The History of the Jewish Museum Berlin

Timeline

This page presents a chronology of important dates from the opening of the first Jewish Museum in Berlin in 1933 to our decision in 2016 to name the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin after W. Michael Blumenthal, our founding director.

January 1933 On 24 January 1933, Berlin’s first Jewish Museum opens in Oranienburger Strasse, just a few days before Hitler is appointed Reich Chancellor on 30 January 1933. It is run by the Jewish Community of Berlin. During the November Pogrom of 1938, the Gestapo closes the museum and confiscates its holdings. More about the first Jewish Museum in Berlin...
February 1976 On 18 November 1975, a founding assembly is convened for the Gesellschaft für ein Jüdisches Museum in Berlin e. V. (Society for a Jewish Museum in Berlin). In February 1976, the society is officially constituted and its statutes are published. Its goal is to rebuild the Ephraim Palais across from the present-day museum and to use its space for a new Jewish Museum. However, these plans are never realized.
August 1981 For the future Jewish Museum, the Berlin Museum acquires the Judaica collection of Zvi Sofer, a Münster-based cantor who died in 1980. The collection consists of a large number of ceremonial objects such as Torah ornaments, textiles, candlesticks, and shofars. More about our current Judaica collection...
November 1986 On 26 November 1986, the Jewish Department of the Berlin Museum opens three exhibition spaces in the Martin-Gropius-Bau. They are used until 1998 to show permanent and temporary exhibitions dealing with the history and culture of Jews in Berlin.
June 1989 In late 1988, the Berlin Senate organizes a competition for an extension to the Berlin Museum that will contain its Jewish Museum Department. In June 1989, the jury selects the Between the Lines design by Daniel Libeskind from 165 submissions. More about the Libeskind building...
November 1990 In 1990, the Jewish Department of the Berlin Museum receives ten paintings on permanent loan from the Israel Museum. The works stem from the former Jewish Museum in Berlin, whose collection was confiscated when the museum was closed in 1938. Some of the painting collection were rediscovered in 1946 and later handed over to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. More about our current art collection...
November 1992 The city history museums in West and East Berlin are united, bringing together a variety of objects related to the history of Jews in Berlin. These include not only the Märkisches Museum’s older holdings but also acquisitions made in the Nazi period. In November 1992, the Jewish Department of the Berlin Museum presents these objects in the exhibition Die andere Hälfte (The Other Half) in its rooms at the Martin-Gropius-Bau.
April 1995 In 1994, Israeli curator Amnon Barzel is appointed director of the Jewish Museum Department of the Berlin Museum. In April 1995, on the occasion of the topping-out ceremony for Daniel Libeskind’s new building, the Jewish Museum Department presents the exhibition ÜberLeben in Sarajevo (Survival in Sarajevo) with photographs by Edward Serotta in the building’s unfinished shell.
May 1995 The booklet Ein Museum für Berlin (A Museum for Berlin) is published to mark the topping out of the new extension. It presents contrasting views on how much administrative autonomy the Jewish Museum Berlin should have.
Summer 1997 The conflict between Amnon Barzel, director of the Jewish Museum, and the Berlin Senate Department of Cultural Affairs leads to Barzel’s dismissal in summer 1997. Barzel’s position is that the entire extension – not only the lower level – should be used to house an independent Jewish Museum.
December 1997 In December 1997, W. Michael Blumenthal, former US Treasury Secretary, is appointed director of the Jewish Museum Berlin. Blumenthal secures the institute’s independence and succeeds in having responsibility transferred from the Berlin Senate to the German federal government.
January 1999 At the opening ceremony in late January 1999, the museum building was handed over to the cultural administration. By spring 2001, around 350,000 people from all over the world have visited the still-empty structure. Due to the dispute over the proper institutional framework and the public interest in Libeskind’s spectacular architecture, the desire grows for an independent Jewish Museum.
August 2001 On 16 August 2001, the fourteenth German Bundestag passes a law establishing a "Jewish Museum Berlin Foundation." As a result, the Jewish Museum Berlin becomes a federal foundation under public law. More about the Foundation Law...
September 2001 On 9 September 2001, the Jewish Museum Berlin opens its permanent exhibition, which presents two millennia of Jewish history accessibly with many interactive elements. More about our permanent exhibition...

Berlin businessman Rafael Roth donates funds to establish a multimedia learning center at the museum where visitors can discover Jewish history and culture using computer stations.

