Jewish Museum – Berlin - History and Facts | History Hit

Jewish Museum – Berlin

Berlin, Berlin, Germany

The Jewish Museum in Berlin explores the history of Germany’s Jewish community.

Peta Stamper

11 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Jewish Museum – Berlin

The Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany, chronicles the history of German Jews over the course of 2,000 years. Housed in an incredible modern building, the Berlin Jewish Museum displays historical objects, documents, photographs, multimedia presentations and even computer games relating to different periods of Jewish history and culture.

The exhibitions at the Jewish Museum in Berlin are arranged chronologically and cover various themes such as the living conditions of German Jews over the centuries, the role of Jewish women, tradition and change, and the meaning of emancipation.

The Berlin Jewish Museum also explores the issue of persecution, particularly during the Nazi era and the Holocaust, offering insight into both the overall historical context and the lives of individual victims of the atrocities.

Jewish Museum – Berlin history

The first Jewish Museum in Berlin was founded in January 1933 under Karl Schwartz, only 6 days before the Nazis gained power. Built next to the Neue Synagogue and featuring a collection of Jewish art and historic exhibition, the focus was on Jewish living history. In 1938, during what is known now as Kristallnacht, the museum was shut by the Gestapo and the museum’s inventory was confiscated.

The idea to found a second Jewish museum originated in West Berlin before the fall of the wall in 1989. A design competition was held in 1988 by the Berlin government and Daniel Libeskind’s zigzag design was chosen – nicknamed ‘Blitz’, meaning lightning in German. Construction was completed in 1999 attracting over 350,000 people before it even opened in September 2001.

Libeskind’s Blitz was a companion to the Baroque Kollegienhaus building that had previously held the Berlin Museum: the buildings were linked by an underground tunnel from the Kollegienhaus. A permanent exhibition was coordinated by Kenneth Gorbey, a New-Zealand-born anthropologist.

Jewish Museum – Berlin today

Today, the Jewish Museum in Berlin’s core exhibition, ‘Jewish Life in Germany: Past and Present’, covers over 3,500 square metres and provides a detailed history of Jewish German life through objects and understandings of the Torah.

The exhibition explores Jewish music, artworks and religion through interactive displays such as ‘Visual Prayer’ video installation by Hagit Hollander-Shimoni and ‘Drummerrsss’ by Israeli artist Gilad Ratman, which is a light projection onto the staircase leading to the exhibition. Visitors must walk underneath the concrete axes representing Jewish life in Germany in 3 ways: continuity, emigration from Germany and the Holocaust.

Temporary exhibitions such as ‘Yael Bartana: Redemption Now’ – a large solo contemporary art exhibition – are also available to explore with a ticket. Open daily from 10am to 7pm, the museum’s core exhibition is accessible free of charge.

Getting to the Jewish Museum – Berlin

Situated in what was West Berlin on Lindenstrasse, buses 248, N42, M29 will stop only minutes walk from the museum. Otherwise, Jannowitzbrücke is the closest subway stop on services U8, S3, S5, S7 and S9 – a 30 minute walk from the museum.

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