The Jewish community of berlin have had a constant struggle, since the 14th century, when in 1350 the Black Death stuck and Jews got the blame when many were attacked and some executed. Again in the 16th century when in 1572, Prince-Elector Joachim II banned from settlement in Brandenburg ‘for all eternity’. Jews for centuries have been the figure under attack and in the line of hatred by many. After the population had suffered a great loss after the thirty years war of central Europe, Friedrich Wilhelm allowed Jews who had been banished from Wien (Vienna) to settle in Berlin in order to increase the population. Although they were charged with heavy taxes it is believed that the new Jewish population began to shape the character of Berlin. This lead to the acceptance of the Jewish people in Germany, who had experienced so far more than any, the ‘two sided nature of Berlin’, Matt Frei in his documentary “Ich Bin Ein Beriner” believed that they have experienced both “the exile and freedom of living in Berlin” (Frei, 2009) The notion of freedom to Moses Mendelssohn , who is famed as a philosopher and campaigner for Jewish acceptance, was set in stone to be a figure of freedom for the Jewish community for Berliners, he had a memorial school opened in his name in 1778, for century’s the school represented the freedom and diversity that can be found by anyone in Berlin.
In the 1920’s most German Jews were fully integrated into society and accepted as German citizens. They contributed massively in the field of business, science and culture and even served in the German Army and Navy. All quickly began to change after the appointment of Adolf Hitler in 1933. “The world seemed to be divided into two parts—those places where the Jews could not live and those where they could not enter.” (Shaw, 1973) A promise to Germany from the Nazi party propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels was that of jobs and food for all if the party were appointed into leadership. This was soon hugely contradicted after the 1938 International Evian Conference, where the issue of Jews, Gypsies and immigrants (anyone who was not purely German) who exiled to other countries, by the time the conference was held it is thought more than 250,000 Jews had fled Germany and Austria. The fast growing Anti-Semitism lead to the infamous ‘Kristallnacht’ on the 9th-10th November 1939, when the mass deportation of Jews and gypsies began. It is believed in Berlin more than 91 Jews were killed during this time and more than 30,000 incarcerated into concentration camps. Kristallnacht also saw the Moses Mendelssohn Oberschule was close in the fascist regime when the education of the Jewish people was banned. Work books and literature were destroyed, synagogues burned down and shop windows smashed. Many Jews were hear by after known as “U-Boats” or “submarines” referring Jews who were hiding throughout the city as non-Jews, many of whom were turned into the gestapo by other citizens.
After the holocaust Berlin’s Jewish community dropped to only 160,000, and so again began the reunification of the Jewish people into Berlin. The relationship between Berlin and its Jews has often been said to have moulded the character of Berliners today, “tyrannical rule has moulded the Berlin Character.” (Frei, 2009) Berlins divide between freedom and exile is evident through its history of the Jewish community, who experienced time and time again the welcoming nature of a diverse and modern Berlin, and the contrasting nature of its anti-sematic slurs and need to banish them from the city.
Now the city has a stamp of welcome and acceptance for the Jewish community, through its famous Jewish memorial museum or the re-opening of the Moses Mendelssohn Oberschule. The Jewish community now has had the longest period of acceptance in Berlin in their history of living there. The city now represents unification and diversity that welcomes change and difference.
Manchester Guardian, 23 May 1936, cited in A.J. Sherman, Island Refuge, Britain and the Refugees from the Third Reich, 1933–1939, (London, Elek Books Ltd, 1973), p. 112, also in The Evian Conference — Hitler’s Green Light for Genocide, by Annette