W. Michael Blumenthal
Founding Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin
Following a diverse and unusual career as professor, politician, manager and author, W. Michael Blumenthal has been director of the Jewish Museum Berlin since December 1997.
W. Michael Blumenthal was born in Oranienburg near Berlin in 1926. His family moved to Berlin when he was three years old. In November 1938, his father was deported to Buchenwald where he was held and mistreated for six weeks. After his release, the family was able to escape to Shanghai where they survived the war.
In 1947, W. Michael Blumenthal immigrated into the United States and became a U.S. citizen in 1952. After completing his Ph.D. at the renowned Princeton University, he was professor of economics there from 1953 to 1956. He then joined Crown Cork International Corporation where he rose to vice president and director.
In the 1960s, he entered politics and public service. He served in the State Department from 1961 until 1967 as advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson on trade. Ten years as president and then chairman of the board with Bendix International followed before President Jimmy Carter appointed him as Secretary of the Treasury in 1977. In 1979, W. Michael Blumenthal resigned from this position. He returned to the business sector and joined Burroughs Corporation in 1980 as vice chairman, then chairman of the board a year later. After a merger into the Unisys Corporation in 1986, he became chairman and CEO of Unisys. After retirement, he was first partner, then advisor of Lazard Frères & Co. LLC (1990-96).
It was during this period that W. Michael Blumenthal turned his attention to the history of German Jews. Researching the life stories of his ancestors - among them Rachel Varnhagen, famous for her ‘Berliner Salons,’ the opera composer Giacomo Meyerbeer, and literary critic Arthur Eloesser - he knitted their biographies into the larger historical framework in his book "The Invisible Wall: 300 Years of a German-Jewish Family," which appeared in 1998. It traces the difficult relationship of German gentiles and Jews since the 17th century and explores the question of how the Holocaust could have come about.
Since his appointment as director of the Jewish Museum Berlin, the museum no longer focuses primarily on the history of Berlin Jews, but on German-Jewish history in its totality. The long-aspired independent status for the museum from the Stiftung Stadtmuseum (Foundation of the City Museum) was granted in January 1999. Its festive opening took place in September 2001. In recognition of his work in Berlin, W. Michael Blumenthal was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in June 1999 and the Leo Baeck Medal in New York in November 1999. In June 2000, he became an Honorary Citizen of the city of Oranienburg. He was honored with the Culture Prize of the Berlin daily "BZ," the Goethe Medal, and the Order of Merit by the State of Berlin in 2002. In November 2006, he was awarded the Great Cross of Merit with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) honored him with the "Ernst Cramer Award" in March 2008.
Besides directing the museum, he is a member of the Advisory Board of the Investment Bank Evercore Partners, of the Advisory Board of the AJC, Berlin, and of the International Rescue Committee (New York). He continues to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe Foundation, is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations (New York) and the Century Club.
W. Michael Blumenthal lives with his wife Barbara (née Bennett) in Princeton, New Jersey. They have one son together and he has three daughters from a former marriage. His memoirs entitled "In achtzig Jahren um die Welt. Mein Leben" (Around the World in Eight Years. My Life) was published by Propyläen Publishers in October 2010.
Program Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin
Cilly Kugelmann assumed her position as program director and vice director of the Jewish Museum Berlin in September 2002. She came to the museum as head of the education department in May 2000. In 2001, she also became head of the research and exhibition departments. She comes from Frankfurt am Main where she worked at the city's Jewish Museum, directing the education program as well as public relations, and acting as curator (1986-2000).
Born in Frankfurt am Main in 1947, Cilly Kugelmann left for Israel in 1966 where she first spent a year as an agricultural laborer on a kibbutz in Galilee. She went on to study art history and general history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She returned to Germany in 1971 and began a degree in educational sciences, sociology, and psychology. Alongside her studies and then subsequent to them (1972-1999), she organized conferences within the context of political education on the subjects of Jewish history and the conflict in the Middle East.
After her degree she lead courses on integration for immigrants and asylum-seekers from Eastern European states for the National Education Federation (1978-1982), built a self-help company for the chronically ill at the department for psychiatry and social psychiatry of the Elisabeth Foundation Hospital in Darmstadt (1982-1985), took on teaching posts from the educational sciences department of the Ruprecht-Karls University (1982-1984), where she collaborated on an empirical investigation into Sinti and Roma's experiences of persecution during the National Socialist era (1984-1986).
She has been part of the editorial team of the magazine "Babylon, Contributions to Contemporary Jewish Living" since 1980 and has been involved in the publication of several books on the post-war history of Jews in Germany and on anti-Semitism.
Managing Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin
Martin Michaelis took on the post of managing director at the Jewish Museum Berlin in March 2014. He is responsible for the budget, personnel, central services, rights management and contracts, press and public relations, marketing and development.
Born in Göttingen in 1972, Martin Michaelis grew up in Hamburg and studied law in Heidelberg, Cologne, and Hamburg. He worked at the Institute for International Affairs at the University of Hamburg from 1999, where his main consideration was the international protection of intellectual property. In 2006, Martin Michaelis was admitted to the bar and spent five years working for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Martin Michaelis joined the German Federal Court of Auditors (Bundesrechnungshof) in 2011 to focus on issues of tax, budgetary, and procurement law.
Organizational Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin
Bülent Durmus took on the post of organizational director at the Jewish Museum Berlin in March 2008. Events, visitor research, visitor services, and the ongoing development of the internal organizational structure are all part of this newly created business division of organizational development. In the administrative sphere, facility management, security, and IT are further areas of his responsibility.
Bülent Durmus represented the museum’s interests during the period when the permanent exhibition was being installed and the modification measures planned by Daniel Libeskind were being undertaken between May 2000 and September 2001. From 2002, he masterminded the set up of the technical department at the Jewish Museum Berlin as an external advisor. He then went on to head the technical department at the Jewish Museum Berlin from 2003 to 2008.
Born in Izmit/Turkey in 1970, Bülent Durmus has lived in Berlin since 1971 and is married with three children. Following his school education, he studied architecture at Berlin’s Technical University and gathered experience at various architectural firms throughout his studies. In 1998, he presented his diploma thesis entitled "The Turkish Embassy in Berlin-Tiergarten." Following this, he worked freelance for architectural firms. From 1999 to 2000, he was involved in establishing the business divisions for planning, manufacturing, purchasing, and sales for a modular steel-pipe construction company. He has been a member of the Berlin Chamber of Architects since 2003.