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Berlin Transit

Jewish Immigrants from Eastern Europe in the 1920s

An exhibition

As a hub connecting East and West, Berlin was already a place of refuge and a way station for tens of thousands of Jews from Eastern Europe starting in the late nineteenth century, and particularly after the First World War. Most of them were refugees from Russia, Lithuania, and Galicia, escaping war, pogroms, or revolution. The city remained a center of Jewish migration in Europe for more than a decade. With its multilingualism and complex internal networks, the community of Eastern European migrants brought about a heyday of Jewish culture in Berlin. Many of the poor Jewish migrants lived in the Scheunenviertel section near Alexanderplatz, others in middle-class Charlottenburg, a district of the city referred to as “Charlottengrad” on account of the high proportion of Russians who lived there.

The exhibition in the Jewish Museum Berlin (March 23–July 15, 2012), comprising six theme-oriented rooms plus an epilogue, focused on the immigration and further migration of Jewish emigrants and refugees from Eastern Europe between the world wars. The individual rooms did not follow any chronological narrative, but were instead characterized by different object genres such as photographs, books, audio, family memorabilia, paintings, and film. Visitors were able to hear the diversity of this “Babylon in Berlin” through literary and autobiographical texts in Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, and German.

The exhibition was developed in cooperation between the Jewish Museum Berlin and the research project “Charlottengrad and Scheunenviertel: Jewish Immigrants from Eastern Europe in Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s” at the Eastern Europe Institute of the Free University of Berlin.

Accompanying the exhibition, a symposium took place on March 24, 2012. The symposium program can be downloaded here (pdf-file). An picture gallery is online.

A richly illustrated book accompanying the exhibition, including eleven essays by renowned scholars, is published by Wallstein Verlag.