Erna Goldmann -- From Frankfurt to Tel Aviv

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Erna Goldmann takes us back into interwar Germany, where she grew up and met her first boyfriend at a Zionist youth club. But with the rise of National Socialism, life for Jews in Germany became ever more difficult, so her family had to  decide whether to stay in Frankfurt or emigrate. Erna and her mother left for Palestine, while her grandfather decided to stay...

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In the introductory part of the film, we learn that between 1462-1796, Jews in Frankfurt lived mainly in the Judengasse, the Jewish ghetto. For a general overview of the History of Jews in Frankfurt, as well as more information about the historical Jewish Quarter, read this article by the Jewish Virtual Library.

When Erna lived in Frankfurt, her apartment was located close to the Eschenheimer Gate, a vital part of the Frankfurt cityscape. Read up on its history and look at old photographs.

Even though Erna's family was not orthodox, her father and grandfather attended the synagogue at Friedberger Anlage on High Holy Days. Unfortunately, the synagogue's very interesting homepage - dedicated to the memory of the Kristallnacht, during which the synagogue was burnt down - is only provided in German, but the intro features amazing photos.

On Yom Kippur, Erna's father and grandfather went to the synagogue. Find out more about this Jewish High Holy Day

Erna's brother studied medicine in Munich and Berlin, and every time he returned to Frankfurt to visit his family, he took Erna to the famous Café Laumer. Check out what the Café Laumer looks like today.

After her apprenticeship as a goldsmith, Erna studied at the Städel School/School of Applied Arts in Frankfurt. Johann F. Städel died in 1817 and left all his money and his art collection to a foundation. The foundation then set up an institution to introduce people to the art collection. It also established a school for talented young students: the Städelmuseum and the Städelschule.

In the late 17th/early 18th centuries, Samson Wertheimer, an Austrian Court Jew and learned scholar, studied in Frankfurt and later established and financially supported a Talmud academy there. In addition to deciding matters of Jewish law, Wertheimer's influential position in the court enabled him to successfully prevent the anti-Semitic work, "Entdecktes Judentum," by J.A. Eisenmenger from being sold in Frankfurt.

Mayer Rothschild, patriarch of the Rothschild family, settled in Frankfurt in the mid-18th century. By the early 19th century his five sons had established banking houses in London, Frankfurt, Vienna, Paris and Naples - see this overview and timeline of their story.  The Rothschild Palace in Frankfurt currently houses the Jewish Museum of Frankfurt.

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After WWI, a federal republic was established in Germany. It was known as the Weimar Republic and was in effect from 1919-1933. The creation of the German republic was announced from the Reichstag balcony on 9 November 1918 by Philipp Scheidemann. Listen to original audio tapes documenting the proclamation of the German Republic.

Even though the Weimar Republic faced severe problems, such as hyperinflation and political extremists of all persuasions, it was also a time in which culture flourished. It is known for its unique art, music and cinema. Here is an overview of the Weimar period and here you can find more information about the timeline of events, personalities and read primary sources.

In the film, January 30, 1933 is mentioned as an irreversible caesura. On this day, Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. Read this New York Times: Upfront article about Hitler's rise to power. 

Erna explains that on one day, in 1935, she was told that she would not be allowed back to University the following day. This event coincided with the introduction of the Nuremberg Race Laws in 1935 and the wave of anti-Jewish legislation that followed.

Erna briefly mentions the "Reichspogromnacht" (also: Kristallnacht), which took place on November 9/10, 1938. This interactive Internet archive includes information about more than 2,200 German and Austrian synagogues, most of which were destroyed during that night (click on the British flag at the top to search in English). These photos from Yad Vashem demonstrate the destruction during Kristallnacht.



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For a quick overview of the political and social status of German Jews in the Middle Ages and early Enlightenment, read this brief article by The Jewish Museum. The Jewish Virtual Library provides a more in-depth description about German Jewish life in the Middle Ages, the Modern Period, the Holocaust and post- Holocaust period up until the present. 


Prior to emancipation in 1871, German Jewish men often could not pursue their professions due to their religion.  Some, such as the political writer Karl Ludwig Börne (a Frankfurt native, born Loeb Baruch), converted to Christianity. Others, such as Gabriel Riesser, fiercely pursued the cause of emancipation. There were setbacks - such as the Hep Hep Riots in 1819 - but as the century wore on, Jews were increasingly part of German professional and social life, as seen later in the career of Paul Ehrlich, who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology of Medicine in 1908.


In addition to contributing to European culture, some German Jews adapted Judaism to fit the modern, post-Enlightenment world. Abraham Geiger (born in Frankfurt) was at the forefront of the Reform movement that strove to make Judaism relevant to assimilated, modern Jews. Samson Raphael Hirsch, the foremost spokesperson for Neo-Orthodoxy (the forerunner of what is known as Modern Orthodoxy today), accepted a position in Frankfurt as rabbi of an Orthodox community that was interested moderate reforms, such as modern dress and speaking German.  Hirsch died in Frankfurt and is buried there today. 


