The history of the museum
The Berend Lehmann Museum of Jewish History and Culture is named after the court Jew Berend Lehmann (1661 – 1730), one of the most important court Jews of his time. From Halberstadt he worked for the courts of Prussia, Hanover, Brunswick and especially Augustus the Strong in Saxony.
From this strong position, Berend Lehmann was able to do much to improve the situation of Jews in Halberstadt and beyond. His business activities attracted other Jewish entrepreneurs and merchants, and Lehmann created opportunities for the permanent settlement of poor Jews.
Lehmann was particularly concerned with promoting the religious life of the Jewish community. Around 1700 he founded the Klaussynagoge in Halberstadt as a house of learning. Another magnificent Baroque synagogue, which he donated, was consecrated in 1712.
Among other things, Berend Lehmann’s activities led Halberstadt’s Jewish community to flourish. In the 18th century, Halberstadt, with a Jewish population of 10 percent, formed an important center of Jewish life, Jewish business and scholarship, and neoorthodoxy.
In 1942, the last members of Halberstadt’s Jewish community were deported. Since then, there is no longer an active Jewish community in Halberstadt.
History of the museum
Through the commitment of Halberstadt citizens, who had organized themselves since 1990 in the “Association for the Preservation and Further Development of Jewish Heritage in Halberstadt and the Surrounding Area”, the Moses Mendelssohn Academy Foundation Halberstadt (MMA) was established in 1996. The founder was the Berlin-based Dipl. Kfm. Manfred Wolff, who has a special relationship with the city and its Jewish history through his friendship with Raphael Nussbaum, a native of Halberstadt. Prof. Dr. Julius H. Schoeps was and is the spiritus rector for the content-related orientation.
The first goal of the foundation was to save the former Jewish community center of Halberstadt. These include the “Klaus,” i.e. the former Jewish teaching house with synagogue, in Rosenwinkel, the cantor’s house in Bakenstraße with the site of the destroyed Baroque synagogue behind it, and the ritual immersion bath (mikveh) in Judenstraße. Beyond saving the buildings, the foundation’s goal is to research and make visible Halberstadt’s rich Jewish heritage, which has evolved over centuries after receiving little recognition since the community’s extermination in Nazi Germany. A special concern is to build a bridge to the present. Here, the focus is on the long-established relationships with Jewish families originating from Halberstadt.
In order to provide the public with access to the research results, the MMA founded the Berend Lehmann Museum of Jewish History and Culture in 2001 in the former ritual Jewish immersion bath (Mikwenhaus) at Judenstraße 25/26. The museum conveys Jewish history exclusively by means of exhibits that have a clear connection to Halberstadt and were transferred to the museum as donations or loans on a large scale through close contact with former Halberstadt Jews and their descendants. The stories of the objects tell exemplarily the history of the Jews all over Germany.
In 2022, a long-term financing agreement could be concluded between the state of Saxony-Anhalt, the city of Halberstadt and the Moses Mendelssohn Foundation Erlangen/Berlin. In May 2022, a newly designed permanent exhibition has opened in both houses of the museum (Judenstraße 25/26 and Rosenwinkel 18). Today, the Berend Lehmann Museum is a firmly established institution with a wide range of cooperation partners in research and educational work, which also enjoys a good professional reputation beyond the region.
Show Jewish history at an authentic place, enable encounters
The Berend Lehmann Museum of Jewish History and Culture (BLM) is part of the non-profit foundation Moses Mendelssohn Akademie Halberstadt (MMA). The purpose of the foundation is, in addition to the preservation of the historical buildings – Klaussynagoge (Rosenwinkel 18); Kontorhaus (Bakenstraße 56); Mikwenhaus (Judenstraße 26) and the preservation of the site of the destroyed baroque synagogue, the imparting of knowledge about the basics of Judaism and Jewish history and culture. This is intended to counter anti-Semitism and racism.
The authentic historical place in the center of the Jewish community of Halberstadt is the framework on the example of which the history of the Jews in the German area is told. In order to achieve a concrete localization, the BLM exclusively shows objects that originate from the Halberstadt Jewish context. Donations from members of the Halberstadt Jewish community and their descendants have created a collection of authentic Judaica as well as everyday objects, photographs, documents, autobiographical materials, and video and audio documents of outstanding quality.
The close cooperation with former Jewish Halberstädter:innen as well as their descendants in Israel, the USA, South America, Australia and Europe enables a constant addition and expansion of the collection as well as the further development of the conception of the work of the MMA and the BLM. They actively participate in the mediation process. The MMA also sees itself as a meeting place that initiates and promotes exchange between people of different religions and cultures. Through their presence during visits and by means of the exhibition, the descendants of the Jewish Halberstädter:innen actively participate in this exchange.
The collection is researched in cooperation with suitable scientific institutions and in association with Jewish museums in Europe. The central role is played by the provenance of the objects, the story of which is told in the exhibition.