Thursday, November 28, 2013

Eight Days of Hanukkah Gifts

Happy Hanukkah — happy Thanksgiving. This is the beginning of the holidays, and Christmas is just around the corner. So Berlinica Publishing is offering gifts (sort of): 20 copies of Jews in Berlin, the landmark book about 750 years of Jewish life and history in the German capital, by Andreas Nachama, Julius H. Schoeps, and Hermann Simon, updated in 2013 by Judith Kessler and André Anchuelo, will be for sale. The copies come new from the publisher, sent to you by, for only $18.00 (regularly $23.95). This sale will go on for all of Hanukkah and end in eight days (or, when all books will be sold sold).

Here is the link:

Here is Hanukkah in Berlin (from the book), with the menorah at the Brandenburg Gate.

Jews in Berlin has been reviewed by the Jewish Book Council, by Ira Wolfman. Here is what he wrote:

This is an updated edition of Juden in Berlin, published in 2001. All of its multiple authors have personal connections to the city. The book offers well over 100 images – some in full color, including photos, paintings, postcards, and documents. They add immeasurably to its value. 
Seven chapters review Berlin Jewish history. During the late middle ages, Jews are tolerated, taxed, exploited, murdered, burnt at the stake, and expelled. Despite the ongoing mayhem, a select few Berlin Jews serve as influential physicians and financial advisers. More Jews gain rights in the late 1700s and 1800s. Barriers fall; by World War I, Jews have become German army officers. Astonishing affluence emerges: Twelve of Berlin’s twenty most prosperous individuals in 1911 are Jews or of Jewish heritage.
Then calamity slithers in. The harrowing chapter, “Jews During the Period of National Socialism,” sensitively examines how Jewish Berliners tried to navigate the encroaching inferno. And chapters on the post-war years and life after reunification never ignore the shadow of the Shoah: “Nearly every street, building, and stone in Berlin is linked to the Holocaust in some way.” 
Now Berlin is again a world cultural center, and appealing to Jews: “Since the wall fell in November 1989, Jewish life in Berlin has experienced a veritable quantum leap.” Israelis and Russian Jews are bringing energy to the tiny, damaged Berlin Jewish community. And, as the foreword’s author, Carol Kahn Strauss, points out, Berlin is now a major destination for American Jewish tour groups. 
Jews loved Berlin – a city that alternately freed and destroyed them. In carefully recounting this confounding tale, Jews in Berlin honors the complexity of an unfathomable relationship. Appendix, bibliography, index.

Keep tuned for more sales to come. Next item: A postcard of Bruce Springsteen with a piece of the Berlin Wall.

by Eva C. Schweitzer

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Kristallnacht Redux: Broken Glasses in Berlin

Seventy-five years ago, Synagogues burned, and Jewish-owned stores in Austria and Germany were smashed by SA thugs; the owners threatened and beaten, some of them hauled off to camps. About a hundred were killed. The night came to be known as "Kristallnacht", the night of the broken glasses. It was the beginning of the end.

This year, the Handelsverband Berlin-Brandenburg, the main association of Berlin and Brandenburg retailers in collaboration with the city government of Berlin has called for an unusual commemoration of the anniversary of Kristallnacht: On Saturday, stores at Kurfürstendamm and other major streets and places in Berlin will cover their storefront windows with specially prepared black foil. It will look as if they had been smashed, from the outside. Kurfürstendamm, the main shopping mile with a lot of Jewish-owned businesses, was the center of Kristallnacht in 1938. So this is apt.

KaDeWe at Wittenbergplatz, Berlin's biggest department store, will participate, Kaufhof at Alexanderplatz, the giant book store Dussmann at Friedrichstrasse, and probably also H&M, as well as bakeries and drug stores at Hackescher Markt, another center of Jewish-owned retail in Berlin before 1938. Kulturprojekte Berlin, the organization in charge of the commemoration, wants to reach out to passer-bys and tourists, as well as store clerks, to inform them, and to set a visible sign. The action is endorsed by the representatives of the Jewish Community in Berlin.

Today, the Jewish Community in Berlin is coming back. Berlin has a dozen synagogues from liberal to conservative, Israeli-owned hummus shops and old-fashioned kosher restaurants, Jewish Film Festivals and Cultural Days; organizations like the American Jewish Congress and the Lehrhaus of the Lauder Foundation have offices in the German capital. Jewish immigrants like Wladimir Kaminer are writing bestselling books about Berlin. The Jewish community is now nearly a third of what it used to be before World War II, between 30.000 to 50.000 people, mostly from Russia, among them about 18.000 Israeli immigrants—and quite some infighting is going on. And institutions like the Jewish Museum are making headlines when they are telling you, "Everything you always wanted to know about Jews".

You can read this, and more, in the Berlinca book Jews in Berlin, written by three famous Jewish Berliners, Andreas Nachama, Julius H. Schoeps, and Hermann Simon, and updated in 2013.

by Eva C. Schweitzer

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Forbidden Art, the Topography of Terror, and Karaoke: The Berlin Wall Today

Twenty-four years ago, on a cold and foggy night, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. It was 7:30 p.m. that day when Günter Schabowski, an operative of the Communist Party told two dozen reporters live on camera that citizens of the GDR would be permitted to leave the country. Right away, hundreds and soon thousands of people went to the checkpoints and demanded to cross the border, louder and louder.

Finally, at 10:30 p.m., a nervous guard at the Bornholmer Bridge checkpoint made the call: he opened the gates, and droves of happy people, along with a lot of honking cars, poured into West Berlin. Berliners from the West and the East hugged each other. During the next hour, all checkpoints opened. Berlin celebrated one long, happy night.

If you are wondering what's left of the Wall, read The Berlin Wall Today, by Michael Cramer, an Green Party representative and bicycle activist. The book, which features more than one hundred color and black-and-white pictures, showcases Wall memorials and remnants in back yards, along train tracks, at churches, and in cemeteries. It takes you to Mauer Park, where people from all over world meet for Karaoke and parties; a guard tower that became the Museum of Forbidden Art; the Topography of Terror Museum, with the former Gestapo headquarters, the Reichstag, the East Side Gallery, and Checkpoint Charlie.

The Berlin Wall Today is also available as an enhanced e-book with maps and hyperlinks to websites of the memorials, former border crossings, and the other important sites along the Wall, including a 3D simulation of where the Wall once stood. To celebrate the anniversary, Berlinica participates in Amazon's Matchbook program; if you buy the printed book, you will get the enhanced ebook for less than half-price—for $2.99 only. Click on the picture, it will take you to the Amazon page.

by Eva C. Schweitzer


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