Heimat und Exil

Home and Exile is the theme of a large exhibition currently in progress at the Berlin Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany. 

Immigrants from Europe approaching the Statue of Liberty was already shown on a postage stamp from San Marino in 2001, Scott 1503 (Figure 1) and is again shown on a large banner at the entrance to the Jewish Museum and on the tickets for this special exhibition (Figure 2 and Figure 3). This is appropriately so since the United States became the most important emigration country during the mid and late 30’s by taking in 130,000 refugees in spite of strictly applied immigration laws, which demanded a visa and a sponsorship, and allowing immigrants, thanks to FDR, only up to a specified quota. An affidavit (sponsorship) is illustrated in Figure 4. 

The expulsion and flight of 280,000 German Jews to over 100 countries, and their integration in a foreign environment is well represented at the Jewish Museum in cooperation with the House der Geschichte in Bonn. 

The central part of the temporary exhibit illustrates the first years of assimilation into the receiving countries, and is based on the experiences of individuals such as living in a foreign climate or in a strange culture under sub-normal conditions. 

Our focus in this report is Shanghai, China which may have been the most extreme emigration experience. 

In 1940, China was the only single country that continued to accept refugees unconditionally without requiring a visa. For approximately 15,000 German and Austrian Jews, among them the director of the Berlin Jewish Museum, and former US Secretary of the Treasury, W. Michael Blumenthal, it became the last place of refuge. Many that lived in Hongkew, a district inhabited mostly by poor Chinese people, were housed in mass shelters called “heime”. All refugees in Shanghai were subjected to a moist, humid climate and tropical diseases. 

A Japanese Proclamation during the war in 1943 confined all the refugees to a ghetto. An original plate posted at various entries and exits from the ghetto warning Jews not to leave the “Designated Area”, was on display at the museum in a special room reserved for Shanghai memorabilia. Many documents, photographs and objects were also neatly arranged or mounted behind large show windows illustrated in Figure 5, Figure 6, and Figure 7. A few of the items on display are shown separately in Figure 8, Figure 9, and Figure 10

Those responsible for the special exhibit was Helmuth F. Braun, Director of Temporary Exhibits, Petra Hertwig, Registrar (collection management), and Stefan Angerer, curator, all shown in Figure 11. Also shown is Sonja Muehlberger, historian, author, and former Jewish refugee, and yours truly. 

At the Rafael Roth Learning Center, one of the museum’s permanent historical exhibitions, visitors can journey through two thousand years of German-Jewish history. Here we see Sonja Muehiberger showing to the viewer on one of the media stations a popular street, Chusan Road, in the former Jewish Ghetto (Figure 12), and a provision store that was operated by Jewish refugees prior to the Japanese Proclamation (Figure 13)

A special area is reserved at the museum’s permanent exhibition for the collection of memorial books with records of victims that perished in the Holocaust. Again, we see Sonja Muehlberger showing Ralph Harpuder’s wife, Yvonne names of her husband’s relatives with the location where and when they were murdered by the Nazis (Figure 14 and Figure 15). 

Heimat und Exil (Home and Exile) is just one of a few ways in which the museum’s special exhibitions draw on a broad range of themes to compliment the permanent historical exhibition. 

May the younger generation of students walking through this exhibit (Figure 16) team what the Holocaust was all about and become inspired to help and do whatever they can to prevent such a major catastrophe, “Man’s Inhumanity to Man” to occur again in their lifetime and forever.