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“Exile” comes from the Latin word “exilium,” which means “staying in foreign lands.” People are forced to go into exile for different reasons. Nowadays people usually go into exile because they are persecuted, threatened, or in fear of losing their lives for religious, ethnic, cultural, or other reasons.

A man and a woman looking at each other, in semi-profile, on a ship, with a clear view over the water to the Statue of Liberty

Roman Vishniac: Wolf (1922–1973) and Luta Vishniac (1899–1998) at the railing of the "S.S. Siboney" shortly before reaching the port of New York on 31 December 1940; Jewish Museum Berlin, accessiib 2004/93/86, gift of Mara Vishniac Kohn

Many people were forced to flee Germany in the era of Nazi rule between 1933 and 1945. Some left for political or other reasons, but most went into exile because they were persecuted as Jews. At that time the professions Jews were allowed to practice in Germany were restricted, and Jewish children and students were increasingly barred from attending schools and universities. Furthermore, the Nazis introduced a growing number of measures to deprive Jews of their possessions and civil rights, limit food supplies, and hamper their freedom of movement. This meant they were denied access to cinemas, swimming pools, social clubs, and many other public places.

When, in November 1938, synagogues and Jewish-owned stores were destroyed and a large number of Jews were insulted, threatened, maltreated, and arbitrarily arrested, the wave of refugees from Germany reached its peak. But the countries offering refuge increasingly tightened entry conditions, making it difficult to leave Germany. Also, many Jews simply could not afford to emigrate, a very expensive undertaking. By the time the final ban on Jewish emigration was issued on 23 October 1941, around 275,000 people had fled Germany – more than half the number of Jews who lived there in 1933.

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Home and Exile

Jewish Emigration from Germany since 1933

Exhibition Website

Bambi and the Theory of Relativity

Books on the Nazi Pyre

7 May to 15 Sep 2013

Vor dem geöffneten Fenster sieht man eine Schreibmaschine auf einem kleinen Tisch und eine Lampe mit schiefsitzendem Schirm

Flight and Metamorphosis

Nelly Sachs, Writer, Berlin/Stockholm

25 Mar to 27 Jun 2010

A desperate letter to their son in Sweden

“As long as we are still here, we will write to you every third day.”

From our Holdings

Index cards from the British Army Post Office

German emigrants who fought in the British Army during the Second World War had to change their names.

From our Holdings

Home and Exile: Jewish Emigration from Germany since 1933

Exhibition Catalog


Frieda Neuber's Leather Pouch

The story of a failed emigration

From our Holdings

Model of the Cargo Steamer Max

Shipowner Arnold Bernstein was forced to escape to the US in the late 1930s.

From our Holdings

Our Material Culture Collection

Many objects are related to emigration and émigrés' life after 1933.

All About ...

Thirty-One Keys

That was all that remained of the Sommerfelds’ luggage

From our Holdings

Exile in Shanghai

Audio recording of the talk (in German)

Audio recording
14 Nov 2006

1933: Denial, Opposition, and Protest

Unknown Reactions of German Jews to Nazi Persecution

Audio recording
8 Aug 2013

Rechavia – Grunewald in the Orient

Reading with Thomas Sparr on German-Jewish Jerusalem (in German)

Audio Recording
28 February 2018

Opened album with pictures of the Chicago skyline, a skyscraper, a painting, and handwritten text

Farewell Album

Before their emigration in 1936, friends of Margot and Ernst Rosenthal gave them “Small Tips for Great People”

Objects from Our Core Exhibition