Berlin commemorates the CZA


The 100th anniversary celebrations of the Central Zionist Archives led to the implementation of a memorial plate next to the building that housed the Archives during the 1920s. This is a joint venture of the CZA, the Senate of Berlin (Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa), and the Zionist Enterprises Department of the World Zionist Organization.


on June 1919, the “Archives of the Zionist Organisation” were established in Sächsische Straße 8 in Berlin-Wilmersdor. The residential building was considered the center of the Zionist Movement in Germany until 1924. It was home to the Zionist Federation of Germany, the Central Zionist Office in Berlin and other institutes. In 1924, these organizations moved with the Archives to the building at Meinekestraße 10. In late 1933, shortly after the National Socialist regime had seized power, George Herlitz recognized the threat to the Archives, and with the aid of the World Zionist Organization, he succeeded in shipping the files in 154 crates to safety in Palestine. The archives were housed for decades in the National Institutions building and were afforded its own specially-constructed building in 1987.


One of the ideas to mark the 100th anniversary for the founding of the Archives was placing a sign on the old building of the CZA in Berlin. This idea was inspired by the memorial plates and street signs placed in Berlin, marking historical places and events. Suzanne Berns carried out the project on behalf of the Archives. The unveiling of the Memorial Plate was scheduled to June – the month in which the Archives were established. Dr. Yigal Sitry, Director of the CZA, took part in the cerempny, as did representatives of the Archives employees, Avraham Duvdevani, Chairman of the WZO, Dr. Klaus Lederer from the Senate of Berlin, Shir Gideon, Spokeswoman of the Israeli Embassy in Berlin, and Moshe Lion, mayor of Jerusalem.


“As you stand here today in front of the building where it all started, you may well ask yourselves why it all began here in Germany in 1919. After all, the center of the Zionist movement was in Copenhagen at that time and most of its activity was focused in London – so why choose to establish the Archive here, in Berlin?” wondered Avraham Duvdevani, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization, in his speech. “I believe the answer lies in the cultural setting offered by Germany at that time. As with many other areas of cultural life, Germany of the early twentieth century was a recognized world leader in archival development. Moreover, Jews were deeply involved and, indeed, led the field in many areas of the cultural world. Notably, of the thirty-eight Nobel Prize winners honored up to 1938, this generation yielded nine Jewish Nobel laureates. Thus, the Zionist Archive was initially established in Germany - with George Josef Herlitz, a professional archivist and Zionist Jew as its director. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine that the present-day CZA in Jerusalem could have become what it is today without Herlitz’s leadership. It is therefore significant and most befitting that we should celebrate the Centenary of the CZA here, today, in Berlin, at the site of its first home. We particularly wish  to acknowledge and express our appreciation to the Berlin Municipality and its Mayor for his cooperation and for participating in this commemorative ceremony. May we be granted further opportunities to cooperate on cultural endeavors for the benefit of the German people and the State of Israel”.​


Dr. Klaus Lederer speaks at the event. Alongside standing Moshe Lion, mayor of Jerusalem, Avraham Duvdevani, Chairman of the WZO, Dor Zvikelsky, director of the Zionist Enterprises Department, and Dr. Yigal Sitry, Director of the CZA. Photograph: Omri Brand.


Dr. Klaus Lederer greeted warmly the guests: "I’m delighted to see so many people are here today and I would especially like to welcome our guests from Israel. I’m very pleased that we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the CZA together, and that we are making it more than just an event. With the unveiling of a memorial plaque, that tells us more about the history of the CZA founded in 1919, we are showing our lasting commitment, here at the Archives second Berlin’s location, Meinekestraße 10. We are providing information on, and commemorating the superb collection of the Archives which I believe is still regarded as one of the roots of Israeli archival practice. This primarily thanks to the historian and archivist George Herlitz who has charged this establishing of the Archives and in 1919 began collecting and documenting important files from Zionist associations... I am delighted that we are restoring the history of the CZA to Berlin’s collective consciousness with this memorial plate”.


The unveiling of the Memorial plate, Photograph: Omri Brand.
Shir Gideon, Spokeswoman of the Israeli Embassy in Berlin, and Dr. Yigal Sitry. Photograph: Omri Brand
The guests from Israel and Dr. Klaus Lederer. Photograph: Omri Brand

A festive reception was held at the Centrum Judaicum, after the ceremony. Among the speakers were Avraham Duvdevani, Chairman of the WZO, Dr. Yigal Sitry, Director of the CZA, and Prof. Stefanie Endlich who presented the Memorial Plate Project. During the event were singing excerpts by the musicians Noam Vazana and Linor Oren - Israeli singers living in Amsterdam.​

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The reception at the Centrum Judaicum. Photograph: Omri Brand.
The singers Noam Vazana and Linor Oren, Photograph: Suzanne Berns

Dr. Yigal Sitry presented to the audience six un-known facts about the Archives and its role: "The Archives served the Zionist movement as an internal source for its work, beginning as publicity and advocacy. Hence the huge efforts invested in creating the collection of Jewish and Zionist newspapers. Later came the need to provide information to the Zionist leadership dealing with the British Mandate and the UN committees investigating the conflict and seeking solutions. The Archives also played a role in searching for Jewish properties in Europe after World War 2. In the last 20 years, genealogy has become popular, and the Archive has been opened to the general public for personal research, and also provides a professional option run by the Family Research Department.  More than 2,000 academic publications based mostly on CZA materials have been published since 1990. This underlines the huge role the Archive plays in the study of the Zionist idea and its fulfillment... As we celebrate the anniversary of the Zionist archive, please keep in mind that these achievements of the Central Zionist Archive is actually the documentation of the achievements of the Zionist movement that led to the foundation and development of the State of Israel".


Avraham Duvdevani speaks at the reception. Photograph: Omri Brand.



The Archives wishes to express its great appreciation to the Senate of Berlin and the Zionist Enterprises Department, which contributed to the implementation of the memorial plate commemorating the beginning of the Zionist Archives and to the Neue Synagoge Berlin - Centrum Judaicum for the hospitality.​

To watch video footage of the reception at the Centrum Judaicum click here.​​