“Enthüllungen über das tragische Lebensende Lassalles” (An Exposé of the Tragic Death of Lassalle) by Bernhard Becker © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Leonore Maier
150 years ago today – on the last day of August, 1864 – Ferdinand Lassalle died as a result of injuries sustained in a duel. The German politician and journalist was a founder of the first workers’ organization in the country, the General German Workers’ Association, which had come into being the year before his death and is today still considered “the birthplace of social democracy”. Ferdinand Lassalle’s duel pistols were on display at the exhibition “150 Years of Social Democracy”, presented a year ago by the Moscow State Archive.
Both a politician and a charismatic agitator for the organization of workers, Lassalle was only 39 years old when he challenged Wilhelm von Dönniges to a duel because the latter had refused to grant Lassalle his daughter’s hand in marriage.
After his abrupt demise, a veritable cult of personality developed around his memory: there were poems, songs, even rituals carried out during the widespread commemoration ceremonies, as well as various pieces of memorabilia that circulated among his followers. The first book with “An Exposé of the Tragic Death of Lassalle” appeared in 1868, by one of his close political comrades.
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Gems from our Collection
Harry Engel (1892-1950) with the FC Bayern Munich, Munich, September 1916
© Jewish Museum Berlin, donated by Alfred Engel, photo: Jens Ziehe
On 15 February 1940, after a four-year wait for an American visa then a successful escape from Nazi Germany, the Engel family, hitherto of Munich, reached the safe shores of Manhattan. In the family’s luggage was memorabilia that the then 13-year-old Alfred Engel was to donate to the Jewish Museum Berlin, decades later, from his father’s estate. It includes rare photographs from the 1910s, a time when Harry Engel (1892–1950) was an active soccer player at FC Bayern Munich. → continue reading
The Jewish Museum is located in the well-known Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, which is also home to a 66-meter high hill that gave the district its name in 1920: Kreuz meaning ‘cross’ and Berg ‘mount’ or ‘hill’. A monument designed by Friedrich Schinkel had been erected there about 100 years prior in memory of the war of liberation from Napoleon. On top it has always been bedecked with an Iron Cross. Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III first endowed the building of the monument 200 years ago, on 10 March 1813, the birthday of his late Queen Luise. A drawing of Schinkel’s design for the Iron Cross has been passed down to the Kupferstichkabinett’s collection (Museum of Prints and Drawings). In 1870 and 1914 respectively, Emperors Wilhelm I and II made subsequent endowments of the Iron Cross for particular service by German soldiers.
Numerous Iron Crosses can be found in the Jewish Museum’s collection, in many cases together with the respective certificates.
Iron Crosses in Kreuzberg – view of the object data bank of the Jewish Museum
© Jewish Museum Berlin
They nearly all date from the time of the First World War, in which around 100,000 Jewish soldiers participated on the German side. Among them were Julius Fliess (1876-1955) and Max Haller (1892-1960), whose medals are now in the Jewish Museum’s possession. → continue reading