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The History of the Collections

The Jewish Museum Berlin's collections were founded by the Jüdische Abteilung des Berlin Museums (Jewish Department of the Berlin Museum), the museum in West Berlin documenting the history of the city. Located in the old Collegienhaus of the Supreme Court on Lindenstrasse, it serves among other functions as entrance to the modern Libeskind Building, where the collections are housed.

Painting: Lesser Ury, Rebekka at the fountain, 1908-09, oil on canvas

Lesser Ury, Rebekka at the fountain, 1908-09, oil on canvas
© Jewish Museum Berlin

Plans were made to erect a Jewish Museum in this building in the 1970s. The acquisition in 1981 of the Münster cantor Zvi Sofer's Judaica collection laid the foundation for the Berlin Museum's collection of ceremonial objects. Outstanding individual pieces were added, such as the Hanukkah lamp of George Wilhelm Marggraff from 1776. Family documents and everyday objects soon broadened the spectrum of the collection. Pre-war Berlin was home to the only Jewish Museum at that time to document the works of Jewish artists, but its collection was destroyed by the Nazis. The new museum was able to harken back to an earlier era, honoring a main focus of the older collection, by acquiring works of fine art, such as the biblical paintings of Lesser Ury.

Beginning in 1984 these objects were exhibited on the ground level of the Berlin Museum, with three additional rooms added in 1986 in the second story of the Martin Gropius Building.


Inka Bertz
Head of collections/Curator of art
Tel: +49 (0)30 259 93 414
Fax: +49 (0)30 259 93 409

Following the founding of the Jewish Museum Berlin as an independent federal institution in the year 2001, the holdings of the Jüdische Abteilung des Berlin Museums were handed over to the Jewish Museum Berlin Foundation. At the same time the collection mandate was extended to cover not just Berlin's Jewish history, but the history of Jews in the whole of Germany.

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