If I had the chance to go and ask a question, I would ask:
”Why is it, that after decades of state involvement in enlightening the German public of the state’s role in anti-Semitic behavior culminating in the Holocaust, a museum still sees the need to dispel myths about Jews?”
In the end, it’s undoubtedly well-intentioned, but it’s hard to imagine that a major change in this most tense of historical relationships will come from this exhibit — not so long as Germans still have to go to a museum to see Jews.
The general secretary of the 105,000-member Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan J. Kramer, promptly ridiculed the exhibition, saying, “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?” According to Kramer, “They actually asked me if I wanted to participate. But I told them I’m not available.” Criticism has come from all sides: The popular German-language pro-Israel, pro-American website, Die Achse des Guten (The Axis of Good), labeled the exhibit “Jews for Dummies.”
Germany’s postwar treatment of Jews has always been a kind of litmus test for whether the country is on the path to rehabilitation. After the Third Reich exterminated some six million Jews, relations between Germany and Jews have been, well, complex.
“It’s a horrible thing to do — completely degrading and not helpful,” says Eran Levy, an Israeli who lives in Berlin, adding that “the Jewish Museum absolutely missed the point if they wanted to do anything to improve the relations between Germans and Jews.”
Henryk M. Broder, one of Germany’s leading commentators on German-Jewish relations and a journalist with the large right-of-center daily Die Welt, described the exhibit as “pathetic and useless.” In an e-mail to me, Broder, who is a German Jew himself and the author of numerous books on the community, compared the exhibit to “the ‘völkerschauen‘ with black Africans” — shows in late 19th- and early 20th-century Germany in which people from foreign lands were displayed like animals at carnival-like festivals.