Our photographic collection includes art photography, historical press images, and family photos, as well as photographs documenting the objects in our collections, our exhibitions and events, and our architecture. The photography collection currently comprises about 30,000 items. These largely date back to the mid- to late nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth centuries. Most were taken in Germany and the countries to which German Jews emigrated.
Photographs’ Subjects and Contexts
Many of the images depict Jewish sporting activities, Jewish student associations, economic history, schools and other Jewish institutions, Hakhsharah camps in preparation for settling in Palestine, displaced persons camps, synagogues, the German-Jewish bourgeoisie in the German Empire and the Weimar Republic, the First World War, persecution and emigration, life in exile, and the new start in Germany after 1945.
Forming the largest group of images are the more than 10,000 photographs from family collections, which are closely tied to the holdings of the Archive and the museum’s other collections.
Some of our most extensive and significant subcollections are those containing the work of Herbert Sonnenfeld, Ruth Jacobi, and Roman Vishniac.
The Sonnenfeld Collection encompasses around 3,000 photographs of Jewish social and community institutions and cultural and sporting events taken between 1933 and 1938 by press photographer Herbert Sonnenfeld.
Another impressive subcollection is comprised by the more than 500 passport photos of Jewish forced laborers at the Ehrich & Graetz electrical firm – one of hundreds of companies in Berlin for which Jews were forced to work between 1939 and 1945.
In addition, our museum preserves smaller collections of well-known photographers from the 1920s and 1930s, among them Lotte Jacobi, El Lissitzky, and Ilse Bing.
Jewish life in Germany since 1945
A special focus within the photographic collection is the documentation of German-Jewish history since 1945. Photographs of religious and social life in the Jewish communities and of public events that shed light on German-Jewish relations are of particular interest to the museum.
To this end we have carried out photo projects of our own.
For the 14th European Maccabi Games, held in Berlin in the summer of 2015, we coordinated a series of interviews and portraits of Jewish athletes.
Back in 2011, we interviewed and took portrait photographs of representatives of the Jewish Community of Berlin and assembled photographic documentation of Jewish community life in Germany.
Our collection also features Leonard Freed’s 52-photo series Deutsche Juden heute (German Jews Today), which documents Jewish life in Germany in the early 1960s. Also, some 162 photographs by Michael Kerstgens from the years 1992 to 2012 provide a thorough account of Jews’ migration from the former Soviet Union to Germany.
Curator of Photography
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Jewish Museum Berlin
From private family recordings to art photographs: Browse online in our collections (in German)
European Maccabi Games
In a series of portraits and interviews, we profile twelve Berlin athletes from the Maccabi Games.
Articles by our Curator of Photography
Theresia Ziehe on the stories behind individual photographs, photography projects, and pleasant encounters with donors
Memorabilia and migration stories – portraits of Jews living in Germany
Memories from the Life of Walter Frankenstein
With many photographs from the Walter and Leonie Frankenstein Collection
Selected Objects: Photographic Collection (6)
From an early promotional photograph by Yva to documentation of Jewish life in Germany before and after the Shoah, discover selected objects from our Photographic Collection and the stories behind them.
The vintage print is an example of early promotional photography. Using multiple exposures, the photographer Yva was able to produce unreal and dreamlike images.
“White Weeks” at the Ury Department Store
With a brightly lit façade, the Ury brothers promoted “White Weeks” to their customers in February 1930. The promotional campaign testified to their modern business practices and their resulting success.
Hugo Spiegel as Champion Shot
The photograph by Leonard Freed depicts the father of Paul Spiegel, who would later be president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. The Holocaust survivor was probably the first Jewish champion marksman in Germany.
Synagogue in the Jewish Retreat Center in Lehnitz
The synagogue was one of the last in Germany to be dedicated before the Second World War. For many, the retreat center became a place where Jews could assert their identity and culture in a hostile environment.
Rededication of the Synagogue at the Jewish Hospital
One year after the end of the Second World War, in 1946, the synagogue at the Jewish hospital on Iranische Strasse in the Berlin district of Wedding was rededicated. Gradually, it became the center of community work in Berlin.
Sally Israel in a Bavarian Costume
Three vacationers in folk costumes gather around the Berlin businessman for a souvenir photo from Bad Reichenhall. The spa town had been a prime destination for Jewish vacationers since the mid-nineteenth century.
Herbert Sonnenfeld (Photographer)
Ruth Jacobi (Photographer)
In an Instant
Photographs by Fred Stein
22 Nov 2013 to 4 May 2014
Russians Jews Germans
Photographs by Michael Kerstgens from 1992 to the Present
20 Apr to 26 Aug 2012
Areas of interest and subject matter
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