Ordinary Moments of Demise: Photographs of the Jewish Home in Late 1930s Germany

Ofer Ashkenazi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Historians of interwar Germany have noted the transformation in the perception of “the ordinary” under Nazism. This article analyzes private photographs of the Jewish home as responses to this transformation. Taken and compiled in albums by German Jews in the late 1930s, these photographs display two major stylistic paradigms, which communicate two distinct approaches to the persecution of German Jews since 1933. The first documented domestic routines in a way that alluded to major tropes of both German national culture and Jewish religious heritage. It depicted changes in the daily experiences of Jews as the downfall of (German) bourgeois culture. The second paradigm moved in the opposite direction, by engaging in a conspicuous effort to disconnect ordinary scenes at home from the ominous circumstances that prevailed beyond its walls. The latter paradigm seems to portray the Jewish home as a site of escapist refuge from reality. Yet, I argue, it often functioned as a vehicle for a sinister depiction of the “new ordinary” as a signifier of inevitable demise.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)149-185
Number of pages37
JournalJewish Social Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021

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  • National Socialism
  • Private photography


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