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From the Imperial German Navy to the Israeli War Fleet: Life Story of an Accomplished Seaman

From Our Holdings

The sailor Max Haller's (1892–1960) personal collection of his medals from the First World War is displayed on a velvet cushion. The son of a synagogue cantor from Silesia began work as a machinist on German merchant vessels in 1911 and joined the Imperial German Navy two years later. He volunteered for service in the German submarine fleet in 1915 and was on active duty in the Mediterranean until the end of the war.

Six military medals on a velvet cushion

Velvet cushion with Max Haller's medals, 1915-1918; Jewish Museum Berlin, Gift of I. Dinah Haller, photo: Jens Ziehe

Awarded Thrice Over

Max Haller received military decoration from three allied empires. The Austrian emperor honored him with the Medal for Bravery bearing the portrait of Charles I. The Ottoman Empire presented the German seaman with the Iron Crescent, also known as the Gallipoli Star, and the Liakat Medal of Merit with a red-and-green ribbon. He received First and Second Class Iron Crosses and the Submarine War Badge, first introduced in 1918, from the German Empire.

Medals as Symbols of Patriotism

Around 100,000 German Jews fought in the First World War, of whom approximately 12,000 fell, among them Max Haller's two brothers. Max Haller later opened a radio shop in Berlin, which was threatened by Nazi brownshirts in the boycott of April 1933. Haller pointedly placed this velvet cushion with his medals in the display window as an sign of his service for his country. Perhaps for this reason, his shop was unharmed apart from marks on the windows.

Emigration to Palestine

Haller decided to leave Germany, and emigrated with his family to Palestine in the fall of 1933. There he returned to seafaring as chief engineer on various merchant ships. At the age of 56, he volunteered once again for active duty in the newly formed naval arm of the Israeli Defense Forces. He retired as a captain in 1957.

Title Velvet cushion with medal collection of Max Haller
Collection Material Culture
Year of origin 1915–1918
Medium Velvet, iron, silver, bronze, brass, glass
Dimensions 14,5 x 19 x 1,2 cm
Acquisition Gift of I. Dinah Haller
April Boycott

On 1 April 1933, a nationwide boycott was launched targeting Jewish-run stores, doctors’ offices, and law firms. This marked the beginning of the organized persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. The April Boycott was decreed and organized by the Nazi party’s leadership. In many cases, it was associated with damage and looting of the businesses in question and violence against their owners and staff.

More on Wikipedia

In 1934, Reich President Hindenburg established an Honor Cross for combatants in the First World War. Jewish soldiers could apply for this Honor Cross, and many did – even those in exile.
Leonore Maier, Curator of Material Culture, uses the Honor Crosses and the accompanying certificates of conferral from our collection as an example of the extraordinary significance of the First World War in Jewish memory, which extends to this day among the descendants of combatants.
In other short films, our curators present selected objects from our collections that commemorate Jewish involvement in the First World War.

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Selected Objects: Material Culture Collection (10)

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.

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.

Various crumpled documents with Hebrew letters, a shoe and a bag

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.