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Berlin's Jewish Museum is the largest museum of its type in Europe and is a must see on any visit to Berlin. It is also the most significant example of contemporary architecture in Berlin.
The museum documents the German-Jewish relationship throughout the centuries. There are different exhibition rooms and way more information to soak up then you could even begin to attempt in a short visit like we had.
Highlights of the visit for me were the windowless Holocaust Tower, a dark, empty, high-sided tower where you can stand and reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust; and out in the Garden of Exile, where tall stone pillars on a slope give you a feel for the isolation and loss of orientation experienced by those forced to live in exile. Very moving stuff.
Opening hours are: Monday from 10am - 10pm and Tuesday-Sunday from 10am - 8pm
The museum cost us 5 euro each to visit in May 2006.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
The Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum charts the history of Jews in Germany over the course of 2,000 years. The entrance to the museum is via the former Collegienhaus built in 1735, and almost totally destroyed during WW2. I’m not sure why, but when I visited on a Saturday there was no entrance charge? The new part of the museum is the famous zinc-plated fortress designed by Daniel Libeskind and opened in 2001 that has a zig-zag shape. There are areas for comtemplation including the 5 dark voids. There are small gardens to walk around and the new and old building, and these are all linked by the glass courtyard. The museum covers much more than the Holocaust Events, which is only a small part of the exhibition that covers the last 2,000 years of the history of Jews in Germany. This is an easy to follow popular museum with text in English, but it does take time to make your way around so allow a full day.
- Museum Visits
Garden of Exile and Holocaust Tower
In a museum of superlatives, the Holocaust Tower is the most remarkable for its lack of anything. The only void outside the main building, it is an irregularly shaped plain concrete space rising 25 yards to a single slit in the roof for light. No heat, no displays, just emptiness. Access is limited to small groups - one may remain as long as desired to reflect on the emptiness of death. It is a scary place - the walls and floor are slanted, the heavy door slams shut, the slightest sounds echo. Not an easy place.
The Garden of Exile is also accessed through a very heavy door and again uses slanted narrow footpaths for disorientation and difficulty. The garden is comprised of 49 rectangular cement colums, each topped by plantings meant to symbolize hope. The columns are close enough that one cannot clearly see others in adjacent rows, leaving the visitor alone and confused, not unlike the Jews who fled Germany. Returning to the museum building, the door seems particularly unwieldy, for those who would return to Germany.
A complete understanding of the Jewish Museum requires appreciation of the concepts incorporated into the remarkable and extremely controversial building designed by the noted architect Daniel Libeskind. The large zinc covered building with the disorienting slashes of window is as much a sculpture as an architectural design. The basic plan involves intersecting lines recalling important locations in Jewish Berlin with interspersed empty spaces he called "voided voids" to recall emptiness and absence associated with the disappearance of Jewish life from the city in the Hitler era. The voids are non-continuous empty spaces from basement to roof which run straight through the otherwise jagged zigzag-shaped museum building. The seemingly random course of the slit-like exterior windows has been likened to a disrupted Jewish star but is actually a schematic of important sites in Jewish Berlin. Prior to the official opening of the museum in 2001, 350000+ visited the empty museum building to see the striking architectural features.
Since the official opening, more than 4 million have entered the main portal of the large Baroque office building which formerly housed the Royal Court of Justice. Built in 1735 during the reign of Wilhelm Frederick I, it is the last remaining administrative building commisioned by the Hohenzollern nobility. Completely destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt to original design (1963-9) to house the Berlin Museum and redesigned by Libeskind in 1993. The only entrance to the Libeskind museum building is through the main door of this older building - there are no exits or entrances in the exhibit building. Over the doorway is the Prussian coat of arms flanked by figures for wisdom and justice. It houses the ticket desk, checkroom, exhibit rooms, and a kosher restaurant. Access to the main museum is through one of the voids with a long steep slate staircase and a long sloping hallway, undecorated. A portent of things to come -- the entrance is consciously dark, difficult, and unadorned.
