Germany Presents: ‘Jew in the Box’

Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center and the author of “While Europe Slept” and “Surrender.” His book "The Victims' Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind" is just out from Broadside / Harper Collins.


You’ve heard of the Cat in the Hat? Welcome to “Jew in the Box.”

It sounds like some kind of sick joke, but it’s not.

There are 200,000 or so Jews living in Germany these days. At the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the powers that be actually decided it was a good idea to get a few of them to sit in a glass display case, one at a time, and answer questions.

It’s part of an exhibit called “The Whole Truth: Everything You Wanted to Know about Jews.” But everybody calls it “The Jew in the Box.” A different Jew is put on display every day, from four to six P.M.

The supposed point? To “help educate postwar generations.”  You see,“few Germans born after World War II know any Jews or much about them.” Museum official Tina Luedecke: “A lot of our visitors don’t know any Jews and have questions they want to ask….With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life.”

Of course. How else, after all, could they possibly find out about the subject?

Süddeutsche Zeitung provided an example of the kind of “education” provided by one of the Jews who volunteered to sit in the box. “There are Jews,” he told museumgoers, “who live on welfare. There are Jews who do not go to the synagogue to pray, but who do tai chi and yoga.”

Huh?

The reviewer for Die Welt, while admitting that he is not a fan of “Jew in the Box,” explained that’s it an effort to address the “tension” that German gentiles feel in regard to Jews.

Yeah – so was the Warsaw Ghetto.

Fox News says “Jew in the Box” is “a big hit” with the Germans. No kidding. Let’s just hope this doesn’t give them any ideas. If I were a Jew in Germany right now, I’d be keeping an eye out for people coming after me with large sheets of plexiglass and a tube of glue.

(Then again, come to think of it, whoever happens to be sitting in that box at any given moment may well be the safest Jew in the country. Given the way things are going in Europe these days, homemade plexiglass-box kits may well turn out to be this year’s hot Hanukkah gift.)

Aside from “Jew in the Box,” what else is included in “The Whole Truth”? According to Der Spiegel, “documents, photos, wall texts, installations, including movies, TV shows, comics,” and more. One highlight: a game called “Jew or Not?” that’s right out of the Howard Stern Show. Museumgoers are presented with photos of Charlie Chaplin, Justin Bieber, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, and other celebrities, and invited to guess whether they’re Jewish or gentile.

Is this how they trained the Gestapo?

At You Tube, you can watch an unbearably cutesy promotional trailer for “The Whole Truth.” Clearly, the goal here is to “educate” through whimsy. As the museum’s website puts it, the exhibit’s approach is “evenhanded and witty.” Program Director Cilly Kugelmann told one reporter: “An exhibition can sometimes be light and playful.” Yep, that’s German museums for you – always going for the light touch.

I was curious to hear what Tuvia Tenenbom, author of I Sleep in Hitler’s Room: An American Jew Visits Germany (currently a top German bestseller) would have to say about “Jew in the Box,” so I sent him a link to the Fox News story. His response was unambiguous: it’s “degrading, childish, stupid, sick,” the work of “people of no spine, no self-respect and no honor,” an “example of ‘apologetic’ Jews” who, “instead of attacking anti-Semitism head on…try to ‘understand’ it, by going the extra mile of ‘Let me show you a Jew.’”

Bingo.

If I Sleep in Hitler’s Room has been so successful in Germany, Tuvia suggested, it’s because it “takes an exact opposite direction; it tells the non-Jewish German straight in his/her face: You are an anti-Semite and there’s no way on earth you could justify it. And the German respects this direct talk.” Tuvia further pointed out that the Nazis “had this idea of putting Jews in a museum as exhibits; strange that these Jews make it a reality.”

Strange indeed. The folks at the Jewish Museum have provided yet another affirmation – as if we needed any – that, whatever the sickness is that’s afflicted so many Europeans for so many centuries when it comes to Jews, it’s still there.

In spades.

And it’s even infected some European Jews – at least those who gave the go-ahead to “Jew in the Box.”

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  • Mary Sue

    Gotta be honest, "Jew in the Box" sounds like a bad fast-food joke.

    But yeah, don't give Germany any ideas…

  • fran

    vomitatious

  • AnOrdinaryMan

    At the risk of being called names by hyper-moral posters on this site; some Jews hate themselves, and here's the evidence. Putting a Jew in a box? And in a museum, no less? This is the dumbest idea I"ve ever heard. Just plain stupid.

    • BS77

      The question is…who would submit to this type of isolation and humiliation? Perhaps it is not humiliating to be placed in a box and asked questions…perhaps it is humiliating for the person asking the questions….the whole thing smacks of Dadaism and sadism to some degree. The social perspective of this happening in Germany rather than say, Canada or Belgium, for instance, cannot be overlooked.

  • Adam

    Imagine if we put Islamists on display in the natural history museum instead of a box it can be the "Palestinian in the Camp' exhibit or the 'Muslim in the Mosque' or the 'Taliban in the Cave' next to the American Buffalo exhibit. Museum goers could ask them questions about their unusual washing and eating habits and watch them pray five times a day for educational purposes. They could answer questions about why they feel oppressed ,occupied and hate Americans. That's right we already have that exhibit its called 'Israeli Apartheid Week' at college campuses.

