From Bauhaus to Palestine: Chanan Frenkel, Ricarda and Heinz Schwerin – Exhibition 2013

In the Thirties, around 25 former Bauhaus students and graduates emigrate to Palestine. The majority of them, among them seven women, arrive in the British Mandate of Palestine as immigrants; others have already lived here as Zionist pioneers prior to their studies at the Bauhaus. One of these is Halle-born Chanan Frenkel, who returns in 1933 with a Bauhaus Diploma in his pocket. Two years later, Heinz Schwerin and Ricarda Meltzer also emigrate there. The couple marry in Pécs while fleeing via Prague and Budapest. He was born in Kattowitz, she in Göttingen. Neither is a Zionist; moreover, Ricarda Schwerin is not Jewish. They are however united by a desire for a better life, free of persistent threats.

Once, they had come to the Bauhaus in Dessau because it had made a name for itself worldwide as an outstanding school of modern design. But after the politically motivated dismissal of Hannes Meyer as the second Bauhaus director, the school is consumed by an existential crisis that also has an effect on the everyday lives of the students. Only Chanan Frenkel is awarded his diploma in 1932 by Meyer’s successor, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, while the communist Heinz Schwerin and Ricarda Meltzer are expelled from the school in spring 1932 due to their political activities.

In Palestine they attempt, under trying circumstances, to build up new life and work environment. Chanan Frenkel, architect and Zionist, takes an active role in the development of his country; Ricarda and Heinz Schwerin take a different path and establish a workshop for wooden toys and arts and crafts in Jerusalem. Following Heinz Schwerin’s death at the time of Israel’s War of Independence, from the mid-Fifties Ricarda Schwerin finds success in her profession as a photographer. Her portraits of Israeli politicians and intellectuals, or her documentation of the new architecture, will have a determining influence on the iconography of the new State of Israel.

The exhibition in Dessau traces thematic and biographical aspects of the lives lived between Germany and Palestine/Israel by the three Bauhaus people Chanan Frenkel and Ricarda and Heinz Schwerin. They typify the individual careers of Jewish and non-Jewish Bauhaus students, caught between Zionist fervor and enforced exile. It investigates their experiences and personal networks at the Bauhaus, their diverse migration paths between utopia and loss, and their opportunities for artistic and professional development. The exhibition retraces their footsteps and likewise shows how long and rocky the road was from the British Mandate era to the foundation of the Jewish State of Israel.

The exhibition presents documents, photographs, drawings, furniture, toys and architectural models that testify to the broad sphere of influence of the former Bauhaus people, in Palestine and in Israel. As a result, the hitherto unacknowledged diversity of the Bauhaus’s reception in Israel is revealed.

  • Wednesday 26th June 2013 to Sunday 13th October 2013


  • Dr. Ines Sonder, Moses Mendelssohn Center Potsdam
  • Werner Möller, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation
  • Anke Kühnel, Research assistance in Israel


  • David Frenkel, Tel Aviv
  • Jutta Schwerin, Berlin
  • Tom Segev, Jerusalem
  • Israel State Archives
  • Stevenson Library, Bard College, NY
  • Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Masters’ House Muche/Schlemmer, 
Ebertallee 65–67, 06846 Dessau-Roßlau
OPEN: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
ADMISSION: 7,50 / 5.50 reduced euro [incl. Admission Masters' Houses]


Readings and guided tours of the exhibition

  • Thursday 12.9.2013, 6 pm to 8 pm
  • Sunday 13.10.2013, 11 am to 1 pm

Jutta Schwerin reads on the terrace of the Muche/Schlemmer masters’ house (in poor weather in the Kandinsky/Klee masters’ house) from her book Ricardas Tochter. Leben zwischen Deutschland und Israel, published 2012 by Spector Books, Leipzig. Followed by a curator-led guided tour of the exhibition.
Admission: 6 Euro


Lotto Toto Sachsen-Anhalt GmbH