Media Release: Exhibit “Final Sale. The End of Jewish-Owned Businesses in Nazi Berlin”

The US premiere of the acclaimed exhibit from Berlin, at Leo Baeck Institute, New York through March 31, 2011

Wilhelm Philippi's lighting store in Berlin on November 10, 1938. The remnants of a sign bearing the owner's name are visible; Nazis forced Jewish-owned stores in Berlin to display the owner's name prominently.

(New York, Jan. 19, 2011) The exhibition, Final Sale. The End of Jewish-Owned Businesses in Nazi Berlin, uses the stories of 16 Berlin entrepreneurs to document the process by which Jews in Germany’s capital were disenfranchised and their livelihoods destroyed.

Before November 9, 1938, Berlin was a center of Jewish life as well as the hub of the German economy.  Though Jews made up about four percent of Berlin’s population, they owned and operated a much larger percentage of the city’s commercial enterprises.

“Between 1870 and 1933 Jews in Germany probably had more opportunities to become independent entrepreneurs and successful businessmen than Jews living anywhere else,” says Carol Kahn Strauss, Executive Director of the Leo Baeck Institute, which is hosting the exhibit.  Berlin was a magnet for Jews from across Germany and Europe who sought to make their way in business.

Until recently, however, there had been little systematic study of the economic and commercial lives of Jews in Nazi Berlin.

“Historians tend to write political history, thinking that economic history is a different matter,” says Christoph Kreutzmüller, a professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin and the curator of Final Sale.  As an economist and historian, Kreutzmüller sought to remedy this gap in the scholarship of commerce.  Rather than relegate this important chapter of the city’s past to an academic survey, Kreutzmüller partnered with students and the Aktives Museum Faschismus und Widerstand e.V. to build an exhibition that would personalize the findings from his economic analysis.

The work of this team comes to life in the 16 stories told in Final Sale. From Emanuel Braun, considered the inventor of the luxury boutique, to Max Reinhardt, the owner of Berlin’s most prestigious theater, to Else Ernestine Neuländer, the pioneering woman behind Berlin’s trendiest fashion photo studio, Jewish Berliners were among the city’s most innovative entrepreneurs.

“The destruction of Jewish businesses that occurred after 1933 is tragic proof of the commercial success that had been achieved prior to that,” says Mrs. Strauss.  As Final Sale demonstrates, the magnitude of the willful destruction and expropriation of German-Jewish businesses becomes fully apparent only when viewed in the context of this extraordinary achievement.

For a copy of the exhibition catalog or to arrange a guided tour contact David Brown at (212) 744-6400 or dbrown@lbi.cjh.org.

Background: “We have to find ways to make history personal,” Interview with Curator Christoph Kreutzmüller

Visitor Information

Katherine and Clifford H. Goldsmith Gallery
Leo Baeck Institute
Center for Jewish History
15 W. 16th St
New York, NY 10011
(202) 744-6400

Gallery Hours
Sunday, 11:00am – 5:00pm
Monday and Wednesday, 9:30am – 8:00pm
Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30am – 5:00pm
Friday, 9:30am – 3:00pm

Admission is Free

Image Gallery:  Click Thumbnail for Hi-Resolution Image

Cleared for use exclusively in reporting related to Final Sale. The End of Jewish-Owned Businesses in Nazi Berlin at Leo Baeck Institute:

Else Ernestine Neuländer built a successful photography business shooting commissions for fashion magazines. When the Nazi regime made it impossible for Jewish photographers to earn a living, she transferred the business to a non-Jewish associate but continued working until 1938. © Bundesarchiv Koblenz

Wilhelm Philippi's lighting store in Berlin on November 10, 1938. The remnants of a sign bearing the owner's name are visible; Nazi's forced Jewish-owned stores in Berlin to display the owner's name prominently, which served as a guide posts for the destruction on November 9, 1938. © The Wiener Library

This delivery truck belonged to the Weinberger Brothers Butter Merchants, one of Berlin's largest butter suppliers. The brothers protected their business from repeated boycotts for a time by transferring ownership to Salomon Weinberger, who had acquired Polish citizenship. © Jewish Museum Berlin

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.