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Mendelssohn to Mendelsohn

Visual Case Studies of Jewish Life in Berlin


Cyril Reade

This book takes a fresh look at the history of the Jews in Berlin using signficant examples of the rich visual legacy of the period. It begins by examining the visual environment of the Enlightenment philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86) and his community whose lives were regulated by feudal conditions in the waning days of a mercantilist regime. It also looks at the Moorish Revival synagogue on the Oranienburgerstrasse inaugurated in 1866 that reflects the status and the evolving sense of identity of the sponsoring community at that moment in the nineteenth-century pursuit of emancipation and the incremental attainment of civil rights. The book ends with the Weimar Republic where the inventive modernist architect Erich Mendelsohn contributed to the vital building program of the Neue Sachlichkeit. The visual studies approach adopted here foregrounds the articulation of the dominant culture’s visual language by a dynamic minority expressing its place within the process of German nation building.
Contents: The Pre-Modern German-Jewish Subject – Lavater and Lessing Visit Moses Mendelssohn: Locating a Moment of Origin for the Modern German-Jewish Subject – Brendel Mendelssohn, Brendel Veit, Dorothea Veit, Dorothea von Schlegel: Identities in Transition – The Neue Synagoge on the Oranienburgerstraße: An Oriental Face to a Modern Body – The Wertheim Department Store: Messel’s Architectural Historicism as Marketing Strategy – Erich Mendelsohn’s Modernism: The Historical Roots of Neues Bauen Architecture.