Friends Sixteen Times Removed and a Camel on a World Tour

A Visit to the Photographer and Architect Birgit Glatzel

Birgit Glatzel with her Rolleiflex camera on her balcony

Birgit Glatzel with her Rolleiflex camera; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Mariette Franz

It’s a warm summer’s day when I visit Birgit Glatzel in Prenzlauer Berg, the same kind of day it must have been when she shot her photograph “Angela and Me,” which, like her short film “Going to Jerusalem,” has been available in our art vending machine since April (more information on our website).

“Angela and Me” is part of a series in which the artist portrays herself with a friend in self-timed pictures. All the photographs are taken with a 1937 Rolleiflex camera, and the location and backdrop are always chosen together with the friend in question. Birgit embarked upon the project shortly before her emigration to Israel in 2007 – she wanted to take photos to remember her friends in Germany. “Memories play an important role in Judaism, for example an original piece is always left in a newly refurbished apartment,” explained the artist, who trained as an architect and works as such to earn her living.  continue reading


“Bringing the Black Soldiers who Liberated Germany from Fascism back from Obscurity”

Three Questions to Marion Kraft

Portrait of Marion Kraft

Editor Marion Kraft; photo: private

On 6 July 2016, we are proud to present “Children of the Liberation,” the new anthology in the “New German Stories” series. We will welcome the editor Marion Kraft and the authors Ika Hügel-Marshall and Judy Gummich as our guests. They will speak about the experiences and perspectives of Black Germans of the post-war generation and thus illuminate a little-known part of German history and American-German relations. The volume unites the biographies and voices of a variety of authors and considers questions of racism in the past and present as well as the diverse reality of Black people in Germany today.

We asked Marion Kraft three questions in advance:

Serpil Polat: Dear Ms Kraft, how did the idea for this project come about and what was your personal motivation in realizing it?

Marion Kraft: The idea for the book came about in fall 2014 in the course of talking to some of the authors, who, like myself, were born in post-war Germany to white German women and African-American soldiers. What struck us in particular was that on the one hand the part played by these soldiers in the liberation of Germany from Nazism has been largely neglected in the recording of history and on the other hand, the experiences of racism Black people had to make in postwar Germany were in danger of being forgotten. We also found that current socio-historical research projects on the postwar era often paint a very one-sided picture of the so-called “colored children of occupation.” Thus we felt it important to make our voice heard to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in 2015.

What is the origin of the title Children of the Liberation and who is meant?

Book cover "Children of the Liberation"

Book cover “Children of the Liberation” © Unrast Verlag

The title Children of the Liberation refers to the liberation of Germany from fascism, which the African-German-American journalist and witness of the time Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi referred to as the much-deserved demise of one of the most brutal systems of rule. “Liberation” stands in contrast to the term “occupation,” which is still used sometimes, and at the same time refers to liberation from the discriminating labels that prevailed for a long time to describe the children of Allied soldiers and German women, in particular the Black children. The book title also describes the experiences of the people who, against all odds, took the positive crafting of their lives into their own hands.

The book combines various facets – historical and academic analyses, biographical narratives, interviews, and literary texts. What is the concept behind this variety of approaches and texts?

The concept behind this is to illuminate this part of suppressed history from different perspectives. My introduction sorts the experiences of the post-war generation into the long history and current situation of Black people in Germany. The biographical narratives and interviews that follow propose alternatives to a recording of history determined by the power structures, and are bound by various scientific analyses into a collective experience. We also included some lyrical texts because they can provide a special means of reflection. Thus the volume is aimed at a diverse readership and provides various stimuli to analyze the history of and fight the still persistent forms of racism.

The questions were posed by Serpil Polat, academy programs on migration and diversity, who does her own research on biographies and racism and is very much looking forward to the evening.

Those interested in hearing more and asking further questions are welcome to attend the discussion and reading Children of the Liberation. The Perspectives of Black Germans of the Postwar Generation on 6 July 2016 at 7 pm in the hall at the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin. Bookings on tel. +49 (0)30 25993 488 or reservierung@jmberlin.de. Further information in our calender of events.


Boris Lurie – Trying Out an Approach for High School Students

Nina Wilkens in front of her computer screen

Nina Wilkens contemplating the collage “Found objects on flat cardboard box” on her computer screen; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Svenja Kutscher

Five black and white photographs of a scantily-clad woman, legs spread open, in various suggestive poses. The pictures smudged and stuck askew onto white cardboard. On top, a Star of David partly smeared with yellow paint.  A brown dildo is fastened next to the cardboard. This constellation of things looks at first glance like useless trash. Objects left on the ground, covered with their share of grime, and now lying here piled on top of one another. This work by Boris Lurie from our current exhibition “No Compromises! The Art of Boris Lurie” (further information about the exhibition on our website) has no name and its date is ambiguous.

When I started thinking, around a year ago, about a pedagogical program on Boris Lurie, I got stuck on this picture as I sat at my computer clicking through images of the works that were being considered for the exhibit. I was confused by my own reaction to this collage of two- and three-dimensional objects: vacillating between disgust and uncertainty. I had the words “obscene” and “tasteless” on the tip of my tongue but found them unsuitable. The image hurt. I wondered how students would react to Boris Lurie’s art.  continue reading