Regarding the unexpected passing of our colleague and friend Bernhard Purin


Born and raised in Bregenz, Vorarlberg, Bernhard Purin’s interest in Jewish history was sparked early on by his history teacher Meinrad Pichler. Even as a student, he roamed the then-desolate former Jewish quarter of the nearby town of Hohenems with his camera. After studying empirical cultural studies and modern history in Tübingen, he worked as project manager in 1990 and 1991 on the establishment of the Jewish Museum Hohenems and published his first book, which was about the history of the neighboring community of Sulz: The Jews of Sulz. A Jewish rural community in Vorarlberg 1676-1744.

Already in the founding phase of the Hohenems museum, he proved to be a contentious figure who encountered the often naive handling of objects of material Jewish tradition with knowledge and critical enthusiasm, insisting on precise object research. In addition, he also laid the foundation for the development of the museum’s genealogical research database. Thus, the museum is still characterized by his critical mind and his sense of networking.

Between 1992 and 1995, Bernhard Purin was curator at the newly founded Jewish Museum Vienna. Here, he initiated the Vienna Yearbook for Jewish History, Culture & Museum Studies, which he also edited as the main responsible person. With his contribution Jewish History and Culture in Austrian Museums and Exhibitions in the first volume of this yearbook, he laid an essential foundation for the expansion of a comprehensive bibliography on the subject of Jewish historiography, cultural history, contemporary history, and art in museums. During a research stay at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, he found the inventory book of the world’s first Jewish Museum, which allowed for the gradual reconstruction of the Vienna pre-war collection. With the exhibition Confiscated. The Collection of the Vienna Jewish Museum after 1938, the processing of the history and fate of the historical Jewish Museum in Vienna began in 1995.

1995, he was appointed as the director of the Jewish Museum Franken in Fürth, where his ironic approaches to Jewish history and present triggered some productive controversies – debates that he could endure with the support of the professional community, the museum’s sponsors, as well as the approval of the interested audience. In 2002, he was appointed as the founding director of the Jewish Museum Munich, which he could open in 2007 – and of which he remained the director until the end. Under Bernhard Purin’s leadership, Munich was a place of innovative exhibition contents and design over the years, as well as a sought-after project partner. One of his culturally most original exhibitions certainly was Beer is the Wine of this Country. Jewish Brewing Stories in 2016/17. Principally, it was one of his strengths to always keep in mind the thematic and content-related connection to the place of his work. In the Bavarian capital, he was also significantly involved in the development of the memorial site for the victims of the Olympic massacre, which opened in 2017. In 2022, together with his team and in collaboration with a number of other Munich and Bavarian institutions, he coordinated a twelve-month remembrance project “Twelve Months – Twelve Names”, which commemorated one of the people murdered in 1972 each month.

Bernhard Purin was globally esteemed as an expert in Judaica and was in constant exchange with collectors. His love for Jewish ritual objects was expressed not only in such large object-based exhibitions as, for example, Seven Boxes of Jewish Material. From Theft to Rediscovery 1938 to Today’ in 2018 but also in many smaller presentations such as Sign and Metal Art by Heinrich Schwed. Judaica from a Munich Artisan Workshop in 2009 or Samson’s Menorah – A Hanukkah Menorah from the Wertheimer Family Collection in 2014, as well as in numerous thoroughly researched individual publications.

He also greatly influenced the international networking of Jewish museums. From 2001 to 2007 and from 2013 to 2018, he served on the board of the Association of European Jewish Museums (AEJM). At the same time, he was always willing to share his knowledge, be it in the training programs of the AEJM, in the scientific advisory boards of various museums, the Editorial Board of the journal Images. A Journal of Jewish Art, the Advisory Board of the Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property, or in personal conversation.

Everyone who knew Bernhard Purin is stunned by the fact that he is no longer with us. His unerring judgment and humor, his integrity, his profound knowledge, and his unusual and surprising approaches to the world of Jewish object history will be sorely missed.

Jutta Fleckenstein (Jüdisches Museum München), Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek und Michaela Feurstein-Prasser (, Hanno Loewy (Jüdisches Museum Hohenems), Mirjam Zadoff (NS-Dokumentationszentrum München)


Titelbild (Ausschnitt) Bernhard Purin, Foto: ©DanielSchvarcz

Only together we can stand up against the threat of division in our society

A joint declaration on the war in Israel and Gaza (from 24.10.2023)

We are still paralyzed by horror and shock at the pogrom-like, anti-Semitic and misogynistic terror against innocent Israeli civilians on October 7 and the spiral of violence it has already unleashed. The lack of any prospect of an early non-violent solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is causing feelings of powerlessness, despair and anger among many people on both sides of the fence and their relatives and friends. In the midst of this madness, we would like to set a common sign for non-violence, humanity and healing.

The conflict is already being fought out on the streets of the world, but above all in the echo chambers of social media. The fighting is accompanied by a media “war of images”. This war of images is part of the calculation of the terrorist Hamas. People are to be emotionalized and incited to hate others. The conflict is to be perceived as a clash between Muslims and non-Muslims. The inevitable rise of anti-Muslim racism – which is always the case when terrorist attacks are allegedly carried out in the name of Islam – is deliberately accepted, indeed it is a strategic goal of Hamas and its ideological relatives.

They must not be allowed to succeed! We call on all people who feel emotionally affected by the conflict and the current outbreak of violence to continue (and now more than ever!) to seek dialogue with each other and not to allow themselves to be divided and incited against each other.
The future of the Israeli government, especially that of Prime Minister Netanyahu, is being openly discussed in Israel. Many see him and his right-wing government as (co-)responsible for this development and this escalation of violence. The next elections will decide their fate. Israeli society is at a crossroads. This includes the question of whether the response to terror respects international law or takes the path of collective punishment.

