Material Culture Collection

Material Culture Collection

In the area of material culture, we collect objects that are closely tied to Jewish life stories and hold commemorative value for their former owners. The stories that of how these objects have been passed down and the shifting meanings ascribed to them are also relevant to German-Jewish history.

What Our Collection Includes…

The collection comprises around 4,500 three-dimensional objects and textiles used for nonreligious purposes. They date from the late eighteenth century to the present, with a focus on the years from 1850 to 1950. These are mainly mementos and everyday objects that belonged to individuals and families, who often donated them to the museum as part of larger mixed collections of their possessions.

And What the Objects Reveal about Jewish History

Decorations, badges, and medals from the First World War, for example, are prominently represented in our collection and attest to the patriotism and the sense of belonging felt by German Jews. (With the exception of several awards for women on the so-called “home front,” these were primarily bestowed upon men.)

Black grand piano with its lid open

Because it was mainly more affluent families that were able to emigrate or even assure the safekeeping of their possessions, the majority of the everyday objects reflect their owners' bourgeois lifestyle, the collections of the Plesch and Simon families in particular. Company products, promotional items, and business signs and insignia are evidence of innovation, economic success, and social advancement of companies, salespeople, doctors, or lawyers. Club trophies recount sports history.

Many of the objects are related to emigration and émigrés' life in the countries they fled to after 1933. Others are directly connected to persecution and deportation, such as Yellow Star patches (Judensterne) and Jewish doctors' signs for “treaters of the sick” (Krankenbehandler). Further items were entrusted to neighbors or relatives and kept in commemoration of their murdered owners before being donated to our museum.

Round container with an image of a man wearing a Fez hat smoking a plastic cigarette

Promotional giveaway for the cigarette brand Moslem by the tobacco company Problem; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Contact
Leonore Maier
Curator of Material Culture
phone: 
+49 (0)30 259 93 455
fax: 
+49 (0)30 259 93 409
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.

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.

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.