Press Release, Wed 6 Sep 2023
On 8 September 2023, the Jewish Museum Berlin (JMB) will open Another Country: Jewish in the GDR, a cultural and historical exhibition on Jewish experiences in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Objects owned by Jewish East Germans and their descendants, along with conversations in which Jewish interviewees recount their own history, reveal a range of individual Jewish perspectives.
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Jewish Museum Berlin Foundation
The exhibition embarks on a documentary expedition, connecting it with visual art, film, literature, complex biographies, and very special exhibits. Thus, visitors can learn about the life of Jews who fled Nazi Germany but returned to the Soviet occupation zone after 1945, who survived concentration camps or lived through the period in hiding. After the experience of the Shoah, many of them hoped to build the GDR as a free, anti-fascist state – “another country.”
Hetty Berg, Director of the JMB, explains: “The exhibition explores the question of what it meant to be Jewish in the GDR – whether within or outside the official Jewish communities, for individual people, and for different generations. Jewish East Germans and their descendants recount what has become of their hopes and how they look back at the GDR today. Their narratives show a multiplicity of individual experiences in eastern Germany.”
Jewish life in eight communities – East Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Erfurt, Schwerin, Halle, and Chemnitz (otherwise known as Karl-Marx-Stadt) – is presented as a social history of everyday life. The wave of Jewish emigration in 1952/53, reactions to the Six-Day War of 1967, and other events feature in the exhibition as nodal points of Jewish history in East Germany. In this way, the exhibition adds a Jewish dimension to current debates on eastern and western Germany.
Collection focus at the JMB
The JMB already holds many important objects relating to Jewish life in the GDR, and the exhibition has enabled the museum to further expand this collection focus. At the beginning of 2022, the JMB issued a call for items to be contributed to the show. The reaction was enthusiastic, with numerous responses from people offering to donate objects to the JMB collection. In addition, filmmaker Yael Reuveny created an eight-part audio and film installation, “Neuland”, specially for the exhibition. This work and the video interviews on which it is based will also be added to the museum’s collection on the theme.
The accompanying program covers a spectrum ranging from a rock concert by Stern-Combo Meissen to a scholarly conference on Jewish history in the GDR organized with the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies, University of Potsdam. The exhibition space itself will also be a venue for readings, artist interviews, and film screenings: in the series “GDR on Tuesdays,” almost every Tuesday from 5.30 to 6.30 pm the exhibition will welcome guests who give personal insights into their own experiences, their family history, and their interest in Jewish life in the GDR. Alena Fürnberg and Renate Aris are the first to be featured.
Curated by Tamar Lewinsky, Martina Lüdicke, and Theresia Ziehe, the exhibition was financially supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media and the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States (Kulturstiftung der Länder). The mixed-media installation “from i to we” by Leon Kahane was made possible by from the FRIENDS OF THE JMB.
A richly illustrated publication to accompany the exhibition, with 15 essays by different authors, is published by Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin, with an English and a German edition. 272 pages; price €28.
Cooperation partners: Stiftung Neue Synagoge – Centrum Judaicum, Berlin, Deutschlandfunk Kultur
Media partners: Wall, tipBerlin, radioeins by rbb
For the latest information on the exhibition and the accompanying program, visit: https://www.jmberlin.de/en/exhibition-another-country
|Exhibition dates:||8 September 2023 to 14 January 2024|
|Location:||Jewish Museum Berlin, Old Building, Level 1|
|Admission:||€8 / €3 reduced|
|Opening hours:||daily from 10 am to 7 pm (timeslot ticket is required): https://tickets.jmberlin.de/en/|