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The Jewish Museum Berlin is one of the largest Jewish Museums in Europe. In two buildings, one of which is a new addition specifically built for the museum by architect Daniel Libeskind, two millennia of German Jewish history are on display in the permanent exhibition as well as in various changing exhibitions. The museum opened to the public in 2001.
The original Jewish Museum in Berlin was founded on Oranienburger Straße in 1933, but was closed soon thereafter, in 1938, by the Nazi regime. In 1975 an "Association for a Jewish Museum" formed and, three years lated, mounted an exhibition on Jewish history (1978). Soon thereafter, the Berlin Museum, which chronicled the city’s history, established a Jewish Department, but already, discussions about constructing a new museum dedicated to Jewish history in Berlin were being held.
In 1988, the Berlin government announced an anonymous competition for the new museum’s design. A year later, Daniel Libeskind's design was chosen by the committee. Construction on the new extension to the Berlin Museum began in November 1992. The empty museum was completed in 1999 and attracted over 350,000 people before it was filled and opened on September 9, 2001.
"Two Millennia of German Jewish History" presents Germany through the eyes of the Jewish minority. The exhibition begins with displays on medieval settlements along the Rhine, in particular in Speyer, Worms and Mayence. The Baroque period is regarded through the lens of Glickl bas Judah Leib (1646–1724, also known as Glückl von Hameln), who left a diary detailing her life as a Jewish business woman in Hamburg. The intellectual and personal legacies of philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) are next; both figures are flanked by depictions of Jews in court and country.
The Age of Emancipation in the 19th century is represented as a time of optimism, achievement and prosperity, though setbacks and disappointments are displayed as well. German-Jewish soldiers fighting for their country in World War I stand at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the section on National Socialism, emphasis is placed on the ways in which Jews reacted to the increasing discrimination against them, such as founding Jewish schools and social services.
After the Shoah, 250 000 survivors waited in “Displaced Persons” camps for the possibility to emigrate. At the same time, small Jewish communities in West and East were forming. The exhibition concludes with the migration to Germany of 200 000 Jews from the former Soviet Union, opening a new, yet-unwritten chapter of Jewish life in Germany.