The Exhibition in the Axes

Biographies of German Jews between 1933 and 1945

Two corridors with dark slate floors and white walls; one leading to the right featuring a display cabinet; the other leading to the left towards a door to the Garden of Exile; the walls between the corridors feature city names like Istanbul or London

If you go down the stairs into the lower level of the Libeskind building, you’ll encounter objects from the time of National Socialism on display. Along the Axis of Exile and the Axis of the Holocaust, they tell personal stories of persecution and exclusion, emigration and Holocaust.

Photography: View down the stairs to the axes

The axes of memory can be accessed via this staircase; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Thomas Bruns

Restrictive Limitations on What Refugees Could Take With Them

On the Axis of Exile, one glass case is dedicated to the sharply limiting regulations regarding what refugees were allowed to take with them when emigrating from National Socialist Germany. Four stories show what emigrants could save. These include the story of Margarete Sachs, mother of the poet and later Nobel prizewinner Nelly Sachs. She fled in 1940 with her daughter in one of the last passenger planes from Berlin to Stockholm. She took her wedding ring and her deceased husband’s ring with her. Wedding rings were among the few pieces of jewelry that could be taken.

Anti-Semitic Town Signs

Alongside the stories of emigration, we display photographs of anti-Semitic town signs with statements such as “Jews not wanted here.” Werner Fritz Fürstenberg, who had already emigrated to the Netherlands at that time, photographed the signs in 1935 in the western German countryside, in order to document the exclusion of Jews from German society.

Photographs of signs and objects can be seen in a vitrine

View into a showcase with antisemitic place-name signs; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Thomas Bruns

Notes, Letters, Family Photos, Everyday Objects

Glass cases are mounted in the walls along the Axis of the Holocaust. Like a black ribbon composed of fragments, they lead to the Voided Void, the Holocaust tower at the end of the axis. The glass cases contain notes and letters, family photos, household goods, and everyday objects. They tell of Jews who were murdered in the concentration camps. The museum has collected thousands of such keepsakes.

They include farewell letters written before deportation. Because they were censored, sometimes they speak euphemistically of “a trip” or “going away:”

“12 November 1941
Dear Brother, I may soon undertake a trip of undetermined length. Don’t worry, even if you don’t hear from me for a longer time, I am light-hearted with a thick skin! Last week I became engaged. Her name is Edith Lewin. She is 5 years younger than me and, like me, very much in love. We hope to be able to stay together. Maybe we will marry in the very near future. Otherwise, I can’t tell you anything for certain, since at the moment, everything is uncertain. All of your dears are fit and well so far. Greetings and kisses warmly Your Günter”

Fold-out postcard with handwritten text

Postcard by Günter Behmack to his brother Rudolf in Shanghai, Berlin 12 November 1941; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Wolfgang Rademacher, photo: Dominic Strieder