Evidence of Ascendancy and Exclusion: Signs from the Oscar Hirschberg's Doctor's Office

From Our Holdings

Our collection includes a total of seven signs used by Oscar Hirschberg (1866–1946) to draw attention to his office as a general practitioner. They document not only the progress of his career, but also the political changes over forty years.

Dr. Hirschberg’s office sign, light-blue color with a yellow Star of David

Dr. Oscar Hirschberg's office sign, Berlin 1939–1945; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

The Life of Dr. Oscar Hirschberg

After completing his studies in Berlin, Oscar Hirschberg began working in 1889, initially in the city of Bromberg, which was then in the Prussian Province of Posen. In 1920 Bromberg, now Bydgoszcz, became part of Poland, perhaps one reason the doctor moved his office to Berlin in 1921.

Antisemitic Regulations

In October 1938, Oscar Hirschberg received a circular from the "commissioner for Jewish practitioners" providing instructions on the design of his office sign. According to the letter, signs were to be 30 x 25 cm in size, and the doctor's name had to be written in black type on a "sky-blue background" accompanied by the inscription "Only licensed to treat Jews." The upper left corner was to feature a "lemon-yellow circle" measuring 5 cm in diameter and containing a blue Star of David. The "altitude of the triangles" was set at 3.5 cm. The circular also recommended adding the word "Israel" to the sign in order "to avoid subsequent costs."

Occupational Ban on Jewish Doctors

The licenses of the more than 3,000 Jewish doctors practicing medicine in the German Reich expired in October 1938. Starting in 1933, it had become increasingly difficult for them to earn a living from their profession due to anti-Jewish boycotts, local initiatives by professional organizations, and discriminatory regulations. In autumn 1938, only 709 of the doctors considered Jewish under the Reich Citizenship Law were granted special licenses to continue practicing medicine, and they were only permitted to treat Jewish patients and their own wives and children. The special licenses could be revoked at any time. The Jewish practitioners were also prohibited from calling themselves "doctors," and their offices had to be identified accordingly. Doctors in "mixed marriages" were often the ones to receive special licenses. Likewise, Oscar Hirschberg survived the Shoah thanks to his non-Jewish wife. He continued practicing medicine in Berlin until his death in 1946.

Title Dr. Oscar Hirschberg's office sign
Collection Material Culture
Location and year of origin Berlin, 1938-1945
Medium Enameled sheet metal
Dimensions 25 x 30 x 2 cm
Acquisition Gift

Our archive also contains patient records from Dr. Oscar Hirschberg’s estate. Dr. Manfred Wichmann, a former Archive employee, explains why we don’t make these records public in our series “What We Won't Show You.”

Selected Objects (10) Material Culture Collection Show all

Material Culture Collection

Our objects from material culture recount Jewish life stories from Germany, attesting to athletic achievements, weddings, professional and military careers, but also disenfranchisement, persecution, and emigration.

The Sommerfelds’ Thirty-One Keys

Thirty-one keys – that's all that remains of the luggage the Sommerfeld family took with them when they emigrated from Berlin. They only managed to leave for England at the very last minute – just before the Second World War broke out.

Challenge Trophy from the Oberspree Jewish Rowing Club

The member of the Oberspree Jewish rowing club who logged the most kilometers in the water over the course of a year was awarded a challenge trophy. Fred Eisenberg won the award three years in a row.

Stamping Hammer, Invented by Gustav Maletzki

This stamping hammer, made around 1930, is one of the patented inventions for which the apparel furrier earned several awards. In 1938, Gustav Maletzki was forced to escape Germany and brought the hammer to exile in Bolivia.

Flag with the Star of David

In 1935, Martin Friedländer hung a blue and white flag from his window, making a confident statement against the racist Nuremberg Laws.

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.

Model of the Cargo Steamer Max

The Hamburg shipowner Arnold Bernstein received this model of his first ship in 1929 as a gift for his company's tenth anniversary. Eight years later, his career ended abruptly. He was detained and only managed to escape Germany at the last minute.

Max Haller's Collection of Medals

Max Haller fought in the First World War for the Imperial German Navy. When SA members threatened him during the April Boycott of 1933, he pointedly placed a velvet cushion with his military distinctions in the shop window.

Cardboard Key for the Korants’ Wedding

Margarete Apt and Georg Korant received an unusual gift for their wedding on 4 October 1903 in Breslau. The dark brown key is made of cardboard and can be opened.

Dr. Oscar Hirschberg's Office Signs

A total of seven office signs used by Dr. Oscar Hirschberg document both his career as a practicing physician and the political changes and antisemitic exclusion during the period of Nazi rule.


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Nazi Persecution

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