Stolen Heart. The “Aryanisation” of Jewish property in the centre of Berlin 1933-1945
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the historic town centre has become the focus of increased public interest. While its future design is hotly debated, the fact that it is the oldest and most historically important part of the city is often controversially overlooked. Most historical remains were obliterated during the war and the postwar period. Just a few isolated buildings, such as St Mary’s Church (Marienkirche), St Nicholas’ Church (Nikolaikirche) and the Rote Rathaus town hall, still bear witness to the bustling urban life and architectural diversity of the old town. Even fewer traces remain of Berlin’s Jewish residents, who first became part of the city’s social fabric in the High Middle Ages. Persecuted, expelled and murdered in the years 1933 to 1945, this part of the population was effectively wiped out. Bomb damage and an approach to reconstruction that ignored history served to erase most architectural evidence of Jewish life in the city centre.
Of the 1,500 parcels of land within this area, at least 225 were Jewish-owned. No memorial plaques or stumbling stones commemorate the owners. Most plots here, unlike in other districts of Berlin, were acquired by the Nazi state, or the Berlin municipal authorities. Town-planning in Berlin was closely linked to the Nazis’ policy of “Aryanisation”. The authorities’ goal was to rebuild the old town in line with the ideologues’ monstrous vision of Berlin as the “global capital, Germania”. Property laws were gradually adjusted to prevent Jews from owning land.
The historical database accompanying the exhibition “Geraubte Mitte/Stolen Mitte”, which was shown from 4 September 2013 to 19 January 2014 in Ephraim Palais, part of the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin, provides documentation, photographic material and other information on the 225 parcels of land mentioned above.