    • EarlyBird

      And also, the box could help contain the explosion.

  • BS77

    It's still better than watching Maury Povich, or those horrendous, awful , stupid Zombie movies….. that horrible TV series, Walking Dead. A man in a box answering questions…..it's kind of weird, but at least there is some give and take, human interaction in a neutral setting. Why the box, though? Why not a talk show format….with Whoopie Goldberg in a vat of jello answering questions about cosmology. Maybe that would be in the Museum of Modern Art.

  • zorrito

    Museum goers will have a different –and extremely limited, shallow– view of Jews with this "Box" method. Any Jew who volunteers to take part in this idiotic event will, by definition, be very weird and therefore give a very weird idea of what Jews are._Wouldn't it make more sense for anyone really interested in Jews to take the trouble to read a few good books on Judaism, Jewish history and Israel? If they're not interested in this kind of reading, then they just want to attend a freak show, and they will get their wish.

  • defcon 4

    What's next? The Egyptian docudrama on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion w/sub-titles? I'm certain Germany's islamofascist population would find it intriguing, cough.

  • Ghostwriter

    Gee,I wonder why there were so few Jews in Germany after World War II? Maybe because the Nazis slaughtered many of them and many more of them emigrated to places like Israel and the United States. Why would ANYONE think something like "Jew in the Box" would be anything other than appalling?

  • DebbieOhio912

    So much for the education of post-war generations. Have they ever contemplated reading a history book?

  • Lamdaguy

    How can a person not know who or what a JEW is. They are a select group of people, usually Hebrew, who study and practice the Jewish faith. They are not a race, or a peoples, they are a religious faction. I find it hard to believe that many Germans don't know, or haven't met, a Jew. I thought the discrimination bar between Jews and Germans was history. It sounds as if they still try to segregate the 2. Even schools don't seem to educate their pupils on Judaism and Jews. So sad that Hitler, and the NAZI's , still have such a powerful grip on the German people and Society.

  • freedom

    My reaction is different.
    I am not being asked to pay for this exhibition. And If Berliners want this to be in their Museum, let them. If they have not seen Jews as "normal" people, maybe someone will lose a prejudice or two.
    The people making comments here who are so upset with this, how did you feel about Piss Christ? I remember being told it was freedom of artistic expression. But I was forced to pay for that because my taxes supported the NEA which paid for that abomination and it was considered gauche to criticize it.

    As a political conservative in my area of America, I am considered someone who should be ostracized or sidelined as not respectable too often because of my views. Perhaps it might not be a bad idea for people like me to sit in that box and answer questions quietly and show that I am not the monster they presume me to be. The new McCarthyism in America is to make conservatism beyond the pale.

    Anyway that's my take on this.

  • alex

    it is laughable to suggest german gentiles are responsible for the set-up of the ridiculous shows that the jewish museum in berlin puts up on a regular basis. http://www.jmberlin.de/main/EN/04-About-The-Museu
    someone have a look at the responsible directors of the museum and tell me what the run-of-the-mill german has got to do with them…
    as your community will find out soon to its own detriment: it's not the native germans it should be worrying about.

  • JMBfan

    Three points I'd like to add, find worth mentioning here: 1. the Jewish museum in Berlin is doing for some years now a marvelous job in education but also as a creative space and shouldn't be judged only for one piece of a exhibit that is controversial. given the fact that the curators are well acclaimed members of the German-Jewish community themselves I don't see why anyone brings this into the context of a century old anti-Semitic tradition, that is where non Jews defined or inhumanely "exhibited" who or what is Jewish. Cilly Kugelmann (born after 1945 in Frankfurt, Germany) the curator is one of those great and sadly few German-Jewish intellectuals who is since years amongst those who talks, writes and educates and knows a lot about both, the Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Germany.
    2. I don't know if you are familiar with German-Jewish history and today's Jewish population in Germany: there are about 200 000 Jews living in Germany (less than one per cent of the population), in the 1980s before the influx of Russian-Jewish immigration there were just around 28 000 …just maybe imagine that "not having met" a Jew in one's life wouldn't be in today's Germany due to racist/segregation reasons but because that Germany lost most of its Jewish population during the 1930s because they were forced into exile or were later killed during the holocaust like most of European Jewry.
    3. generally agreed, people could educate themselves more about Judaism or Jewish history/identities. The exhibit points especially to the lack of knowledge on Jewish life in Germany post 1945, not the lack of knowledge on the Nazi past, as in Germany's education system, at least since the 1980s, you will rightly never miss in school, media or in history books the confrontation with the Nazi past or the Holocaust. To get a better understanding of the Jewish history in Germany after 1945 I can highly recommend to read (e.g. http://books.google.de/books?id=GoV-8uZJiBsC&….

  • Bobby Pataki

    Jew(s) in a Blender.

    Now that would be a better idea.

    We can turn the blender on and make Jew smoothies. Not fit for human consumption, but we can feed it to the pigs.