March 22, 2013 FILE photo: Visitors surround Ido Porat, the 1st person acting as the "Jew in a glass box," at the exhibition "The Whole Truth- everything you always wanted to know about Jews" at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. (AP)

March 22, 2013 FILE photo: Visitors surround Ido Porat, the 1st person acting as the “Jew in a glass box,” at the exhibition “The Whole Truth- everything you always wanted to know about Jews” at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. (AP)

A new exhibit in Germany at a Jewish museum is receiving criticism from the Jewish community (AS IT SHOULD BE.)  The “Jew in a Box”, as it has been popularly dubbed, is actually titled, “The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews” and opened earlier in the month in Berlin.

It was created to help educate the postwar generation concerning Jews.  In a country of 82 million people less than 200,000 Jews remain.  Gee, can’t imagine why?

The exhibit houses a Jew in a glass box with the words, “Are there still Jews in Germany” on the base, to answer different questions concerning Judaism and Jewish life in general.

But exactly how does this promote respect? At all?

Can you imagine if I lived in a predominantly “white” city and an African-American museum was built and they put an African-American man in a glass box for me to ask questions of concerning his race, or what food he eats, or what his habits are? Outrage would ensue.

It led me, however, to ask a few additional questions.

Is the Holocaust taught in German schools?

I came across a PBS interview from 2005 with a German educator, Lars Rensmann, who teaches political science at the University of Munich and at the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies, University of Potsdam.

First of all, yes, I know…PBS.  But I found his comments incredibly interesting.

“You do have in Germany a history curriculum which is more limited compared to, let’s say, the United States,” Rensmann said, “You have only two regular hours of history classes a week. And generally, the Holocaust is only briefly a subject, at least until 10th grade — that would be 16 years old. And only a third of the students continue to the 11th, 12th and 13th grades which is equivalent to getting an American high school diploma. In the German system, two-thirds of students actually stop after 10th grade. So, when you just only look at the curriculum, there’s not so much time for actually teaching the Holocaust.”

And as he explained the limited teaching of the Holocaust he said something that left my jaw on the floor.

Rensmann said, “Something which is very common among young Germans is to say, ‘I don’t want to hear about the Holocaust. The Americans did the same thing with the Indians, and the Israelis do the same with the Palestinians.’ This kind of generalization pretends to be sensitive to prejudice in general and pretends to be universalistic because it seems to criticize prejudice all over the world. But in fact, it is a delegation of guilt onto others in order to avoid confronting one’s own collective history.”

I don’t enjoy talking about our history with the American Indian necessarily, but I know that won’t happen again.  But any type of Holocaust denial or down play continues this noticeably downward spiral once again toward antisemitism.

And I don’t see how sticking a “Jew in a box” solves any of this.

Like George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

But it seems to me that those who CAN remember the past are choosing to repeat it anyway.


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