Berlin: “Jewish Neighborhood” or the Barn Quarter: Today everyone goes there because it is so fancy and they want to see all the new boutiques, art galleries, cool bars and restaurants. At the same time, we find many traces of Jewish history: Berlin’s first synagogue, which was built between 1712 and 1714, after Jews had come to Berlin from Vienna in 1671. Next to it we find the Rosenstrasse Memorial, created by Ingeborg Hunzinger in memory of the so-called “Fabrikaktion.“ In front of the building, non-Jewish women protested in 1943 for the release of their Jewish husbands from incarceration. What is the truth about this silent protest? Tour 1 and 2
Workshop of the Blind, Owned by Otto Weidt: Everyone knows Oskar Schindler from Spielberg’s movie “Schindler’s List”, but most do not know Otto Weidt, a silent hero and a “Righteous among the Nations”, who employed blind and deaf Berlin Jews working in his small brush and broom factory. Today it is a museum in the partially authentic rooms. Walking through Berlin we often stumble over little stones that give information about people that were murdered by the Nazis – Gunter Demnig from Cologne had the idea for this outstanding decentralized memorial also known in other European cities. Tour 1 and 2
Street of Tolerance: Grosse Hamburger Strasse with the first Jewish cemetery, the Jewish High School, the Old Senior citizen’s home of the Jewish community, which was, during the Holocaust, used as an assembly point for the Berlin Jews to be deported.
The New Synagogue – Centrum Judaicum present and past: The exhibition in the first three rooms of the Synagogue reflects the eventful history of the Synagogue and depicts current Jewish life. How many Jews live in Berlin today? How many Jews live in Germany and what makes them want to live in this country? Will there soon be only Jews from the former Soviet Union in the Jewish communities throughout Germany? Tour 1 and 2
The Orthodox Community Adass Israel: In 1869 the Jewish community of Berlin, like in other German cities, was divided into an Orthodox and a reform branch. The former Jewish hospital is located next to the site of the former synagogue of Adass Israel. After WWII it became the Jewish orphanage AHAWA – led by the unforgettable Beate Berger. Tour 1 and 2
Jewish Eastern Berlin: Germany’s largest synagogue is located in the former worker’s district Prenzlauer Berg, which is nowadays a trendy and upper middle class neighborhood. It was renovated between 2004 and 2007, but can only be “visited” during the Shabbat services. Nearby is the second Jewish cemetery, which contains the tombs of Max Lieberman, Gerson von Bleichroeder, James Simon, Abraham Geiger, Giacomo Meyerbeer, as well as the old seniors citizens home, which is today a modern apartment house. Tour 3
The Jewish Cemetery in Weißensee: I personally like the Jewish cemetery in Weissensee very much because it enables visitors to take a wonderful journey into Berlin’s and Germany’s Jewry from 1880 until today. There are about 115,000 tombstones there. They all form a microcosm telling world history. I would like to demonstrate this by showing you the tombs of a selection of several famous people buried here. Tour 3
Visit of the Jewish Museum: The Libeskind building looks strange, huge and provocative. Let us stroll through the permanent exhibition (about 2 hours) and get to know its fascinating architecture, or we can also choose to look at a certain part of the exhibition. 2,000 years of German-Jewish history are plenty for various tours. Tour 2
Memorials: There are a lot of memorials in Berlin reminding visitors of the violation of basic human rights, persecution and extermination of the Berlin Jews. These were built mainly in the 1990’s. Why not earlier? What had happened? The biggest memorial is the one dedicated to the murdered European Jews, which was designed by American architect Peter Eisenman. Be sure to see the empty library by Micha Ullman (Tour 4), or the memorial in Levetzowstrasse, or the Bavarian Quarter, where around 80 signs unobtrusively remind us of the persecution of the Jews in the neighborhood. Train track 17 asks for the responsibility of the German Railway company for the deportations. Not far away from here is the house of the Wannsee Conference – a meeting point of state secretaries and representatives of the NS organizations.* (Tour 3) In May 2010 the new information center “Topography of Terror” was opened to the public. The exhibition attempts to explain the perspective of the perpetrators. Tour 2
*Since nobody is allowed to guide in the house of the Wannsee conference, the visit is without a guide but of course we can discuss the topic before and after the visit.
Memorial Site of the Former Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen: The camp is perhaps not as well-known as the extermination camps of Majdanek, Auschwitz, Bełżec, Sobibór or Treblinka, but a model camp for concentration camps that housed their headquarters. You will need five hours to visit Sachsenhausen. Tour 5
Feel free to piece your tours together as you wish. As a specialist on Jewish history, I’d be glad to put together a customized program for you for your time in Berlin.