The museum displays a permanent exhibition 3,000 square meters, where visitors can examine and learn about the 2,000 years of Jewish history in Germany: pictures, objects and stories that together provide a clear and nostalgic picture of Jewish life in Germany. To enhance the experience, visitors will also experience interactive exhibits with multimedia, becoming active participants in the exhibition.
The temporary exhibits at the museum show the history of German Jewry, from the Roman period to the present. The exhibits showcases the Holocaust and give a glimpse into the years following the war, years of flourishing culture, years of cultural ruins of the many communities that were no more.
The museum halls emphasize the missing, the absent. This is how the museum manages to mention the millions who were murdered.
The first Jewish Museum was not located here, and opened many years prior to the present museum. In 1933, in Oranienburger Street (Oranienburger Straße) stood the first museum. Among the items found here was a collection of royal medals inscribed in Hebrew.
In 1938, not surprisingly, the Nazi regime ordered the immediate closure of the museum according to the Nuremberg Laws (racial laws defining a German citizen). The museum's works were then vandalized. Years later, in 1961, there was another attempt to display the Jewish exhibits, this time at the Jewish Community Center in Berlin.
In 1971, the Berlin Municipality reopened the museum, and in 1975 a special association was established to build the Jewish Museum. The museum opened as an annex at the Berlin Museum, and became an independent museum in 1999, moving to its present location in the center of Berlin. It was officially opened in 2001.
The building's facade looks like ruins, inside are halls in which absence is clearly felt. Its general shape is that of a broken Star of David. The building is 150 meters long and 27 meters high. Without a doubt, the purpose of Daniel Liebeskind, the Jewish architect who designed this building, who was also the son of a Holocaust survivor, was to oppose the neo-classical architecture or any other symbol that represented Nazi architecture.
The entrance to the museum is through the nearby building that was once the city municipal court and also the Berlin Museum. In 2007 Liebeskind connected the two buildings with a glass ceiling and created a closed courtyard designed according to the Jewish Sukkah.
On the steps inside the museum, visitors will reach a fork in the way that leads to three different paths: one that leads to a dead end (whose purpose is to undermine the stability of the visitor, to provide a feeling of helplessness and confusion), another to the historical wing (the history of the Jews over hundreds of years), and the third one that leads outside to the garden, representing the diaspora and immigration.
When it opened in 2001, the museum succeeded in creating a cultural debate that was hard to ignore. The architecture was talked about, the design, the materials, the history, the exhibits and all. Another question that arises is whether the architecture of the museum succeeds in answering the real needs of the museum or whether the interesting work harms the display of exhibits and items. With that, it is hard to ignore the fact that the museum manages to attract about 700,000 visitors every year.