The First “Kindertransport” Rescue Mission

A passport with a photo and several stamps

Beate Rose’s childhood passport
© Jewish Museum Berlin, donated by Beatrice Steinberg

75 years ago today, on 2 December 1938, the first of the Kindertransport rescue missions arrived in England. Beatrice Steinberg (née Beate Rose), a benefactor of the Jewish Museum Berlin, was among the last of the Jewish children to be saved in this way, by mass evacuation from Nazi-occupied territories. In her memoirs, which are held in our archives, she recalls her departure from Germany in the summer of 1939:

“My mother took me to the train, which turned out to be one of the last Kindertransporte to England [...]. I was so excited that I rushed up the station steps without even saying goodbye to my mother. She called me back. We gave each other a hug and a kiss, then I boarded the train. I stood at the window and we waved goodbye. That was the last time I ever saw her.”

Number tag "Kindertransport Nr. 8434 ot the Relief Association of Jews in Germany"

Beate Rose’s number tag from the “Kindertransport” rescue mission
© Jewish Museum Berlin, donated by Beatrice Steinberg

For Beatrice, only twelve years old at the time, the trip was an adventure; for her parents, the decision to let her go off alone, into the unknown, must have been made in great despair. The mass evacuation of children was launched three weeks after the November pogrom. Beate’s father was a prisoner in Buchenwald concentration camp at the time. Like hundreds of thousands of Jewish men and women, her parents hoped to leave Germany as soon as possible. But which country would open its borders to the mass of refugees? Visa restrictions and a bewildering amount of red tape made emigration a protracted and arduous undertaking.  continue reading


Access – or no access

A sitting teddy bear

Teddy bear that belonged to Ilse Jacobson (1920-2007), textile, straw, glass, ca. 1920 to 1930, in our online collection

56,250. This is the number that comes up when I search our collection’s database for its complete holdings. 56,250 data sets describing, for the most part, individual objects, and occasionally entire mixed lots. You can now see 6,300 of these objects online. Releasing this information to the public provokes mixed feelings on the part of museum staff: we have a lot to say about many of these objects. Many of them don’t speak for themselves. You can’t tell, for instance, that this teddy bear belonged to a child leaving Germany on a Kindertransport. The meaning of many documents and photographs lies likewise to a large extent in their biographical or political history. They require sufficient detail and well-chosen catchwords to help visitors find other objects related to the same topic.

With this project, we have to proceed pragmatically. 15-30 minutes of working time per object is a lot if you have to inventory a mixed lot with 250 units. We verify everything, including things that occur to us as we’re working. We are aware that there’s more to write about – and there would be more to correct, – if we had the time for more thorough research. Yet we can only make forays into the library or even into the archive for special projects or particularly important objects. And so we rely to a great extent on digital sources.  continue reading


The Appeal of Playing with Limited Space

Since the end of August visitors to the permanent exhibition have been able to purchase small artworks from an ‘art vending machine.’ The artworks have been created by Jewish artists living and working in Berlin.

Paper mezuzah with pull-out comic strip

Paper mezuzah with pull-out comic strip by Zara Verity Morris
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Today we present one of the artists: Zara Verity Morris from London. Morris is currently studying for her Masters degree at the “Institute for Art in Context,” at the Berlin University of the Arts. For the art vending machine she has created a comic strip called “The Mezuzah” on a pull-out paper scroll. (A mezuzah is a small case, which is attached to the door posts of Jewish households. Inside is a handwritten parchment scroll with the Hebrew prayer “Shema Yisrael” (“Hear O Israel”).

Christiane Bauer: Zara, can you for starters briefly explain to me why you produced this particular object for the art vending machine?

Zara Verity Morris: I found it an interesting challenge to play with the limited space of the art vending machine, and wanted to make something that could be unfolded once it has been taken out. The long paper roll was inspired by the formal connection between the Torah and a mezuzah.
When I was a young child, I found a few mezuzot in a drawer in varying conditions. A few had open cases. I was surprised to discover a paper scroll lying inside one of them with Hebrew writing on it. I was excited, and thought it was like a toy Torah. As a child, one of my favourite parts of being at a service at synagogue was the heavy Torah being ‘undressed’ by two people; getting its velvet cover and decorations taken off to reveal the plain paper scroll underneath. I decided to turn these childhood memories into a comic.

How does “The Mezuzah” fit into your previous work?  continue reading