Recommended as private guide in
Rick Steves' 'snapshot Berlin':
" enthusiastic historian who grew up behind the Wall..."

before and after


Jewish Berlin



The Jewish community of Berlin was once by far the biggest in the whole of Germany. At its beginning this population saw many restraints, and then it started to prosper in the 19th century. The year 1933 marked the beginning of the end, however. The trauma that the Holocaust created still can be seen in Berlin in memorials that are like scars on the urban landscape. Today, Jewish life has been renewed in the city. Let me show you the places of Jewish history—full of beauty and awe.


Kleiner Friedrich1  Track Seventeen

After Jewish citizens were rounded up by the Nazis at certain transport places in Berlin, they were driven...
during the night through midtown to a local train station. There used to be a single track—Track Seventeen—with its platform, from which Jewish Berliners were transported on their way to the camps. Today, at first glance, it looks like it could be used again—but yet there are numerous names and numbers written on the platform. And the trees between the tracks … well, this memorial is a poignant place.


Kleiner Friedrich1  The Jewish Museum

No one fails to be impressed by the sight of this building. Architect Daniel Libeskind designed a structure that...
some say looks like a broken Star of David when seen from above. The building has no direct entrance, it seems to be built of metal, and it has countless features that display Jewish history through architectural structures. And, by the way, it also contains a most comprehensive exhibition about Jewish life in Germany over the last thousand years. This is a must-see, and I’d love to show you the place!!


Kleiner Friedrich1  Old Synagogue

When the first Jewish families came to Berlin in 1671, they held their initial religious meetings in private...
places. Only in 1714 did the king allow them to open a synagogue. The building was destroyed in World War II. What can be seen here now is a picture of the site where the synagogue stood and its foundation. This might be a good place to talk about how the Jewish community was split in the 19th century because of the Haskala, or the Jewish enlightenment.


Kleiner Friedrich1  Workshop for the blind

Otto Weidt owned a workshop for the blind where brushes were made. As an average German...
during the Nazi years, he employed mainly Jewish workers. And after his employees became illegal and were under threat of deportation, he hid them in secret places. The workshop can still be seen today, and it conveys an authentic impression of the dire situation of the Jews between 1941 and 1943.


Kleiner Friedrich1  Kindertransport

Between the pogrom that took place on November 9, and August 1939, more than 10,000 Jewish kids...
from allover Germany were transported to England. In this way, they escaped the Holocaust. When they came back after the war, in most cases they must have noticed that they were the only survivors. There were several places of departure, one of them at Berlin-Friedrichstraße. Recently, at Friedrichstrasse one of the survivors designed a memorial that is a fine piece of art as well as an impressive piece of memory.


Kleiner Friedrich1  The deserted room

There is a square where you might think that the locals have left two chairs and a table sitting out...
in the open. Only a closer look would tell you that these items are made of metal and are fixed to the ground. This is a memorial that gives a vivid impression of the situation of Berlin’s Jewish citizens shortly before they were deported. There is also a poem at the memorial that I will do my very best to translate.


Kleiner Friedrich1  New Synagogue

After centuries of legal discrimination, the Jewish citizens of Berlin received their full citizenship in...
1812. After that point, members of the Jewish community became highly successful in terms of education and income level. A clear sign of their self-confidence was the New Synagogue, which opened in 1866. Its golden dome can today be seen from many places in Berlin. This was not always the case, though. Let me tell you stories about this place of worship, the good ones as well as the bad ones.



Kleiner Friedrich1  The Jewish Cemetary

The Cemetery is situated behind a place where the Jewish home for the elderly once stood. The most prominent person...
buried here is the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. In 1943, the home for the elderly as well as the cemetery were taken over by the SS. The home then became the main gathering point for Jewish citizens before they were deported to the camps. The SS came up with wicked ways to desecrate the cemetery. It’s a touching place with many amazing stories.

  Friedrichgold4 © Bernhard