Funerary monuments and graves of Moses Mendelssohn and his descendants
This project is intended to create a photographic record of the existing funerary monuments and to publish a short explanatory text on each one in an informational brochure, perhaps also in CD form. Another key objective in this context is to solicit potential patrons willing to sponsor the maintenance of graves that are neglected or threatened by removal for re-use.
The book Das Haus des Kranichs. Die Privatbankiers von Mendelssohn & Co. (1795-1938)
Die Geschichte der Privatbankiers von Mendelssohn & Co. ist die eines Unternehmens, das über fünf Generationen von einer prominenten deutschen Familie, von ungewöhnlichen Persönlichkeiten geführt wurde. In der Firmenentwicklung spiegelt sich auch Politik- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, die von dieser Privatbank beeinflußt wurde.
The Monument at Spandauer Strasse 68
Twenty years after the inauguration of Micha Ullman’s artwork Bibliothek (Library) on Bebelplatz square, the Berlin Senate commissioned the Israeli sculptor to design and install an additional “floor sculpture,” in close proximity to the spot where the building formerly known as Spandauer Strasse 68 had once stood. This had served as the Mendelssohn family’s first residence in Berlin and had been inhabited earlier by other Enlightenment luminaries such as Friedrich Nicolai and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.
Portrait busts of Fanny Hensel and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
The impetus for this project was the realization that even more than 160 years after the death of Fanny Hensel, née Mendelssohn, no portrait bust of this major composer existed. The Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft thus began looking for ways to encourage the creation of such a sculptural portrait.
Restoration of the canvas murals from the villa of the Warschauer family at the former Am Knie square
Three canvas murals from a banker’s villa in Charlottenburg that had been thought to be lost were re-discovered by the Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft and, upon its initiative, were restored with the aid of public funds, donations, and grants from a family foundation. The works had been created by historical painter Rudolf Henneberg in 1872 for the billiard room of the villa of banker Robert Warschauer. This was located on Berliner Strasse (today: Ernst Reuter-Platz) and had been designed in 1869 by the architects Martin Gropius and Heino Schmieden.
Permanent exhibition on the history of the Mendelssohn family at the Dreifaltigkeitsfriedhof cemetery
28 descendants of the family matriarch and patriarch, Fromet and Moses Mendelssohn, from the second to eighth generations – ones who were baptized into the Lutheran church – are buried in the cemeteries near Hallesches Tor. A number of famous contemporaries and associates of the Mendelssohns also have their final resting place there. Though classified as a European cultural monument, this group of cemeteries fell into a state of neglect over the years, especially when it comes to some of the most prominent graves and the overall infrastructure.
The “Mendelssohn year 2012” project
The year 2012 marked the 250th anniversary of the start of the Mendelssohn family, a dynasty whose bankers, artists, and scholars influenced Germany’s cultural and economic history over five generations: On June 22nd, 1762, in Berlin, the local silk merchant, Enlightenment philosopher, and pioneer of Jewish emancipation Moses Mendelssohn married Fromet Gugenheim, a merchant’s daughter from Hamburg.
Performing at Fanny and Felix’s house
More than 180 years ago, Abraham Mendelssohn Bartholdy gave his children Fanny and Felix a forum for their musical development by setting up a musical salon for them at the family home in Leipziger Strasse 3. It is only fitting that the historic site of the Mendelssohn bank in Jägerstrasse – where Fanny and Felix would often come to visit and which would become known for its frequent private concerts – should be used as a venue for performances by up-and-coming young musicians.
A gouache painting from Fanny Hensel’s music room is purchased for Berlin
Two years after the death of the composer Fanny Hensel (1805 - 1847), her music room was captured for posterity in the form of two gouache paintings by the Berlin landscape artist Julius Helfft (1818 - 1894). Such works belonged to the “room portrait” genre, which became increasingly popular with the aristocracy and well-to-do burghers starting in the 1820s.
The reunion of the descendants of Moses Mendelssohn held in Berlin in 2007
In the course of opening an exhibition at the Berlinische Galerie in 2006, André Schmitz, then head of the Berlin Senate Chancellery, met with representatives of the Stiftung Preussische Seehandlung foundation and the historical association Geschichtsforum Jägerstrasse e.V. to discuss the project of refurbishing the Mendelssohn graves in the Jewish cemetery on Schönhauser Allee. At the meeting, he inquired whether the refurbishment of these graves might not be an opportune occasion to invite the descendants of Moses Mendelssohn, now scattered all over the world, to attend a reunion in Berlin. The Berlin Senate’s Department for Culture thus began drawing up lists of invitees in cooperation with the Geschichtsforum Jägerstrasse and with support from the Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft.
Restoration of the Mendelssohn graves in the Jewish Cemetery on Schönhauser Allee
Sebastian Panwitz, a historian and a member of the Geschichtsforum Jägerstrasse and Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft, had repeatedly called attention to the need to restore the Mendelssohn graves on Schönhauser Allee. Whereas Moses Mendelssohn’s grave site on Grosse Hamburger Strasse and the graves of the Hensels and Mendelssohn Bartholdys near Hallesches Tor were in good condition, having been accorded the status of graves of honor, the grave sites of bank founder Joseph Mendelssohn (1770 to 1847) and his family were unkempt, their headstones by now barely legible.
Accordion flyer on “Mendelssohn Sites in Berlin“
In the spring of 2007, Geschichtsforum Jägerstrasse suggested that an informational flyer entitled “Mendelssohn Sites in Berlin” be developed. This was intended to accompany the family reunion of the descendants of Moses Mendelssohn and, in particular, to raise public awareness of the project to refurbish the Mendelssohn family graves at the Jewish Cemetery on Schönhauser Allee.
Memorial plaque at the Mendelssohn Bank’s first headquarters
In the summer of 2002, a discussion group on the history of Jägerstrasse was founded in Berlin at the initiative of the Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft under the name of “Gesprächskreis Geschichtsmeile Jägerstrasse.“ Its objective: To re-awaken public awareness of the almost forgotten history of the Mendelssohn family at this storied location.
A bust of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Since his death, the world-famous composer had not been honored with a single monument in his native city of Berlin. That is, until the Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft Berlin e.V. decided to take action in 1999. With the help of a generous grant from Deutsche Bank AG and support from the District Authority of Berlin’s Tiergarten district, the composer finally received a proper tribute on May 9th, 2000, when his bust was unveiled at the new U-bahn station at the corner of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy-Park and Reichpietsch-Ufer.
Der Moses-Mendelssohn-Preis ist eine Auszeichnung, die am 6. September 1979 – anlässlich des 250. Geburtstags des Philosophen Moses Mendelssohn – vom Berliner Senat gestiftet wurde. Angeregt hatte diese Initiative die damals durch ihre Gründungsvorsitzende Cécile Lowenthal-Hensel vertretene Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft e. V.