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How Our Museum Came to Be

...And What Has Happened Since

The idea to found a Jewish museum originated in West Berlin in the period before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The journey from the basic idea to the design of the museum’s permanent exhibition was a long one marked by many disputes. The controversies also reflect the change in the perception of Jewish history against the backdrop of the Holocaust.

The concept, founding, and opening of the Jewish Museum Berlin is largely thanks to the political initiative and commitment of individuals. Many sponsors and donors contributed to establishing and expanding the collection.

Here is an extensive feature article on the history behind our museum’s founding and the political developments that gave it the form it has today. If you can read German and are interested in learning more details about the political history of how we came to be (or prefer to hold a book in your hands), take a look at the volume Von der Hauptstadtposse zur Erfolgsgeschichte (From a Berlin Farce to a Success Story) by Daniel Bussenius (more...).

History of the Museum: Ideas, Debates, Decisions, Inauguration (5)

Ideas, Debates, Decisions, Inauguration

Here is the four-part history of our origins and an accompanying timeline – from the forced closure of the first Jewish Museum in Berlin in 1938, and the original museum’s inspirational influence on our collecting principles, until the present day.

How We Came to Be

West Berlin, 1971: the idea emerged for a Jewish Museum to be connected to the Berlin Museum. Finally, in 1992, the cornerstone was laid for the building dedicated to this purpose and designed by Daniel Libeskind.

History of the Museum
1971–1992

Controversies and Contradictions

In the 1990s, the conflicts between advocates of an independent Jewish museum in Berlin and those who saw it as part of the Berlin Museum continually intensified.

History of the Museum
1990s

Political Decisions

The appointment of W. Michael Blumenthal as Museum Director and the transfer of the seat of government to Berlin eventually led to an independent Jewish Museum Berlin, which opened on 13 September 2001.

History of the Museum
2001

Since the Museum Opened

With its exhibitions, publications, educational work, and diverse events calendar, our museum developed into a lively forum for reflecting on Jewish history and culture and, more broadly, on migration and social diversity in Germany.

History of the Museum
2001 until the present day

Timeline

An overview in dates:
From the opening of the first Jewish Museum in Berlin in 1933 to the opening of our largest themed exhibition to date, Welcome to Jerusalem, and the planning of a new permanent exhibition.

History of the Museum
1933–2020