September 2002 Cilly Kugelmann, who has served as head of the Education Department, the Research Department, and the Exhibition Department since 2000, is named program director of the Jewish Museum Berlin and its deputy director. More about Cilly Kugelmann...
April 2005 The museum opens a new section of the permanent exhibition titled "Both German and Jewish." It presents the history of Jewish emancipation and antisemitism from 1800 to 1914, with a special focus on how patriotism, Zionism, socialism, and baptism intersect with German-Jewish identity.
January 2006 The permanent exhibition is expanded to include a newly designed section devoted to contemporary life. Titled "It Was as Simple as That," it examines what it meant to grow up Jewish in German-speaking areas of Europe after 1945.
February 2006 For the children’s story "Sansanvis Park" in the Rafael Roth Learning Center, the museum wins first place in the category "Private Learning for Children Younger than Ten" in Germany’s digita educational software awards.
November 2006 At a ceremony in Berlin, Museum Director W. Michael Blumenthal is honored with the Grand Merit Cross with Star from the Federal Republic of Germany.
March 2007 In cooperation with Human Rights Watch, the museum launches the week-long campaign Darfur: Crimes against Humanity. It holds two exhibitions, an international conference, and other events in order to draw attention to the murders and human rights violations in Sudan.
June 2007 June 2007 sees the launch of the educational project on.tour – The Jewish Museum Berlin Tours Schools, which visits schools in several German states with a tour bus, a mobile exhibition, and an interactive workshop. More about on.tour...
September 2007 The museum’s new glassed-in courtyard, designed by Daniel Libeskind, is built between the rear wings of the old building. The opening ceremony is attended by the architect himself and many prominent guests. More about the Glass Courtyard...
August 2010–June 2013 In the former covered flower market on the opposite side of the street, an extension is built for the new Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin. The structure is remodeled according to the In-Between Spaces design by Daniel Libeskind and is made possible by the generous support of Eric F. Ross. The building will house the museum’s educational and research programs. More about our academy...
September 2011 On the occasion of its tenth anniversary, the museum reviews its past accomplishments. It presents the special exhibition How German Is It? with works by thirty artists that explore central aspects of their perceptions of – and within – Germany. The museum commissions eight works to be created especially for the exhibition by Arnold Dreyblatt, Via Lewandowsky and Durs Grünbein, Anny and Sibel Öztürk, Julian Rosefeldt, Misha Shenbrot, Paul Brody, Azra Akšamija, Lilli Engel, and Raffael Rheinsberg. More about the How German Is It? exhibition...
April 2012 The Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival intonations is held at the Jewish Museum Berlin for the first time and returns there annually in the coming years. Together with festival director Elena Bashkirova, artists from different countries celebrate intercultural dialogue and a shared loved of chamber music at six sold-out concerts. More about the intonations festival...
August 2012 The 2012–13 school year begins and, with it, the museum’s first school sponsorship. The four-year project with the Eighth Integrated High School (now the Refik Veseli School) in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin is designed to improve the students’ communication and intercultural skills and expand their knowledge of history.
October 2012 The museum launches a fellowship program focusing on Jewish history and culture as well as on migration and diversity in Germany. Sociologist Karen Körber is the first fellow. As part of her project "Everyday Realities: Contemporary Jewish Life in Germany," she investigates second-generation Russian-speaking Jewish women who have immigrated to Germany since the 1990s. More on Karen Körber and her project...
November 2012 The Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin is officially opened at the annual awards ceremony for the Prize for Understanding and Tolerance. More on the Prize for Understanding and Tolerance...
Spring 2013 The Diaspora Garden, featuring around 60 different plants, is built on 737 square meters of space in the academy. Designed by atelier le balto, a firm specializing in landscape architecture, the garden and its many plants reflect different aspects of life in the Diaspora. More about the Diaspora Garden...
May 2013 The museum expands its thematic focus. At a comprehensive series of events ranging from readings and international conferences to panel discussions and workshops, the Academy Program on Migration and Diversity (more...) present the findings of anti-discrimination and migration research and examine memory cultures in multiethnic societies. The Jewish-Islamic Forum (more...) focuses on questions linked to religious philosophy and religious practice in the history of Jewish-Muslim relations.
June 2013 A new section of the permanent exhibition titled "On Trial: Auschwitz and Majdanek" presents the two most important Nazi trials in Germany together with their participants: the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt (1963–65) and the Majdanek trial in Düsseldorf (1975–81). More about the "On Trial" section...
July 2013 The Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin is opened to the public after the museum’s Library and Archives are moved to its premises. Visitors can now conduct research in its public Reading Room and visit the Diaspora Garden. More about the Reading Room...
August 2013 Visitors can purchase small artworks at the new art vending machine in the permanent exhibition and take them home. The redesigned and remodeled 1970s vending machine is stocked with original artwork produced exclusively in limited editions by Jewish artists living in Berlin. More about the art vending machine...
September 2014 Founding Director W. Michael Blumenthal, who has played a major role in launching and advancing the museum since he was hired in 1997, steps down. Peter Schäfer, an internationally acclaimed Jewish studies scholar, is appointed new director. At the request of Cultural Minister Monika Grütters and Peter Schäfer, W. Michael Blumenthal agrees to work for the museum in an advisory capacity for a transitional period. More about W. Michael Blumenthal and Peter Schäfer...
April 2015 Founding Director W. Michael Blumenthal becomes the 118th Honorary Citizen of Berlin. The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, and the President of the Berlin House of Representatives, Ralf Wieland, confers the honor at the Rotes Rathaus.
July 2015 Through an official ceremony, the Jewish Museum Berlin commemorates the founding of the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI) sixty years ago. The museum marks the anniversary with a high-profile symposium titled “Collective Memories Renegotiated: What is German-Jewish Culture and to Whom Does it Belong?” Among the distinguished speakers are Michael Brenner, the International President of the Leo Baeck Institute; Dr. Thomas de Maizière, the Federal Minister of the Interior; and Avraham Nir-Feldklein, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Israel to Germany. LBI website
October 2015 Peter Schäfer, Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin, receives the 2015 Reuchlin Prize. The prize has been awarded every two years since 1955 for outstanding publications in the humanities and public efforts to further the cause of tolerance. The prize is named after Johannes Reuchlin, the Renaissance humanist born in Pforzheim, and comes with 12,500 euros in prize money.
November 2015 The museum welcomes its ten-millionth visitor since its opening. Cultural Minister Monika Grütters, Director Peter Schäfer, and Founding Director W. Michael Blumenthal are in attendance.
At the annual anniversary celebration, the museum presents its founding director, W. Michael Blumenthal, with the Prize for Understanding and Tolerance.
January 2016 On the occasion of the 90th birthday of W. Michael Blumenthal, founding director of the museum and intellectual godfather of the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin, the latter institution is renamed the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy. More about the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy...

