Material Culture Collection

In the area of material culture, we collect objects that are closely tied to Jewish life stories and hold commemorative value for their former owners. The stories that of how these objects have been passed down and the shifting meanings ascribed to them are also relevant to German-Jewish history.

What Our Collection Includes…

The collection comprises around 4,500 three-dimensional objects and textiles used for nonreligious purposes. They date from the late eighteenth century to the present, with a focus on the years from 1850 to 1950. These are mainly mementos and everyday objects that belonged to individuals and families, who often donated them to the museum as part of larger mixed collections of their possessions.

And What the Objects Reveal about Jewish History

Decorations, badges, and medals from the First World War, for example, are prominently represented in our collection and attest to the patriotism and the sense of belonging felt by German Jews. (With the exception of several awards for women on the so-called “home front,” these were primarily bestowed upon men.)

Black grand piano with its lid open

Because it was mainly more affluent families that were able to emigrate or even assure the safekeeping of their possessions, the majority of the everyday objects reflect their owners' bourgeois lifestyle, the collections of the Plesch and Simon families in particular. Company products, promotional items, and business signs and insignia are evidence of innovation, economic success, and social advancement of companies, salespeople, doctors, or lawyers. Club trophies recount sports history.

Many of the objects are related to emigration and émigrés' life in the countries they fled to after 1933. Others are directly connected to persecution and deportation, such as Yellow Star patches (Judensterne) and Jewish doctors' signs for “treaters of the sick” (Krankenbehandler). Further items were entrusted to neighbors or relatives and kept in commemoration of their murdered owners before being donated to our museum.

Round container with an image of a man wearing a Fez hat smoking a plastic cigarette

Promotional giveaway for the cigarette brand Moslem by the tobacco company Problem; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Contact
Leonore Maier
Curator of Material Culture
phone: 
+49 (0)30 259 93 455
fax: 
+49 (0)30 259 93 409

Material Culture

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