“New German Stories”

the three authors during the author reading and signing their book

The authors signing their book
© Jewish Museum Berlin

Alice Bota, Khuê Pham and Özlem Topçu recently presented their book “We, the New Germans: Who We Are and What We Want” at the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin. The three women, all journalists for the newspaper Die Zeit, discussed with one hundred guests what it means to be German in the 21st century. Before the event we asked the three authors a number of questions, including: “What inspired you to write this book?” They responded:

“We three are colleagues. We are political editors. And we are children of foreigners. But we find that despite being quite different, we share an outrage at those who would like to tell us who we are. By writing this book, we wanted to voice our concern, claim our identities and share our families’ stories. We wanted to demonstrate that immigrants’ stories are not necessarily about failure, and that broken and mixed family histories can in fact lead to personal success.”  continue reading


Forgotten Women Artists

An Appeal for Recognition and Dignity

“We used to throw stones at her – we thought she was a witch.” With these words, a former resident of Rishon LeZion ruefully told me of her childhood encounters with the sculptor and doll maker, Edith Samuel. Edith wore her long, dark, European skirts under the searing Middle Eastern sun and suffered from a physical deformity. The daughter of a liberal German rabbi, Edith and her sister Eva were both artists who left their home city of Essen in the 1930s and immigrated to Palestine.

photo of a pottery wheel and other equipment

The pottery wheel belonging to Paula Ahronson, Eva Samuel’s business partner, is preserved in private hands and untouched since her death in 1998
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Michal Friedlander

The Samuel sisters worked long hours, struggled to earn a living and did not gain the recognition that they deserved, during their lifetimes. The exhibition “Tonalities” at the Jewish Museum Berlin aims to bring forgotten women artists back into the public arena. It presents Eva Samuel’s works and that of other women ceramicists who were forced to leave Germany after 1933.

My search for transplanted German, Jewish women in the applied arts began many years prior to my encounter with the Samuel sisters. It was Emmy Roth who first captured my attention. Born in 1885, Roth was an exceptionally talented and internationally successful silversmith, who worked in Berlin. She immigrated to Palestine and fell into obscurity, ultimately taking her own life in 1942. Her male refugee colleagues, Ludwig Wolpert and David Gumbel, were appointed to teach metalwork at the Jerusalem New Bezalel School of Art in the late 1930s. They are feted in Israel today, whereas Roth is still completely unknown there.  continue reading


Re-thinking Migration

Food for Thought from Our Recent Conference on “Migration and Integration Policy Today”

In the year 2000, the UN named 18 December International Migrants’ Day. Today, thirteen years later, Germany is well-established as a prime target country for migrants. Its population is plural, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic. Migration and integration therefore provide both politicians and academics considerable scope to tread new ground. But what state is migration and integration policy in today? And what role does academia play in shaping it? Which concepts have become obsolete, and which new perspectives are opening?

Five panelists on the stage in front of a big audience

Panel discussion at the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Ernst Fesseler

On 22 November 2013, experts in migration research engaged in intensive and controversial debate of these questions at a conference jointly convened by the Jewish Museum Berlin, in the framework of its new “Migration and Diversity” program, and by the German “Rat für Migration,” a nationwide network of academics specialized in migration and integration issues. In the subsequent open forum with these invited guests, politics and science met head on: politicians and academics discussed, among others, migration policies proposed by Germany’s recently elected coalition government.  continue reading