Return of the Café Nagler

On the trail of a coffee shop

It was a very special moment for me when I got to unpack recently a new collection for the Archive. A small package from Tel Aviv lay in front of me. The sender was Mor Kaplansky, an Israeli film-maker, with whom I had been corresponding since spring of this year.

Jörg Waßmer presenting a phototograph of the former Café Nagler

Unpacking the collection of the Family Nagler; Jewish Museum Berlin; photo: Ulrike Neuwirth

It had all begun in March, at the finissage of Nosh, the Jewish Food Week. In a small café in Kreuzberg, the documentary film Café Nagler had just been shown. The film is about a coffee shop of that name, which had once stood on the Moritzplatz. While in Berlin today, there is no evidence that the café ever existed at the site, descendants of the Naglers in Israel have kept its memory alive right through the present day. The film moved me greatly. I was excited to see on the screen that Naomi, grandmother of the film-maker, had preserved certain treasures such as a coffee service with the emblem of the café and a set of silverware bearing the initials “N”. I also noticed various photographs and documents.

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“And next Sunday, no one will be thinking of the election anymore”

The 1930 German Federal Election

Black-and-white photograph of a man wearing a suit and glasses reading a newspaper while sitting at a table

Heinz Arzt reading the newspaper, 1920; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Hilde Pearton, née Bialostotzky

Recently I was leafing through the inventory listing of a family collection that has been in our archives for many years. I wanted to rework the index in order to bring it up to our current standards. The collection included documents, photographs, and objects from the Arzt and Bialostotzky families. In the twenty-three page inventory, a letter was listed for the Berlin liqueur manufacturer Heinz Arzt (1866–1931) in the category “correspondence,” but neither a sender nor recipient was listed, to say nothing of its contents. The extremely brief description went: “Letter: hand-written, 14 Sept. 1930.”

So I went into the archives and pulled the document numbered 2001/219/28 from box 451 to complete the listing. Suddenly, I was holding a fascinating piece of history in my hands: the so-called letter turned out to be a brief report on the Reichstag election eighty-seven years ago.  continue reading


When a Certificate Was Not Only a Piece of Paper

– How Jewish Memory Objects Preserve Chinese History

One of the elegantly designed Chinese marriage certificates described later on in the text

Chinese marriage certificate for Irma Bielschowsky (1902–2000) and Albert Elias Less (1887–1952), 1944; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Gert and Brigitte Stroetzel

I recently shared my view on several objects from Shanghai in the museum’s collection on this blog. Now, I want to draw your attention to a few marriage certificates that caught my eye not just because of their elegant design and well-preserved condition after more than 70 years, but also because I was amazed how Chinese cultural elements had entered and influenced the life of Jews who fled the Nazi rule, even though the Jews largely maintained their own cultural and educational activities in Shanghai with newspapers, Jewish schools, concerts, sport activities, theaters (e.g. Delila, Nathan der Weise, etc.), and parties (e.g. a not so sober celebration of Purim).  continue reading