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I was apprehensive about visiting Germany given my family history: My Jewish grandparents escaped the Holocaust in Austria, and I recently obtained dual citizenship as the descendent of victims of Nazi persecution. But a recent press trip ended up being a really meaningful, and ultimately positive, experience.
It made me think about what it would be like to visit the city with kids to teach them about Jewish history and the Holocaust. While it’s a difficult and complex topic that can be hard to explain to children, having physical monuments to point to and exhibits curated for kids can help. Germany has made great strides to atone for the sins of World War II, and Berlin is chock-full of memorials and educational information.
On my trip, World War II came up often, and I ended up talking about my family history a lot. So think beforehand about what you’re comfortable disclosing. Make sure you factor in time to process the emotions that may come up, and make time for lighter activities.
Here are nine places to share Jewish history with your kids in Berlin, organized by area.
Once on the outskirts of the city – now in the central Mitte district – Hackescher Markt is Berlin’s old Jewish quarter. In the 17th century, when the area was outside the city, it was full of barns used for storing hay and straw. It’s still called the Scheunenviertel (Barn Quarter) today. People began settling there, so in 1731, Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm I extended the city walls to include the area. Jewish residents began to settle there and built a vibrant community. By 1930, there were almost 300 Jewish institutions.
If there’s one place in Berlin to learn about Jewish history in Germany, this is it. The Jewish Museum is absolutely worth a stop, and it’s got something for kids of every age. It opened in 2001 and has since had over 10 million visitors.
Mitte, central Berlin
Mitte is the most central borough of Berlin. It includes the city’s historic core and most important tourist sites. It was one of only two boroughs that was formerly divided between East Berlin and West Berlin along the Berlin Wall.
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