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As time flows by – Jewish life on the Oder

Europe: Border and Encounter Regions Deutsches Kulturforum östliches Europa

The purpose of the travelling exhibition is to present a picture of Jewish life along the River Oder from its beginnings to the present day. In the regions which before the Second World War were part of Pomerania, of the Neumark area of Brandenburg, or of Silesia, and which since 1945 have belonged to the western region of Poland, there had already been a Jewish cultural presence since the Middle Ages, which developed as a result of trade and of immigration from both East and West. Over centuries the Oder region became a place in which different cultural influences crossed paths and mutually enriched one another. From at least the 19th century onwards this led to a unique cultural and economic upsurge, which turned cities such as Breslau/ Wrocław into centres of art and culture, science and business.
At the same time, however, the clash of different forms of Jewish self-perception led to tensions within the Jewish community itself and with the rise of Nationalism from the middle of the 19th century this resulted in conflicts with the majority society. The oppression and extermination of European Jews during the period of National Socialism finally destroyed the German-Jewish cultural symbiosis once and for all.

With the realignment of Europe after 1945, the history of the former German Eastern provinces in Germany became largely forgotten, and Jewish history was particularly affected by this. In the Polish People’s Republic, the German history of the new Western region of Poland was practically non-existent. By 1968 most of the German and Polish Jews who had survived the Holocaust had left Poland for personal or political reasons or because of antisemitic hate campaigns. Many of those who did remain no longer acknowledged themselves as Jews or admitted their Jewish background, and still do not do so, living today as so-called hidden Jews.

By the 1980’s in Poland any material traces of Jewish life along the Oder that had survived the Second World War were in many places misused for other purposes or destroyed. Only slowly are the former and present-day inhabitants of the Oder region, along with their descendents, beginning to recognise and accept the Jewish heritage of their homeland. A prime example of active engagement with Jewish cultural heritage is the establishment of the Bente-Kahan Foundation in Breslau/Wrocław in 2006.

The exhibition, which has been produced in both German and Polish, will be presented in locations along the German-Polish border from the middle of 2018.

1. Introduction
2. Life on the edge of society
3. The Synagogue in Oels
4. Jewish book printing
5. A Jewish landowner builds a church
6. Border country
7. Breslau – centre of modern Judaism
8. To Stettin, to Berlin, to New York!
9. Born on the Oder
10. Internment camp for foreigners in Stargard
11. The “Polish campaign”
12. The synagogue on fire!
13. From Stettin to Lublin
14. Autobahn built with forced labour
15. “No rights, nowhere!”
16. A temporary homeland
17. Remembrance
18. Today
19. Traces
20. Acknowledgements

Technical data
Size: 20 panels of 1m (width) x 2m (height), printed on one side, free-standing
Materials: 10mm PVC hard-foam sheets (Forex)
Weight per panel: c 8kg; total weight c 200kg
Construction time: c 2-3 hours

The exhibition can be borrowed for no charge. Transport to be organised at your own cost. Minimum duration for an exhibition is 8 weeks. Exhibition dates to be co-ordinated by the German Culture Forum for Eastern Europe.

Project Leader
German Culture Forum for Eastern Europe (Potsdam)

Contact person
German Culture Forum for Eastern Europe
Dr. Magdalena Gebala
Berliner Str. 135
14467 Potsdam
Tel: +49 (0)331 200 98-18

Co-operating partners
Foundation for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Berlin)
Moses Mendelssohn Centre for European Jewish Studies (Potsdam)
Centre for Historical Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Berlin)
Uniwersytet Wrocławski (Breslau/Wrocław)
Fundacja Bente Kahan (Breslau/Wrocław)
Muzeum Ziemi Międzyrzeckiej im. Alfa Kowalskiego (Meseritz/Międzyrzecz)
Stowarzyszenie Historyczno-Kulturalne “Terra Incognita” (Königsberg i.d. Neumark/Chojna)