When a Certificate Was Not Only a Piece of Paper

– How Jewish Memory Objects Preserve Chinese History

One of the elegantly designed Chinese marriage certificates described later on in the text

Chinese marriage certificate for Irma Bielschowsky (1902–2000) and Albert Elias Less (1887–1952), 1944; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Gert and Brigitte Stroetzel

I recently shared my view on several objects from Shanghai in the museum’s collection on this blog. Now, I want to draw your attention to a few marriage certificates that caught my eye not just because of their elegant design and well-preserved condition after more than 70 years, but also because I was amazed how Chinese cultural elements had entered and influenced the life of Jews who fled the Nazi rule, even though the Jews largely maintained their own cultural and educational activities in Shanghai with newspapers, Jewish schools, concerts, sport activities, theaters (e.g. Delila, Nathan der Weise, etc.), and parties (e.g. a not so sober celebration of Purim).  continue reading


Confident Women in Veils

The Italian Writer Elena Loewenthal Reflects on Strong Jewish Women in the Torah

The current exhibition Cherchez la Femme, which explores religious dress codes for women from women’s perspectives, remains on display until 27 August (more about the exhibition on our website). When I first found out the exhibition’s theme, I immediately thought of the novel Attese (2004) by the Italian author Elena Loewenthal. (The title means either “expectations” or “times of waiting.”) In four extended sections, the novel tells the stories of different Jewish female characters throughout the ages. But the novel’s real main character is a mysterious veil that follows the protagonists from Biblical times to modern-day Venice.

two white head coverings for women displayed in the exhibition

Veils in the exhibition Cherchez la femme; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Mirjam Bitter

We can read the veil as a metaphorical vessel of Jewish memory that women have guarded and passed on, a vessel that embodies recollection and forgetting, tradition and renewal. Indeed, the reasons each woman in the novel dons the veil are not only cultural (such as marking mourning) but personal: each of them reshapes it, sews in her own threads, or at least cultivates an idiosyncratic relationship with the garment she inherited.  continue reading


“A living permanent exhibition that always offers something new”

Last round (for now) for the art vending machine

It is one of our museum’s little success stories: this year will see the art vending machine’s fifth (and, for now, last) tour of duty in the permanent exhibition. After five years “Art from the Vending Machine” will have sold over 12,250 works. Maren Krüger, curator of the permanent exhibition, explains its achievement thus: “We know that visitors enjoy taking something away with them, that they like surprises and are interested in the present time. In addition, we want a permanent exhibition that’s alive, that always offers something new. That’s how the concept emerged.”

Seven women in front of the art vending machine

The artists of the fifth round of the art vending machine; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Yves Sucksdorff

As with all projects that work well, a number of people were involved. First of all, there’s Christiane Bauer, our former colleague who supplied the idea. She was inspired by the art vending machines at the Kunsttick Agency, which can now be found all over Germany. In fact, while searching online for a suitable model, she came upon an old vending machine from the 70s that stood in a sports center in the Rhineland-Palatinate province. First though, it had to be transported to Berlin…  continue reading