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Remembering Deportation of Polish-born Jews during Nazi Era

Exhibition Opening at New Synagogue Berlin - Centrum Judaicum on Sunday, July 8, 2018

№ 176/2018 from Jul 03, 2018

Hardly anyone today remembers the more than 1500 Berliners who were arrested in their homes, shops, and on the streets in the early morning hours of October 28, 1938, and were taken by train to the Polish border. They were among about 17,000 persons who were forcibly expelled from the German Reich to Poland on the last cold, wet October weekend in 1938. It was the first mass deportation from the German Reich. All of those affected were deported because they were Jewish and had Polish nationality. For the first time the story of this unique expulsion is being portrayed in an exhibition in Germany. The focus is on families expelled from Berlin.

These families included the Jaffes, who lived with their three children next to the Centrum Judaicum on Krausnickstrasse. The middle son Siegfried and his father Lazar, who operated an egg trade downstairs in the building, were expelled from Berlin. In 1939 Siegfried escaped from Europe with a children’s transport to Australia. Lazar, his wife, and their daughter Sophie were murdered in Poland in 1942. The eldest son Josef survived in hiding in the Netherlands.

From Kreuzberg Leo Adler was deported with his eldest son Norbert to Zbąszyń (Bentschen), the central point of expulsion on the Polish side. In March 1939, Leo’s wife Sabina and the two younger children were forced to hand over the apartment keys to the police and go to Poland immediately. Leo Adler was murdered in Dynow in September 1939; his family survived the Shoah in the Soviet Union. Leo Adler’s daughter, Rita Berger, is expected to attend a memorial service for the 80th anniversary of the “Polenaktion” along with her family and with other families in the Centrum Judaicum on October 29, 2018.

Press Conference about the Exhibition
Ausgewiesen! Berlin, 28.10.1938. Die Geschichte der „Polenaktion“

Press Conference: Friday, July 6, 2018, starting at 10 a.m.; a guided tour of the exhibition will follow.
Location: Seminar Room, Stiftung Neue Synagoge Berlin – Centrum Judaicum, Oranienburger Str. 28-30, 10117 Berlin.
Contact/Registration by email info@aktives-museum.de or phone +49 30 2639890 39

Exhibition Opening

Sunday, July 8, 2018, 11 a.m.
Location: Stiftung Neue Synagoge Berlin – Centrum Judaicum, Oranienburger Str. 28-30, 10117 Berlin.
Contact/Registration by email info@aktives-museum.de or phone +49 30 2639890 39

An extensive database was created as part of the exhibition project. It will be accessible in the exhibition. The database contains biographical information on about 500 Jewish citizens of Polish nationality.

Metropol Verlag published a volume edited by Alina Bothe und Gertrud Pickhan to accompany the exhibition. Review copies may be requested from the publisher (nicole.warmbold@metropol-verlag.de). Numerous illustrations of the historical event and individual family stories are available for reporters.

The exhibition in the New Synagogue Berlin – Centrum Judaicum was organized jointly by the nonprofit organization, Aktiven Museum Faschismus und Widerstand in Berlin e.V., and the Institute for Eastern European Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, with support from the Foundation New Neue Synagogue Berlin – Centrum Judaicum, the International Tracing Service Bad Arolsen, and the Fundacja TRES. The accompanying program is taking place in cooperation with the Berlin State Agency for Political Education and the Foundation New Synagogue Berlin – Centrum Judaicum. The educational program was developed in cooperation between the International Tracing Service Bad Arolsen and the Foundation New Synagogue Berlin – Centrum Judaicum.


  • Project Leaders: Dr. Christine Fischer-Defoy (Aktives Museum) and Prof. Dr. Gertrud Pickhan (Freie Universität Berlin)
  • Curator: Dr. Alina Bothe
  • Coordination: Kaspar Nürnberg
  • Project Assistant: Christine Meibeck
  • Arrangement: eot Berlin – Lilla Hinrichs and Anna Sartorius
  • The exhibition and the accompanying book are being generously sponsored by:
  • Project Fund for the promotion of historical and memorial cultural projects of the Senate Department for Culture and Europe of the State of Berlin
  • Friede Springer Foundation
  • Sanddorf Foundation
  • Szloma Albam Foundation
  • Ernst Reuter Association
  • IES Chicago

Partiticipating Institutions:

Aktives Museum

The Aktive Museum Faschismus und Widerstand in Berlin e.V. is a nonprofit association with the aim of informing about German, and in particular Berlin, history of the Nazi era, about developments that enabled the seizure of power by the National Socialists, and the consequences and continuities in the post-1945 period. It evolved out of a citizens’ initiative in 1983, which began by demonstrating in favor of and working toward establishing a memorial location on the vacant Gestapo site where the repressive Nazi regime had its headquarters until 1945. The Active Museum is an archetypal example of a history society that emerged from a “history from below” movement. It is not a museum in the traditional sense. It is an association that cooperates with other institutions in Berlin for diverse exhibitions, discussions, and other projects.

History Department of the Institute for Eastern European Studies at Freie Universität Berlin

The History Department headed by Univ.-Prof. Dr. Gertrud Pickhan is involved in various research projects on the history of Eastern Europe, with a special focus on the history of Eastern European Jewishness. Professor Pickhan led the research project “Charlottengrad and Scheunenviertel,” which dealt with Eastern European Jews in Berlin in the 1920s. An exhibition on the topic, “Transit and Transformation,” was shown in the Jewish Museum Berlin. Dr. Alina Bothe, who curated the exhibition “Ausgewiesen!” [Expelled!], is currently working on a habilitation thesis on the persecution of Jews of Polish nationality in the German Reich between 1938 and 1942. She has a doctorate in digital history.

New Synagogue Berlin – Centrum Judaicum Foundation

The New Synagogue Berlin - Centrum Judaicum Foundation, in its permanent exhibition on the history of the New Synagogue and its people, tells the story of Berlin and German-Jewish history. In temporary exhibitions it addresses topics that are related to Berlin and, at the same time, look beyond. With its events, the museum gets involved in social debates, provides a platform for culture and research, and brings together people of all generations for discussions. It organizes guided tours through its exhibits and the neighborhood, as well as theme-centered, target-group-specific seminars. The New Synagogue Berlin - Centrum Judaicum Foundation houses one of the most important archives for research into the history of Jews in Germany. The main part of the collection is a large part of the complete archives of German Jews, which was formerly based in Berlin. It collected files from Jewish communities and institutions. In all of these areas, the Centrum Judaicum cooperates nationally and internationally with other institutions, enabling research and initiating its own research projects.

International Tracing Service (ITS) Bad Arolsen

The International Tracing Service (ITS) is an international center dealing with Nazi persecution. It has the world’s most comprehensive archive of the victims of National Socialism. Since 2013 its 30 million original documents have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Document “Memory of the World.” As a central point of information, the ITS responds to about 16,000 inquiries a year and provides information on the fates of Nazi victims. For today’s society the ITS is a unique source of knowledge about exclusion, persecution, the Holocaust, and migration after 1945. It works internationally with memorial sites, archives, and research institutions as a source of ideas for more research and scholarly work. In order to allow free access to the documents, it has begun to publish its holdings in an online archive.

Fundacja TRES

Based in Zbąszyń in Greater Poland Voivodeship (Province), the Fundacja TRES has been working locally for more than 16 years to support local cultural initiatives and intercultural communication, often in cooperation with national and international cooperation partners. By organizing seminars, exhibitions, concerts, and other cultural and educational events, it helps to build a diverse civil society and to promote democracy and tolerance.