For hundreds of years before the Nazis and their genocide of the European Jews, and for decades thereafter, Berlin has boasted a remarkably liberal and dynamic Jewish population which today calls itself the fastest-growing in the world outside Israel. Let’s explore a history of vibrancy, persecution and recovery with the Essential Jewish Berlin Tour, or let’s go even further with the Extended tour.
ESSENTIAL JEWISH BERLIN TOUR:
On this tour, we can trace the very earliest legacies of Berlin’s Jewish population in the 13th century, before visiting the site of the first major Jewish settlement. We’ll discover the foundations of Berlin’s first synagogue, built in the early 18th century, and track the development of a Jewish quarter, founded by Viennese migrants, near to the banks of the Spree river. We’ll visit the site of the first Jewish cemetery in the city, where we will see the burial place of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, and can go on to the Jewish boys’ school which bears his name. We will also visit the Jewish girls’ school, neglected until recently but now transformed into a buzzing cultural centre.
We will track the legacy of the ‘Haskalah’, or Jewish Enlightenment, in Berlin’s city centre, and find a remarkably tolerant and progressive city. We’ll visit the spectacular Neue Synagogue, built in 1866, and see the home of the first female rabbi in the world, Regina Jonas.
The National Socialist dictatorship, of course, devastated Berlin’s Jewish population as it wreaked havoc through Europe, and we will visit the memorial to the events of ‘Kristallnacht’, or the ‘Night of Broken Glass’, as well as tracking dozens of ‘stumble stones’, small memorials to individual victims of the Holocaust, through the Jewish quarter. We will discuss the means by which Berliners, Jewish and non-Jewish, resisted the Nazi regime, and will visit the site of the ‘Frauenprotest’ or Women’s Protest of 1943, during which ‘Aryan’ spouses of Jews awaiting deportation would demonstrate successfully for the freedom of their husbands. We will also visit the workshop of Otto Weidt, cited at Yad Vashem as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ and often referred to as ‘Berlin’s Schindler’, a man who risked his life to protect his Jewish workers from deportation.
EXTENDED JEWISH BERLIN TOUR:
As well as the sites of the Essential Jewish Berlin Tour, we can go on to visit Berlin’s ‘second Jewish quarter’, the grand ‘Bavarian Quarter’, once the home of such luminaries Albert Einstein. We will track a remarkable history of resistance to the Nazi regime, seeing the homes of remarkable female activists such as Inge Deutschkron and Gisele Freund. In this neighbourhood, we can track a series of 80 urban memorials reflecting the subsections of the Nazis’ racial proclamation, the Nuremberg Laws. This walk will bring us to a neighbourhood of the city often overlooked by tourists, in which we will find not just hidden architectural gems but a remarkable history of subversive thought.
We will go on to visit Grunewald Station, from which thousands of Berliner Jews were deported, and see the memorial on the banks of ‘Gleis 17’. We can go on to visit the House of the Wannsee Conference, where the fates of two-thirds of the Jews of Europe were sealed on the fateful day of January 20th, 1942. Should you wish to go even further, we can make our way to the beautiful cemetery of Weissensee, one of the largest Jewish graveyards in Europe and resting place of numerous prominent members of the Jewish community of Berlin.