May 10th marked the climax of spring 1933’s “Action against the Un-German Spirit” (Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist), an uprising of German students against professors who were political dissidents or Jewish, as well as ‘subversive writing’ (zersetzendes Schrifttum). We all know the images of the carefully prepared book burning in Berlin. Micha Ullmann’s memorial on today’s Bebelplatz responds to the notorious call to flames with a hauntingly quiet and empty library.
The Jewish Museum Berlin is now exhibiting some of the books which were taken off their shelves and thrown onto the pyre. The items on display are from George Warburg’s collection.
Viewing the bindings, the layouts, and the printing of these works is a pleasure in itself. We were all the more touched by George Warburg’s motivation for building his collection: in this video interview, he explains not only which works are his favorites, but he also describes his collection as an attempt, retroactively, to save the books which were burned, banned, and eliminated by National Socialists.
His “memorial to the idiocy of Nazi censorship” returns the volumes to daylight which are remembered in Ullmann’s subterranean library.
Mirjam Wenzel, Media
Our special exhibition “The Whole Truth… everything you always wanted to know about Jews” is based on 30 questions posed to the Jewish Museum Berlin or its staff over the past few years. In the exhibition, visitors have their own opportunity to ask questions or to leave comments on post-it notes. Some of these questions will be answered here in our blog, such as last month’s query: “how does a kippah stay on?” This month, we respond to Boris, who wants to know “why some Jews rock back and forth while they pray?”
“Why do some Jews rock back and forth while they pray? Boris”
© photo: Thomas Valentin Harb, Jewish Museum Berlin
Many people have asked why religious Jews sway back and forth while praying. This very old custom is called shuckling in Yiddish and means to rock, shake, or swing. As with many customs, it is easier to describe when and where it was practiced, than to answer definitively, why people shuckle while praying and studying the Torah. Continue reading
Sometimes even a museum’s normal workday provides surprises. About a week ago I found in my postbox a letter from the provincial capital of Stuttgart, specifically, from its office for public order.
Information about fines and tickets occasionally lands on my desk, since I am in charge of a team that travels around Germany in our museum bus doing mobile educational work at schools. In the struggle against ignorance and anti-Semitism, speed is of the essence. So I flipped through to the second page to ascertain how much we owed this time: € 104,80. For animal custody and veterinary services?! This is no normal parking ticket.
I turned back to the first page and read the letter from top to bottom: “Saving Ms. K’s cat.” Did my colleagues run over a cat, or did they find one and take it to the animal shelter? Continue reading