“… to air out the cloak of anonymity.”

An Early April Fool’s Joke from the Year 1931

Envelope posted 13 March 1931

Envelope posted 13 March 1931; Jewish Museum Berlin, Gift of Margaret Littman and Susan Wolkowicz, the daughters of Hilde Gabriel née Salomonis

Sometimes figuring out how to classify a document correctly according to its historical context can depend on just one tiny, even seemingly unrelated detail. I was reminded of this again while working on the inventory of a recent donation to our archive. With more than 3,000 documents, photographs, and objects, the Gabriel-Salomonis family collection includes among other things an extensive correspondence. This consists of letters, postcards, and even telegrams, and as I sorted through these items, I came across an exchange of four letters from the early spring of 1931. Two were handwritten: composed and signed, quite legibly, by the then 72-year-old, Berlin resident Ernestine Stahl (1858–1933). The author of the other two type-written letters was at first uncertain, not least because his signature was missing. Ernestine Stahl addressed him in her replies only as “Sir” and “Dear Sir.”

I was able to solve this little riddle, however, by looking at an envelope that turned up elsewhere of the bundle of papers but appeared to belong to this brief exchange.  continue reading


The Blow of a Hammer in the Rap of the Gavel

The Last Signs of a Life in Germany Sold at Auction 75 Years Ago

A suitcase filled with documents, photos and objects

Franziska Bogdanov, unpacking the suitcase from Arno Roland’s bequest
Jewish Museum Berlin CC-BY Katharina Erbe

The items in our archives have arrived here through the most various means: we have donations from German-Jewish emigrants from all over the world as well as gifts from their estates, donated to the museum after they have died by their children. We also receive some gifts from Germany, occasionally from people who aren’t themselves Jewish and yet some memorabilia from a Jewish friend or acquaintance was passed down through the generations in their family.

At the end of this last year we received a donation from the estate of a one-time Berliner who recently died in New Jersey (USA). It consisted of a large suitcase filled to the brim with documents, letters, photographs, and other objects.  continue reading


In the Sleeping Car with Ten Hand-puppets and a Travel Hanukkah Candelabrum

A puppet in a blue shirt with the star of David, in front of a crate of Berliner hotcakes with a speech bubble, “Oooh, my oh my! Hotcakes for free!!! Hahahaaaa! Happy Hanukkaaaah!”

One of the hand puppets from Shlomit Tulgan’s bubales family saying “Oooh, my oh my! Hotcakes for free!!!”
CC-BY Shlomit Tulgan

I was asked recently if I could write something about how I celebrate Hanukkah in my own circle of family and friends. It occurred to me that the last time I spent Hanukkah with friends or with my parents was quite awhile back. I rummaged around through old photos until I found a picture of me with my father in 1988, lighting our Hanukkah candelabrum: we had just applied for political asylum in West Berlin and were allowed to stay with friends, so we didn’t have to remain longer in refugee quarters. For me back then, Hanukkah was a personal, family thing.  continue reading