Germany, the Jews and Israel: An Evolving Exhibition to Commemorate 50 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Israel and Germany

Curator: Dr. Stefan Litt, Archives Department

The National Library of Israel's collections contain many items that document the close connection between Jews and Germans, as well as between Israel and Germany. In commemorating 50 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany, the Library has launched a virtual exhibition which focuses on the relationship between these two nations, cultures, and lands throughout the 20th century. Each week throughout the year, a new item will be added to the evolving virtual exhibition, along with a brief explanation of its context and story.

Some of the items will be presented around the anniversaries of significant historical dates (such as the signing of the reparations agreements on September 10 and Kristallnacht on November 9), while others will be presented throughout the year without relation to a particular date.

A number of significant milestones relating to German history are currently being commemorated around the world including 100 years since the outbreak of World War I; 75 years since the outbreak of World War II and 70 years since its conclusion; 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall; and 50 years since the beginning of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany.
The period between 1914 and 1989 saw Germany in its vicissitudes. World War I ended in massive defeat and hyperinflation, though it also precipitated the rise of the first true democracy in German history and the "Golden Age" of the 1920s, shortly followed by the Nazis' rise to power, the Nuremberg Laws, Kristallnacht, and the Holocaust. The defeat of the Nazis, in turn, led to the partition of Germany and its ultimate reunification at the end of the Cold War. The reparations agreements between Israel and Germany and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries are both significant historical events in and of themselves.
Twentieth-century German and Jewish histories are closely intertwined in a complex relationship. Jews historically played an active role as part of the German nation. They were active in politics and economics, played a seminal role in culture, and were victims of the darkest chapters in German history. It is not at all surprising that in existing historiography, there is a strong interest in the "German-Jewish symbiosis" and its failure. Today, years later, the general population in Israel has taken a renewed interest in German history and culture. Israeli tourism to Germany, and mainly to Berlin, is a well-known phenomenon, but it is also only one expression of this renewed interest, and of a re-examination of this complex history at the dawn of the 21st century.
Four main topics emerge in the German-Jewish relationship between 1914 and 1989:

1. World War I
2. The Weimar Republic
3. The Nazi Period, World War II and the Holocaust
4. A Divided Germany, Relations with Israel, and Reunification