Germany for the Jewish Traveler

All the trails are known as “Weg” in Berlin, like this one Weg 18. Germany
All the trails are known as “Weg” in Berlin, like this one Weg 18 in Osthafen Pieles.

Attracting Jewish Travelers to Germany: A New Travel Initiative

By Steffi Porter

Essen Ruhrgebiet, an Old Synagogue in Germany
Essen Ruhrgebiet, an Old Synagogue in Germany

When thinking about the main destinations of interest for Jewish travelers, one may not immediately think of Germany. More than six million Jews and others perished at the hands of the Germans, so many Jewish people would not dream of a vacation in Germany.

However, the German National Tourist Board (GNTB) is making an effort to not only help Jewish travelers feel more at home but to encourage more Jewish people to travel there.

As part of a new travel initiative, GNTB has put together a new e-brochure showcasing an abundance of opportunities for Germany’s ever-growing Jewish population as well as those of the Jewish faith traveling from other countries.

Whether they are staying in Germany for a while or just passing through, GNTB is working to make the Jewish travelers feel not only welcome in Germany, but entertained by a large number of tourism options.

Last year in 2021, Germany commemorated 1700 years of Jewish life in Germany. This paid tribute to Germany’s vibrant Jewish community and sought to capture the richness of German Jewish heritage. The commemorations, which will continue until June 2022, inform about a wide variety of Jewish cultures, traditions, and customs — and thus send a clear message against antisemitism.

Germany for the Jewish Traveler

“Germany for the Jewish Traveler” is an e-brochure first launched by the GNTB in late 2013, with the purpose of offering insight into the Jewish history of particular German towns and presenting Jewish travelers with information about travel opportunities in the country. The brochure is regularly updated.

“Nowadays Germany offers a diverse and lively Jewish life,” said Wibke Carter, head of P.R. for GNTB in North America. “We would like to convey this to our potential guests and are pleased if we can surprise them with unexpected information and offers. That is why we created the brochure for Jewish travelers.”

The Jewish Perspective

Joseph Rosen, a Jewish New Yorker in his 50s, said the idea of German travel specifically marketed towards Jewish people is more appealing than he would have expected. In fact, he had not considered what kinds of travel options there were for Jewish people in the country.

Joseph Rosen, Jewish, and from the Bronx, NY, says he would consider traveling to Germany
Joseph Rosen, Jewish, and from the Bronx, NY, says he would consider traveling to Germany

“I was, in the past, one of the people who never would have considered going to Germany,” said Rosen, who is not only a dual citizen of the United States and Israel but also served in the Israeli Army.

He added that the opportunity to historical sites specifically aimed at Jewish travelers would make a visit to Germany more interesting for him and that he would consider going, despite how he used to feel about the prospect of traveling to the country.

Jewish people have played an important role in Germany for many years, Rosen said, concluding that he hopes they continue to play as significant a role if not more significant as time goes on.

What’s in the brochure?

The brochure provides detailed information about the ten largest German cities: Berlin, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Cologne, Leipzig, Munich, and Stuttgart, plus about other destinations.

The brochure maps out where to go and what to see, breaking down what each city has to offer. This information includes the Jewish history of these cities, and the contact information and locations of local Jewish institutes like museums, synagogues, kosher restaurants, community centers, and more. It is available in both English and Italian online.

The brochure is full of unique travel tips and information about Jewish culture, Jewish life, and places of interest to Jewish travelers, as part of a global travel campaign being launched by the GNTB specifically aimed at travelers with Jewish heritage.

Do Jewish travelers want to visit Germany?

According to Carter, GNTB statistics show that Jewish travelers are not hesitant about traveling there–quite the opposite, actually. Over the past year, they registered an increase of 15.4% from Israel, and Carter says that Germany is an increasingly popular travel destination, especially for younger Israeli travelers.

Munich 'Ohel Jakob' main synagogue
Munich ‘Ohel Jakob’ main synagogue

“I think there are definitely still some (Jewish people) who have an aversion to going to Germany,” Rosen said. “For reasons that are very understandable, I’m sure there are jews that are hesitant about visiting.”

