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23 March to 15 July 2012 Jewish Migrants from Eastern Europe in the 1920s

Schlüterstr. 36/37

Kahan Family

Yellow building façade with cars and trees
Schlüterstrasse 36, March 2012 © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Gelia Eisert

Inside the house
Schlüterstrasse 36, March 2012 © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Gelia Eisert

Portrait painting of a man
This portrait by artist Hermann Struck (1876–1944) shows Chaim Kahan shortly before his death in 1916. Chaim was a successful businessman who contributed to the rise of the Russian oil industry in the late nineteenth century © Tel Aviv, Giza Haimi-Cohen
Business card
NITAG business card, ca. 1924 © Tanhum Cohen-Mintz, Tel-Aviv

Statement by the scholar Verena Dohrn

»From 1913 to 1933 the family of oil importer Chaim Kahan lived in an apartment on the second floor of Schlüterstrasse 36 in the Charlottenburg district in Berlin. The place that most poignantly conveyed to me the history of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe was the Berliner Zimmer in this apartment—the large walk-through space in the corner of the building. The family used the room as a synagogue and up to one hundred people would gather there on holidays, including prominent figures such as Salman Schasar, later the president of Israel. Yet it also served other purposes. On Shabbat it was the sleeping quarters for the Eastern European rabbis who were staying with the family. It is said they slept on top of tables there. In everyday family life it was used as a study, but every now and then it was transformed into a drawing room where immigrants and German Jews met for convivial gatherings. The one-and-a-half meter walnut wainscoting on all four walls supports this story—in addition to memories recounted by the family.«

Verena Dohrn is the coordinator of the project »Charlottengrad and the Scheunenviertel« at the Free University of Berlin