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Statue of Moses Mendelssohn in the Jewish Community Center, Berlin 1960s

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Statue of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn
in the Jewish Community Center,
Berlin, Germany 1960s.
Photo: Herbert Sonnenfeld
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot, Sonnenfeld collection)

The statue was burnt down with other Jewish cultural objects, but was rescued by an unknown person who kept it in his cellar for 25 years. The damage on the statue was left in purpose.
Photo period:
1960s
ID Number:
193710
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)
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Berlin

The largest city in Germany. The capital of Germany until 1945. After the Second World War and until 1990 the city was divided into West Berlin and East Berlin.

Jews are first mentioned in a letter from the Berlin local council of October 28, 1295, forbidding wool merchants to supply Jews with wool yarn. Jews lived primarily in a Jewish quarter, but a number of wealthier Jews lived outside this area. The Berlin Jews engaged mainly in commerce, handicrafts, money-changing, and money-lending. They paid taxes for the right to slaughter animals ritually, to sell meat, to marry, to circumcise their sons, to buy wine, to receive additional Jews as residents of their community, and to bury their dead. During the Black Death (1349-1350), the houses of the Jews were burned down and the Jewish inhabitants were killed or expelled from the town.

From 1354, Jews settled again in Berlin. In 1446 they were arrested with the rest of the Jews in Brandenburg, and their property was confiscated. A year later Jews again began to return there, and a few wealthy Jews were admitted into Brandenburg in 1509. In 1510 the Jews were accused of desecrating the host and stealing sacred vessels from a church in a village near Berlin. 111 Jews were arrested and subjected to examination, and 51 were sentenced to death; of these 38 were burned at the stake in the new market square together with the real culprit, a Christian, on July 10, 1510. All the accused were proved completely innocent at the diet of Frankfort in 1539 through the efforts of Joseph (Joselmann) b. Gershom of Rosheim and Philipp Melanchthon. In 1571, when the Jews were again expelled from Brandenburg, the Jews of Berlin were expelled "forever". For the next 100 years, a few individual Jews appeared there at widely scattered intervals. About 1663, the court Jew Israel Aaron, who was supplier to the army and the electoral court, was permitted to settle in Berlin. After the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna in 1670, the elector issued an edict on May 21, 1671, admitting 50 wealthy Jewish families from Austria into Brandenburg for 20 years. Frederick William I (1713-1740) limited (in a charter granted to the Jews on May 20, 1714) the number of tolerated Jews to 120 householders, but permitted in certain cases the extension of letters of protection to include the second and third child. The Jews of Berlin were permitted to engage in commerce almost without restriction, but were forbidden to trade in drugs and spices, in raw skins, and in imported woolen and fiber goods, and were forbidden to operate breweries or distilleries. Land ownership by Jews had been prohibited in 1697 and required a special license which could be obtained only with great difficulty.

The Jews in Berlin in the 18th century were primarily engaged as commercial bankers and traders in precious metals and stones. Some served as court Jews. Members of the Gomperz family were among the wealthiest in Berlin.

During the reign of Frederick the Great (1740-1786), the economic, cultural, and social position of the Jews in Berlin improved. During the seven years' war, many Jews became wealthy as purveyors to the army and the mint and the rights enjoyed by the Christian bankers were granted to a number of Jews. The number of Jewish manufacturers, bankers, and brokers increased. In 1791, the entire Itzig family received full civil rights, becoming the first German Jews to whom they were granted.

As a concomitant of economic prosperity, there appeared the first signs of cultural adaptation. Under the influence of Moses Mendelssohn, several reforms were introduced in the Berlin community, especially in the sphere of education. In 1778 a school, Juedische Freischule (Chinnukh Ne'arim), was founded, which was conducted along modern comprehensive principles and methods. Mendelssohn and David Friedlander composed the first German reader for children. The dissemination of general (non-Jewish) knowledge was also one of the aims of the Chevrat Doreshei Leshon Avar (association of friends of the Hebrew language), founded in 1783, whose organ Ha-me'assef began to appear in Berlin in 1788. The edict of 1812 finally bestowed Prussian citizenship upon the Jews; all restrictions on their residence rights in the state, as well as the special taxes they had to pay, were now abolished.

