Like all major fashion events in their respective capitals, several are held throughout the year in Berlin. Here, countless fashion shows showcase start-ups and innovative, sustainable ideas alongside more traditional designs.

Berlin has always found it difficult to catch up with the real market designers, a trend that began over 100 years ago. With the advent of National Socialism in 1933 and up until 1945, the display of anti-Jewish symbols and imagery was limitless.

Within a span of just six years, Berlin’s fashion companies, most of which were Jewish, were expropriated, the fashion designers were expelled, forced labor was established, and the creative industry that had existed since 1836 was destroyed. In Berlin alone, more than 2,700 Jewish fashion firms became victims to German greed and antisemitism.

The hatred of Jews also resulted in thousands of dispossessions. After the war, in 1945, the industry recovered, but Berlin fashion was Judenfrei (free of Jews). The profiteers and fashion designers ensured that it stayed that way until today. Nobody wanted to remember. A subliminal hatred of Jews manifested itself in a wall of silence, and this appears to be the motivation behind Fashion Week Berlin today. The most recent outburst of antisemitic hatred on the catwalk confirmed it.

It is hard to believe but true: Fashion Week Berlin 2024 witnessed “fashionable” anti-Jewish statements. Does Hamas have some kind of influence here? You’d certainly think so if you read the statements from Vogue Germany. For instance, “Serhat Isik and Benjamin Alexander Huseby leave nothing uncommented with their fashion label, GmbH.”

Fashion mannequin. (credit: GETTY IMAGES)

That’s undoubtedly true. “Free Palestine” was the motto specifically chosen by the two designers. Is it possible to sink any lower? Certainly not after the massacre of Jews by Hamas terrorists on October 7. They committed to an unequivocal political position and proceeded to translate it visually into designs on shirts for gays. Why not take it a step further and donate the shirts to the people in Gaza?

Organizers do not care

The organizers of Fashion Week, supported by State Secretary for Economics Michael Biel (SPD), do not seem to care. Just as Fashion Week Berlin – since 1945 – does not give a damn about the antisemitic direction of its predecessor lobbies.

“Fashion is fashion,” they would argue. Well, no; it wasn’t.

Where is the remembrance of the 2,000-plus Berlin Jewish fashion companies confiscated after 1933? What about recognition of the thousands of forced laborers used in the clothing industry that was Judenrein from 1939 onwards? And where are the tears for the Jewish victims of October 7, 2023?

Did “fashion designers” Isik and Huseby intend to display their political agenda in this way? After all, as Vogue observed, their tears dripped “…onto their keffiyehs, which were also to be found on blazers in the collection as a Palestinian national symbol.” Did we miss something? What happened on October 7?

On October 7, “almost 1,200 people were murdered, thousands injured, and over 240 taken hostage,” the Berlin senate acknowledged. And yet, the state secretary for economics sponsored Berlin Fashion Week 2024, which featured overtly anti-Jewish themes. This year’s Fashion Week Berlin was a morally bankrupt disgrace.

The responsible organizers should take these anti-Jewish incidents from July as an incentive to turn the upcoming Fashion Week Berlin events into a stage for truly liberal and pluralistic fashion. Those responsible for the current incidents must explain themselves.

The writer is the author of Fashion Metropolis Berlin 1836-1939: The Story of the Rise and Destruction of the Jewish Fashion Industry, published by Seemann & Henschel, and several other books focusing on the Jewish fashion industry in Berlin.

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