, I was completely unaware that his wife and children had settled in Calgary.  continue reading


Our Top “Muscle Jews”

At the Second Zionist Conference on 28 August 1898 in Basel, Switzerland, Max Nordau dedicated a passionate speech to the subject of muscular Judaism. The doctor, publicist and co-founder of the young Zionist movement said:

Black and white photo: Boxer portrait

Herbert Sonnenfeld: Boxer portrait, Berlin 1935
© Jewish Museum Berlin, purchased with funds provided by Stiftung DKLB

“Zionism breathes new life into Judaism. This much I am sure of. It does this morally by refreshing the ideals of the People, physically by the physical education of our offspring, who shall reestablish a bygone muscular Judaism.”

This should therefore not only replace the widespread image of the weak Jew but also support the creation of a new, physically strong “Judaism.” It didn’t take long for this to be realized: just three months following Nordau’s address, the first Jewish sports association was founded in Berlin. It was named Bar Kokhba, after the leader of Judean Jewish resistance against Rome from 132-135 ACE. In a report titled, “Muscular Judaism,” for the new association newspaper, Jüdische Turnzeitung, Nordau described it as the “last, globally historic embodiment of a battle-hardened, weapon-ready Judaism.” He called on Jews to “connect with our oldest traditions: (Then) we’ll again be broad-chested, strong armed, bold-looking men.”  continue reading