Holocaust memories revived as Berlin Jewish museum puts Jews in box

(JNS.org) Almost 70 years after the Holocaust, the Jewish Museum in Berlin is fending off criticism for hosting an exhibit, “The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews,” which asks Jewish men and women to sit in a glass box and answer questions by visitors about Jews and Judaism.

Click photo to download. Caption: Seven decades after the Holocaust, the Berlin Jewish Museum asks Jewish men or women to sit in a glass box and answer questions from visitors about Judaism. Credit: © Jüdisches Museum Berlin, photo: Linus Lintner.

Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government planned and executed the murder of six million Jews by 1945. Today “a lot of our visitors don’t know any Jews and have questions they want to ask,” said museum official Tina Luedecke, according to Fox News.

“With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life,” Luedecke said.

But critics have voiced concern that the exhibit is not an appropriate way to educate the German public about Judaism. In addition to the glass box, another part of the exhibit includes a placard asking “How you recognize a Jew?” next to several yarmulkes, black hats and Jewish women’s hair covers. In another section, visitors are asked if Jews are “particularly good looking, influential, intelligent, animal loving or business savvy.”

As to the box idea, prominent Berlin Jewish community figure Stephan Kramer, according to the Associated Press, rhetorically asked, “Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water, turn up the heat and make the Jew feel really cozy in his glass box?”

The museum Jewish curator, Miriam Goldmann, says the “in your face” approach is necessary to deal with a subject still painful in Germany for both Jews and non-Jews. The exhibit has attracted a lot of visitors. While sitting in the box, Ido Porat, a 33-year-old Israeli, was asked what should be brought to a Shabbat dinner in Israel and why only Jewish men and not women wear yarmulkes. Another person asked about Judaism and homosexuality.

Some German Jews and Israeli Jews volunteering at the museum are resigned to the idea. “With so few of us, you almost inevitably feel like an exhibition piece. Once you’ve been ‘outed’ as a Jew, you always have to be the expert and answer all questions regarding anything related to religion, Israel, the Holocaust and so on,” museum volunteer Leeor Englander said.

Posted on March 29, 2013 .