The focal point of Berlin's Jewish cultural life used to be in the district usually referred to as the Jewish quarter in East-Berlin, which we warmly recommend for your first Jewish tour. However, in terms of commemoration, Berlin is much wider and deeper than that: West-Berlin also holds many stories and sites waiting to be experienced. If you're curious to go beyond the old Jewish quarter and to discover locations off the beaten track, we'd be happy to take you on an advanced tour through West-Berlin's Jewish aspects.
Depending on your preferences, we can see all (or some) of these places:
Grunewald train station
Grunewald train station is where the last journey of thousands of deported Jews began. Several memorials were created there, and although they were all done by Germans, referring to the same place and to the same events, they are very different from each other, because they were done at different times.
One of these memorials is the famous (or perhaps notorious) Platform #17. But this monument is just a stage in a long process that the German society had to go through in Grunewald. Analyzing the differences between the various memorials at Grunewald will show us the steps taken by different German generations, struggling with this difficult past.
The Bavarian quarter in Schöneberg
The Bavarian quarter is a unique neighborhood, in which the persecution of the Jews is present literally everywhere. Thanks to several commemoration projects, it's impossible to live - or grow up - in the Bavarian quarter without confronting the Holocaust. There's the famous street-signs project, commemorating Nazi decrees against the Jewish population, as part of the quarter's everyday life. We'll also see the memorial to the local synagogue, which was only destroyed in 1956, when the Nazis were obviously no longer in power. This tension resulted in a project carried out since 1994 by pupils of the local elementary school, commemorating the former Jewish residents of the neighborhood with memorial bricks. We can also visit Albert Einstein's former address at the Bavarian quarter and an exhibition about the Jewish families of the neighborhood at the local city hall. Recently, even the local subway stop was turned into an exhibition about the neighborhood's challenging past.
Kreuzberg's Jewish aspects
Kreuzberg is a very multicultural neighborhood and a symbol for Berlin as a melting pot for people from about 170 different countries. But it also has an impressive memorial for Kreuzberg's old synagogue: Empty benches, aligned like the textual flow of a Talmud page, make the void felt and the absence of the congregation present again. Kreuzberg is also the location of Berlin's Jewish museum, designed in a very post-modern way by Daniel Libeskind, deliberately challenging and even confusing its visitors.
Moabit, Charlottenburg, Steglitz
The Jewish monuments in Moabit are really off the beaten track for most tourists, although they are definitely worth a visit. The “Wall of Flames" was the very first attempt to use the Nazi extermination records for an art work, that in turn became the inspiration for Platform #17 in Grunewald. We'll also see the Cattle Car monument, which can be described as Berlin's most straight-forward Jewish memorial. In the same area we'll find the traces of Adass Yisroel, Berlin's pre-war haredi community, as well as the former address of Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (the last Lubawitscher Rabbi).
In the neighborhoods of Charlottenburg and Steglitz we'll see the the old Jewish community center with its own Holocaust memorial and the exceptional Wall of Mirrors, that turns the spectator into a part of the memorial, as if forced to partake in the fate of the Jewish victims.
The House of the Wannsee Conference
In this top-secret conference, which took place in 1942, high ranking German officials, representing all important institutions of Nazi Germany, met in order to discuss and coordinate the operational aspects of the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. However, no decision on the Final Solution was made at the conference (that's just a common misconception).
We discuss the history of the place, the decisions that were made at this top secret conference, its importance for historical research on the Holocaust, and also visit the exhibition about the place and its context. Please note that all external guides – such as ourselves – may only escort their guests in the museum, but not guide them while inside; we therefore use the time on our way to Wannsee and back to explain everything about the conference and its meaning (it takes about an hour for each direction).
Our Itinerary Advisor will help you to prioritize with two simple questions!