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Wedding Sofa

Wedding Sofa

Danzig Sofa

North Germany, possibly Danzig (Gdansk, Poland), 1838
  • Birch veneer over pine; linden wood: painted, gilt, and upholstered
  • 38 3/16 x 63 x 27 15/16 in. (97 x 160 x 71 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Gift of the Danzig Jewish Community, D 280
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Wedding Sofa

Danzig Sofa

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Danzig Sofa

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The city of Danzig (Gdansk in Polish) sits on the southern edge of the Baltic Sea. A prominent seaport and shipbuilding center, the city has been under Polish and German sovereignty at various times in its history. After World War I, Danzig became an autonomous city-state under the protection of the League of Nations.

A vibrant Jewish community developed in Danzig during the nineteenth century and grew in the early decades of the twentieth century with the influx of Eastern European Jews. But the community began to face grave challenges during the 1930s. Although Danzig was not directly under German rule at the time, the Nazi party achieved a victory in local elections in 1933. At first, the Jews of Danzig were granted greater freedoms than their brethren in Germany. But by the late 1930s, they were subject to the same harsh policies faced by German Jews.

By 1939, more than half the city's 10,000-plus Jews had fled, and more were planning to evacuate. Feeling the threat of destruction at the hands of the Nazis, the remaining members of the community gathered their most prized objects of Judaica and shipped them to New York for safekeeping at The Jewish Theological Seminary (which housed The Jewish Museum at the time). The Danzig collection included objects given to the Danzig Jewish community in 1904 by Lesser Gieldzinski, a wealthy merchant and art collector; objects from the Great Synagogue of Danzig, which housed the collections of Danzig's older synagogues; and objects donated by individuals shortly before the entire collection was shipped to America. In an accompanying statement, the Danzig community requested that the objects be returned if their community still existed in fifteen years. If not, however, the collection was to remain in New York "for the education and inspiration of the rest of the world."

This sofa and more than three hundred other objects from the Danzig collection remain an important part of The Jewish Museum's holdings today. These objects serve as a silent memorial to an extinguished Jewish community--one of the many throughout Europe that were lost to Nazi barbarism. Danzig's Jews occupy a unique position in history: theirs was the only Jewish community to rescue its treasures from Nazi destruction.

The letter A is located on modern day Danzig (Gdansk in Polish)


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