Contraband on Display

A long showcase with books, booklets and a map

View of the cabinet exhibition “In a foreign country. Publications from the Displaced Persons Camps” in the basement of the Libeskind Building.
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

In our cabinet exhibition “In a foreign country” we explore the publishing operations of survivors and refugees, the so-called displaced persons (DPs) who were stranded in occupied Germany after 1945. For this show we selected the widest variety of genres: schoolbooks, Judaica, volumes of poetry and prose, historical documentation, and Zionist pamphlets.

They all have two things in common: first, the quality of the paper these post-war printers used was extremely bad. Second, they all come from the Berlin State Library, whom we’re hosting for this exhibition due to its historically valuable collection of DP literature.

With one little exception.  continue reading

Fleeing – Then and Now

An Internet Harvest for the Day of the Refugee

Woodcut with five tired people, two sitting on the floor, one leaning on a wooden box and two standig in the background

“Refugees”, color woodcut by Jakob Steinhardt, 1946, purchased with funds from the German Class Lottery Foundation. You can find this and other related objects in our German-language collection database.

This year’s Day of the Refugee takes place today, 2 October 2015 as part of Intercultural Week, with the slogan “Refugees Welcome!” We have taken this as an occasion to go through our own and other websites and blogs, gathering items on this subject. Since we work at a Jewish museum, stories about fleeing are part of our ‘everyday business’: practically all of the family collections given to our museum tell stories of persecution and flight, going beyond mere statistics to depict the fates of individuals. Letters, travel documents, photographs, and personal memorabilia tell of the desperate search for a country to emigrate to, failed or successful emigrations, the often difficult life in a foreign country, the search for relatives, friends, and former neighbors, now scattered across the entire world. We tell these stories in our permanent exhibition and they have also been the subject of various special exhibitions. At the moment, for instance, in our current cabinet exhibition “In a Foreign Country” you can see publications that originated in Jewish Displaced Persons Camps. Jewish men and women waited there for their passage to Palestine or later Israel, to the USA and other countries, where they hoped to start a new life after the Shoah.

In addition to our exhibitions, we also make stories of flight and displacement visible online, for example with a selection of objects:  continue reading

Our Top “Muscle Jews”

At the Second Zionist Conference on 28 August 1898 in Basel, Switzerland, Max Nordau dedicated a passionate speech to the subject of muscular Judaism. The doctor, publicist and co-founder of the young Zionist movement said:

Black and white photo: Boxer portrait

Herbert Sonnenfeld: Boxer portrait, Berlin 1935
© Jewish Museum Berlin, acquired through funds from the German Lottery Association Berlin

“Zionism breathes new life into Judaism. This much I am sure of. It does this morally by refreshing the ideals of the People, physically by the physical education of our offspring, who shall reestablish a bygone muscular Judaism.”

This should therefore not only replace the widespread image of the weak Jew but also support the creation of a new, physically strong “Judaism.” It didn’t take long for this to be realized: just three months following Nordau’s address, the first Jewish sports association was founded in Berlin. It was named Bar Kokhba, after the leader of Judean Jewish resistance against Rome from 132-135 ACE. In a report titled, “Muscular Judaism,” for the new association newspaper, Jüdische Turnzeitung, Nordau described it as the “last, globally historic embodiment of a battle-hardened, weapon-ready Judaism.” He called on Jews to “connect with our oldest traditions: (Then) we’ll again be broad-chested, strong armed, bold-looking men.”  continue reading