Only Linguistic Morons?

On Behind-the-scenes Labor in the Cultural Economy

A poster with the quotation of Saramago and a picture of a boat

“Translators create universal literature.” José Saramago, Nobel Prize Winner for Literature 1998
© VdÜ (Germany’s Union of Literary Translators), design: Christian Hoffmann

Today is Giornata mondiale della traduzione, Międzynarodowy Dzień Tłumacza, Journée mondiale de la traduction, Uluslararası Çeviri Günü or Día Internacional de la Traducción—which is to say, International Translation Day, an occasion established in 1991 by the Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs (FIT: International Federation of Translators) in order to raise public awareness of the cultural impact of the wordsmith’s trade. 30 September is the anniversary of the death in 420 CE of Hieronymus, who translated the Hebrew Bible into Latin. Since ancient times translation has influenced the target language in question, and in the globally networked world of today it is our constant companion. Germany’s Union of Literary Translators (VdÜ) puts it in a nutshell: “Wherever words have been spoken, written, read, or even sung, translators have had a finger in the pie, and indeed they still do; and it is thanks to them that the whole world is at home in its own language.”  continue reading


Beit: A House Project for Schoolchildren

A circle of timber houses in the form of the Hebrew letter Bet under a tree

Timber houses in the form of the Hebrew
letter Bet
© The Beit Project, photo: David Gauffin

Beit is the name of a European project thought up by David Stoleru, a Jewish architect from France. The name refers to the Hebrew word for house “Bajit” as well as to the letter “Bet” of the Hebrew alphabet. Stoleru has designed small timber houses that are somewhat reminiscent of the cozy beach basket chairs common on Germany’s Baltic coast. Seen from the side, they resemble the symbol ב for Bet, the first letter of the word beit. Several classes of eighth-graders set up such houses in the Heckmann Höfe in the Mitte district of Berlin, as a means to temporarily bring into the public sphere their nearby school, whose Hebrew name, Beit Sefer, literally means “House of the Book.” Here, for two days, they devoted themselves to the task of uncovering traces of the Jewish community in the local cultural and urban heritage.

It proved to be a strenuous two days’ work, during which the schoolchildren were almost constantly on the go and often had to push themselves to their limits.  continue reading


Ronny Loewy,

10 April, 1946 – 9 August, 2012

Ronny Loewy with the director Louis Malle and Daniel Cohn-Bendit

Ronny Loewy (in the middle) with the director Louis Malle (r.) and Daniel Cohn-Bendit (l.) at the German premiere of “Au revoir les enfants,” 1987, courtesy of Gisela Geier-Loewy

On August 9 of last year, film historian Ronny Loewy died. He was a remarkable person and a friend of this museum, who supported and inspired our work from the beginning: it was Ronny who selected many of the film excerpts that appear in our permanent exhibition or appeared in the special exhibition “Home and Exile”. He also published, among other things, Tereska Torrès’s film diary Unerschrocken: Auf dem Weg nach Palästina (Unafraid: On the Way to Palestine) about the illegal emigration of Displaced Persons to Palestine in 1947 and 48. Ronny was a colleague and friend, with whom we not only worked but also shared many experiences and much laughter, who constantly opened our eyes to the new and unusual, the forgotten and overlooked, little details from films, and above all to the people behind these moving pictures.

We therefore wish to dedicate space on this blog today to remembering him and his life, one year after his death:  continue reading