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  • Jüdisches München: Vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart
  • Nils Roemer
Jüdisches München: Vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, edited by Richard Bauer and Michael Brenner. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2006. 287 pp. €19.90.

In 1866, in the presence of Chancellor Bismarck and various Berlin notables, the massive Oranienburger Straße synagogue was dedicated. The building visibly underlined the new importance of the capital as the center of Jewish life. To root the Jewish community more firmly in this new city, Ludwig Geiger composed Geschichte der Juden in Berlin (1871) for the community's 200th anniversary celebration. Almost a hundred years later and after the Holocaust, Hans Lamm recollected the history of Bavarian Jewry in Von Juden in München: Ein Gedenkbuch (1958) to capture the peculiar local culture and identity of Munich Jewry and memorialize its past. Between these two publications lies the path of German Jewry, from integration to destruction, displacement, loss, remembrance, and new beginnings. These two books moreover remind us that Jews constructed their culture and remembered their past often in a local key.

Jüdisches München, like Geiger's history, recalls the past and anticipates future growth, but like Lamm's memorial book it also serves as a reminder to the policy of harassment, expulsion, and destruction. As in Berlin before, the occasion of the dedication of a new synagogue motivated the two editors, Richard Bauer, director of the Munich city archive, and Michael Brenner, professor of Jewish History and Culture at the University of Munich, to chronicle the history of Jews in Munich and to revive its memory. Historical recollection serves here too as a possible guide for cooperation and interaction of Jews and other citizens of Munich, as Charlotte Knoblauch, President of the Israelite community of Munich and President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany points out (p. 10). Jews of Munich surface in the collection therefore not simply as a tolerated minority but as active participants in the making of Munich. The various contributors to this volume recover, in the words of Munich's mayor Christian Ude, a "Christian-Jewish city history" (p. 12). Important to this narrative are individuals like the Jewish architect Max Littmann, who designed the famous Prinzregenten theater and the Tietz and Oberpollinger department store buildings, entrepreneurs like Hermann Schulein, who directed the Löwenbrau, Kurt Landauer, president of FC Bayern Munich, who led the club in 1932 to the first national title, and Albert Einstein's father, who provided electricity for the Oktoberfest. [End Page 190]

For the most part, however, the valuable contributions to this nicely illustrated volume retrace a more familiar story of the Jews in Munich from the Middle Ages to the present with an emphasis on the modern period. Persecution and destruction was not limited to the modern period. Already in 1285 Jews had been persecuted, and the expulsion during the fifteenth century eradicated Jewish life from the city for some 300 years. In the eighteenth century the community remained minute and significantly increased in size only after 1815. In 1861 the much-hated Matrikel law that had limited the number of the Jews in the city finally lapsed and paved the way for growth, further integration, and the careers of illustrious writers like Lion Feuchtwanger in the twentieth century. The Hitler putsch of 1923, however, signaled dramatic changes; around 12,000 Jews either emigrated or were deported and murdered during the Shoah. The last transport to Theresienstadt left Munich as late as February 1945, when larger parts of the city had been destroyed and defeat was imminent, documenting the still existing commitment to the NS-State and mass murder.

Two months later American troops liberated Munich, which temporarily became the center of Jewish displaced persons (DPs) in Europe. Almost 800 former Jewish citizens of Munich returned to the city on the Isar and in July 1945 formed a new Jewish community, in which, however, they constituted a minority. Internal conflicts within this diverse community of German Jews, survivors of the Holocaust, and other DPs, who had stayed alive in the interior of the Soviet Union, dominated the 1950s. Whereas initially most saw their sojourn...


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