In collaboration with Google Arts & Culture , the Jewish Museum Berlin presents five online exhibits. With their launch, the museum is expanding its open-access strategy and placing an even stronger focus on online features. Exhibits at Google Arts & Culture

March 2016 The film producer and Holocaust survivor Artur Brauner donated twenty-one of his many films related to the Holocaust and National Socialism to the Jewish Museum Berlin. With an open-house event attended by Artur Brauner and his family, the museum celebrates the donation of the Artur Brauner Collection. More on the Artur Brauner Collection...
July 2016 The jury reaches a decision about the Jewish Museum Berlin Foundation’s competition to design a new children’s museum. First prize goes to the design by the American firm Olson Kundig Architecture, based in Seattle. The jury described their decision as follows: “The scenography is extremely attractive and professional in terms of museum pedagogy. Its use of the Noah’s ark motif playfully picks up on topical and relevant themes such as diversity, migration, creation, second chances, and new beginnings.”
September 2016 For the Jewish Museum Berlin’s fifteenth birthday, the museum launches a new redesigned website atwww.jmberlin.de. The new online strategy is visitor-centered and draws connections between the themes that have been explored in all the past fifteen years. The website is highly accessible and uses gender-conscious language.
October 2016 The Jewish Museum Berlin Academy programs and the Lars Day Foundation jointly award the very first Lars Day Prize – Future of Remembrance. The award honors projects and initiatives that ensure the continued remembrance of Nazi crimes and take responsibility for the fostering of a present and future without hate and exclusion in creative and pioneering ways. This year, the 5,000-euro prize is shared by the Berlin-based project "Peer-to-Peer against Prejudice – A Training Program for Muslim Youths” and Annette Dorothea Weber, a theater director and the artistic director of the COMMUNITYartCENTERmannheim, for her production of the play Zigeuner-Boxer (Gypsy Boxer).

Anton von Werner's oil study Das Gastmahl der Familie Mosse (The Mosse Family Banquet) from 1899 is restituted by the Jewish Museum Berlin. Since 2015, the Jewish Museum Berlin has been investigating the provenance of its art collection with funding from the German Lost Art Foundation (Deutschen Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, DZK). More about the specific research that led to the Banquet’s restitution on our blog...

November 2016 The existing fellowship program of the Jewish Museum Berlin expands through the addition of the W. Michael Blumenthal Fellowship within the Jewish-Islamic Forum. The first W. Michael Blumenthal Fellow is Dr. Walid Abd El Gawad with his postdoc project Those Who Know One Religion Know None: Reflections on Islam and Judaism in the Writings of German-Speaking Jewish Orientalists (1833–1955), which is shedding light on new aspects of the history of Jewish-Muslim relations in the modern age. More on the Fellowship Program...
January 2017 The second W. Michael Blumenthal Fellow is the education scholar Dr. Rosa Fava. Her postdoc project, titled Didactics of the Conflict in the Middle East, investigates teaching and learning concepts and materials about the Middle Eastern conflict in education outside the school system. Her emphasis is on offering further training courses for teachers and other influencers.
February 2017 Léontine Meijer-van Mensch becomes the new Program Director and Deputy Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin on 1 February 2017. She succeeds Cilly Kugelmann, who was involved in the museum from September 2002 to March 2017 as Program Director and Deputy Director. Cilly Kugelmann will continue to advise the museum with the conceptual planning and design of the new permanent exhibition. More on Léontine Meijer-van Mensch and Cilly Kugelmann...
History of the Museum (5) Ideas, Debates, Decisions, Inauguration Show all

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, to the renaming of our Academy after our Founding Director W. Michael Blumenthal, in 2016.

How We Came to Be (1971–92)

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.

Controversies and Contradictions (1990s)

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.

Political Decisions (2001)

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 9 September 2001.

Since the Museum Opened (2001–Present)

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.

Timeline (1933–2017)

An overview in dates:
From the opening of the first Jewish Museum in Berlin in 1933 to the arrival of Léontine Meijer-van Mensch as the new Program Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin on 1 February 2017.