I was never more impressed by a sculpture than by 'fallen leaves' in the Jewish Museum. You were supposed to walk on the iron 'faces' and that made a lot of noice since the sculpture is located in a huge concrete tower. But I wouldn't step on the faces; it gave me the goose bumps.
In the museum there are more interesting things to see. It is a really great building, built by Daniel Liebeskind, the architect who is going to build something on ground zero in New York.
In the museum there are really nice multimedia programmes where the history of the jewes comes alive. It's impressive.
Even when you are not really into musea, I strongly recommend you to visit the museum. It is worth the visit.
Oh, very important: remind not to accidently bring a pocketnife or something like that. At the entrance you will be searched for any 'weapons' and you have to walk through a metal detector.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
The Museum Proper
The Jewish Museum is incredibly comprehensive, documenting in written and spoken word, photographs, drawings, art, and interactive exhibits the complex German-Jewish relationship. Ostensibly broken up into multiple segments, the exhibits flow fairly seamlessly from one to another through the sharp turns of the Libeskind building. Jews first settled in today's Germany as far back as the Roman Empire and had sizeable communities in medieval Worms, Speyer, and Mainz. A very extensive exhibit covers the famed scholar Moses Mendelssohn and even includes his spectacles. Family and religious life are covered in detail in the mid-2nd millenium. Periods of tolerance in the late 19th Century and the National Socialist and the Holocaust are all exhaustively treated. The later exhibits describe the new Jewish communities in post WWII Germany.
The amount of material in this museum is astounding. We spent several hours in the axes and the museum itself without ever getting to the 20th Century material. There is just SO MUCH to see and too little time to appreciate it all. This is not an easy task - nothing is easy in the Libeskind building. Access to the upper floors for the challenged is by narrow and out of the way elevators with carefully controlled admission. Toilet facilities are inconveniently located, down the steep stairs, no access to elevators, and soooo difficult to find the point of interruption. A kosher restaurant is all the way back in the old Court building.
Selected images include a
1 - medieval drawing of Worms (note the serpent),
2 - the carefully placed exhibits and the famous windows,
3 - a memorial plaque from the Saarburg DP camp,
4 - a section devoted to Ann Frank, and
5--a work of art only too accurate in its depiction of the Hitler era.
The all-inclusive Jewish Museum of Berlin combines architectural inventiveness with a total immersion in Jewish life in Germany - it should be a first choice location for visitors.
Axes and Voids
The ground level of the museum is comprised of three corridors called axes intersecting to form a central undecorated triangle. The Axis of Emigration leads to the Garden of Exile. It narrows and the floor slants as one approaches the purposefully heavy door leading to the outdoor garden symbolizing the difficulties and disorientation faced by Jews leaving Germany. The Axis of the Holocaust has the same features but is considerably darker leading to the Holocaust Tower. On the walls are display cases with stories, pictures, and personal items of those who followed this sad pathway - these are poignant reading and worth attention. The longest axis is the Axis of Continuity leading to the Sackler Staircase for the main exhibits and meant to symbolize the permanence of Jewish life in Germany despite the tragedies of the past. The staircase itself is steep, stark, and undecorated ending blindly at the top. The museum entrances are through doors on the side. Nothing is easy in Jewish life, even the museum entrance.
The voids are 5 concrete spaces painted white or black running vertically through the Libeskind building, discrete spaces without heat, air cooling, or artificial light, created to recall the emptiness of Germany without a Jewish population as well as the emptiness of death. Most famous is the void containing the steel sculpture Shalechet or Fallen Leaves, 10000 primitive faces piled on the floor and intended to be walked on. Apparently, when large numbers are doing so, there is an unpleasant industrial sound echoing in the void, although on our stop we were the only persons present and unable to appreciate this experience.
The overall plan of the ground floor is designed to be difficult and evoke the hardships that characterize all Jewish history over the centuries. Understanding this concept adds more meaning to the museum.
