Documentation of the Kulturbund der Juden in Deutschland (the Cultural Organization of German Jewry)

Language of Description
15 Jul 1933 - 29 Sep 1941
Level of Description
Record group
  • German
  • Latin

Extent and Medium

19 files on microfish

Biographical History

Following the Nazi rise to power in 1933, the Jews were forbidden to attend cultural performances or to be employed in cultural institutions in Germany. Kurt Singer, the Director of the Berlin Municipal Opera (who was dismissed in 1933 because he was Jewish), decided to set up an alternate Jewish organization with the goal of arranging cultural activities for Jews. The new organization was also meant to solve the unemployment problem of the Jewish artists and workers who had been dismissed from the general cultural institutions.

The leading Jewish organizations in Germany responded to Singer's request to participate in the administration of the new cultural organization. Singer also turned to various bodies within the Nazi government in order to receive official authorization for the new organization, and he received a positive response from Hans Hinkel, the head of the Prussian Theater Commission, in July 1933. However, Hinkel's authorization of the organization's activities was given on condition that the cultural performances would be for Jews only, and that publicity for the performances would appear only in the Jewish press.

"Nathan the Wise" by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, was the first performance presented within the framework of the Juedische Kulturband in October 1933.

Similar frameworks were being set up in other cities in Germany at the same time, and in March 1934, they joined together to form one loose organization known as the Reichsorganisation Juedischer Kulturbuende (National Association of Jewish Cultural Associations). Afterwards, in April 1935, their merger was formalized into the Reichsverband der Juedischen Kulturbuende (Reichs Association of Jewish Cultural Associations).

Kurt Singer tried to register the new organization in the Berlin court, but he encountered difficulties including opposition from the Gestapo. Eventually, the organization was registered, howevert a further condition for its registration was that the name be changed. Therefore, in March 1935, the organization became known as the Juedischer Kulturbund Berlin (Jewish Culture Association of Berlin), thus erasing any affinity to Germany and German culture.

The Kulturband continued to exist until September 1941 while facing constant restrictions on its activities.

Organization Activities

In the beginning, the Kulturband directors did not necessarily mount performances whose subjects were of a Jewish dimension, arguing that the Jews should not put themselves into a spiritural ghetto. As time went on, with the growing understanding of the deterioration that had taken place in the situation of the Jews in Germany, they also put on performances with Jewish subjects and the organization even tried to create an alternate Jewish culture for the general German culture.

The Kulturband activities had two main focuses. One focus was on musical activities including symphony orchestras, professional choirs, chamber music ensembles and more. The second focus was on the theater, where, over the course of time, more and more plays with a Jewish flavor were presented.

In addition, the Kulturband organized lectures for the general public, exhibitions by plastic artists, entertainment and cabarets, and a cinema department that presented various films. In accordance with the instructions of the German authorities, all the films were supposed to "encourage emigration"; the Kulturband was able to solve this problem by defining all American films as "encouraging emigration".

It should be noted that, despite the official approval given to the Kulturband's activities, there were Jewish cultural activities outside the organization as well, especially in large cities like Berlin.

Scope and Content

This Record Group is the private archive of the director-actor Fritz Wisten, who was one of the organization activists. The documentation that arrived at Yad Vashem consists of photocopies of the original documentation in the archive, which is housed at the Stiftung Akademie der Kuenste Archive in Berlin. Most of the documentation in this Record Group is in German, dealing primarily with the Kulturbund activities after 1938. The Record group contains documentation of all the Kulturband activities:- Discussions with Hans Hinkel; - Organizational activities;- Surveys of organizational activities at different times.

Finding Aids

  • Description of the files are available on IDEA ALM system at Yad Vashem Archives reading room

Existence and Location of Originals

  • Stiftung archiv der Akademie der Kuenste Archive in Berlin

Existence and Location of Copies

  • YV archive

Archivist Note

JL according to the RG description in the YV computerized catalogue

Dates of Descriptions


Corporate Bodies