Russians Jews Germans
Photographs by Michael Kerstgens from 1992 to the Present
20 April to 26 August 2012
After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989/90, nearly a quarter of a million Jewish immigrants - so-called "quota refugees" - came to Germany from the former Soviet Union. This wave of immigration brought about lasting changes in the German Jewish community. Michael Kerstgens is one of the few photographers to have documented - intensively and over a long period of time - the immigration of Russian-speaking Jews to Germany from the former Soviet Union.
Michael Kerstgens, Seniors' retreat at the Kurhotel Eden-Park in Bad Kissingen, Bad Kissingen 2001 © Jewish Museum Berlin
In his work, Michael Kerstgens focuses on the social and religious challenges facing Jewish immigrants to Germany as well as on the situation of long-established German Jews. He records religious celebrations and social events within the Jewish community, everyday scenes from transition houses, and individual families' private moments.
Michael Kerstgens, Communal kitchen in the transitional home Weiden, Upper Palatinate, 2001 © Jewish Museum Berlin
The photographs relate farewells and new beginnings, those arriving and those settled, and the search for belonging and religious tradition. They can be regarded an initial visual reflection on a process which has not yet reached its conclusion and whose outcome is accordingly still unknown.
Michael Kerstgens, The Jewish community Purim ball, Weiden, Upper Palatinate, 2001 © Jewish Museum Berlin
Michael Kerstgens, Family retreat on the subject of Passover in Bad Sobernheim, Bad Sobernheim 2001 © Jewish Museum Berlin
Michael Kerstgens, Jewish community Hanukkah ball, Berlin 1992 © Jewish Museum Berlin
The photographer shot new portraits of some of his protagonists from the 90s, expressly for this exhibit, revealing the immigrants' current circumstances and often astonishing progress.
Michael Kerstgens, The Troitschanski family's kitchen, Berlin 1992 © Jewish Museum Berlin
Michael Kerstgens, The Troychanskiy family - as their name has been spelled since they arrived in Canada - at the Shabbat meal, Toronto, Canada 2011 © Jewish Museum Berlin
Encompassing 162 shots in black and white, the series has belonged to the Photo Collection of the Jewish Museum Berlin since the beginning of 2011. Nearly half of them are on view in the exhibition as inkjet prints.
The photographs are being shown in parallel with the exhibit "Berlin Transit. Jewish Migrants from Eastern Europe in the 1920s". They extend the historical view of the theme of migration right up to the present and trace the question of how Jewish life in Germany has changed with the immigration of Russian-speaking Jews through the 20th century.
Duration of the exhibition
from 20 April to 26 August 2012,
The museum is open daily from 10 am to 8 pm, Mondays from 10 am to 10 pm
Jewish Museum Berlin, Lindenstr. 9-14, 10969 Berlin, Eric F. Ross Gallery, Libeskind Building, ground level
4 euros, educed rate 2 euros
CombiTicket (permanent exhibition and special exhibition): 7 euros,
reduced rate 3,50 euros
from 20 April to 26 August 2012 at the Jewish Museum Berlin
from 4 November to 2 December 2012 at the Designhaus Mathildenhöhe
from 24 February to 21 April 2013 at the Ludwiggalerie Schloss Oberhausen
from 5 to 18 March 2013 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary
form 2 May to 23 June 2013 at the Budapest History Museum, Buda Castle Building
The Michael Kerstgens Exhibition Book
Russen – Juden – Deutsche
German language edition only
Published by Kehrer Verlag
Format: 29,7 x 24 cm
126 duotone illustrations
The Quota Refugee Act
Within the framework of the unification process, the Federal Republic of Germany agreed to uphold the promise made by the last German Democratic Republican government to admit Jews from the then still-existing Soviet Union. On January 9, 1991, in keeping with the wishes of the federal government and the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the minister presidents of the German states resolved to admit Russian-Jewish emigrants to Germany on the basis of the Quota Refugee Act. All persons identified as being Jewish by Russian documents, as well as the non-Jewish members of their families, were now free to submit the respective applications and obtain permanent residence permits.
Unlike the ethnic German repatriates from the former Soviet Union, the quota refugees were not granted German citizenship automatically, but they were permitted to apply for it after a certain amount of time had passed. They were eligible for work permits, social security benefits and integration assistance such as a complimentary language course and help in the search for living quarters.
When the Immigration Act of January 1, 2005 went into effect, the Quota Refugee Act lost its validity. In 2007, the further admittance of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union was resolved, if with stricter requirements than before.
No longer on display
at the Jewish Museum Berlin
Jewish Migrants from Eastern Europe in the 1920s
Duration of the exhibitionfrom 23 March to 15 July 2012
Jewish Museum Berlin
Old Building, first level
Please feel free to read about topics pertaining to our exhibition "Berlin Transit", - which is no longer on display - on the exhibition website.