An Interactive Lesson in Jewish History
Architecturally, the building is unlike any other in Berlin. A break-line which runs through it reminds the visitor of the tragic end of the proud and successful Jewish community in Germany. At the start of the visit we go down to the basement, then slowly go up the path of the Holocaust (dead end, void sensation beautifully conveyed architecturally), the path of Exile (another dead end: "The Garden of Exile", another architectonically-eloquent monument), and then the path of Continuation leads us to the main exhibition halls, telling the story of the Jews in Germany from the early Middle Ages to the 20th century.
The display is colorful and interactive, makes use of multi-media and hands-on-computers. Jewish traditions are made easy and understandable, and Jewish characters come to life, among them Glikel, the "feminist" woman-merchant of the 17th century; and Moses Mendelssohn, the enlightened philosopher of the 18th century.
I watched with satisfaction how non-Jewish visitors from many countries and continents got so interested in the contents of the displays and engulfed by its ambience and spirit.
This is definitely one of the "must see"s of Berlin.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
- Study Abroad
It makes you think
I visited the Jewish Museum, intending to stay only a couple of hours. I left about six hours later, and would probably have stayed longer only I had to meet someone.
The museum traces the history of Jews in Germany, and specifically the Berlin area. Before coming to the obvious, and disturbing events of the middle 20th century, there are fascinating exhibits about German Jews throughout the centuries (check out the giant garlic bulb!) with English and German descriptions.
The reason most people probably visit the Museum is to learn (more) about the Holocaust. There are many exhibits which make for a very interesting and sobering visit.
Perhaps the most thought-provoking part of the entire Museum is the Tower. Entering through a door, you are in a huge triangular shaped space, with smooth concrete walls and no natural light save that provided by a hole high up on one of the walls. I visited in winter and it was freezing inside.
You can hear all the street noises from outside filtering in through the hole, reminding you of normal life outside. the Tower is supposed to represent the isolation and fear of people being taken to the camps by the Nazis, and you are invited to spend some time there reflecting on their plight.
I found it extremely moving (I am not Jewish myself) and saw other people leaving the Tower obviously visibly shaken by what they ahd seen.
There are also good exhibits detailing the role of German Jews in entertainment, business, the arts and so on.
All in all, an absolute "must see" in Berlin.
- Family Travel
- Museum Visits
Body and Soul
The Jewish Museum Berlin is famous for the way its architecture communicates to visitors and the surrounding world. The opinions are as many as there are visitors (a lot!). The architect, Daniel Libeskind, has created a building/museum/artpiece that opens to every visitor to experience, perceptually, mind and body.
The structure of the building is two lines with different angles that together make voids and meeting-points, and continuous movements beyond the very building.
The museum displays two millennia of German-Jewish history and culture and about the difficult relations between Jews and non-Jews. The techniques and objects used for this are multiple, from personal items and letters to art installations and multimedia in a path system in three axes.
The Axis of Continuity connects the Old Building with the Sackler Staircase to the exhibition levels. The "Axis of Emigration" leads outside to the magnificent Garden of Exile. The "Axis of the Holocaust" is a dead end and leads to The Holocaust Tower commemorating the numerous Jewish victims of mass murder.
There is so much to say about this museum and so much more to learn and experience, terrifying and beautiful at the same time.
The museum is open daily from:
10 to 8, Mondays from 10 to 10.
The museum is closed some days a year, check homepage for exact dates.
- School Holidays
- Arts and Culture
The Jewish museum is one of the new attractions of Berlin, thousands of people are visiting every day. Its architecture by Daniel Libeskind is amazing. The building is zigzag shaped, on the outside it has many scars. The scars symbolise the German-Jewish history, the shape is supposed to be a deconstructed star of David.
The museum shows 2000 years of Jewish history. We went here to see an excellent exhibition on the architecture of Libeskind though (actually we went here twice because stupid as we are the exhibition started a day later than we thought. Wait! Actually we didn't think at all ;)
- Religious Travel
- Museum Visits
Two Millennia of German Jewish History
The Jewish Museum in Berlin tells the story of the Holocaust, of course, but also of the two thousand years of German Jewish history that went before.
