Christian Travelers Guides

Christian Travelers Guides

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jewish Berlin

I posted thought I had published this blog last week, but somehow it went to the Christian Book Reviews Blog - can I blame Microsoft Gremlins? Anyway here it is where it is supposed to be:

Although to anyone who has never visited Berlin the idea of a “Jewish Berlin,” may sound absurd, Judaism is actually an important and vibrant tradition that the Nazis failed to eradicate. Perhaps the best place to start a tour of Jewish Berlin is with a visit to the well designed Jewish Museum opened in September 2001 and designed by the American architect Daniel Libeskind (b. 1946). This is a masterpiece of design that captures the tragedy of the Holocaust while preserving a sense of both history and hope. More information can be found on the museum’s excellent website at:

Another place to visit is the Neue Synagogue (New Synagogue), Oranienburger Str. 30, near Museuminsel. It can be found on the web at:

Completed in 1866, it was designed by the architects Eduard Knoblauch and Friedrich August Stüler (1800 – 1865) and built as an impressive example of Romantic architecture in Moorish style. Badly damaged in World War II, the church was reconstructed beginning in 1988. Attacked during Kristallnacht in 1938, the Synagogue was saved from destruction by the local police chief. A plaque on its outside wall remembers his courageous act. Today the New Synagogue is now the main center for Berlin’s Jewish community.

One of the fascinating things about Berlin is its well preserved cemeteries. The Jüdischer Friedhof (Jewish cemetery), Grosse Hamburger Strasse, founded in 1672 is the oldest in Berlin. It once contained the grave of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), the grandfather of the composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847). Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s conversion to Christianity is commemorated in his great oratorio Paulus (St. Paul).

The graveyard was desecrated by the Gestapo in 1942. Now all you can see is a memorial plaque, a bronze sculpture by Will Lambert dedicated to the 55,000 Berlin Jews who were deported to camps in the East, and a gravestone commemorating Moses Mendelssohn who was on of the greatest Jewish philosophers of all time.

The Jüdischer Friedhof (Jewish Cemetery), Senefelderplatz, Pankow, fared better than most. It contains the graves of the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791 – 1864), the historian Richard Moritz Meyer (1860-1914), and the painter Max Liebermann (1847-1935).

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