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The Jewish Museum Frankfurt

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt am Main is the oldest independent Jewish Museum in Germany. The museum Museum collects, preserves and exhibits the nine-hundred-year-old Jewish history and culture of the City of Frankfurt. It has a permanent exhibition at two venues: the Museum Judengasse at Battonstraße 47 focuses on the theme of the history and culture of Jews in Frankfurt during the early modern period; the Jewish Museum in the former Rothschild Palais at Untermainkai 14/15 presents Jewish history and culture since 1800. The focus of the collection is on the areas ceremonial culture, fine arts and family history. The museum has extensive holdings related to the Rothschild family and the Anne Frank family.

History of the museum

A museum of Jewish antiquities existed in Frankfurt before the foundation of the Jewish Museum Frankfurt. Following closure of the Rothschild Frankfurt banking house in 1901, the former Rothschild bank’s building at 146 Fahrgasse was lent to the Jewish community for various uses. One of the rooms at 146 Fahrgasse was used to display a collection of Judaica (later the Museum of Jewish Antiquities), under the auspices of the Israelite Community in Frankfurt am Main. The original banking offices of the family were preserved on the first floor, and many family heirlooms and pictures were added to the collection.

In 1922, Adelheid, Baroness Edmond de Rothschild (neé von Rothschild) (1853-1935), with the aid of her mother Hannah Mathilde (1832-1924), the widow of Wilhelm Carl von Rothschild, made a significant donation to the museum of Jewish antiquities, renaming it the 'Museum jüdischer Altertümer und von Rothschild Museums' in honour of Hannah Mathilde's 90th birthday. The collections were further enhanced when the merchant Sigmund Nauheim (1874-1935) bequeathed his Judaica collection to the Museum of Jewish Antiquities. The museum was liquidated under the Nazis. In the pogrom of 9 and 10 November 1938 the Museum of Jewish Antiquities was looted and most of its holdings were destroyed or dispersed.

After the Second World War, former Jewish Frankfurt citizens who had emigrated to London proposed that a commission be set up to carry out research on the history of Frankfurt's Jews. Later, plans were conceived to found a Jewish Museum, which became the Jewish Museum Frankfurt. In 1988 the museum opened in two classical villas on the Untermainkai, across the Main from the Schaumainkai. The villa at no. 14 was built for the banker Simon Moritz von Bethmann, and the one at no. 15 for Joseph Isaak Speyer. No. 14 was acquired by Mayer Carl von Rothschild (1820-1886) in 1846, and became known as the Rothschild Palais. Both buildings were acquired by the City of Frankfurt in 1928. After the Second World War they served as the main site of the municipal and university library, and later as an outpost of the Historical Museum.

In 1987 the foundations of 19 houses on what used to be called the Judengasse were discovered during construction work on an administrative building. The Frankfurt Judengasse was the first Jewish ghetto in Europe. It was founded in 1460 and developed into an important European Jewish cultural centre. The archaeological finds gave rise to a controversial debate as to how these witnesses of Jewish history in Frankfurt should be handled. The conflict resulted in a compromise: five of the unearthed house foundations were dismantled and reconstructed at the cellar level of the new administration building. In 1992 the Museum Judengasse opened.

'Rothschild' exhibitions

In 1994, on the occasion of 1200th anniversary of the City of Frankfurt am Main and the 250th anniversary of nthe birth of Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), The Jewish Museum Frankfurt mounted a major exhibition, The Rothschilds, A European family. 

In 2020, The Trustees of the Rothschild Archive London loaned a number of important items from their collection to the new permanent galleries of The newly refurbished Jewish Museum Frankurt on a 20-year loan.

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt: exhibition 'The Rothschilds, A European family', exhibition catalogues, 1994

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The Jewish Museum Frankfurt: exhibition The Rothschilds, A European family, exhibition catalogues:

  • The Rothschilds: A European Family (Thorbecke/Boydell & Brewer, Frankfurt, 1994);
  • The Rothschilds: Essays on the History of a European Family (Thorbecke/Boydell & Brewer, Frankfurt, 1994).

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt: exhibition 'The Rothschilds, A European family', photographs, 1994

00/743; 000/897; 000/961, 3 files

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt: exhibition The Rothschilds, A European family, photographs:

  • photographs and negatives of images taken by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of guests at the Rothschild exhibition at the Frankfurt Jewish Museum, 1994. The images depict Sir Evelyn de Rothschild; Jacob, Lord Rothschild; Baron Eric de Rothschild; David de Rothschild; Amschel Rothschild;
  • photographs of the exhibition;
  • photographs of members of the Rothschild family taken during celebrations for the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mayer Amschel, and at the exhibition, The Rothschilds, A European Family, The Jewish Museum Frankfurt, February 1994.

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt: exhibition 'The Rothschilds, A European family', press releases and ephemera, 1994

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The Jewish Museum Frankfurt: exhibition The Rothschilds, A European family, photocopies of press releases, and papers relating to the celebrations in Frankfurt in 1994, to mark the 250th birthday anniversary of Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812).

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt: exhibition 'The Rothschilds, A European family', exhibition video, 1994

000/1088, 1 VHS cassette

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt: exhibition The Rothschilds, A European family, exhibition video. Video of a German television programme used during the Rothschild exhibition in Frankfurt 1994-1995.

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt: exhibition 'The Rothschilds, A European family', Rothschild graves in Frankfurt, sundry photographs, 1994

000/2120/1-2, 1 item, 1 folder

A small collection of photographs of Rothschild graves in Frankfurt, taken in connection  with the Rothschild exhibition family events in Frankfurt in 1994. The Old Jewish Cemetery, Frankfurt is considered the second oldest Jewish cemetery in Germany. The earliest verifiable graves date from the year 1272. and it was used until 1828. 

  • Framed modern photograph by Rafael Herlich of the gravestone of Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), in the Old Jewish Cemetery, Frankfurt;
  • Folder of seven black and white photographs of the Rothschild graves in Frankfurt, in the Old Jewish Cemetery (Alten Friedhof). One photograph shows Baron Elie de Rothschild (1917-2007) standing by the gave of Mayer Carl von Rothschild (1820-1886) The photographs are by Klaus Meier-Ude, c.1994, possibly taken during the large gathering of Rothschilds in Frankfurt in 1994 on the occasion of 1200th anniversary of the City of Frankfurt am Main and the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812).

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt: opening of the new Jewish Museum Frankfurt, press cuttings, 2020

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The Jewish Museum Frankfurt, volume of press cuttings on the opening of the new refurbished Jewish Museum Frankfurt in 2020.