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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.

Brown-leather wallet with thirty-one keys spread out.

Our Material Culture Collection

Many objects are related to emigration and émigrés’ life after 1933

All About ...

Letter with redactions.

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

Handwritten and drawn concert announcement

A Concert in the Cabin

Concert announcement, Onchan Internment Camp, Isle of Man, 1941, gift of Ms. Anne Marx in loving memory of her husband Carl Theodore, 2013

20 years, 21 objects

Emigration to the United Kingdom

Personal objects, documents and private photographs of Jews who were able to emigrate to the United Kingdom

Online Collections

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

A bag filled with several letters.

Frieda Neuber’s Leather Pouch

The story of a failed emigration

From our Holdings

Failed efforts to emigrate

Objects documenting the desperate search for an emigration opportunity

Online Collections

Index cards.

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

Model of a ship.

Model of the Cargo Steamer Max

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

From our Holdings

Brown-leather wallet with thirty-one keys spread out.

Thirty-One Keys

That was all that remained of the Sommerfelds’ luggage

From our Holdings

Book cover by Thomas Sparr: Grunewald im Orient - Das deutsch-jüdische Jerusalem. The photo on the book cover shows a street corner in Rechavia with a house, trees and passers-by.

Rechavia – Grunewald in the Orient

Reading with Thomas Sparr on German-Jewish Jerusalem, in German

Audio Recording
28 Feb 2018

What’s your “Heimat”?

Grütters and W. Michael Blumenthal in conversation about culture, religion, and home in a foreign land, in German

Audio Recording
14 Nov 2014

Screenshot of a website: you can see the year “1933” and a calendar representing the last days of January and the first days of February as square areas.

1933: The Beginning of the End of German Jewry

In our online project you will find documents and stories of Jews who emigrated after 1933

Online Project

In front of the open window you can see a typewriter on a small table and a lamp with a slanted shade

Flight and Metamorphosis

Nelly Sachs, Writer, Berlin/Stockholm

25 Mar to 27 Jun 2010

Black and white historical photograph of a man and woman in the foreground, the Statue of Liberty surrounded by boats can be seen in the distantance.

Home and Exile

Jewish Emigration from Germany since 1933

Exhibition Website

Black and white historical photograph of a man and woman in the foreground, the Statue of Liberty surrounded by boats can be seen in the distantance.

Home and Exile: Jewish Emigration from Germany since 1933

Exhibition catalog, with reading sample for download, in German


Exile in Shanghai

Cilly Kugelmann in conversation with W. Michael Blumenthal and Horst Eisfelder, in German

Audio Recording
14 Nov 2006

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Kinder­trans­porte (Children’s Trans­ports) 1938/39

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Nazi Per­se­cution

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