A Short Trip to Denmark

Posted on April 28th, 2017 by

Biking around Copenhagen

Biking around Copenhagen

I recently took a short vacation to Denmark where I spent time in Copenhagen, Northern Zealand and Aarhus. In between visiting castles, going on a canal boat tour, biking around the city and sampling lots of tasty dishes, I explored the country’s Jewish heritage. As I am writing this on Holocaust Remembrance Day, I thought I would also touch on some of the county’s WW2 history.

Inside the Danish Jewish Museum

Inside the Danish Jewish Museum

In Copenhagen, I stopped at the Danish Jewish Museum. The architecture by Daniel Libeskind (who also did the Jewish Museum in Berlin), was among the most striking parts of the museum. The space was a kind of labyrinth and the floors, walls and ceiling were slanted. I learned that Jews have lived in Denmark for 400 years. Denmark was the first Scandinavian country where Jews were permitted to settle. Jews were first invited by King Christian IV in the 1620s and they worked as merchants or as financiers and jewelers to the royal family. Similar to Maryland, Danish Jews only received full citizenship rights in 1849. In 1943, when the Danish Jews were about to be deported, the Danish Resistance Movement was instrumental in helping to evacuate nearly 8,000 Jews and their families from Denmark by sea in fishing boats to nearby neutral Sweden. While 500 Jews were taken to Thersienstadt concentration camp, Danish authorities often interceded upon their behalf and ordinary Danes protected the property of their Jewish neighbors while they were gone.

Danish fisherman ferry Jews to safety in Sweeden 1943 . Via USHMM.

Danish fisherman ferry Jews to safety in Sweeden 1943 . Via USHMM.

Since the war, the population has rebounded. Despite recent episodes of anti-Semitism, the Jewish population of Denmark remains at approximately 6,400.Later in my trip, I took the train up the coast to visit the Louisanna Art Museum  and Kronsborg Castle.  These were near several of the towns where Jews were smuggled on fishing boats across to nearby Sweden in 1943. I visited around the time of Passover so when I looked out over the water towards Sweden, it made me realize that the Danish Jews also had an exodus to escape a different kind of oppressor as they ferried across the Oresund strait towards freedom. Back in Copenhagen, I explored the historic center where I walked past the Great Synagogue, dating from 1833, which is the main synagogue of the Jewish community in Copenhagen. It is built in the semi-oriental classical style with mixtures of Greek, Roman and Egyptian elements.

The Occupation Museum

The Occupation Museum

The next day, I took the train to Aarhus where I toured the Occupation Museum which is dedicated to the history of the town during the occupation by the Germans in World War 2. The building served as the headquarters for the Gestapo headquarters during the war and as a place of interrogation and torture. I was interested in learning about the resistance to the Nazis in Aarhus, like a radio used to secretly communicate with England.

Throughout my trip, I thought back to our Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust and Humanity exhibit. While many perished in the Holocaust, it was refreshing to hear some of the stories of ordinary Danes who stood up to the Nazis and as a country ended up saving the majority of Danish Jews from Nazi persecution.

GrahamA blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.

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An Historic Tour, 1984

Posted on April 27th, 2017 by

It isn’t only our historical collections that contain intriguing images. These three come from our institutional photo archives, showing a group of young students in costume at the Lloyd Street Synagogue in 1984.

IA 1.0873

IA 1.0873

IA 1.0874

IA 1.0874

They’re identified simply as “children from School #139 at the Lloyd Street Synagogue for Historic Baltimore Day, May 6, 1984.” A little research into City history shows that Historic Baltimore Day was held in May for about ten years, starting in 1980, with local students serving as tour guides at historic sites around Baltimore. According to the Sun, May 6, 1984 was the fourth annual event, sponsored by Baltimore Council of Historic Sites (later years were sponsored by the Peale Museum), with seventeen sites participating.

IA 1.0875

IA 1.0875

Public School #139 was also known as Charles Carroll of Carrollton Elementary School, located a few blocks away from us at Central and Lexington.  It closed at some point recently; I haven’t pinpointed exactly when.  Alas, our files don’t contain any further information about the event, the student participants, or their work. They clearly prepared themselves well, for they’re wearing name badges and carrying booklets, and look more than ready to tell visitors about our historic synagogue. Do any of our readers remember attending this event, as a visitor or a guide? Can anyone identify any of the young docents shown here?

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

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Bedlam with Corned Beef on the Side: The Jewish Delicatessen in Baltimore Pt. 8

Posted on April 26th, 2017 by

Written by Barry Kessler. Originally published in Generations 1993, reprinted in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways.

Part VIII: The “Madhouse” Lunch Trade

Miss parts 1 – 7? Start here.

Cashier’s check for Awrach and Perl Delicatessen, c. 1940s. JMM 1992.274.2

Cashier’s check for Awrach and Perl Delicatessen, c. 1940s. JMM 1992.274.2

Awrach and Perl’s delicatessen was located on Howard Street in Baltimore’s retail shopping district, where many Jewish people worked in the numerous clothing and department stores. Advertising itself as a luncheonette, delicatessen, soda fountain, and cocktail lounge, it attracted a mixed clientele; many non-Jews came, including ladies on shopping trips and youngsters headed for the movies. The delicatessen carried on a “madhouse” luncheon trade, especially on Saturday, when the upstairs room because a gathering place for teenagers. Awrach and Perl was also frequented by H.L. Mencken and other well-known Baltimoreans.

The owners were two immigrant families from Odessa, successful fruit merchants. They had worked their way up from a pushcart selling bananas on the Lower East Side of New York to a thriving deli in Washington, DC, before moving to Baltimore around 1920. Related by marriage, the families lived together in suburban Forest Park. They belonged to an Orthodox congregation and ate kosher food themselves, although the restaurant was open on Jewish holidays and the menu included bacon, ham, and shrimp salad. The Perls’ two sons and the Awrachs’ two daughters helped out on Saturdays. The families spoke Yiddish among themselves and broken English with customers, their personalities constituting a chief attraction of their establishment.

Bright and noisy, Awrach and Perl was a quintessentially Jewish delicatessen, with well-stocked counters piled high with delicious and appetizing foodstuffs. A long counter for making sandwiches ran along one side. A surviving menu from the early 1940s lists sixteen omelets, 47 sandwiches, ice cream confections, steaks and chops, and a wide variety of beverages, ranging from limeade to whiskey. Eastern European dishes such as schmaltz herring, chopped liver, rolled beef, and tongue joined such American-style offerings as lamb chops, a bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich, and poached eggs.[1]

Its general appearance somewhat fancier than the average delicatessen, with a light green color scheme and a black and rust tile floor, Awrach and Perl cultivated a cosmopolitan but casually familiar atmosphere. Max Awrach sat at the cash register near the door, greeting customers; leaving, customers paid according to orange tickets punched by the waitresses to indicate the cost of each item.[2] Over the din one could hear Mrs. Perl, who supervised the upstairs room, calling out “one up,” signaling the most popular order, a hotdog and Coke. The restaurant was reportedly the largest purchaser of hotdogs in Baltimore.[3]

Continue to Part IX: Where All Rubbed Shoulders

Notes:

[1] Original in possession of Martin Lev.

[2] Jewish Museum of Maryland, gift of Hilda Goodwin, 1992.274.2

[3] Typescript reminiscence by Hilda Goodwin (December 1992). Jewish Museum of Maryland Memoir Files.

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