A great example of what Germany’s achieved in recent years: release him!

Photo of buildings in Berlin’s Kreuzberg-Mitte district

View from the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin towards the Springer building with the lit-up sign, #FreeDeniz; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Stefanie Haupt

As I leave my office at the Jewish Museum Berlin, emerging from the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy onto the street, the hashtag “#FreeDeniz” beams towards me from an illuminated black-on-turquoise-green display on the Axel Springer building. The first time I saw it, I was cheered by the signal that the publishing house Axel Springer SE* was calling for the release of Die Welt’s correspondent in Turkey, Deniz Yücel. But each day seeing the display has gotten sadder. I’ve known Deniz Yücel since 2003, when — together with other German- and Turkish-speaking Berliners — he organized bilingual protests against the bomb attacks on the two Istanbul synagogues, Neve Shalom and Beth Israel, on November 15 of that year. Twenty-four people were killed in those attacks and at least 300 wounded.

Deniz and I haven’t had contact for quite awhile. But since mid-February, through the news of his imprisonment for “terrorist propaganda” and the car procession protests that followed it, as well as conversations with friends and of course the illuminated sign, memories from the period in 2003 and 2004 when we interacted almost weekly having been coming back.  continue reading


“Our Father – A Sinti Family Recounts”

Reading with Anita Awosusi

Portrait of an elderly woman with bun

Anita Awosusi has championed Sinti and Roma civil rights; photo: private

Our series “New German histories” continues this year: on February 9, 2017, (the date was cancelled at short notice!) Anita Awosusi will introduce her book Vater Unser – Eine Sintifamilie erzählt (Our Father – A Sinti Family Recounts) in the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin. In her book the author weaves together her family’s biography, broader historical events, and the aftermath of Nazi rule. She tells the story of her father and at once of her own evolution. As a civil rights activist she still fights today against discrimination and for equal rights and civic participation for the Sinti and Roma peoples and was active for over twenty years at the documentation and cultural center for German Sinti and Roma. In anticipation of the event we asked Anita Awosusi three questions:

You entitled your book Our Father – A Sinti Family Recounts. Is the play on the central Christian prayer, the “Our Father”, intentional on your part? If so, what did you want to express with this choice?

The title Our Father came about because my sister and I always say “our father” when we talk about our parents. In addition, my father had a very fundamental role in our family as patriarch. Not to suggest at all that our mother was less respected by us children. But there was a second reason:  continue reading


“Kiddush Asylum”

When I first heard that the Jewish congregation of Pinneberg is giving “church asylum” to a Muslim, I had to chuckle. The article about it in the online magazine Migazin put the words “church asylum” in quotation marks and used a picture of the dome of the synagogue on Berlin’s Oranienburger Straße – making the linking together of the three monotheistic religions appear intentional.

But now I heard from a friend that there’s a film about the Kiddush asylum at the Pinneberg congregation for a man from the Sudan, and I had to wonder why “church asylum” isn’t “synagogue asylum”.

The Kiddush is a blessing spoken over a goblet of wine at the beginning of a holy day, in order to sanctify the day. Church asylum, as I learned from the film, is actually about a sacred room that protects people who are under threat. The Jewish congregation in Pinneberg has one such room. And it is encouraging to hear – as the head of the congregation explains in the film – why they are using this space to protect a person, at least temporarily, from persecution.

Rosa Fava, director of the “Diversity in Schools” project