In the 1848 revolution the Jews played an active role as fighters on the barricades and members of the civic guard, as orators and journalists, and the like. About one-fifth of Berlin's newspapers were owned by Jews. Berlin Jews played an important role in literature, the theater, music, and art. Their successes aroused fierce reaction among the more conservative elements and Berlin became a center of anti-Semitism. The "Berlin movement" founded by Adolf Stoecker incited the masses against the Jews by alleging that they were the standrad-bearers of capitalism and controlled the press.

From 1840 to 1850 a teachers' seminary functioned under the direction of Leopold Zunz. A teachers' training institute was established in 1859 under the rectorship of Aaron Horowitz. Aaron Bernstein founded the reform society in 1845, and later the reform congregation, which introduced far-flung liturgical reforms, especially during the rabbinate of Samuel Holdheim (1847-1860). At first, divine worship was held both on Saturdays and Sundays and later only on Sundays. The reform congregation was unsuccessful in its attempt to secede from the official community. The Berlin community was again violently shaken when many of its members pressed for the introduction of an organ and modification of the liturgy in the new synagogue. The appointment of Abraham Geiger as rabbi of the Berlin community met with strong opposition from orthodox circles, and in 1869 Azriel (Israel) Hildesheimer and his adherents left the main community and established the Adass Yisroel congregation, which received official recognition in 1885. Geiger founded an institute for Jewish research while Hildesheimer opened a rabbinical seminary. For about 80 years the liberals were predominant in the Berlin community. But liberals and orthodox worked together in full harmony in the central organizations in which, at least for a period, the Zionists also participated. The Berlin rabbi S. Maybaum was among the leaders of the "protest rabbis" who opposed political Zionism.

After the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in January 1919, anti-Semitic propaganda in Berlin increased. The Kapp putsch (March 1920) had blatant anti-Jewish undertones. Walter Rathenau, the German foreign minister, was assassinated by anti-Semitic nationalists on June 24, 1922. In 1926, after the appointment of joseph Goebbels as Gauleiter in Berlin, anti-Jewish rabble-rousing increased. At the time the Nazis seized power, Berlin's organized Jewish community numbered 172,000 persons. In 1933 the Nazi boycott (April 1) affected Jewish shop owners; legislation against non-Aryans led to dismissal of Jewish professionals, while "Aryanization" of Jewish firms and the dismissal of their Jewish employees was carried out by the exertion of steady economic pressure. The Jewish officials not affected by these measures were eventually ousted under the provisions of the Nuremberg Laws (1935). In these initial years, when the members of the Jewish community were being methodically deprived of their economic standing and civil rights, Jewish religious and cultural life in Berlin underwent a tremendous upsurge. Until November 1938 Jewish newspapers and books were published on an unprecedented scale. Notable among the newspapers was the Berliner Juedisches Gemeindeblatt, a voluminous weekly published by the community. Zionist work was in full swing, especially that of He-chalutz, and in February 1936, a German Zionist convention was held in Berlin (the last to meet there), still reflecting in its composition the vigorous party life of German Zionists.

In June 1938, mass arrests of Jews took place on the charge that they were "asocial", e.g. had a criminal record, including traffic violations, and they were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. On November 9-10, Kristallnacht marked a turning point in the affairs of Berlin Jewry: synagogues were burned down, Jewish shops destroyed, and 10,000 Jews from Berlin and other places were arrested and imprisoned in Sachsenhausen. The "Bannmeile" was decreed, which restricted Jews to an area within a certain radius from their place of residence.

Jewish newspapers had to cease publication. The only paper was the new Das Medische Narchrichtenblatt which was required to publish Gestapo directives to the Jews.

After the outbreak of war, the living conditions and situation of the Jews worsened. Emigration was still permitted and even encouraged, and existing organizations and institutions (Kulturbund, Jewish schools) were able to continue functioning. However, Jews were drafted for forced labor at wages far below the prevailing rate and with no social benefits, but this at least provided them with a minimum income and delayed their deportation. In the spring of 1940 Heinrich Stahl was removed from his post in the Reichsvereinigung by the Nazi authorities and replaced by Moritz Henschel, a former attorney. In september 1941, a drastic turn for the worse came about. First the Judenstern ("Jewish star", i.e. yellow badge) was introduced. Two weeks later, on the day of atonement, in the middle of a sermon by Rabbi Leo Baeck, the president of the community was summoned to the Gestapo and told that the community would have to prepare for a partial evacuation from the city.

