Berlin Exhibit Featuring “Jew in the Box” Stirs Anger

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 31 2013 12:58 PM

Berlin Museum Exhibit Featuring “Jew in the Box” Stirs Controversy and Anger

jew in the bo
The base of the box at the Jewish Museum in Berlin exhibit reads: "Are there still Jews in Germany?"

Linus Lintner/Jewish Museum Berlin

Almost 70 years after the Holocaust, Jews have largely disappeared from German life, with a population of fewer than 200,000 among the country’s 82 million people. So, what better way to dispel myths and educate the public than placing a Jew in a glass box to answer questions? That is exactly what the Jewish Museum in Berlin decided to do as part of its exhibition “The Whole Truth... everything you always wanted to know about Jews.” And needless to say, people aren’t too pleased. "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," Stephan J. Kramer, the general Secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the Associated Press.

As part of the exhibit, a Jewish man or woman is seated inside the glass box for two hours a day to answer questions. One of the obvious reasons why it has raised eyebrows is that the scene is reminiscent of how infamous Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann sat in a glass booth during his 1961 trial. But several volunteers who actually sit in the box described the experience as artistic expression in itself, an exaggerated take on what they live through every day. "With so few of us, you almost inevitably feel like an exhibition piece," Leeor Englander said.

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The publicly funded Berlin Jewish Museum is no stranger to controversy. Last year, it hosted Judith Butler, who called for a boycott of Israel, points out the Jerusalem Post.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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