Day 2 – Berlin, Germany

This morning Mr. Barmore spoke to the students about centuries of Jewish history in Germany to prepare them for the new exhibition at The Jewish Museum. He carved out centuries in one hour and gave the students a basic framework for the contributions Jews gave to German society and culture.

At the Jewish Museum we were able to experience the newly renovated permanent exhibit and connect the morning’s lecture with centuries of Jewish history. What stood out to the students was the centuries of Jewish contributions to German culture. They also had an opportunity to begin to see how the Holocaust is represented in a German museum.

For lunch we had a very special luncheon at the Rooftop Reichstag restaurant arranged by our tour company to commemorate our 20th anniversary trip!

We continued our day by visiting to the Old Neue Synagogue, which was built over a six year period and consecrated in 1866. The beautiful Moorish building style and the large Schwedler Dome of gold, shaped the silhouette of Central Berlin, and was a symbol visible to all of the self-confidence of the Jewish community. During Kristallnacht, in November of 1938, most of Berlin’s 14 synagogues were burned, but Wilhelm Kratzfeld, the Berlin police officer responsible for the district, was able to preserve the synagogue from major damage by chasing away the arsonists and calling the fire department. The synagogue was able to resume services in April of 1939 and the last services took place in March of 1940 at which time the synagogue became a storage place for documents and records. Allied bombs severely damaged the synagogue in 1943 and in 1958 the main synagogue was blasted in what was then East Berlin. Nine of ten synagogues in West Berlin were blasted and three of four in East Berlin were also blasted. In 1988 a seven year reconstruction project was undertaken and the synagogue opened as a museum in 1995.

Olaf, showed us two Torah curtains. The writing was in Hebrew but had been used to write a Psalm in German, Psalm 89:15 “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne and mercy and truth shall go before thy face.” This reflected the ‘one-sided love affair’ that Mr. Barmore had spoken of – they were Jews, who wrote Hebrew letters but were speaking the German language to show they were part of the larger national community.

Our last visit of the day was to the Rosenstrasse memorial.  In February 1943 a group of German Aryan women stood in front of the building at Rosenstrasse 2-4 which served as a detention center for Jews who were to be deported east.  These women were all married to Jewish men who had been rounded up under Joseph Goebbels’ orders.  Goebbels wanted to clear Berlin of all Jews in time for Hitler’s birthday on April 20th  and make Berlin ‘Judenrein’ [Jew-clean]  as a gift for the Fuhrer.  For one week these women stood in front of the building and chanted “We want our husbands back!” The Germans set up machine guns and threatened to fire upon them, but the women would not relent.  Finally, the Nazis released all of their husbands, even bringing back two of them who had earlier been sent to Auschwitz.   The memorial, created by a Soviet artist, depicts the events of this week in February and the heroic efforts of these women to have their husbands released.  These Jewish men were able to live out the remainder of the war in their homes in Berlin  This was not the normal course of events in Germany, but a unique event.  Here at Rosenstrasse, they released more than 1,000 Jewish men who continued to live in Berlin until the end of the war and survived.  There were many non-Jewish women across Europe married to Jewish men; this type of resistance only took place here, adding to our sense of complexity of the history surrounding the Holocaust.


  1. Thank you so much for publishing your daily blog. We are the grandparents of Stella Davis, & the blog augments what she writes to us & her photos. We’re happy to follow the trip along.
    Hunt & Jeanne Davis


  2. On their second day, they stayed in Berlin Germany, and went to Old Neue Synagogue. Mr. Barmore spoke to students about Jewish history in Germany, and they visited the Old Neue Synagogue, which was rebuilt after Kristallnacht. Olaf showed them two Torah curtains in Hebrew and a Psalm in German, and the Rosenstrasse memorial commemorates the heroic efforts of German Aryan women to have their husbands released.


  3. The Jewish Museum in Berlin makes me wonder how any Germans actually believed that Jewish people were bad in Nazi Germany. It is cool to see that Germany also rebuilt an important synagogue as a museum to memorialize the Jewish community that had been affected. I was surprised to see the unique event where Jewish men were allowed to live in Berlin during the war, as I thought that the Nazis took no exceptions. Overall, the awareness of the Holocaust in Berlin is awesome.


  4. On the second day in Berlin, they visited many different new things. They visited the Old Neue Synagogue. This was something really cool and interesting to see, how they had chosen to rebuild it because of how important it truly was. I enjoyed finding out that the students even received a mini-lecture, for them to better understand Jewish History in Germany. And overall day 2 looked like an interesting learning day. I would connect this to the way America today builds memorials and museums in important locations, to show who once stayed here or what once occurred here. To give tourists and the people of America, a better understanding of American History.


  5.  how any Germans could have thought Jews were awful in Nazi Germany after visiting the Jewish Museum in Berlin. It’s interesting to note that Germany likewise restored a significant synagogue as a museum to honor the impacted Jewish population. I was shocked to witness the extraordinary circumstance in which Jewish men were permitted to reside in Berlin throughout the war since I had assumed that the Nazis made no exceptions. Berlin has a fantastic level of Holocaust awareness overall.


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