Fascinating Family History

A Look at the Radzewski Family Photo Collection

We all have family: father, mother, children, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or just relatives casually come across at family reunions or known from photos. “The uncle, living abroad, with the daughter and the grandchildren – don’t you remember him?” We’ve all heard that.

Black and white photo of a girl and a woman at a door

The donor, Vera de Jong with her mother, Meta Krotoschiner in front of their home in Santiago, Chile, in 1952, following immigration © Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Vera de Jong, née Krotoschiner-Radzewski

What happens when there’s no one to keep telling these stories? Only a photo of these people remain, if you’re lucky, sometimes a postcard that says nothing. This isn’t only the case in our private lives. As museum workers, we confront this challenge on a daily basis, especially when inventorying collections of donors’ family photographs. Each photo poses the same questions: Where was this? Who were these people – friends or relatives? What’s the story behind the image?

Fortunately we have help. Along with the photographs, donors provide and entrust us with their memories. Vera de Jong, born Krotoschiner-Radzewski, is one such example. Last year she gave our museum some 200 family photos (further information about the Photographic Collection on our website). As an academic trainee, it was then my task to inventory this collection and research its history. I was immediately taken by these charming images and, while researching them, understood their historical value, helping us uncover more than a century of family history.  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

Salvaged from the Trash: the Photo Albums of the Artist Olga Irén Fröhlich

Anna Rosemann with an open photo album

At work, view over the shoulder – open photo album of Olga Irén Fröhlich © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Oliver Stratz

I’m looking at recorded instants of an eventful life. 511 moments. Captured by photography, meticulously organized according to subject matter over four photo albums. They come from the estate of Olga Irén Fröhlich, a German-Jewish singer and cabaret artist who worked from the 1930s into the 1960s.

Interesting and poignant biographical stories are often hidden behind the photographs that come into my hands every day. The history of these four photo albums and their one-time owner is a very particular one for me, however, because it’s at once unusual and moving.  continue reading