Jews and the Berlin Wall
Jewish life took different paths on either side of the Berlin Wall. In the East, Jews fled or faced East Germany's anti-religion, anti-Zionist polices. In the West, Jews sought normalcy but lived "with packed suitcases." A panel discussion featuring leading scholars and eyewitnesses will examine the impact of the Berlin Wall on Jewish communities on both sides, as well as the enormous growth in Germany's Jewish Community after the fall of the Iron Curtain due to migration from the former Soviet Union. The event is presented by Leo Baeck Institute and the Consulate General of Germany in New York.
Michael Brenner, Professor, Jewish History and Culture, University of Munich
Andreas Nachama, Executive Director, Topography of Terror Documentation Center, Berlin
Jeffrey Peck, Author, Being Jewish in the New Germany; Dean, Baruch College, New York
Liliane Weissberg, Professor, Arts and Sciences, Berman and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania
After WWII, about 8,500 German Jews who survived in hiding or returned from concentration camps, plus about 200,000 mostly Polish-Jewish "displaced persons" sheltered by the US military administration, faced stark choices. Was Jewish life possible again in Germany? If so, which Germanythe fledgling liberal democracy under the protection of the Allies, or the anti-Fascist workers' and farmers' state established in the Soviet Occupation Zone? Was emigration to Israel, Canada, or the US preferable to a life among the perpetrators?
Although the vast majority of Jews in Germany after WWII opted for emigration, the few thousand who remained established Jewish communities that were recognized by authorities in the Allied Zones in 1946 and in the nascent German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) in 1952. The new Jewish community was tiny compared to the one that had existed before 1933, largely Orthodox whereas its predecessor had been largely Liberal, and socially marginalized whereas the pre-1933 community had once been confident and internationally influential. Nevertheless, Jewish life would continue to exist on both sides of the Wall until it fell.
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