There are vivid, detailed exhibits on fourteen historical periods, from the beginnings through the Middle Ages and up to the present, designed to "show how tightly Jewish life and German history are interwoven."
The entrance, security area and restaurant are in an older building, and from there you go way down into the basement of the new part, which is a striking zinc-paneled building by the architect Daniel Libeskind. In the basement there three long intersecting axes: the longest is the "axis of continuity", which is intersected by the axis of exile (leading out to a "Garden of Exile and Emigration") and the axis of the holocaust, which leads to a dead end at the "Holocaust Tower".
At the end of the axis of continuity you go up a long flight of stairs to the second floor, where the permanent exhibition begins.
The photo shows the older museum building as seen from the new one.
For more photos and details, please see my travelogue on the Jewish Museum.
Or have a look at my Local Customs Tips to see how the Jewish Museum Berlin was advertised all over Germany in the summer of 2005
- Museum Visits
The Jewish Museum Berlin opened its doors in 2001 and is one of the worlds leading museums and the largest Jewish museum in Europe.
The building itself is zinc paneled and already one of Berlin's most recognizable landmarks. The design of the building (by Daniel Libeskind) is an integral part of the museum and the themes within in the museum and is not just the building in which the exhibitons are housed. The architecture is so powerful, both internally and externally that it forces and provokes one to think, to reflect and to raise questions. It is an extremely powerful piece of architecture but towards the end of my visit I was getting desperately in need of a change.
The museums exhibitions extend over 3,000m and follows German-Jewish history from the Middle Ages to the present with (and quite obviously) the focus leading to the Holocaust with three incredibly overbearing, overpowering and poignant rooms : The Holocaust, The Exile and The Void.
The museum is open 10am - 8pm and cost 5,00EUR per adult - this museum accepts visa.
I thought this museum had been so impressingly thought about. However, my personal opinion was that there was not a complete balance; unless I missed it, whilst the subjects of WWII and the Holocaust were very strongly dealt with, there was absolutely no mention or credit given to the many, many people who risked everything they had, including their own lives to help the Jewish people and to stop the atrocities from happening. I thought that the omission of even the smallest plaque to honour these people and to show that even in the darkest times there is light, let the museum down.
- Historical Travel
Moving and Disorienting
We visited the Judisches Museum with the intention of spending an hour perusing the exhibits. We ended up staying for about three hours looking at the various exhibits and displays. It's multi-media experience.
It's not a Holocaust Museum; it's a history of the Jewish People in Germany, for the most part. I strongly recommend a visit. It's included in the state sponsored card, and admission is 8 Euro for a regular admission.
The visit has lots of spaces to check out. There is the concrete memorial (see travelogue) and a room of silence and reflection. There are exhibits of sound, sight, and feel (try putting on a peddlar's pack!). It's great for adults and children. Lots of stuff for everyone to experience.
The exhibits are mainly in German, but there are English translations (albeit sparse). In the film about Geman/Jewish history, the English is very sparse. In fact, most of the non-German speakers (of all nationalities) ended up leaving before the end.
Definitely set aside a few hours for this Museum!
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
Jewish Museum - "The Holocaust"
I don't think ever in my life has architecture affected me in quite the way that THE HOLOCAUST room at the Jewish Museum did.
To describe the room - very tall; the walls seemed to keep strecthing up. A strange angled shape causing a very claustrophobic environment. Actually with the height scale of the walls and the narrowness / acute angles it felt as though the room was closing in on you. Added to that was the fact that there was no light, save a small slit in the far wall - the walls were all grey, the incredibly high ceiling was black and the room was totally empty save an odd metal runged ladder going up one wall, starting high up.
The connection between the room/architecture and what the room is representing (The Holocaust) was so powerful; It managed to provoke a very unsettling and uncomfortable atmosphere. From the moment I stepped into the room I was filled with a sickening feeling and I found the whole experience of this room very moving. One thing I hadn't noticed until I looked at my photos was that the light which came through the slash in the wall actually hit the angles just so to form a heart - was this intentional? I don't know.
A most definite experience.
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