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Exile. Experience and Testimony
Permanent Exhibition of The German Exile Archive 1933–1945 of the German National Library opens on 8 March

"Exile. Experience and Testimony" – For the first time in its more than 60-year history, the German Exile Archive 1933–1945 of the German National Library is opening a permanent exhibition. It shows impressions of exile in 250 unique testimonies and more than 300 exile publications from the inventory of the Exile Archive. Minister of State, Monika Grütters, Director General of the German National Library, Elisabeth Niggemann and the Head of the German Exile Archive 1933-1945, Sylvia Asmus, shall open the exhibition on 8 March in Frankfurt am Main. The opening address will be given by author Doron Rabinovici; contemporary witness Ernest Glaser sends a video message.

Press release:  March 6, 2018

What does it mean to have to go into exile? What awaits one there? Does exile ever finish? And what remains of exile? Between 1933 and 1945 some 500,000 people were forced into exile from the areas governed by the Nazi dictatorship. What they all had in common was the fact that they had been marginalised and persecuted. Yet there were differences in the specific reasons for, and times of their escape – and in their journeys, destinations and experiences in exile. The experience of exile from 1933 to 1945 was diverse and individual. It meant rupture and loss, but also a fresh start and new opportunities. The German Exile Archive 1933–1945 has been specifically conceived to provide a multiperspective view of exile. The exhibition consists exclusively of exhibits from the German Exile Archive.

Family reunification in 1938: By signing a contract with the Jewish youth welfare organisation, Jüdische Jugendhilfe e.V. Berlin, in 1936, the parents of Ernst Loewy, then 15 years old, made a momentous decision: First of all, they saved his life, because the contract was the requirement for Loewy’s exile to Palestine; secondly, the contract sealed the parents’ separation from their only son, because they had to stay behind in National Socialist Germany. It was not until 1938 that they were also exiled to Palestine and were thus reunited as a family. The original contract will be displayed as part of the permanent exhibition. It stands for an individual experience of exile and also vividly conveys that current debates, such as those on family reunification, have a historical dimension.

"The opening of the permanent exhibition of the Exile Archive is an important event for the German National Library," says Director General of the German National Library, Dr. Elisabeth Niggemann. "The phenomenon of exile draws attention to the global dimension of the crimes of National Socialism. And the intertwining of national and global memorial rooms is one of the responsibilities of national libraries and other cultural heritage institutions."

"The fact that we are exhibiting almost exclusively original documents was a major concern for us when we were designing our exhibition," emphasised Dr. Sylvia Asmus, Director of the German Exile Archive. "Because the multi-dimensional experiences of exile are also conveyed by the unique testimonies that have found their way into our inventories over the past few decades. They bear the vestiges of exile and each tells its own unique story of deliverance."

Embedded in a prologue and an epilogue, the exhibition is divided into three main thematic chapters: Exodus – In exile – After exile. These are subdivided into several smaller chapters. The exhibits, which are allocated to the chapters, serve a number of different functions: They point to the plurality of experiences, provide biographical insights and visually portray the individual statements made in the overview texts. Each exhibit tells the story of a specific historical experience. The exhibition therefore provides a broad overview of the phenomenon of the German-speaking exile 1933–1945; at the same time, however, it is also a plea for attention to details and for multi-perspectivity when dealing with history.

With a view to the special role played by the biographies in conveying this history, the thematic structure of the exhibition is traversed by eight biographies. These span the various topics across the entire exhibition. They are highlighted by colour-coded placards. One element of the exhibition that is especially highlighted graphically addresses visitors directly and ties in the historical exile with the present-day situation: concerning the timeless questions of everyday organisation, family reunification or securing existence – and the question facing many in the room sooner or later after their return.

A timeline, a world map and tablets at the reading stations provide historical, geopolitical and biographical background information on the exhibits. In the epilogue, the story behind the testimonies themselves takes centre stage. How were they handed down and how did they find their way into the Archive?

A common symbol for escape and exile is the suitcase: Special examples are featured at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the exhibition. The suitcase was there during the escape, provided storage for whatever items could be taken along – and eventually became a collection object itself.

"Exile. Experience and Testimony"

Permanent exhibition of the German Exile Archive 1933–1945 of the German National Library
Monday to Friday 9:00–21:30
Saturday 10:00–17:30
Closed on Sundays and national holidays
Admission is free.

Virtual exhibition

A virtual, parallel exhibition will be available online from 8 March:

Invitation to guided press tours:

Individual press tours with the Head of the German Exile Archive 1933–1945, Dr. Sylvia Asmus, can be arranged at any time with advance notice.

Grand opening

of the permanent exhibition of the German Exile Archive 1933–1945 of the German National Library "Exile. Experience and Testimony" on Thursday, 8 March 2018, 18:00

Welcome speech: Dr. Elisabeth Niggemann, Director General of the German National Library
Welcoming address: Prof. Monika Grütters MdB, Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media
Video message from contemporary witness Ernest Glaser
Speech: Dr. Doron Rabinovici: "Das Versagen der Heimat"
Introduction to the exhibition: Dr. Sylvia Asmus, Head of the German Exile Archive 1933–1945
Music: Vassily Dück, accordion

This will be followed by guided tours of the exhibition.

Guided tours of the permanent exhibition

Tuesday, 13 March, 18:00
Thursday, 15 March, 12:30
Monday, 19 March, 18:00
Thursday, 22 March, 12:30


The task of the German Exile Archive 1933–1945 of the German National Library is to collect publications and records of the German-speaking exile during the period of Nazi dictatorship. Such publications include all books and brochures published by German-speaking emigrants abroad between 1933 and 1950, from the fields of literature, politics, science and Jewish emigration, as well as any journals published by exiles. The records include personal estates of German-speaking emigrants from all specialist areas and professional groups, archives from exile organisations and single autographs.


For further information on the exhibition and guided tour enquiries, please e-mail

Press spokesperson

Images for editorial use in reports relating to the exhibition

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