Our Archive

Documentation of Jewish Life

Ausschnitt aus dem handschriftlichen Testament von Veitel Heine Ephraim mit sieben roten Siegeln

Archive

Our Archive is located in the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy, opposite the museum. It safeguards numerous bequests, family collections, and individual documents that permit researchers to draw conclusions about the lives and fates of Jewish families and individuals. We document Jewish history in all its diversity, covering religious, cultural, political, and business life as well as private festivities and personal experiences.

Where

W. M. Blumenthal Academy, Archives

Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin
(Opposite the Museum)

Historical and Geographical Scope

Our holdings include documents from 1623 to the present with an emphasis on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The majority of the archival materials come from Berlin, where approximately a third of German Jews lived until the 1930s. However, since our museum opened, we have been able to acquire extensive material documenting Jewish life in other towns and regions in Germany and, in some cases, beyond.

Old page of hand written cursive ink text with multiple red wax stamps at the bottom of the page

Testament of Veitel Heine Ephraim (1703–1775), Berlin 1774; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Diverse Documents from Private Donations

Our Archive’s collection is composed almost entirely of private donations. The approximately 1,700 sets of documents range in length from several pages to 40 archival boxes. They include writs of protection and citizenship certificates, wedding and other civil status certificates, documents of military service, of training and professional life, business, scientific, and private correspondence, diaries, and memoirs. Photographs, decorated certificates, souvenirs, and everyday objects from our other collections complement the written materials.

Historical Emphases

We have particularly extensive holdings on middle-class life in the German Empire, on participation in the First World War, and on life and persecution during the Nazi era, encompassing internment, deportation, and murder, but also emigration and reestablishment in exile. A growing number of documents from the postwar period reflects communities' reconstruction and the fresh start, life in Displaced Persons camps, individuals' return from exile, and Jewish life in both parts of Germany and in the reunified country after 1989.

In this video from our 2009 film series What We Won't Show You, historian and archivist Manfred Wichmann offers a glimpse into our archive's work.

Branches of Other Archives on Our Premises

Our archive also houses a branch of the New York–based Leo Baeck Institute, with more than 4,500 microfilm reels of the institute's holdings available in our Reading room. It is also home to a branch of the Wiener Library with roughly 500 microfilm reels documenting Nazi rule and Nazi crimes.

A Look into our Holdings

All holdings can be viewed by researchers, students, and other interested parties in the Museum's Reading Room on request. (The Reading Room's opening hours and other information on our website). To submit a request, please use our registration form. In addition, the original documents are frequently used in workshops with school and university students to place topics of Jewish history in context.

Contact
Aubrey Pomerance
Head of Archives/Leo Baeck Institute
phone: 
+49 (0)30 259 93 556
fax: 
+49 (0)30 259 93 409
Where

W. M. Blumenthal Academy, Archives

Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin
(Opposite the Museum)

(10) Selected Objects from the Archive Alle anzeigen

Selected Objects from the Archive

Adoption contract Gloeden and Loevy

Even a Jewish-sounding name could be cause for discrimination. So the siblings Erich and Ursula Loevy chose to be adopted by Bernhard Gloeden, a grammar school teacher and family friend.

A desperate letter to their son in Sweden

"As long as we are still here, we will write to you every third day," wrote Paul and Sophie Berliner to their son, Gert, who was living in Stockholm, on 6 November 1941.

Martin Riesenburger’s Service Card

A provisional document from February 1953 certified that Martin Riesenburger was a rabbi responsible for pastoral care in East Berlin prisons.

Index cards from the British Army

Thousands of German emigrants fought against Germany in the British Army during the Second World War. In case of capture, they had to change their names, as these index cards document.

Frieda Neuber's Leather Pouch

Shortly before being deported to Theresienstadt, Frieder Neuber gave this leather pouch to her niece. The letters inside it document her desperate attempts to leave the country.

Memmelsdorf Genizah

In February 2002, workers renovating a house discovered a burlap sack filled with papers and personal items when they opened up a section of the ceiling. The house had been owned by Jews from 1775 to 1939.

Red Cross Letter to Emmy Warschauer

After the outbreak of the Second World War, the aid organization’s message service gave emigrants a way to contact relatives in Germany. That’s how Emmy Warschauer received confirmation that her daughter was alive.

Letter of Protection for the Jews of Ichenhausen

Until the nineteenth century, the residence and trading rights of Jews in the German territories were defined in letters of protection (Schutzbriefe), which had to be purchased.

Journeyman’s Book Belonging to the Shoemaker Leopold Willstätter

Leopold Willstätter traveled around southwest Germany and France as a journeyman from 1836 to 1843. The journeyman's book with a precise description of him also served as a form of identification.