Fred Stein Photographer

While we were visiting the Jewish Museum, one of the exhibitions showing in the “voids” was dedicated to the works of Fred Stein, a Jewish photographer who was born in Dresden in July 1909. The son of a rabbi and a teacher, he was an active socialist, a member of the Marxist Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany (SAP). He studied law, but with the rise of the Nazis he was forced out of his job in the State Prosecutor’s Office and forbidden from completing his studies for a PhD. He fled to Paris with his wife, Lilo, where, unable to practice law he started photographing the City with a Leica camera and soon became established as a photographer.


When the Germans invaded France he was captured and interned, but he escaped and, with Lilo and their young daughter, managed to flee via Marsaille to New York, securing passage on one of the last ships to leave France for on “danger visas.” Settling in the city, he carried on photographing street scenes and worked for photo agencies, his pictures appearing in papers and journals such as the New York Times and Time magazine. He obtained American citizenship in 1952

The exhibition featured 130 black-and-white photographs covering his time in both Paris and New York.

He was a talented “Street photographer” producing some cleverly composed images of both Paris and New York.
I like how he has captured these interesting patterns created by water rubbing of the pavement of a deserted street in Paris.
He had a talent for composition. I like the way he’s used the curving bridge to frame the buildings
He included people in his photographs. A clever use of a silhouette and reflections in this photgraph.
In later life, when it was more difficult for him to get out and about, he turned to portrait photography, persuading a wide range of celebrities, artists and intellectuals to pose for him.
This subject needs no introduction.
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An excellent exhibition with some really interesting photographs that we were lucky enough to stumble upon by chance.

Fred Stein Fine Cut from Imaginary Media Artists on Vimeo.

 

Jewish Museum Berlin – The Exhibition

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During our visit to the Jewish Museum in Berlin we weren’t only interested in the architecture but spent some time looking around the permanent exhibition located on the top two floors of the building. It didn’t just concentrate on the Holocaust, portraying the Jews simply as victims, which is the case with the Holocaust Memorial. It showed how they became part of European and German society and how they became integrated to a large extent in Germany.

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Although  I had a reasonable understanding of the history,  I learned more about why the Jews were well positioned to the advantage of the development of Capitalism because of the role they had played as itinerant traders and in finance, roles that "native" Germans were less likely to play. There were displays about certain individuals who played a key role in German life, culture and society such as the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, the poet  Heinrich Heine, industrialist, politician, writer, and statesman  Walther Rathenau, who served as Foreign Minister of Germany during the Weimar Republic and the Socialists Karl Marx and Ferdinand Lassalle.

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There were displays about Jewish life in the Middle Ages and the 19th and 20th Centuries.

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And given what happened in the 1930’s and 40’s it was ironic to see these gravestones of Jews who dies for the “Fatherland” during the First World War

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The sections on the holocaust were moving, and also informative, but are covered in more depth at the Holocaust Memorial.

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The most disturbing and moving part for me was seeing the roll of yellow cloth printed with the stars – and the revelation that the Jews were charged 10 pfennings for the privilege of buying one to wear.

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Jewish Museum Berlin – Architecture

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When we arrived in Berlin last Monday, it was around 5 o’clock by the time we had checked in and settled into our hotel. We’d discovered when planning the trip that the Jewish Museum was open until 10 o’clock on a Monday evening, so decided that a visit would be a good way to spend our first evening in the city.

We took the U-Bahn from Alexanderplatz, which was a little stressful as the ticket machines wouldn’t accept the only 5 and 10 Euro notes we had on us and they don’t accept 20 Euro notes. It was quite frustrating and a little embarrassing as a queue of commuters was building up behind us. Luckily a seller of the German equivalent of the Big Issue saw what was going on and changed a note for us so we were able to buy our tickets with coins. We left him a coin as a thanks for helping us out. Coming back later on we discovered that there was a bus that stopped outside the museum that would take us back to Alexanderplatz. A few lessons learned there – sometimes buses are easier than the underground. (And taking a double decker bus is sometimes a good way of seeing the sights).

When we finally arrived at the Museum, being dark we couldn’t really see much of the outside of the building. We knew that would be the case. but we were able to get a flavour of the building and  experience the architecture inside. Later in the week we decided to return during the daytime to have another look.

The museum has two buildings. The older part Baroque in style was built in 1735 and was originally used as for the Collegienhaus to the regal Court of Justice. Today it houses the entrance, shop, cafe and is used for temporary exhibitions. The newer part is the dramatic, zinc clad zig-zag designed by Daniel Liebskind, which is meant to represent a reconstructed, shattered Star of David.

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The above image from Wikipedia  is an overhead shot of the museum showing the two building. It is out of date, however, as the courtyard of the old building has been enclosed  in glass to form an atrium with windows that overlook the garden. During our night time visit the glass  were like black mirrors that reflected the interior.

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The outside of the Liebskind building is scored with irregular lines or slits which are glazed to form windows which in the daytime allow light to enter. But the positioning of the windows isn’t random – the Museum’s website tells us that

During the design process, the architect Daniel Libeskind plotted the addresses of prominent Jewish and German citizens on a map of pre-war Berlin and joined the points to form an "irrational and invisible matrix" on which he based the language of form, the geometry and shape of the building.

The positioning of windows in the New Building was also based on this network of connections.

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When it was dark outside the window slits gave an interesting effect being pitch black.

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During the daytime in some cases they appeared bright white letting light beams shine into the halls

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but in other cases appeared blue – probably caused by the reflection of the sky.

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Access to the new building and the permanent exhibition was via an underground tunnel – the "Axis of Continuity" which connects the Old Building with the staircase which leads up to the exhibition levels.

This is cut across by two other “axes”.

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At the end of the "Axis of the Holocaust"  there is a heavy door which when opened allows access to the Holocaust Tower. This is a tall concrete shell with a slit at the top which lets in sounds of passing traffic and people from outside and, in the daytime, light. At night it was eerily quiet and almost pitch black inside this tall narrow room.

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The "Axis of Emigration" leads outside to daylight and the Garden of Exile. In the garden there are 49 tall concrete stelae, set out in a square plot, which are filled with earth and planted with Russian willow oak. The garden is on a 12° gradient and this combined with the angles of the stelae made moving around it something of a disorientating experience – something Liebskind wanted to achieve – reproducing a sense of what the exiled Jews felt on reaching their destination

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The building reminded us  of the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, also by Liebskind. Both have metallic cladding and structures that are shattered and reconstructed forms. The globe in the case of Manchester and the Star of David in Berlin. Both are quite remarkable.