Every library has its highlights, every librarian her or his favorites. Here our bloggers present personal choices from their workplace.
We recommend: check this section every now and then - it grows together with our blog.
Set into the sidewalk on the Fleischmengergasse, directly in front of Cologne City Library, are so-called Stolpersteine – “stumbling stones” (small brass plaques) – commemorating the Jewish Geppert-Jungleib family: the father Meier, mother Rachela, son Max, and (a more recent addition) daughter Chaye Sara (Sally). Sally, the only member of the family to survive the Holocaust, reached Britain on a domestic worker’s visa on August 31, 1939 – not a day too soon.
The Gepperts were among the large body of Eastern European Jews who left their homelands from the late 19th century onward in the hope of finding a better future for themselves and their children in Germany. In Cologne they tended to settle south of the Neumarkt in the area of today’s City Library (and hence too of Germania Judaica). Sally was born in the small town of Rawa-Ruska, which then belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Kingdom of Galicia – today it is in Ukraine. Sally’s brother was born after the family had moved to Cologne.
Sally’s grandson, Michael Newman, is today Chief Executive of the Association of Jewish Refugees, the main British organization for Central European victims of Nazi persecution. He has researched his grandmother’s history. Michael Newman was the moving spirit behind the laying of the Stolperstein for her in Cologne in March 2022, an event in which he and his family participated. (See page 4)
Dr. Ursula Reuter
From the Ulrich Föhse Archive:
Ilse Loew’s account of the crossing to Cuba on the Flandre in 1939
In May 1939 the 31-year-old art historian Dr. Ilse Loew from Elberfeld set out with her husband Alfred and their 8-month-old daughter Anne Judith equipped with immigration papers and full of hope on the crossing from France to Cuba. But while they were still at sea the Cuban authorities changed their immigration rules, with horrendous consequences. When the ship docked in Havana, 96 Jewish passengers were refused permission to land. After ten nerve-racking days, and a journey on to Vera Cruz in Mexico, it was clear that they would now be sent back to Europe.
For me, the special thing about this account is the sensitivity with which Ilse Loew perceives and records every change of mood, every spark of hope, elation and despondency among the ship’s passengers, who were mostly Spanish or Jewish refugees, fleeing from Franco or Hitler respectively. The psychological stress was so immense that when the Loews finally managed to borrow the necessary money (from a cousin) to land in Vera Cruz, they were worried about being able to repay it and turned the offer down.The door opened, but they had reached the point where they could not step through.
Ilse Loew wrote this account on her return to France, before she and her husband – followed a year later by their 2-year-old daughter – were deported to Auschwitz.
The actress Julia Wolff has read the report - to be heard and seen here on the website of the Begegnungsstätte Alte Synagoge Wuppertal. The film is introduced by a conversation between Dr Ulrike Schrader, director of the Begegnungsstätte, and volunteer Gudrun Hetfeld, who has worked intensively on this unique document.
Harry Zwi Dreifuss’s suitcase
Harry Zwi Dreifuss died in December 2020. Among the items in his estate now in the possession of the Salomon Ludwig Steinheim Institute are films and photographs, as well as the suitcase that traveled with him from Israel back to Cologne. Every day at the Institute it reminds me of a wonderful person in whose labor of remembrance I have been privileged to share.
Harry Zwi Dreifuss’s suitcase can tell many tales.
Harry Dreifuss was less than a year old when his parents fled with him from Mannheim via Switzerland to Palestine. Growing up in Tel Aviv, he discovered his passion for photography, and in 1958 he took the decision to study photography in Cologne.
For Jewish emigrants it was never easy to return to Germany. Harry – known since his schooldays in Tel Aviv as ‘Zwi’ Dreifuss – made a film of that journey. The opening scenes play in the train, where a zoom onto Harry’s suitcase presents a close-up of the label and the word ‘Israel’ comes into focus. Pan to a man sitting opposite who stares thunderstruck at the label before stumbling hurriedly from the compartment.
Harry Zwi Dreifuss’s biography and that of his wife Tamar – a native of Vilnius saved as a small child from the Shoah through the courage of her mother – have been the subject of numerous publications. They were for many years – and Tamar still is – active as first hand witnesses in Germany’s task of coming to terms with its Nazi past. A whole generation of school students has been motivated by their words and example to work for a life together free from racism and anti-Semitism.
Dr. Cordula Lissner
Harry Dreifuss at the opening of a Yavne exhibition in 2015
(poto: Axel Joerss)
Further reading (in German)
Harry Dreifuss – obituary: https://www.jawne.de/category/aktuelles/
Anne Klein, ‘Begegnungen. Der Kameramann Harry Zwi Dreifuss und sein Film über das Ankommen,’ in: (Anne Klein, ed.), Der Lischka-Prozess. Eine jüdisch-französisch-deutsche Erinnerungsgeschichte (Berlin 2013), 158f. (Harry Dreifuss’s role as cameraman in exposing the Nazi criminal Kurt Lischka is also thematized in this book.)
