The exhibition follows the trail of objects that were once in the synagogue on Börneplatz, which was destroyed in 1938, and asks about the provenance of the exhibits whose origins we have so far not been able to definitively clarify. These include fragments of Hebrew manuscripts that were stolen in connection with pogroms in the early modern period and were re-used by Christian book binders.
In our 1988 touring exhibition “Was übrig blieb” (What was Left) we addressed the theme of the origins and whereabouts of ceremonial objects and artworks from the collection of the Museum Jüdischer Altertümer (Museum of Jewish Antiquities), which was opened in Frankfurt in 1922 and destroyed in 1938. The Jewish Museum Frankfurt sees itself as the spiritual successor of that museum.
The History of the Museum Jüdischer Altertümer
The Museum Jüdischer Altertümer was inaugurated in 1922 and was one of the first museums of its kind in Germany under the auspices of the Jewish Community in Frankfurt. It developed out of the Gesellschaft zur Erforschung jüdischer Kunstdenkmäler (Society for the Study of Jewish Art Monuments), which had been founded by the Frankfurt patron Charles Hallgarten in 1897. On the Pogrom Night of 1938, the museum was looted and a large part of the collection destroyed. About 1,000 objects found their way into the collection of Frankfurt’s History Museum. Several valuable items turned up on the local art market, others were melted down.
Commission on Jewish Cultural Reconstruction
In 1947, on behalf of the murdered Jews of Europe, the Commission on Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (JCR) was set up to search for Jewish cultural valuables for which there were no heirs. Over a period of five years the JCR collected paintings, books and ceremonial objects that had once belonged to German Jews and had been looted by the National Socialists, their helpers’ helpers and German citizens in the years between 1933 and 1945. The Rothschild Palais in Frankfurt and the Offenbach Archival Depot (OAD) served as temporary storehouses for those items of Jewish culture. They were then transported to a safe place and handed over to Jewish organizations in the United States and Israel. Several objects were also handed over to museums in Germany and Austria and preserved by them in memory of the German-Jewish culture of the pre-war era. Only a small number of the ceremonial objects remained with the newly founded Jewish Community in Frankfurt.
Object histories in the exhibition
In 1994, the Jewish Museum Frankfurt acquired this Hanukkah lamp in the art trade. The lamp’s design as a classical temple is just as unusual as the decorative elements with semi-precious gemstones and cameos. When the lamp was acquired, there was no information on the lamp’s previous owners – still common practice in the art trade in the 1990s. In 2017 we found evidence that it might have been part of the 'Flechtheim Collection'. We are still reasearching this history.
This edition of the "Sefer Josippon", a chronicle of Jewish history by Josephus Flavius, was made in Frankfurt in 1707. It was found in the attic of the Veitshöchheim Synagogue, near Würzburg. The attic was used as a genizah, a space or attic to store discarded papers, books, Torah rolls or other objects bearing the name of God and awaiting formal burial in accordance with Jewish customs.
Numerous objects from our collection of Judaica come from the Museum Jüdischer Altertümer (Museum of Jewish Antiquities), opened in Frankfurt in 1922. The museum was destroyed and looted by Nazis in the Pogrom Night in 1938.
"Looted. Destroyed. Scattered." is an exhibition within the exhibition, located in our Museum Judengasse.
The Judaica Collection of the Jewish Museum
Our Judaica Collection contains about 70 objects once owned by Sigmund Nauheim. The collector had left his collection to the Museum Jüdischer Altertümer and it was not taken by the JCR after the end of the war. The objects have also been kept in the History Museum since the end of the war. Our collection also includes another 40 objects from the Frankfurt History Museum that were assigned by decree of the municipality to the Jewish Museum in 1987. They are ceremonial items donated by members of the Jewish Community between the late 19th century and the 1920s to the History Museum, or had been purchased it, as well as several objects that were bought through the art market in the 1950s and 60s. On this basis, we have succeeded in building up a collection of Jewish ceremonial items which is of European significance.