Granddaughters,

or “Being who I am”

“The night before I fly to Germany to see my grandfather Mosha, I meet someone, take him home with me, and for the first time in my life, I sleep with a man.”

Book cover "Sag es mir" by Vanessa F. Fogel

© weissbooks.w
Frankfurt am Main

This sentence begins the first chapter of the 2010 novel Sag es mir (Tell it to me) by Vanessa F. Fogel. The author was born in 1981 in Frankfurt and grew up in Israel. She introduces the first-person narrator of this autobiographical novel both as a granddaughter and as a confident young woman right from the start. And despite her imminent trip to the sites of extermination – she meets her grandfather in Berlin and they travel together to Poland – her emphasis is on vitality and the joys of living.

The Frankfurt publishing house weissbooks has now taken on another Jewish writer of “the third generation.” Channah Trzebiner is a lawyer, also born in 1981 in Frankfurt, where, unlike Fogel, she still lives. She has written Die Enkelin (The Granddaughter), which is more of “a kind of inner monologue” than a novel. This book also begins confidently: “I accept the woman that I am.” At once, however, the author alerts her reader to the difficult process underlying this claim:

“For years I cut off my connection to the innermost ‘I’ […], so that I could be the substitute for a life ended by murder. How I could have done otherwise? I’m called Channah after my grandmother’s youngest sister […].”

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A Lasting Disturbance

44 portraits hanging on the wall

Area on the Majdanek Trial in the permanent exhibition
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Alexander Zuckrow

Forty-four portraits have been mounted in the permanent exhibition over the last few weeks. They are a series of paintings by Minka Hauschild, called “Majdanek Trial Portraits,” and they show the participants of the Majdanek Trial, that took place at the regional court in Dusseldorf from 26 November 1975 until 30 June 1981. Standing in front of the wall of portraits, viewers are left to wonder: “Who is who, here?” The paintings themselves don’t reveal whether the subject was a former prisoner or an SS officer. Some portraits are realistic, but others seem distorted or blurred to the point of being unrecognizable. All of the people portrayed appear to have been damaged in some way. The portraits are deeply disturbing.

Our visitors can find out on iPads lying on the benches nearby whether a given painting depicts a judge, a lawyer for the defense, a witness, or a defendant. Each individual’s role in the Majdanek trial is described here and insight is provided into their biography as well as – where the sources permit – their own perception of the proceedings.  continue reading


Sources who Speak – a Little Online Tour

Since January 30, 2013 you can find documents and photographs from our archival collections and those of the Leo Baeck Institute in our Online Showcase. We are, of course, not the only ones producing work online using historical sources as witnesses to the time of National Socialism. I have looked around and would like to use this post to make some recommendations:

Screenshot of the website "onthisday80yearsago"An impressive example is Torkel S. Wächter’s project. The Swedish writer arranged together 32 postcards when he decided to investigate the history of his German-Jewish family. His father Walter Wächter fled to Sweden in 1938 and began regularly receiving postcards from his parents, who had remained in Germany. Torkel S. Wächter created the internet project www.32postkarten.com out of them and in 2010/2011 – 70 years later, to the day, after the card was written – he published these last life testimonies of his grandparents, annotated and placed in historical context. Wächter is now again presenting his longstanding engagement with his family’s history as an online project: www.onthisday80yearsago.com. In a literary form – with the aid of letters, notes from journals, and official documents, he tells the story of his grandfather Gustav Wächter, a tax officer who lost his job due to his Jewish heritage and office scheming. Torkel S. Wächter published the chapters from January 30 to July 2, 2013 in “simulated real-time”, as he calls it, rather like a re-enactment of the events of 80 years ago. A serialized novel, a weblog, and memory itself merge together harmoniously here.  continue reading

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