“We share a commitment to throw light on the still obscured shadows of the Holocaust.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
On 28 June, the Berlin Zoo unveiled a commemorative plaque in memory of the Jewish shareholders that held stock in the company.
The ceremony was attended by city and zoo officials, including Berlin Culture Secretary Andre Schmitz and Gabriele Thoene, the zoo's business director, who initiated the installation of the plaque on the Antelope House.
In 2002, the Berlin Zoo started looking into its history during the Nazi era and commissioned a report by historian Monika Schmidt. The report examined the policies put into place after the Nazis came to power in 1933 that excluded Jews as board members, stockholders, and eventually as visitors to the zoo.
After the Nazi Party came to power, the four Jews on the supervisory board were eventually removed and replaced by Nazis. Beginning in 1938, Jewish shareholders were banned from passing on or selling their shares, and could only sell them back to the zoo at a price much lower than they originally paid. Jews could also no longer acquire shares, and the report found that it was possible that Jewish shareholders were eventually forced to sell back their shares to the zoo. From 1939, Jews were banned from even visiting the zoo.
The plaque is intended to be a commemorative gesture to the descendants of the Jewish shareholders of Zoologischer Garten Berlin AG. The zoo does not intend to offer compensation.
The Berlin Zoo will continue to investigate its history, and plans to look into the individual biographies of shareholders and highlight the repression of the issue in the decades following the war. The zoo intends to publish a book on the subject in the future.
Berlin Culture Secretary Andre Schmitz also announced that the year 2013 will be officially dedicated to the memory of Jewish citizens of Berlin, and the city will work together with institutions and social groups to commemorate the contributions and achievements of Berlin's Jewish community.