Sarah Mfuende & Lynn Tsui, ‘Harry Zwi Dreifuss,’ in: Bundesverband Information Beratung für NS-Verfolgte (ed.), Wir haben überlebt! Flucht und Verfolgung in Erzählungen von Holocaust-Überlebenden und Geflüchteten, (Cologne 2018), 94-107.
Michaela Elstner & Aylin Özbucak, ‘Tamar Dreifuss,’ ibid., 42-53.
Tamar Dreifuss, Die wunderbare Rettung der kleinen Tamar 1944. Ein jüdisches Mädchen überlebt den Holocaust in Osteuropa, ed. Yavne Children’s Book Project Group, (Cologne 2009).
Book recommendations from the library team
of the Jewish Museum
Photo: Herbert Fischer, © JMF
Franziska Krah recommends:
Anti-Anti-Blätter zur Abwehr
Published in 1924 by Germany’s biggest Jewish group, the Centralverein (central association), this book bears striking testimony to the Jewish community’s struggle against anti-Semitism. It contains thematically ordered arguments against typical anti-Semitic slogans and prejudices for use in private as well as public contexts (e.g. anti-Semitic rallies). Copies are held in the library and in the permanent exhibition.
Ma’aseh Tuviah, Venice 1707
The Opus of Tobias
(Tobias Cohn, 1652-1729)
Every book in Ets Haim has its own beauty, so to single one out as special is not that easy.
However, among my own favorites is Ma’aseh Tuviah (The Opus of Tobias), which illustrates the human body as a house with different stories.
In the Middle Ages the body was often represented as part of the universe. Tobias Cohn evidently thought the house-image would be easier to understand: architectonic diagrams of this kind were often used to illustrate complex topics. Here the depiction is to help medical students learn and remember the arrangement of the body’s internal organs.
On the left is a human body with its major organs; on the right a five-story house. Each organ bears a Hebrew letter matching an item on one of the levels of the house.
The heart was often portrayed as a steaming boiler, reflecting the conviction that it warmed the blood. Cohn’s illustration also has a boiler, but here it stands in the kitchen and represents the stomach. The heart, as “master of the house,” is hidden behind a barred window on the fourth floor where, according to Cohn, it can enjoy fresh air without itself being seen.
Fascinating to see how the human body was viewed more than 300 years ago.
Typography und Cover Design
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice,
New York: Knopf, 1965.
Translation of Der Tod in Venedig,
first published in 1912.
Library of the Leo Baeck Institute New York | Berlin,
call number: st 4610 Salter v. 121
This striking minimalist book cover with elegant lettering and blue-green color bands for the English translation of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice echoes the underlying theme of the famous novella: the longing for beauty and aesthetic refinement. The cover was created in 1965 by the noted German American Jewish designer George Salter for the Alfred A. Knopf publishing house in New York.
GEORGE SALTER (1897, Bremen, born Georg Salter -1967, New York) grew up in an affluent German-Jewish family. In the late 1920s, he began to focus on commercial book design and produced over 350 book covers and bindings. His design for Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz became world famous. In 1934 he fled Nazi Germany for the USA.
Salter's designs were also widely sought after by American publishers, and he received a steady flow of design commissions. His beautifully drawn and lettered jackets served as an elegant window into the works of renowned authors such as Albert Camus, John Dos Passos, and Thomas Mann and combine book content with book design. In the US, he worked for eighty-nine different publishers, ultimately creating at least 715 different book jackets.
George Salter’s design style encompasses a wide array of styles and media. His works exhibit exquisite craftsmanship as well as balance between typography and images. Salter was influenced by art movements such as the Russian Constructivists, the Bauhaus School, and the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk of German Art Nouveau. George Salter's work became the benchmark by which contemporary book design is measured to this day.
A selection of Salter’s works which reflect his design theory, is virtually accessible in the online exhibition: George Salter: A Legacy of Book Design. The featured book covers are from the “Library of Book Designs by George Salter” which contains over 300 of Salter’s works. This book collection is just one of the treasures which can be discovered at the Leo Baeck Institute New York | Berlin (LBI).
Waldbach im Schnee
(Woodland Stream in the Snow) Etching by Emil Singer.
Born 1881 in Kyjov (Czech Republic), Singer was deported in 1942 to Izbica, where he died in anonymity. Today his works can be found in museums and art galleries worldwide.
An anonymous benefactor donated this fine work to the library of the Israelitische Cultusgemeinde Zürich in 2020. We have had it framed, and it now hangs in the entrance foyer, where it can be enjoyed by all our members and visitors.
Kerstin A. Paul