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
“Weapons and Dignity” is the title of the chronicle of an object in the recently published 25th anniversary brochure of the German Historical Museum. It is about a revolver that was offered as a donation to the Jewish Museum, met with great interest there, but finally found its way into the collection of the German Historical Museum. Why?
The story: a woman in Berlin during the National Socialist era, fearing for her life because she was ‘half-Jewish,’ obtained a revolver so that, should she be threatened with deportation, she could end her life instead. She survived the era of persecution and kept the revolver as a souvenir, eventually giving it to a neighbor. He in turn made contact with the Museum when he was to be required by changes in the law regulating weapons possession to register the weapon or surrender it to authorities. For an institution like the Jewish Museum Berlin, where biographical narratives play an important role in the collections and in the permanent exhibition, this revolver would have been a very welcome ‘strong’ object, given the immediacy of its provenance. → continue reading