Between October 23 and the end of the year only 62 persons managed to leave, and in 1942 only nine Jews were permitted to go abroad. Then began five major phases in the process of deportation. Eventually, the deportations came to include groups of community employees, and from the fall of 1942, only those Jewish laborers who were employed in vital war production were still safe from deportation.

Those Jews who had gentile wives were taken to a special camp for onward deportation, but when their wives carried out violent street demonstrations, the Gestapo yielded and set their husbands free. On May 13, 1942, an anti-Jewish exhibition, "Soviet Paradise", was opened in Berlin, and was attacked by a group of Jewish communists, led by Herbert Baum. The group was caught and hardly any of them survived. Two hundred and fifty Jews – 50 for each German who had been killed in the attack – were shot, and another 250 were sent to Sachsenhausen and perished there. The community offices were closed down on June 10, 1943, and six days later the "full" Jews among the members of its executive council were deported to Theresienstadt.

At the beginning of 1946, the community had a registered membership of 7,070 people, of whom 4,121 (over 90% of all married members) had non-Jewish spouses, 1,321 had survived the war by hiding, and 1,628 had returned from concentration camps. The Jews were dispersed throughout Berlin, a third of them living in the Soviet sector. Several synagogues were opened, the Jewish hospital resumed its work (although most of its patients and staff were not Jews), and three homes for the aged and a children's home were established. There was no local rabbi or religious teachers, but American Jewish army chaplains volunteered their services.

There are four synagogues in Berlin. In 1959, the city of Berlin erected a large Jewish community center on Fasanenstrasse at the site of which one of Berlin's most magnificent synagogues had stood until 1938. In 1954 the Zionist organization and the Israel appeal renewed their activities in Berlin. There exists an active Jewish women's organization, a B'nai B'rith lodge, a Jewish students' organization, and a youth organization. In 1954 the community had a membership of about 5,000 and by January 1970 this figure had risen to 5,577. The demographic composition of the community is marked by relatively high average age (4,080 are above the age of 41), a low birthrate, and a great number of mixed marriages.

In 1997 there were 10,000 Jews living in Berlin, and it was the largest Jewish community in Germany.
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Statue of Moses Mendelssohn in the Jewish Community Center, Berlin 1960s
Statue of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn
in the Jewish Community Center,
Berlin, Germany 1960s.
Photo: Herbert Sonnenfeld
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot, Sonnenfeld collection)

The statue was burnt down with other Jewish cultural objects, but was rescued by an unknown person who kept it in his cellar for 25 years. The damage on the statue was left in purpose.
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)

Berlin
Berlin

The largest city in Germany. The capital of Germany until 1945. After the Second World War and until 1990 the city was divided into West Berlin and East Berlin.

Jews are first mentioned in a letter from the Berlin local council of October 28, 1295, forbidding wool merchants to supply Jews with wool yarn. Jews lived primarily in a Jewish quarter, but a number of wealthier Jews lived outside this area. The Berlin Jews engaged mainly in commerce, handicrafts, money-changing, and money-lending. They paid taxes for the right to slaughter animals ritually, to sell meat, to marry, to circumcise their sons, to buy wine, to receive additional Jews as residents of their community, and to bury their dead. During the Black Death (1349-1350), the houses of the Jews were burned down and the Jewish inhabitants were killed or expelled from the town.

From 1354, Jews settled again in Berlin. In 1446 they were arrested with the rest of the Jews in Brandenburg, and their property was confiscated. A year later Jews again began to return there, and a few wealthy Jews were admitted into Brandenburg in 1509. In 1510 the Jews were accused of desecrating the host and stealing sacred vessels from a church in a village near Berlin. 111 Jews were arrested and subjected to examination, and 51 were sentenced to death; of these 38 were burned at the stake in the new market square together with the real culprit, a Christian, on July 10, 1510. All the accused were proved completely innocent at the diet of Frankfort in 1539 through the efforts of Joseph (Joselmann) b. Gershom of Rosheim and Philipp Melanchthon. In 1571, when the Jews were again expelled from Brandenburg, the Jews of Berlin were expelled "forever". For the next 100 years, a few individual Jews appeared there at widely scattered intervals. About 1663, the court Jew Israel Aaron, who was supplier to the army and the electoral court, was permitted to settle in Berlin. After the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna in 1670, the elector issued an edict on May 21, 1671, admitting 50 wealthy Jewish families from Austria into Brandenburg for 20 years. Frederick William I (1713-1740) limited (in a charter granted to the Jews on May 20, 1714) the number of tolerated Jews to 120 householders, but permitted in certain cases the extension of letters of protection to include the second and third child. The Jews of Berlin were permitted to engage in commerce almost without restriction, but were forbidden to trade in drugs and spices, in raw skins, and in imported woolen and fiber goods, and were forbidden to operate breweries or distilleries. Land ownership by Jews had been prohibited in 1697 and required a special license which could be obtained only with great difficulty.

