In 1933 there were 160,000 Jews living in Berlin. This flourishing community was well integrated in all walks of life and many of its members inhabited most of the neighborhoods in the city. One of these neighborhoods was the famous middle class Bavarian quarter that housed around 10% of the Jewish community at the time (around 16,000 people). Among them was also the world famous Albert Einstein. The neighborhood was mostly middle to high class and had wide elegant parks and boulevards with small picturesque cafes. This neighborhood underwent a dramatic shift in its demographics in 1933 when Hitler came to power. As most of berlins Jews decided (around 80,000) to escape Germany between the years 1933 and 1939.
Unlike most of berlins synagogues that were burned to the ground on the “Crystal Night “ of 1938, the lavish synagogue that stood in Bavarian quarter was spared because it stood adjacent to housing blocks which the Nazis did not wish to harm. It was then later destroyed in the allied bombings.
In the years after the Second World War the Bavarian quarter as of much of Berlin was rebuilt but the Jewish community never returned to reclaim it. In the early 90s a local initiative emerged from the German inhabitants of the Bavarian quarter to create a project that would commemorate the quarters Jewish past.
The project took on the name “Places of Memory” and the idea behind it is until today considered quite revolutionary.
Different poles and street signs in the quarter were chosen and a metal plaque was added to them. These plaques had two sides. The one side had a pictogram and the other a text. The pictograms and the texts are either laws enacted against the Jews of Germany between the years 1933 and 1945 as well as texts from diaries that was written by Jews that were living in the quarter at the time.
The signs are integrated in to the urban texture making a walk through the quarter to a voyage though a part of the history of this unique place. Some of the signs were also placed next to relevant landmarks that are being referred to in the texts. For example a sign that quotes a law that states that all Jewish property will become nationalized is situated in front of a working bank building.
The Bavarian quarter, as well as other sites that are significant for the Jewish story of Berlin is a part of the Berlin Jewish heritage tour.