Rosen also said that he thinks there are probably fewer people with that perspective now, especially in the younger generation, as they are “less inclined to focus on the past.”

“The German government has done whatever they could to make amends to the Jewish people,” Rosen said, adding that many Jewish people would never consider going to Germany, but that there are likely fewer who think that way now.

“I was impressed that they were so sensitive to this subject,” Rosen said of the program. “I would consider doing a tour in Germany.”

Why Germany?

For starters, the country has the third-largest Jewish community in Western Europe, and its Jewish population is continuing to grow, as do the number of Jewish travelers going to Germany.

Jewish Museum in Germany
Jewish Museum in Germany

“Here, Jewish life can be witnessed and relived through unique museums, memorials, exhibitions, religious sites, historic places, and events,” said Carter.

Carter says there are “countless” travel destinations in connection with Jewish culture in Germany, mainly in its larger cities. Berlin, for example, has the biggest German Jewish community, the Holocaust memorial, the Jewish Museum, the synagogue on Oranienburger Street, and is the largest city in Germany.

“The brochure is aimed at helping interested travelers in planning their stay in or their trip through Germany, and is a key element in the campaign for travelers with Jewish descent initiated by the GNTB,” said Carter.

Positive Feedback

What do Jewish Travelers think of this unique initiative? So far, the feedback has been consistently positive. Since the brochure was posted on the GNTB’s website, it has been extremely popular with travelers. The largest interest has come from Jewish populations in the USA and Israel.

“The travel tips brochure for Jewish travelers is an important contribution, particularly in view of the preparations underway to celebrate the anniversary of 50 years German -Israeli relations in 2015,” said Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the German National Tourist Board.

According to Rosen, the German Government has done a lot to make sure it is not forgotten what happened under the WWII regime and that they are doing a lot for the Jewish community.

World Heritage Sites

In 2021, UNESCO, the United Nations culture body announced that two sites in Germany had been rewarded World Heritage status, said DW News. UNESCO recognized the cities of Mainz, Speyer, and Worms for their roles as centers of European Jewish culture. This was the first UNESCO recognition of Jewish cultural heritage in Germany. They also approved the recognition of the Limes along the Rhine river.

Mainz, Speyer, and Worms are known as the SchUM sites. The three cities were influential in their contributions to Jewish language, religious studies, and architectural style. The area fought for recognition for over 15 years due to the fact few physical artifacts remained after centuries of plundering and destructive vandalism.

Where to Visit

The brochure highlights dozens of cities and locations to see as a Jewish traveler in Germany. You can experience Jewish culture through visits to synagogues, museums, and city tours.

If you are looking to learn the history of Judaism in Germany, the Jewish Museum in Berlin is the place to go. It takes you through the history of Jewish culture in Germany from the Middle Ages to the present day and is dived into 13 different eras. The museum’s collection includes 9,500 works of art, 1,000 applied art artifacts, 1,500 religious items, 4,500 everyday objects, and 24,000 photographs.

The Jewish Museum Augsburg Swabia is a museum inside a synagogue. The west wing of Augsburg Synagogue explores the rich culture and turbulent history of the Jewish community in Augsburg and Swabia from the Middle Ages to the present day. The exhibition presents the history of Jewish people in Augsburg as one marked by migration as the result of settlement and displacement, of searching and finding. A major issue dealt with is the loss of a place to call home.

Weissensee Cemetery (Herbert Baum-Strasse 45) is another important location in Jewish history. It is Europe’s largest Jewish cemetery, with 115,000 graves. The cemetery was in use until mid-World War II. After the Nazis came to power, Berlin Jews utilized the cemetery as an agricultural training area prior to their emigration to Palestine; once the war began it was a hiding place for Judaica, Torah scrolls, and Jews escaping deportation.

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steffi porterSteffi Porter is a creative writer and journalist who has written for The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Hearst Newspapers, and the Houston Chronicle. She is a former writer and editor for her college paper, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, and a graduate of the Institute for Political Journalism and the Fund for American Studies.

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