“A symbol of hope and brotherly love”

An extraordinary gift

Golden pendant with the depiction of a women’s head

Medallion with the image of a saint © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jörg Waßmer, gift of Fred Kranz

Last week, museum benefactor Fred Kranz accepted our invitation to participate in two workshops in our archives. He met with two classes of schoolchildren, one from Döbeln in Saxony and the other from Berlin’s Tegel district. It was the fifth time in recent years that Mr. Kranz – who was born in Berlin in 1938 – came back from the USA to speak to students and their parents about his life. The Kranz family, which consisted of Fred and his parents, survived the war living on a farm that belonged to a former employee of his father, in the village of Kallinchen on Motzener See (Lake Motzen) in Brandenburg.

In 2004, Fred Kranz donated a collection of documents and photographs to the museum that provide an impressive record of Jewish life in the years immediately following the war. During his most recent visit, he gave us a very special – a truly unique – object. Here is the story of this piece, in his words:  continue reading


From poster stamps to animal card collections: on small collectors and big crazes

“Poster stamps?” A short pause, a puzzled look. “And… what are poster stamps?” This was more or less the reaction of every one of my friends and acquaintances when I told them these last months about ‘what I’m working on at the museum right now’. Namely, an exhibition on poster stamps.

Poster stamp with a man, out of his hat are falling poster stamps

Poster stamp from the publisher M. Fickel © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe, gift of Peter-Hannes Lehmann

Poster stamps, I would answer, are small promotional pictures, a little bigger than stamps. They were used as advertisements for products and stores just about exactly a hundred years ago. Some of the stamps were designed by well-known artists like Lucian Bernhard and people would collect them, particularly children.

I didn’t know much more than that about these poster stamps before I started researching for our cabinet exhibition “Pictures Galore and Collecting Mania – Advertising in Miniature”. The show begins on 4. December, 2014 and lasts until 31. May, 2015 at the Rafael Roth Learning Center. To learn more about the relevance that the stamps had before World War I, I began reading contemporary advertising manuals and magazines.
At first I found relatively little on the subject,  continue reading


Peddlers with Caftans, Sidelocks – and Umbrellas: Images of Jews around 1900

In Germany, you cannot rely on the weather being consistently sunny, even in the summertime. In the fall at the latest – dare we think of it already? – we will need to shake open our umbrellas again. Axel Stähler (comparative literature, University of Kent), has shown that the umbrella was once considered a Jewish attribute. He recently offered to share with Blogerim his research on the umbrella’s discursive significance in Wilhelminian Germany.

Dr. Stähler, how did you spot the “Jewish umbrella”?

A dark-skinned man sits with an umbrella

Mbwapwa Jumbo from “Briefe aus Neu-Neuland”, Schlemiel 1.1 (November 1903), p. 2

I was first struck by an umbrella in the hands of the “Big Chief of Uganda,” Mbwapwa Jumbo, a fictitious reporter in the Jewish satirical magazine Schlemiel, who acted as a correspondent from a new Jewish colony in Africa. In fact, in 1903, the British government had proposed to Theodor Herzl to commit land to Jewish settlers in the British Protectorate of East Africa. This proposal, which came to be known as the Uganda Plan, was vehemently disputed in the Zionist movement, and rejected in 1905. No concerted colonial Jewish settlement of Uganda ever took place, although individual Jewish immigrants had built homes there earlier.

In nine letters published over the course of the magazine’s brief lifespan, from 1903 to 1907, the chatty and naïvely amicable Mbwapwa tells of the first Jewish colonists – Orthodox Mizrachi – and of what became of them: in funny prose spotted with Anglicisms, and increasingly also Yiddishisms, he describes how he and his countrymen converted to Judaism. He relates the murder of a reformist rabbi who had been smuggled into the country, and the reformers’ ensuing punitive military expedition. He reports on the colony’s political and cultural trials and tribulations, and, finally, on the emergence of the Zionist movement—since Uganda was not, after all, the Promised Land.  continue reading