The Development of the Silent Heroes Memorial Center

Since the 1990s there has been growing public interest in the life stories of people who helped Jews facing persecution during the Nazi dictatorship.

Inspired by the Against Oblivion—For Democracy association, a comprehensive research project “Rescuing Jews in Nazi Germany 1933–1945” was conducted between 1997 and 2002 under the direction of Professor Wolfgang Benz at the Technical University of Berlin’s Center for Research on Antisemitism. Films such as Schindler’s List and numerous publications also heightened interest in this subject.

Journalist Inge Deutschkron, who experienced the persecution firsthand, was instrumental in the process started in 1999 to expand a student project into the Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind at Rosenthaler Strasse 39 in the Mitte district of Berlin. During the Nazi era, mainly blind and deaf Jews were employed in this workshop under the protection of the brush manufacturer Otto Weidt (1883–1947).

After diverse efforts, such as that of then German president Johannes Rau, the building at Rosenthaler Strasse 39 was purchased in 2004 with funds from the German government and the Berlin Class Lottery Foundation that had been earmarked not only for the expansion of the Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind, but also for the establishment of a central Silent Heroes Memorial Center.

In April 2005 the German Resistance Memorial Center was commissioned with the conceptual and organizational planning of this new museum. In collaboration with the Center for Research on Antisemitism, and based on their research findings, the “Silent Heroes” project started to prepare a permanent exhibition. The Silent Heroes Memorial Center was opened on October 27, 2008.

The current presentation depicts rescue stories largely within the German Reich. There are plans to expand the project to also include stories about assistance offered in the German-occupied territories. The necessary preparations will be carried out in the coming years in collaboration with the Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem and European partner institutions.

Courtyard of Rosenthaler Strasse 39

Courtyard of Rosenthaler Strasse 39

Inge Deutschkron and Eugen Herman-Friede at the opening ceremony for the Silent Heroes Memorial Center on October 27, 2008, in the Berlin City Hall.

Inge Deutschkron and Eugen Herman-Friede at the opening ceremony for the Silent Heroes Memorial Center on October 27, 2008, in the Berlin City Hall.