As an exhibition in Berlin earlier this year demonstrated, Jewish Communists returning from exile to the Soviet occupied part of Germany were confronted with prejudice and suspicion and sometimes even had to fear for their lives. The exhibition was located in the rebuilt Neue Synagogue (New Synagogue) and curated by the Centrum Judaicum Foundation, in cooperation with the historian Andreas Weigelt, who is attending to the documentation center for the former concentration camp Lieberose.
Called “Zwischen Bleiben und Gehen” (“Between Staying and Going”), the exhibition documented the lives of 10 Jewish men and women in the post-war Soviet occupied zone, later East Germany:
Nelhans’ fate was especially tragic. Having survived the war underground in Berlin, he helped found a Jewish community in East Berlin in late 1945, only to be arrested in 1948 by the NKVD, the Soviet secret service – allegedly for helping Jewish Red Army soldiers escape to Palestine.
Jailed for 25 years by a military court, he died in a Soviet labor camp in 1950, aged 51. Some 47 years later the Russian military authorities conceded Nelhans had been falsely convicted and ordered his posthumous rehabilitation.
The East-West propaganda battle began immediately after the war. The Communist Party loudly trumpeted its view that East Germany was innocent of the evil Nazi past.
Stalinist party purges in Eastern Europe, accompanied by anti-Semitic show trials in Prague and Budapest sparked fear among Jews in East Berlin.
Jews who were communist party members often found themselves accused of being “Zionist agents” or “Jewish nationalists” at a time when the communist Eastern bloc was supporting Arab states in their conflict with Israel.
The website of the Centrum Judaicum itself currently has no information on this exhibition, but here is some English language information on two other past exhibitions: Pioneers in Celluloid: Jews in Early Cinema and Relatively Jewish. Albert Einstein – Jew, Zionist, Nonconformist.
Some more pictures of the Neue Synagoge can be found here.