Address and opening hours
between Gendarmenmarkt square and Hausvogteiplatz U-Bahn station
Opening hours: Daily from 12 noon until 6 P.M.
Please note that opening hours may change due to special events.
Admission is free; donations welcome.
Wheelchair access available
Concept and content
The permanent exhibition “The Mendelssohns in Jägerstrasse,” conceived for the 18th annual Jüdische Kulturtage (Days of Jewish Culture) in 2004, is housed in the former counter hall of the Mendelssohn Bank, which was built in 1890 and later converted into a coach house. It was to the side wings of this building that Joseph and Abraham Mendelssohn, the eldest sons of the philosopher merchant Moses Mendelssohn, relocated the offices of the family bank in 1815, which had been established by Joseph in 1795. In those days, the eastern end of Jägerstrasse already formed the nucleus of Berlin’s banking district, as it was home to two leading Prussian banks: the Königliche Giro- und Lehnbank and the Preussische Seehandlung. From this auspicious location, the descendants of Joseph Mendelssohn and Abraham Mendelssohn Bartholdy were able to grow the family business into Berlin’s largest private banking house – until its forced liquidation by the National Socialist regime.
The exhibition covers the exciting history of this venerable financial institution and the lives of the Mendelssohn bankers, who until 1917 resided in the bank’s buildings themselves or in other premises nearby. The family’s generous patronage of the arts is also highlighted, which allowed the museums of Berlin to acquire many important works, as well as the family’s commitment to giving back to the society they lived in. Another topic is the impressive network of social contacts, business associates and friends that the family developed in and around Jägerstrasse, which included captains of industry as well as leading scientists, musicians, and artists. The luminaries who were both clients of the bank as well as family intimates include the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, sculptor Christian Daniel Rauch, the musicians Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim, as well as the historian Leopold von Ranke. Of course the list would not be complete without the composers Fanny Hensel and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, who were direct relatives of the bankers.
The exhibition also covers the expropriation of the Mendelssohn Bank by the Nazis, as well as efforts during the postwar period to revive appreciation for the legacy of one of the most illustrious of German families. These efforts included the foundation of the Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft in 1967 and of the historical forum Geschichtsforum Jägerstrasse in 2005, which in the meantime has merged with the Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft.
Further details are provided in the texts accompanying the exhibition.
Since March of 2008, the permanent exhibition has been supplemented by a topical excursion on “The religion of the Mendelssohns.” Financed by grants from the German Ministry of the Interior, this part of the exhibition is a separate installation of items on loan from the Berliner Staatsbibliothek, the Stiftung Neue Synagoge Centrum Judaicum, and the Mendelssohn family. It tells the story of the diverging denominational paths taken by the various generations and branches of the family.
The “Parallel worlds” section of the exhibition deals with the elegant country manors the bankers owned on Berlin’s outskirts or further afield. These included, for example, the villas that Joseph Mendelssohn and his son Alexander, or Ernst (von) Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and his son Paul, frequented in order to balance out their life and work in the city. The excursion on “The parallel world of Leipziger Strasse No. 3” presents information and historic objects relating to the stately Recksches Palais, which the Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Hensel families owned in Leipziger Strasse. This was where the famous Sunday concerts were held until 1847.
The exhibition is supplemented by a “media station” located in the foyer of the building. Here, visitors can listen to interviews recorded with family descendants as well as to musical compositions of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Fanny Hensel, and Arnold Mendelssohn. The media station also offers a digital-format family tree of the Mendelssohn family going back seven generations, as compiled by the Berlin State Library in 2007. Finally, DVD footage of the premiere staging of an unpublished comic opera fragment by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy is available for viewing. This performance was recorded on the occasion of the Berlin reunion of Moses Mendelssohn’s descendants, held in the Mendelssohn-Remise in October of 2007.
The three professional composers of the Mendelssohn family – Arnold Mendelssohn and the siblings Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Fanny Hensel – are also presented to the visitor in a media installation integrated into a Biedermeier bureau once owned by Arnold.
English and Russian explanatory texts on the exhibition are available in the foyer.
Guided tours and outreach offerings:
Our guided tours allow you to retrace the footsteps of the Mendelssohns and their contemporaries in Jägerstrasse and in other neighborhoods of Berlin.
Special tours of the exhibition for school classes are available by arrangement.
Books for sale:
Books and other materials on the history of the Mendelssohn family and Jägerstrasse in Berlin-Mitte are offered on sale in the foyer.
A small reference library is available to visitors in the foyer.
There are three additional Mendelssohn-themed exhibitions in Berlin.