The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, on the other hand, have long been unable to decide their own fate and are dependent on solidarity and supplies from outside. The population of the Gaza Strip therefore deserves every solidarity and expressing it must not automatically be equated with anti-Semitism. However, showing solidarity with the Palestinians’ justified desire for self-determination and a life in safety and dignity must not mean legitimizing Hamas’ terror in any way. It must now be clear to everyone that the totalitarian Hamas cannot be part of this movement for equal rights for all people in the region. Israelis and Palestinians will continue to live side by side in the region and there can only be a future for both sides if the fantasy of eliminating the other no longer determines their actions.

Anti-Semitism is a real threat to Jewish life – and the new wave of anti-Jewish conspiracy fantasies that is already emerging is causing us great concern. But neither can anti-Semitism be countered with anti-Muslim racism, nor should racism in our society be misused as a justification to pander to the rampant terror propaganda.

We know that dialog in our diverse society faces new and difficult challenges. But we can only stand together against the threat of division in our society. Here and there.

Prof. Dr. Zekirija Sejdini

Institute for Islamic Theology and Religious Education, Innsbruck University

Dr. Hanno Loewy
Jewish Museum Hohenems

Arnon Hampe, Dipl.-Pol.


Current Exhibition

The Jewish Quarter in Hohenems has been receiving increasing public attention since 1991. Many buildings have been renovated and lovingly restored, in large part in close cooperation with the monuments protection authorities. This urban development has had a strong impact on the entire Hohenems center, especially on the neighboring former “Christengasse.” By now, the ensemble of the former “Judengasse” and “Christengasse” is considered unique.

Book launch (in German)

Tuesday, May 25, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. in the Salomon Sulzer Hall in Hohenems | Despite a modest lineage as butchers and cattle dealers in Hohenems, the Jewish Brunner family experienced a steep social and cultural rise: at the beginning of the 19th century, almost an entire generation left Vorarlberg to seek their fortune elsewhere.

150 years Aron Tänzer. A birthday evening

In cooperation with the City Archive Hohenems, the City of Göppingen, the Jewish Museum Meran and the Jewish Community Bratislava | With contributions by Tomáš Stern (Chairman of the Jewish Community Bratislava), Eva Grabherr (okay. zusammen leben), Mario Lechner (City Archive Hohenems), Federico Steinhaus (Meran), Joachim Innerhofer (Jewish Museum Meran), Sabine Mayr (Jewish Museum Meran), Alex Maier (Mayor of the City of Göppingen), Uri Taenzer (Willingboro, New Jersey, USA) and Mayor Dieter Egger (Hohenems). Moderation: Hanno Loewy (Jewish Museum Hohenems).



We are open again …

We recommend a look at this page on the current exhibition “The Last Europeans”: . Here you will find insights into the exhibition, exciting interviews, lectures and debates – and a critical European diary that explores the crises and distortions of the European project, the handling of human rights and democracy, and the political abuse of Jewish history and the present by the nationalist populism of these days.

We wish you all the best, stay healthy and see you soon!
Hanno Loewy and team

Reopening on June 1, 2020

Dear friends of the Jewish Museum Hohenems, Ladies and Gentlemen,

from June 1, 2020, the doors of the Jewish Museum of Hohenems will once again be open to visitors, at the usual times from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Of course, all the prescribed hygiene and safety measures will be observed and our exhibition “End of Testimony?” , which we had to interrupt in March, can now be extended until August 16. This exhibition can be visited from June 1 to August 16, 2020!

Our new exhibition “The Last Europeans” , which was originally to start in May, has been postponed to the fall, and is expected to open on October 4.

The permanent exhibition and the children’s exhibition will also be open again from June 1, and the caféteria and our beautiful garden will then invite you to relax and communicate, naturally with a little physical distance. We look forward to welcoming you back to the Museum from June 1! Until then we wish you all the best, stay healthy!

Hanno Loewy and the Jewish Museum Team



November 10, 2019 until August 16, 2020

An exhibition of the Jewish Museum Hohenems and the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Memorial, in cooperation with the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” (EVZ)

The era of eyewitness accounts about the Holocaust is approaching its end. Only few survivors of the Nazi regime can still speak from their own experience—or talk about those people who were murdered in the Holocaust. What remains are literary testimonies and countless video interviews with survivors—as well as the question of how we want to deal with this legacy in the future.

Reason enough to focus on the history of Holocaust testimonies, to explore the complex relationship between eyewitness and interviewer, medium and society. Here, the focus is placed on the memory of the Shoah as it has been passed on in interviews and recordings of public appearances of survivors. It becomes a narrative—wrested from a trauma and, at the same time, the product of relationships and interests, depending on its respective context in politics and society, in court or school classes, for research, television, or cinema.

The exhibition “End of Testimony?“ scrutinizes the “making of“ interviews and their social role since 1945; and provides insights into the video collection of the Jewish Museum Hohenems, with interviews that have never been shown before.

Current Exhibition

October 4, 2020 until October 3, 2021
Seventy-five years after the end of World War II, Europe is threatened by a relapse into nationalistic and xenophobic ideologies.

The European imperative of “Never Again!” is being challenged by many, also here in Austria. At the same time, Europe’s nationalists are discovering their own fantasy of the “Christian-Jewish Occident”—as a battle cry against immigration and integration. The values of the Enlightenment, which constituted the foundation of European rapprochement in the wake of the catastrophes of the 20th century, are reversed into their opposite and turned into means of seclusion and marginalization.