With their rise in social and economic status during the 19th century, Jews became strongly patriotic towards Germany, which is why a significant number of Jewish soldiers fought for Germany in WWI. Browse this homepage dedicated to these German Jewish soldiers and read a New York Times article about a 2010 memorial ceremony, held at the Frankfurt memorial for Jewish soldiers who died in World War I (shown in the film).


Erna mentions that she got to her  know her great love, Moshe Goldmann, at the Zionist youth group Kadima - here is a photo from 1929 of a Kadima group in Germany.  While early 20th century Zionist youth movements were more prevalent in Eastern Europe than Western Europe, there were some Zionist youth groups in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, as seen in this list of Jewish youth movements from the 19th century to the present.


The Jewish World and the Holocaust - An article provided by Yad Vashem.


With the influx of Jews into the German community in the late 20th/early 21st century, the German Jewish community has become one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in the world. This article from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs discusses the adjustments and challenges for a phenomenon that was once unthinkable: a growing Jewish community in the land where the Holocaust started.

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In Europe:

Erna tells the story of Moshe Goldmann's father, Adolf Goldmann, who emigrated from Poland to Dessau. He was not the only one to undertake this journey: during the 19th century, there was a constant stream of Jewish families emigrating from Eastern Europe. Read this article about this "Mass migration from Eastern Europe and 'Metropolisation.'"

Read more about Dessau, which haused the Bauhaus school from 1925-1932.

One of the main reasons for this mass migration was the strong anti-Jewish sentiment in the Russian Empire, which repeatedly resulted in violent outbursts and pogroms, particularly at the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th century. Read this article on pogroms by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, with an extensive section on the pogroms in the Russian Empire. 

Erna explains that many Jews living in Germany had originally come from Eastern Europe - they are often referred to as "Ostjuden."  They left because of increasing persecution and violent pogroms. Read more about pogroms, before, during, and after the Second World War. 


To Palestine:

Erna managed to escape to Tel Aviv. Many Jews, caught under Nazi rule, tried to flee Germany but were unable to find countries willing to let them in. This USHMM article discusses the unsuccessful efforts to loosen immigration quotas in 1938, during the Evian Conference.

After her emigration from Germany, Tel Aviv became a true home for Erna. Here is an article by British Jewish novelist Linda Grant on visiting Tel Aviv, a city built, in large part, by German Jews.

Immigration to Israel is known as "Aliyah."  Erna originally went to Palestine on a tourist visa. She was sent back to Frankfurt because the British, who were in control of Palestine at the time, would not extend her visa. Many Jews entered Palestine illegally because of the small immigration quota - this method if immigration is known as "Aliyah Bet."


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From 1918-1947, Palestine was under British rule. To find out more, read this article about The British Mandate in Palestine provided by the Middle East Research and Information Project and go through this timeline of British rule in Palestine.

Read this article to find out more about what happened in Palestine during WWII.

To learn more about the Holocaust remembrance memorial in Jerusalem, "Yad Va-shem," and to find out about the original meaning of the museum´s name, read this article.

The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was approved on May 14, 1948. Click here to read the original Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel, provided by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

David Ben-Gurion became the first Prime Minister of Israel. From 1935-1948 he served as Chairman of the Jewish Agency and led the struggle for the establishment of a Jewish state. In May 1948, he declared the Independence of the State of Israel and assumed the roles of Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

In 1948, the Arab-Israeli War/Israeli War of Independence broke out. The war had been preceded by violent outbursts between Jewish forces and Palestinian Arab forces in response to the UN Partition plan. It was concluded with Armistice Agreements signed in 1949.

In 1967, war broke out again between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. This armed conflict has been referred to as Six-Day War or War of 1967. On this website, you will find extensive information about the Six-Day War/War of 1967, including timelines and recollections from both sides.

In Israel, Erna made her own jewelry and sold it as a WIZO shop. WIZO is an acronym for Women's International Zionist Organization, a volunteer organization dedicated to social welfare, the advancement of the status of women, and education. 

Much of Tel Aviv was built by German and Austrian Jewish architects who had fled the Third Reich. They brought with them the architectural style that was all the rage in Germany and Austria then: Bauhaus.

In the film, there is a picture that shows Erna on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. The street is named after Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv.

Erna refers to her German friends as "Yekke". Click here for a definition of Yekke.

When Erna talks about her happy times in Tel Aviv, she mentions a trip they took to Ashkelon. Find out more about this ancient seaport and look at contemporary pictures.

After Erna's second son was born in 1951, the family moved to Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Read up on Israel's greenest city.

Film Details

  • Duration:
    Germany, Israel

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