The Jews in Berlin in the 18th century were primarily engaged as commercial bankers and traders in precious metals and stones. Some served as court Jews. Members of the Gomperz family were among the wealthiest in Berlin.

During the reign of Frederick the Great (1740-1786), the economic, cultural, and social position of the Jews in Berlin improved. During the seven years' war, many Jews became wealthy as purveyors to the army and the mint and the rights enjoyed by the Christian bankers were granted to a number of Jews. The number of Jewish manufacturers, bankers, and brokers increased. In 1791, the entire Itzig family received full civil rights, becoming the first German Jews to whom they were granted.

As a concomitant of economic prosperity, there appeared the first signs of cultural adaptation. Under the influence of Moses Mendelssohn, several reforms were introduced in the Berlin community, especially in the sphere of education. In 1778 a school, Juedische Freischule (Chinnukh Ne'arim), was founded, which was conducted along modern comprehensive principles and methods. Mendelssohn and David Friedlander composed the first German reader for children. The dissemination of general (non-Jewish) knowledge was also one of the aims of the Chevrat Doreshei Leshon Avar (association of friends of the Hebrew language), founded in 1783, whose organ Ha-me'assef began to appear in Berlin in 1788. The edict of 1812 finally bestowed Prussian citizenship upon the Jews; all restrictions on their residence rights in the state, as well as the special taxes they had to pay, were now abolished.

In the 1848 revolution the Jews played an active role as fighters on the barricades and members of the civic guard, as orators and journalists, and the like. About one-fifth of Berlin's newspapers were owned by Jews. Berlin Jews played an important role in literature, the theater, music, and art. Their successes aroused fierce reaction among the more conservative elements and Berlin became a center of anti-Semitism. The "Berlin movement" founded by Adolf Stoecker incited the masses against the Jews by alleging that they were the standrad-bearers of capitalism and controlled the press.

From 1840 to 1850 a teachers' seminary functioned under the direction of Leopold Zunz. A teachers' training institute was established in 1859 under the rectorship of Aaron Horowitz. Aaron Bernstein founded the reform society in 1845, and later the reform congregation, which introduced far-flung liturgical reforms, especially during the rabbinate of Samuel Holdheim (1847-1860). At first, divine worship was held both on Saturdays and Sundays and later only on Sundays. The reform congregation was unsuccessful in its attempt to secede from the official community. The Berlin community was again violently shaken when many of its members pressed for the introduction of an organ and modification of the liturgy in the new synagogue. The appointment of Abraham Geiger as rabbi of the Berlin community met with strong opposition from orthodox circles, and in 1869 Azriel (Israel) Hildesheimer and his adherents left the main community and established the Adass Yisroel congregation, which received official recognition in 1885. Geiger founded an institute for Jewish research while Hildesheimer opened a rabbinical seminary. For about 80 years the liberals were predominant in the Berlin community. But liberals and orthodox worked together in full harmony in the central organizations in which, at least for a period, the Zionists also participated. The Berlin rabbi S. Maybaum was among the leaders of the "protest rabbis" who opposed political Zionism.

