In late March of 2002, the Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft e.V. and the artberlin city-tour agency held a joint press conference at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (at the corner of Jägerstrasse and Gendarmenmarkt square).
At this event, the chairwoman of the Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft, Elke von Nieding, and members Thomas Lackmann and Ernst Siebel presented their proposal for a new project entitled “The storied history of Jägerstrasse: An initiative for a Mendelssohn site in Berlin.” The idea was that this street – in which no less than six buildings had been owned, lived in or worked in by the Mendelssohn banking family – ought to be designated as a memorial site with corresponding signage and a venue for events, and that historical research ought to focus on it.
Among the invitees to the press conference were a number of institutions potentially interested in the subject due to their presence in the neighborhood or for other reasons. The result was the establishment of a working group on the subject of “Geschichtsmeile Jägerstrasse,” which proceeded to meet, usually every six weeks, over more than two years. The group’s members included, for varying periods, representatives of the Protestant Academy Berlin, the Belgian Embassy, the Permanent Representation of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, the Moses-Mendelssohn-Zentrum in Potsdam, the Musikschule Fanny Hensel, and the Berlin Chamber of Physicians (a subsidiary of which, Berliner Ärzteversorgung, is the current owner of Jägerstrasse 51, the first building occupied by the Mendelssohn Bank). Also represented were the board of the Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft, the Gedenktafelkommission Mitte (Commission for Memorial Plaques of the district of Mitte in Berlin), and artberlin. Additional support came from the Varnhagen-Gesellschaft and the Club von Berlin. The meetings were held at the respective premises of the Evangelische Akademie, the Belgian Embassy, and the Permanent Representation of Hamburg.
After acquiring a patron in Dr. Thomas Flierl, Berlin’s Senator for Cultural Affairs at the time, the working group decided that its first signage-related initiative would be to install an informational sign “Geschichtsmeile Jägerstrasse” near the eastern end of the street, on the sidewalk in front of the Belgian Embassy. The building is situated on the former site of two Mendelssohn structures, and the embassy supported the idea wholeheartedly. The first of these two buildings had been purchased from the banking family by the Belgian state in 1913, while the second had been transferred to the embassy during the banking firm’s forced liquidation by the Nazis in the late 1930s. Volker Hobrack, chairman of the Commission for Memorial Plaques of the district of Mitte in Berlin, helped to obtain the necessary public permits at the district level, while also providing useful leads to artisans who could create the double-sided sign. The costs of € 7,000 were financed through grants from Deutsche Telekom and Weberbank Berlin. Its informational content was researched and compiled by the historian Sebastian Panwitz together with the art historian and city tour guide Ernst Siebel. buschfeld.com was hired to provide the graphic design. One side of the sign features an extract from the family tree of Moses Mendelssohn, with an emphasis on the history of Jägerstrasse. The other side provides information on the sites of the various Mendelssohn buildings, both then and now.
On September 12th, 2003, the sign depicting the history of Jägerstrasse along with that of the Mendelssohn family was unveiled in front of the Belgian Embassy at Jägerstrasse 52/53. Among the attendees were representatives of Deutsche Telekom and Weberbank. The keynote speakers were the Belgian Ambassador, H.E. Lode Willems, Dr. Jens-Peter Heuer, a member of the District Council of Mitte, Dr. Klaus Schütz, former Mayor of Berlin, Elke von Nieding, chairwoman of the Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft, and Thomas Lackmann, moderator of the working group “Geschichtsmeile Jägerstrasse.” The chorus of the Französische Friedrichstadtgemeinde sang a choral motet by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy as well as the choral movement Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich. Two Russian musicians improvised on the basis of Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on the guitar and violin.