Carl Hartog (first from left) with two colleagues, Douai, January 1914 © Jewish Museum Berlin. Donated by Virginia Van Leer Dittrich
Visitors can see an album with photographs of places along the Western front in our cabinet exhibition “The First World War in Jewish Memory” for only another few days. The album is part of the bequest of a Berliner gynecologist Dr. Carl Hartog (1877-1931), having been given to the museum at the end of 2001 by Hartog’s granddaughter Virginia Van Leer Dittrich.
Born the son of a leather manufacturer in 1877 in Goch on the Lower Rhine, Carl Hartog studied medicine in Munich, Bonn, and Würzburg. He subsequently established a practice as an ob-gyn in Berlin but, having already done a half year of military service as a student, he stayed loyal to the military as a working professional. → continue reading
“Our inclination to hopefulness and expectations of a final victory are unabated and yet the long wait does at times begin to worry us.”
The cultural and literary historian Ludwig Geiger, son of the famous reformist rabbi Abraham Geiger, penned these lines to a friend on 5 December 1914. The “long wait” which had started to trouble him four months after the Great War broke out, ultimately dragged on for almost four more years and yet failed to bring the victory so yearned for. Soldiers at the time could barely imagine what massive destruction this first modern war would wreak. The paltry equipment with which they set off for the front is proof enough of that.
Dr Max Litthauer’s Pickelhaube (spiked helmet) with camouflage covering, 1914–1918. Donated by Bart Ullstein © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe.
On display both in the exhibition “The First World War in Jewish Memory” at the Jewish Museum Berlin and in the special exhibition “1914–1918. The First World War” at the German Historical Museum (DHM) are Pickelhauben, spiked helmets made of hardened (boiled) leather and with a cloth covering for camouflage—for a metal spike protruding above a trench and catching the sunlight made its wearer a sitting target. On my guided tours of the two exhibitions, I take the Pickelhaube as an opportunity to talk about how much this war differed from previous ones as well as how ill-prepared the military was, initially, for the new weaponry deployed.
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108 years ago, on 29 September 1906, in the Neukölln neighborhood of Berlin, the photographer Herbert Sonnenfeld caught his first glimpse of the light of the world.
His photographs constitute one of the largest and most important portfolios in the Jewish Museum Berlin’s photographic archive. The Sonnenfeld collection consists of some 3000 negatives taken between 1933 and 1938. Along with Abraham Pisarek and Arno Kikoler, Sonnenfeld is one of the few Jewish photographers to document Jewish life in and around Berlin in the 1930s, passing down to us today an unparalleled photographic witness to that period.
Herbert Sonnenfeld, photograph by Leni Sonnenfeld, Berlin ca. 1935
© Jewish Museum Berlin, purchased with funds from the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin
Herbert Sonnenfeld first worked as an insurance employee before being laid off as a result of the Nazi regime’s anti-Semitic measures. He came to photography circuitously and was an autodidact. Following a trip to Palestine in 1933, his wife Leni approached various Jewish newspapers and offered them her husband’s pictures. They were enthusiastic, promptly bought up the prints, and asked for more. Thus began Sonnenfeld’s career as a press photographer.
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