After the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in January 1919, anti-Semitic propaganda in Berlin increased. The Kapp putsch (March 1920) had blatant anti-Jewish undertones. Walter Rathenau, the German foreign minister, was assassinated by anti-Semitic nationalists on June 24, 1922. In 1926, after the appointment of joseph Goebbels as Gauleiter in Berlin, anti-Jewish rabble-rousing increased. At the time the Nazis seized power, Berlin's organized Jewish community numbered 172,000 persons. In 1933 the Nazi boycott (April 1) affected Jewish shop owners; legislation against non-Aryans led to dismissal of Jewish professionals, while "Aryanization" of Jewish firms and the dismissal of their Jewish employees was carried out by the exertion of steady economic pressure. The Jewish officials not affected by these measures were eventually ousted under the provisions of the Nuremberg Laws (1935). In these initial years, when the members of the Jewish community were being methodically deprived of their economic standing and civil rights, Jewish religious and cultural life in Berlin underwent a tremendous upsurge. Until November 1938 Jewish newspapers and books were published on an unprecedented scale. Notable among the newspapers was the Berliner Juedisches Gemeindeblatt, a voluminous weekly published by the community. Zionist work was in full swing, especially that of He-chalutz, and in February 1936, a German Zionist convention was held in Berlin (the last to meet there), still reflecting in its composition the vigorous party life of German Zionists.

In June 1938, mass arrests of Jews took place on the charge that they were "asocial", e.g. had a criminal record, including traffic violations, and they were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. On November 9-10, Kristallnacht marked a turning point in the affairs of Berlin Jewry: synagogues were burned down, Jewish shops destroyed, and 10,000 Jews from Berlin and other places were arrested and imprisoned in Sachsenhausen. The "Bannmeile" was decreed, which restricted Jews to an area within a certain radius from their place of residence.

Jewish newspapers had to cease publication. The only paper was the new Das Medische Narchrichtenblatt which was required to publish Gestapo directives to the Jews.

After the outbreak of war, the living conditions and situation of the Jews worsened. Emigration was still permitted and even encouraged, and existing organizations and institutions (Kulturbund, Jewish schools) were able to continue functioning. However, Jews were drafted for forced labor at wages far below the prevailing rate and with no social benefits, but this at least provided them with a minimum income and delayed their deportation. In the spring of 1940 Heinrich Stahl was removed from his post in the Reichsvereinigung by the Nazi authorities and replaced by Moritz Henschel, a former attorney. In september 1941, a drastic turn for the worse came about. First the Judenstern ("Jewish star", i.e. yellow badge) was introduced. Two weeks later, on the day of atonement, in the middle of a sermon by Rabbi Leo Baeck, the president of the community was summoned to the Gestapo and told that the community would have to prepare for a partial evacuation from the city.

Between October 23 and the end of the year only 62 persons managed to leave, and in 1942 only nine Jews were permitted to go abroad. Then began five major phases in the process of deportation. Eventually, the deportations came to include groups of community employees, and from the fall of 1942, only those Jewish laborers who were employed in vital war production were still safe from deportation.

Those Jews who had gentile wives were taken to a special camp for onward deportation, but when their wives carried out violent street demonstrations, the Gestapo yielded and set their husbands free. On May 13, 1942, an anti-Jewish exhibition, "Soviet Paradise", was opened in Berlin, and was attacked by a group of Jewish communists, led by Herbert Baum. The group was caught and hardly any of them survived. Two hundred and fifty Jews – 50 for each German who had been killed in the attack – were shot, and another 250 were sent to Sachsenhausen and perished there. The community offices were closed down on June 10, 1943, and six days later the "full" Jews among the members of its executive council were deported to Theresienstadt.

At the beginning of 1946, the community had a registered membership of 7,070 people, of whom 4,121 (over 90% of all married members) had non-Jewish spouses, 1,321 had survived the war by hiding, and 1,628 had returned from concentration camps. The Jews were dispersed throughout Berlin, a third of them living in the Soviet sector. Several synagogues were opened, the Jewish hospital resumed its work (although most of its patients and staff were not Jews), and three homes for the aged and a children's home were established. There was no local rabbi or religious teachers, but American Jewish army chaplains volunteered their services.

There are four synagogues in Berlin. In 1959, the city of Berlin erected a large Jewish community center on Fasanenstrasse at the site of which one of Berlin's most magnificent synagogues had stood until 1938. In 1954 the Zionist organization and the Israel appeal renewed their activities in Berlin. There exists an active Jewish women's organization, a B'nai B'rith lodge, a Jewish students' organization, and a youth organization. In 1954 the community had a membership of about 5,000 and by January 1970 this figure had risen to 5,577. The demographic composition of the community is marked by relatively high average age (4,080 are above the age of 41), a low birthrate, and a great number of mixed marriages.

In 1997 there were 10,000 Jews living in Berlin, and it was the largest Jewish community in Germany.